History Centre working as a partner to help ease isolation

on Wednesday, 13 May 2020.

Celebrating Age Wiltshire receives £385,500 from the National Lottery Community Fund to improve health and wellbeing of older people living in isolation

As people around the world are asked to keep their social distance, for many older people the difficulty of living in isolation is all too familiar. With a tremendous new £385,500 grant award from the National Lottery Community Fund, the pioneering ‘Celebrating Age Wiltshire’ partnership project will increase support for the county’s older and most vulnerable people through a transformational five-year programme.

The project, which has been running since 2017 with funding from the Arts Council, Baring Foundation and Wiltshire Community Area Boards’ Health and Wellbeing Project Grants, uses cultural activity as a vehicle to improve the health and wellbeing of older people, including those who are socially isolated or vulnerable due to dementia, reduced mobility, ill health or caring responsibilities.

Wiltshire Music Centre leads the initiative with regional partners Pound Arts, Wiltshire Creative, Age UK Wiltshire, Wiltshire Libraries, Community First Wiltshire, and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, who work together to deliver a year-round programme of specially-curated, free-to-attend monthly events for older people in community settings. From concerts in care homes to dance workshops in village halls, reading groups in libraries and reminiscence events in sheltered housing residents’ lounges, the partnership draws on its breadth of expertise to deliver a wide-ranging programme which engages thousands of older people every year. Over the last three years, there have been over 4,000 participations in Celebrating Age Events.

Through these informal events, the project provides an opportunity for older people to socialise, to share sensory experiences, to meet new people and to find out about other activities and support available to them locally. It also aims to establish new personal and community connections that are so important in the prevention of loneliness and feelings of isolation.

“I do get very upset because I’ve got the most gorgeous flat – there’s 96 flats there – and it’s like a ghost town.  You do not see a soul….  I find that coming to see these [events] is like a new lease of life – it’s like, you know… to see people, because I make sure that I go down to [name of town] every day – even if it’s only to talk to the dogs!  I’ve got to talk to somebody every single day because otherwise I would have a nervous breakdown.” Elsie, Celebrating Age Wiltshire participant

Over the next five years, Celebrating Age Wiltshire will use the new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, to significantly scale-up the reach and impact of the project. The funding will enable the continuation and development of activities across six existing project areas (Trowbridge, Calne, Amesbury, Corsham, Salisbury and Royal Wootton Basset), and support the most isolated and vulnerable older people in these communities. Furthermore, the grant will enable the project to expand into four new areas (South West Wiltshire, Melksham, Warminster, Chippenham), to support the wellbeing of thousands more older people through 100 events every year.

Critically, the funding will also support partnership development – which has been vital to the strength and success of the project to date, advocacy, networking and sharing activities, including artist development days to support sector-wide development, as well as strategic work to embed  Celebrating Age Wiltshire in social prescribing activities and adult social care initiatives across the county.

“We believe in the power of culture and heritage to bring people together and transform people’s lives – Celebrating Age Wiltshire is evidence of just how important and effective this is for older people. We are absolutely thrilled to receive funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to enable this vital project to continue and grow, to improve the wellbeing of lonely and isolated older people in our communities.” James Slater, Artistic Director, Wiltshire Music Centre (Lead Partner)

The five-year programme will begin in autumn 2020. In the meantime, Celebrating Age Wiltshire continues to reach out to participants digitally, via online concerts and events shared through Wiltshire Music Centre’s YouTube Channel and broadcasts on BBC Radio Wiltshire.

More information about the project can be found here.

Living in Lockdown – collecting Covid-19 community stories

on Tuesday, 05 May 2020.

The Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre needs your help to create a new archive – Living in Lockdown.

We want to make a collection which reflects the experiences of people from Wiltshire and Swindon as they live through the Covid-19 pandemic.

This crisis will be closely studied by future generations who will turn to the archives to discover how we made sense of this life changing experience. And this is where we need the public’s help. We want you to make a record of your experiences during lockdown – you might already have begun to do this, or this appeal might prompt you to begin a diary, write a poem, make a scrapbook, or a piece of artwork.

We want you to think about creating something future generations can use that shows how our personal and working lives have been transformed by this global crisis. Many of us already have personal archives – old family photos, letters, news clippings – so now is the time to add your story and make a creative response to challenging times.

