As part of my MA in history degree at Swansea University, I was offered the amazing opportunity of a work placement with CHART, the University’s Centre for Heritage Research and Training. As my first endeavor into the world of heritage, my time with CHART was an eye-opening experience. My responsibilities were wide-ranging. I attended meetings, designed banners, and contributed to the World Reimagined’s ‘Journey of Discovery’ project. Through these experiences, I developed various professional skills such as networking and taking minutes. Overall, my time with CHART allowed me to develop a greater understanding of the local heritage industry, but also heritage on a national scale.
One of my most enlightening experiences was attending the Swansea City Centre Conference & Exhibition which took place on 17 March 2022. Hosted by 4theRegion, in partnership with Swansea Council, and held at the new Swansea Arena, the event was an opportunity for local businesses, organizations and projects to publicise their work. Alongside showcasing our work to the local community, the event also offered a great chance for CHART to network, and either form connections with local organizations, or strengthen connections which had been forged online during the pandemic.
Our stall at the conference was decorated with pictures of our Hafod Morfa Copperworks project. These images instigated a number of conversations with the public, many of whom were enthusiastic to discuss their own connection to the copper works. It was intriguing to explore these connections, as they could differ greatly. One individual revealed that their grandfather had worked in the engine room of the Copperworks. This revelation was prompted by our pictures of the restored Musgrave engine. Another member of the public explained that the Copperworks had influenced a number of industrial artworks they had completed.
Beyond discussing our own work, the conference provided CHART with its first opportunity to converse with a range of local businesses and organizations in person. Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, we threw ourselves head first into conversations with organizations ranging from Swansea’s African Community Centre to Penderyn Distillery. These conversations were invaluable in better understanding the lie of the land in Swansea: firstly, with regards to the number of organizations either directly engaging with heritage, or those whose projects could easily cross over into the field and secondly, in terms of how Swansea is set to develop in the coming years, with investments such as the Swansea City Bay Deal set to shape Swansea and its surrounding areas through a £1.3bn investment.
Our conversations also opened up avenues for collaboration in the future. We met a number of like-minded individuals and organizations who may allow us to expand our horizons going forward. Hopefully, these connections will allow us to further establish ourselves as a centre for research, training, engagement and collaboration with local heritage.
Being my first event of this kind, the Swansea City Centre Conference & Exhibition was extremely informative. In the first instance, I learnt a great deal about the heritage ‘landscape’ in Swansea. This in turn meant I better understood much of the work CHART are doing, as I could now understand better the wider context for heritage and regeneration in Swansea and its region. The conference was also beneficial for me, as it allowed me an insight into how partnerships and collaborations can occur, and potentially evolve into heritage projects. The conference proved advantageous for CHART, and also for myself, and my hopes of pursuing a career in the heritage industry.