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Explore Your Archive week to be launched by special Archive Ambassadors

Amanda Jones, a records assistant in the Powys Archives, examines The Death and Discharge Registers for the former Talgarth Asylum.

Archives across Wales are getting ready to celebrate and showcase their services and collections for Explore Your Archive Week, which this year runs from November 23-30.

The week-long campaign encourages people to discover the stories, facts, places and people that are at the heart of Welsh communities. As part of the celebrations, many archives will hold special activities and welcome the public to experience, understand and take pride in the wealth and variety of material they hold.

Special Archive Ambassadors, who have made professional and personal use of archive collections and services, will launch the festival at the Bandstand in Aberystwyth on Monday, November 25.

The evening will feature talks from some of these ambassadors, including David Loyn, former foreign correspondent with the BBC, Richard Ireland, legal historian and Emeritus senior lecturer at the Department of Law & Criminology in Aberystwyth University, Lleucu Gruffydd, Rondo Media television producer for the S4C Programme ‘Cynefin’ and Ioan Lord, historian and postgraduate student.

Acclaimed musician Gwilym Bowen Rhys will also perform pieces inspired by old ballads and scores from the Welsh Music Archive.

Archive Ambassador Mr Loyn said: “For many years as a journalist, I was writing what is sometimes called the first draft of history. Now, as an author and historian, I am constantly grateful for people who kept those ‘first drafts’ in the past in archives – diaries, pictures, telegrams, notes, letters, maps. There is nothing as valuable as a contemporary note to shed light on decisions made by people who did not know what would happen next.

“The best finds are often the unexpected, the characters who come to life from notes, the reference that makes a connection that was not previously known and the diary entry that sets off a new train of research. History is telling stories about people and archives are the raw material for that.”

As part of Explore your Archive, a variety of free events will be on offer at archives across Wales – from talks and treasure hunts, to film showings and creative workshops.

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “I welcome this campaign to raise awareness of the rich and fascinating heritage held by archive services across Wales.

“Archives are integral to our sense of identity and place, holding the unique and often very personal historical record of the local people, businesses, families and organisations that make up our communities. There is something to interest everyone in our archives and I would encourage people to take this opportunity to find out more and explore what their local archive service has to offer.”

Welsh archives hold a vast range of materials, ranging from human hairs to family recipes, love letters to oral histories. Many of these weird and wonderful objects will be highlighted during Explore Your Archive week in a vibrant digital campaign.

Vicky Jones, project training manager at Archives and Records Council Wales, said: “The aim of Explore Your Archive is to inspire people to learn more about some of the amazing heritage stories on their doorstep through a variety of different experiences. I’d urge you to check out what’s on in your local area and get exploring!”