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South Wales’ school pupils get hands-on history lessons

09 May 2011

Schoolchildren from south Wales who added their families World War 1 memorabilia to a Cardiff University research project have learnt first-hand how their contributions have been used.

Pupils from St Martin’s School in Caerphilly and Ysgol Gwynllyw in Pontypool visited the University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion to learn more about the project Welsh Voices of the Great War Online.

Led by Dr Gethin Matthews of the School, the digital project gathered and made public artefacts and memorabilia from World War 1 which was in private hands. The aim was to give people across Wales the chance to share their forgotten treasures and family history with the rest of the nation.

Running from summer 2010 to March 2011 the team worked with the families of those in Wales who fought, or otherwise served, in the First World War. They held roadshows across Wales for members of the public to bring along their memorabilia and secondary schools were also invited to submit material as part of their GCSE studies.

"One of the project’s goals was to involve schools in the collection of material - this was seen as a means to overcome the problem that the generation who had the material were not necessarily able to use the online submission mechanism," said Dr Matthews.

"As a further incentive, we also offered two cash prizes to the schools that engaged with the project best. In the end, St Martin’s school in Caerphilly and Ysgol Gwynllyw in Pontypool were the winners, but thanks to all of the participating schools we gathered everything from letters and diaries to postcards and newspaper clippings as well as finding out about stories that has been passed down from generation to generation about the war."

As part of the visit on 4 May, the pupils learnt about the world-leading work that the School is carrying out and the range of degrees on offer. Talks during the event were aimed at introducing the pupils to history, archaeology and religion in an accessible and fun way. They included:

  • Getting a job! What might I do with a degree in history, archaeology or religion?
  • ‘If you steal yoghurt you will be reborn as a flamingo'! Religion and Society in Ancient India
  • Horrible histories & visions of Vikings

The pupils also got the chance to get hands on history experience with a tour of the School’s laboratories and conservation department, and a workshop on ancient pottery.

School pupil Tom Corbett, 17, of Caerphilly, said: "The range of material we saw was impressive and very informative. I particularly enjoyed seeing the chainmail: having seen so many films of warriors in armour, it was really interesting to see a historical object that had actually been used by a real person."

The Voices of the Great War Online project was hosted by the School of History, Archaeology & Religion, in partnership with the National Museum of Wales (NMW) and the National Library of Wales (NLW).

In total, more than 2,500 images were collected, which are now available to the public via the ‘People’s Collection Wales’ website.


Notes to editors

CardiffUniversity is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.

For further information

Victoria Dando

Public Relations

Cardiff University

Tel 02920 879074