As well as your own response to living in lockdown we would like people to keep hold of ephemera – leaflets, newsletters, posters, flyers – which can also be added to our Local Studies collections.

Whatever your circumstance or experiences it is your stories that we want. Visit the WSHC website for more details.

Maps and Journeys Exhibition: A Creative Response

on Wednesday, 19 February 2020.

A group of Level 3 Art and Design Students from Wiltshire College and University Centre have created an exhibition of artwork made in response to archives and to work collected as part of the Creative Wiltshire, National Heritage Lottery funded project.

The students were inspired by items including dream diaries of artist Roger Leigh, hand-painted maps of Chippenham and even a dead cat! We are delighted to be hosting an exhibition of the work they produced and to showcase a new perspective and interpretation of archives and of the work we have been lucky enough to collect thanks to the Creative Wiltshire project.

The exhibition can be found in our entrance foyer, and in a display case in the main search room. It is available to view during our opening hours until 11 April 2020 and well worth a visit!

RAF Big Stories Weekend

on Monday, 20 January 2020.

The Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre has been inviting people to visit and tell their stories of their connection with the RAF as part of this national event, run by the RAF Museum.

We were a little late with what became our ‘day’; the national event took place at the beginning of November over one weekend, clashing with our Open Day, but we weren’t deterred. Wiltshire has such a longstanding connection to the RAF, Salisbury Plain being the centre of pioneering aviation from its early beginnings; we felt we really wanted to take part. Luckily the RAF Museum at Hendon agreed, and our RAF Big Stories ‘Day’ took place on Saturday 30 November.

Joining us were two brilliant and specially recruited volunteers who quickly learnt how to use the RAF Museum’s oral history app to record 16 stories from 11 willing participants! The stories were varied and all interesting in their own way, some from the RAF staff themselves; others from living relatives. Those from RAF Lyneham included a navigator’s experience of the Berlin Airlift during 1948-9 when he got covered in coal dust from the goods being despatched, to the return of hostage Jackie Mann in 1993, and working in the maintenance crew during WWII and getting caught out in the blackout cycling from Chippenham to the airfield. Stories from overseas included intelligence training in India and the tortoise who became the mascot of the 20th Squadron in Singapore in 1964, who travelled on the plane with them and became a valued member of the team!

It was a real privilege to hear the stories and enjoy the company of our RAF Big Stories participants, and they told us they enjoyed having some interested people to hear them tell their tales. All the stories will be added to the RAF’s Stories website https://www.rafstories.org The app for recording a story is also available on the site for anyone to download and use. We hope to receive a copy of the recordings to store at the History Centre too, and some of the items the participants brought with them we were able to copy and will add to our collections.

The accompanying display of local studies books, photographs and prints plus archive material drew in over 20 people who enjoyed chatting to each other whilst enjoying looking at the items on show. These included plans of Wiltshire aerodromes, a Christmas menu card with signatures plus programme of entertainments dated 1943, letters regarding problems with mud on the roads and road closures during the building of airfields in WWII and ‘Sparks’ the newsletter of RAF Yatesbury. Books included the recent ‘RAF Wroughton and Wroughton at Work in Pictures’ by the Wroughton History Group and ‘46 Miles: a Journey of Repatriation and Humbling Respect’ about the RAF Lyneham repatriations through the town, alongside the classic text on Wiltshire airfields, Rod Priddle’s ‘Wings over Wiltshire’ to name just a few.

David Bent ref P57927

We also included one of our recent Creative Wiltshire lottery funded acquisitions, the limited-edition print ‘Cold War Warrior’ by David Bent. A Swindon based artist, David specialises in aviation art and has the enviable job of being the personal artist for the Red Arrows, joining them all over the world to record their story. He also designed the commemorative logo for the RAF’s 100 year celebration in 2018.

We always love any opportunity to show visitors the amazing breadth and variety of our collections here at the History Centre, which even amazes us at times! Please feel free to recommend us as a place to visit for people to learn more about the RAF in Wiltshire; we’d be happy to help them with their search.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian

Conservation Corner: Conservation Storage Solutions for Your Possessions

on Monday, 20 January 2020.

