We’ve just mounted a new display at Ceredigion Archives. It’s quite a small display because we probably have the smallest display space of any archives anywhere, consisting, as it does of an old wooden, glass-fronted cabinet on little sticky legs which we ‘rescued’ from the old Aberystwyth Library.
The display is a collection of photographs from our Glyn Pickford Collection showing views of Aberystwyth promenade and pier. Lucie, one of our volunteers, has put the display together, and it’s proving popular. Aberystwyth sea-front became a subject of international interest at the beginning of 2014 when storms swept away the public shelter and much of the promenade, but this display recalls more peaceful times, with parasols, and boat trips round the bay, and bathing machines and the fragile Edwardian bandstand. The photographs are fascinating in their detail; a horse, waiting with the donkeys to give rides, rests his chin on the edge of the prom; a woman’s striped dress in caught by the stiff breeze on that far-off, long-lost day; two smartly dressed young men stroll the beach, eyeing the local talent.
In the background of several of the pictures is the Queen’s Hotel, built in 1866 to accommodate the travellers who came to Aberystwyth on the new railway, and one of the finest hotels in the town. In later years the building became the County Offices for Cardiganshire, and between 1974 and 2012 it was the home of Dyfed Archives, and then Ceredigion Archives. Next month it goes for auction, and we’re all hoping the old girl finds a good new owner. The building has a wonderful past – we’re wishing it a happy future too.
In 2012 Ceredigion Archives moved to its new premises – the specially converted Aberystwyth Old Town Hall. The building was erected in about 1844 and has changed a few times over the years – it was badly damaged by fire in 1957, but was remodelled on the same footprint, and a new façade added in 1962. When the present conversion was underway the contractors found a curious mixture of stone and brick under the plasterwork, giving clues about the original building. The new Archives premises aren’t quite as much fun as the old ones, but they’re better for the collections and they’re probably better for our researchers too. Personally I miss the healthy draughts that used to sweep through the search-room each winter, the salt-splattered windows after each storm, the incessant sound of the waves and the gleeful cry of the gulls, but I concede that keeping the unique county archives in a basement strong-room by the sea was an act of Canute-like optimism, and we were very lucky to get away with it for so long without disaster. The new Archives has beautiful strong-rooms, well above sea-level and a much more modern search-room. People who loved the old place can still enjoy the small jungle of plants that we brought with us, and the old search-room chairs (dating back to the days of the Queen’s Hotel) are being refurbished this year; it’s cheaper than buying new and they’re rather lovely.
Since moving to the Old Town Hall – more grandly and properly known as the Alun R Edwards Centre after a very distinguished local librarian whose papers we house here – we’ve probably changed a bit. The staff are still spectacularly helpful (researchers sometimes leave exhausted after being subjected to our vigorous assistance for hours on end) but we’ve also been able to tidy up the collections, with a lot of re-packaging, get a bit more conservation work done, address our cataloguing backlog, and to try new things like this social media business. So this is us – blogging. We’re not entirely sure we know what it means, or how to do it, but maybe you can let us know what you think. More later…