South Wales Coalfield Collection

Elisabeth Bennett
South Wales Miners' Librarian
Siān Williams
Web Development
Martin Price


Historical Background

The South Wales Coalfield Collection (SWCC) succeeds through its variety of archival media in giving an insight into the experience of the South Wales Valleys during a period of industrial turmoil both from an institutional and personal perspective. It contains records of trade unions (notably the South Wales Miners' Federation, later the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) and the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, South Wales Division), miners' institutes, co-operative societies, and individuals connected with the mining community. Rhondda

The Collection was established in 1969 as an attempt to preserve the documentary records of the mining community of South Wales. At that time over one hundred mines had been closed since nationalisation, more pit closures were threatened and such records were in danger of being destroyed. Fortunately the officers of the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) were aware of the problem and began the transfer of their non-current records to the Library at University College Swansea while encouraging their constituent lodges to do the same.

In 1971 the South Wales Coalfield History Project was set up, funded by the Social Science Research Council, to locate and collect manuscript and printed material of archival significance. Such was the success of the Project which lasted until 1974, that it was followed by a second from 1979-82. A great deal of archive material was deposited from miners' lodges and institutes, co-operative societies and by individuals. Another aspect of the project was the recording of interviews with people connected with the mining community.


The Cataloguing Project

Although the manuscript material was listed in two printed Guides to the South Wales Coalfield Archive much of the Collection remained inaccessible or difficult to use. The audiovisual material remained largely uncatalogued while documents had continued to be deposited after the end of the Coalfield Projects causing a backlog of cataloguing work to build up.

In 1994 the Library received £70,000 from HEFCW as part of their programme for Non-Formula Funding of Specialised Research Collections in the Humanities to be spent over one year. The purpose of the grant was to improve access to the South Wales Coalfield Collection by the provision of a comprehensive online catalogue. The Library was also fortunate in obtaining a British Library Grant for Cataloguing and Preservation of £5000 to catalogue the audio and videotapes.

Four archivists were employed and they were successful in listing all the backlog which had built up between 1983-93. Over 6,000 catalogue entries were made using MODES Plus for Archives, a package which had the advantage of being flexible enough to cope with the wide variety of media in the Collection. In order to allow access over a network, selected data has been output from MODES into HTML so that lists can be browsed on the WWW. The ultimate aim of the project remains to provide a catalogue which can be fully searched over a network. The catalogue is arranged in a hierarchical manner reflecting the structure of the records, working its way from the general to the specific with background information on the types of record at appropriate points. As the records had for some time been divided into physical types; manuscripts, audiotapes, videotapes, photographs and banners this arrangement was retained and forms the top level of the catalogue.


Location of Records

At present the records in the SWCC are held at two different sites:

Manuscript records and photographs are held at:
Library & Information Centre
University of Wales Swansea
Singleton Park
Swansea SA2 8PP
Archivist: Elisabeth Bennett
Telephone: 01792 295021
Audiotapes, videotapes and banners are held at:
The South Wales Miners' Library
Hendrefoelan House
Gower Road
Librarian: Sian Williams
Telephone: 01792 518603

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© University of Wales Swansea 4 February 1998 LIS Web Team