Internships and Placements

The Mutual Benefits of Volunteering with Susan Sandford

During my time at Cardiff University I have been keen to add to my practical skills by volunteering. There are always opportunities for students to donate their time to local heritage projects and between 2013/2014 my colleagues, Sara Brown and Johanna Thunberg and I, have been working with the National Trust at Aberdulais Tinworks and Waterfall.

The waterwheel at Aberdulais Tinworks and Waterfalls. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

The waterwheel at Aberdulais Tinworks and Waterfalls. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

The beautiful National Trust property at Aberdulais near to Neath, South Wales is situated next to a waterfall which has made the property the place it is. Its water has provided the power for various industrial enterprises over the last 400 years from copper smelting to tinplating. The remains of the latter can be seen today alongside the replica waterwheel in action generating electricity. It is these remains which form the stories in the current exhibitions and have been the subject of excavations since the 1980’s. As with many sites there remains much post excavation work to be done from these early excavations and the current property team have commenced a project to get this work done and produce archaeological reports.

Some of the finds kept outside on the site. Iron can corrode quickly when kept outside so making the best recommendations about conserving these finds can be a challenge! Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

Some of the finds kept outside on the site. Iron can corrode quickly when kept outside so making the best recommendations about conserving these finds can be a challenge! Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

Johanna has spent a lot of time matching the objects we now have with the records made when they were excavated so that the site can be interpreted by archaeologists. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

Johanna has spent a lot of time matching the objects we now have with the records made when they were excavated so that the site can be interpreted by archaeologists. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

As part of this project our work for Aberdulais Tinworks and Waterfall is to accession and preserve the collections at the site. These consist of archaeological finds which have been excavated on various digs between 1980 and 2010 and various other objects made from Tin, Bronze, Leather and assorted building materials.

A lot of our time has been spent accessioning the 122 iron finds around the site. Here I am labelling large objects in the exhibition area. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

A lot of our time has been spent accessioning the 122 iron finds around the site. Here I am labelling large objects in the exhibition area. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

So far we have:

  • Undertaken a survey of all the finds reporting on the condition of 122 small iron finds from around the site and various other objects made from Tin, Bronze, Leather and assorted building materials that are part of the history of the site.
  • Accessioned, labelled and implemented long term storage solutions for the archaeological collection.
  • Taken photographs to record the objects.
  • Entered the information we have collected onto the National Trusts’ Collections Management System so they can be accessed by a wider audience.
  • Linked the information about the objects to the context reports from the digs. This will allow an archaeological report of the site to be produced.
  • Reviewed the environmental conditions of the storage and display areas.
  • Given a presentation to the Friends of Aberdulais
  • Taken part in an Open Day promoting conservation to the general public

It’s been busy and challenging but lots of fun!

By the time the project is complete we are hoping to have provided a stable environment for the finds to extend their life; and thus ensure the future of the collection for generations to come.

We have also recorded the condition of the objects on display and Johanna has carried out an environmental survey of the site. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

We have also recorded the condition of the objects on display and Johanna has carried out an environmental survey of the site. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

The experience of working for the National Trust has been one of mutual benefit. We have paved the way for the staff, friends and the public to better understand, interpret, protect and share the collections. In return we have been given a fascinating learning experience: to plan and implement a project for a unique property within a nationally recognized organization.

Here I am explaining how iron corrodes and how we protect it at the National Trust Open day at Aberdulais. Photograph courtesy of the National Trust.

Here I am explaining how iron corrodes and how we protect it at the National Trust Open day at Aberdulais. Photograph courtesy of the National Trust.

 

Sara shows some young visitors how we look at objects using microscopes at a National Trust Open Day. Photograph courtesy of the National Trust.

Sara shows some young visitors how we look at objects using microscopes at a National Trust Open Day. Photograph courtesy of the National Trust.

We would like to thank the National Trust and the team at Aberdulais for the opportunity to work with this varied and challenging collection.

Now that all of the items have been properly recorded and stored, the National Trust are keen to develop how they are presented to the public to help them understand the sites history – they would love some more interns to help them with this next step for these fascinating objects.

The site is so beautiful some days we can’t help but stop and take a look around. Here Sara is enjoying the scenery. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

The site is so beautiful some days we can’t help but stop and take a look around. Here Sara is enjoying the scenery. Photograph published with permission of the National Trust

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