A ceramic vase within an archival enclosure

As we begin a new year here at the WSHC Conservation service we have decided to have a spring clean and re-organisation of our materials cupboard. At this point, a new Conservation Corner idea was inspired…

There are particular materials that we always stock that can also be extremely useful for packaging and storing your own precious items at home.

Conservation and archival grade storage materials are free from harmful ingredients that can react with and cause damage to objects they are close to. For example, certain plastics can breakdown and release harmful gases that can increase deterioration of the materials inside. Similarly, newspaper becomes acidic over time and can transfer this to whatever is near it causing damage to paper, metal, plastic, textile and many other materials. To keep precious items safe over the long term the use of suitable packaging is crucial.
Below are some examples of these materials and some common precious item storage examples:

Conservation Materials

Acid Free Tissue:

This is a conservation staple, an excellent packing and padding material for a variety of materials including textiles, most plastics, books, most metals and ceramics.

Archival Boxboard:

This kind of board comes in various thicknesses and can be used to make folders and boxes to protect books, documents, photographs and textiles.

Sealed Plastic Boxes:

Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PE) storage containers are widely available in shops and provided they are made of only the plastics mentioned, are inert and therefore suitable for long term storage of materials that do not need breathable packaging such as metals (including jewellery), ceramics and some plastics.

A Polypropylene box being used to house historical coins. The diagram shows Silica Gel which is helpful with metal storage but is not essential for home storage. Please consult a conservator for more information on the use of Silica Gel.

Polyester Pockets:

Polyester pockets are inert and will not yellow or breakdown (please note that pockets made of alternative plastics such as standard stationary plastic pockets are not suitable for archival use).

These pockets are great for storing paper, parchment and photographs. They make them easy to handle and as they are clear, the document can be viewed without removing from the pocket which in turn reduces damage caused by handling.

Paper and polyester enclosures

Archival Photographic Paper Envelopes:

These paper envelopes are made from very pure cotton paper pulp without harmful additives such as Lignin – one of the ingredients that makes paper yellow and brittle quickly. They are great for storing negatives or photographs to protect them from damage.

AlwPAT.jpgays look for storage materials that have passed the  Photographic Activity Test (PAT) as photographic materials can be damaged by using the wrong materials.

Cotton Tape:

This acid free cotton tape can be used to tie around books with loose covers and boards or to tie around archival boxboard folders and enclosures to secure them when closed.

Some Common Precious Item Storage Examples:

A Fragile or precious book or document

Use an archival enclosure made from archival boxboard. You can find instructions for making ‘four flap folders’ and other archival enclosures online or alternatively ready-made archival quality boxes in varying sizes can also be purchased through conservation suppliers online.

An archival folder and large book enclosure


If you have a book that is generally in good condition by has loose boards or covers, you can tie cotton tape around it to hold the boards in place.

A book with loose boards, secured with cotton tape

War medals

Create a cushion with acid free tissue and place medal on top within a Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PE) storage container


Put photographs in an archival paper album using archival photo corners or put photographs in polyester pockets- these can be purchased in various sizes and with multiple compartments and holes down one side so that they can be stored in an archival ring binder or box. Further information can also be found in my blog here 

Wedding dress or special textile item

Line an archival boxboard enclosure with acid free tissue. Place the textile item in the box using acid free tissue to pad out folds so that you avoid creases. Cover with another layer of acid free tissue.

Where to buy archival materials:

There are several places online that sell archival storage items. Some well-known suppliers include PEL (Preservation Equipment Limited), Conservation by Design and Secol but there are other options available. The key thing is to check that they are a reputable retailer and that every item you purchase is of genuine archival quality.

If you have an item that you think may need conservation work or you want more information on how to safely package your heirlooms and precious items come along to one of our FREE conservation surgeries at WSHC from 2 – 4pm on the second Thursday of every month. The next one will be on Feb 13th. Book your appointment by calling 01249 705500.

Sophie Coles, Archive Conservator, Conservation and Museums Advisory Service

Wiltshire Conservation and Museums Advisory Service is based at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. We preserve the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives and provide support to museums, heritage organisations and individuals to care for and conserve historic collections and meet professional standards.

[12 3 4 5  >>  


Accredited Archive Service