Last week we were all sad to see County Local Studies Librarian, Mike Marshman retire after 50 years of service with Wiltshire Council. We sent him off in true History Centre style (i.e. with lots of cake!). He will be missed, although we know he'll certainly be back to use the History Centre resources.
Here is his final blog:
Two days after England won the World Cup in 1966 a somewhat callow youth, straight from the local grammar school, started work for Wiltshire County Council at the County Library Headquarters in Prospect Place, Trowbridge. In those halcyon days there were trainee librarian posts so that one was actually paid a salary – around £800 gross against a student grant of £360 – whilst attending library school, which is why on 31st July I completed 50 years with what is now Wiltshire Council. Being now three years past my best by date I feel that it is time for me to retire from paid work, although not from local history.
After managing various libraries and groups of libraries in Wiltshire I became the County Local Studies Librarian in 1988 and now realise I’ve served 28 years in that post. There have only been two of us; John Chandler, now Wiltshire’s leading historian, who established the library in its current form, and me. I think that both of us have found that it’s great to do a job in which you’re really interested and where you continue researching, evaluating, and writing after you leave work at the end of the day.
I was fortunate to have been a member of the team that planned the present Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre deciding that I would work in it for a couple of years and then retire. That should have been in 2009 but I was so interested in the work and activities that I just kept going! Apart from the usual archives and local studies services that we greatly developed over the years the range of our activities here has been quite wide. In the early years we did not have an Education Officer so Principal Archivist Claire Skinner and I visited many local schools to introduce ourselves and explain the services we could offer. We then ran twilight sessions for teachers, went out to primary schools to take classes in the history of their community and the use of sources, and held holiday history activities at the History Centre.
I’ve also happily organised programmes of talks, local and family history courses, tours for local groups, lectures to local societies, and village interpretation days – my own favourite invention. Overall my aim has been to interest people in the history and development of their own communities and give them a sense of place that helps them belong to that community, showing them how they stand at the end of a very long chain of events. More recently we’ve developed events tied in with local authors, with talks and readings along with our own audio visual presentation, Chalk and Cheese, for which I must thank my fellow performers Claire Skinner and Joy Bloomfield, and Roger Trayhurn, former Swindon Reference Librarian.
I like to think that I’ve introduced many new ideas into Local Studies and the History Centre but the most important part of my job has been custodian of the Wiltshire Collection, the largest collection of published material concerning the historic county of Wiltshire. It’s a very important collection and I do not think that a great deal of it will ever be digitised so the hard copy will be all that is ever available – we have some books and pamphlets that are the only publicly available copies, while most of our photographs are in this category.
A big thank you to all present and past colleagues and volunteers in the Libraries and Heritage services with whom I’ve worked over many years and especially to Heritage Services Manager Terry Bracher and Claire Skinner at the History Centre. I also want to especially thank my colleagues in the Local Studies Team, Helen Taylor, Julie Davis, Joy Bloomfield, Brian Shipp, Anna Ervine, Eileen Sutherland, and Janis Packham, who retired before me, for all their support and help over the years.
You’ll find me around in Wiltshire local history in the future – I’ll still edit the Wiltshire Local History Forum newsletter, I’m already booked to give a few talks to local societies over the next year, I have three books that I want to research and write, while those of you who read Wiltshire Life may find even more of my articles in there.
Oh, the cake? Well it’s a closely guarded secret that the History Centre actually runs on a plentiful supply of cakes, chocolate and biscuits; they always seem to be available in the staff room as a result of birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations.
It’s never been easier to discover Calne’s thriving past with the installation of six new maps around the town’s Heritage Quarter. Each of the six maps contains site-specific information and historical photographs, offering readers a glimpse into the past of each location.
Produced in collaboration between Calne Heritage Centre, Calne Town Council and community tourism group Calne Our Place, the maps are designed to encourage both visitors and residents to step off the beaten track and explore Calne’s historic streets and parks.
Sue Boddington, curator of Calne Heritage Centre, describes “We hope these attractive and informative maps placed in strategic locations will help visitors and residents to understand and appreciate the town's long and fascinating history and stimulate a desire to visit the Heritage Centre, with its wealth of photographs and information, to discover more.”
The maps can be found on interpretation boards outside Calne Heritage Centre and on The Green, as well as in bus stops on the High Street, The Pippin and either side of The Strand. Funded by grants from Wiltshire Council through Calne Area Board and Calne Chamber of Commerce, the maps also feature the location of Calne’s Blue Plaques and points of interest with the Heritage Quarter.
Calne Heritage Quarter was delineated 18 months ago by community tourism group Calne Our Place. The quarter is one of a number of the group’s initiatives to raise the town’s profile as a place to visit, as Claire Selman, Calne Town Council Publicity & Promotions Officer, describes. “Calne benefits from a huge amount of volunteer support in the promotion of the town, with Calne Our Place working on a number of exciting projects to attract people to the area such as the development of the A4 as a tourist trail. There are plenty of ways to get involved, like ‘Calne Our Place’ on Facebook to get in touch or contact myself at Calne Town Council on 01249 814000.”
Calne Heritage Centre is free to visit and open Wednesdays to Saturdays 10am to 4pm and Sundays 2pm to 4pm. Learn more about the town’s past with a programme of walks, talks and events during Calne Heritage Week from the 5th to 11th September.
The Call to Arms – The first exhibition in the Wiltshire at War: Community Stories will be on display at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham, from Monday 06 June – Tuesday 05 July 2016.
Using letters and archive images this exhibit tells the fascinating stories of men in Wiltshire called to arms in the early months of the First World War. It includes information panels and an interactive video display of stories, and is the first of five Wiltshire at War exhibitions, which are part of Wiltshire County’s multi-year remembrance of the First World War. Stories have been gathered from all across Wiltshire to create this exhibition.
All five Wiltshire at War exhibitions will be touring around Wiltshire until 2019.