Seemingly mundane personal documents can weave a rich history between a person and the world around them.
The archives and special collections are celebrating a Year of Discovery during 2019. The aim is to
present “inventive individuals, adventurous Welsh men and women and new exciting resources for
researches in the Archives”.
As introduced in the previous issue of Seren, the Archives are in the process of acquiring a new
collection titled “The Paget Papers” and are helped by myself, an undergraduate intern, to process the new accession. As three months have passed so far, I want to talk about a few discoveries that the Paget Papers collection revealed.Before that it is necessary to highlight the pivotal role of the Archives to historical record-keeping and preservation of collections. Bangor University holds many large collections of the local Estates, including Penhryn Castle, Mostyn Estate and the Plas Newydd Estate of which the Paget Papers belong to. Archiving these collections preserve local history and the very people behind it.
One of the most central discovery I have made from the Paget Papers is the value of personal items to local history and setting. Documents ranging from invoices to diaries, personal and private
correspondence and news cuttings to photographs reveal the Pagets and their everyday lives being
tightly tied to the local area and businesses. Whether you are looking into London’s Harrods or the
Bangor’s local grocer in the 1800s, the collection has a capacity to reveal historical records that span far wider than the immediate family history.
It’s exciting to realise how seemingly mundane personal documents such as a flyer, receipt or a meeting agenda can weave a rich history of both the person and the world around them.
Another discovery that I have made from working on the Paget Papers is that these mundane items can sometimes turn into surprising treasures. Recently I was sorting through a box of miscellaneous correspondence, and came across an empty, large envelope. Looking bleak and yellowed in time, the front of the envelope did not reveal what lay on the flipside: a handwritten family tree in neat cursive going all the way back to the 17th century. This mundane item became a treasure as I placed it within a plastic pouch. It now rests next to other items such as handwritten letters from Queen Elizabeth (then Princess) and other many treasures.
Joys of working within the archives are these kind of discoveries. It’s very exciting how history is transferred through these personal items. From dusty boxes they are transformed; we can now discover their worth.