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Exploring Digital History with People’s Collection Wales for Adult Learners’ Week 2022

For Adult Learners’ Week we teamed up with People’s Collection Wales to co-present a webinar all about exploring digital history. When we provide training about reminiscence or inspiring digital activities, we often signpost our trainees to the excellent resources available on the People’s Collection Wales website – so we wanted to share our experiences to support Adult Learning. 

We reached out to People’s Collection Wales to ask them about what they offer and what they suggest checking out on their website to support adult learning.

What is the People’s Collection Wales? 

“People’s Collection Wales is a free website dedicated to bringing together Wales’s heritage. The Collection is full of fascinating photographs, documents, audio and video recordings and stories that link to Wales’s history, culture and people. These items have been contributed to the People’s Collection Wales website by national institutions, individuals, local community groups and libraries, archives and museums across Wales.”

How do we use your service? 

“You can spend time browsing and searching content housed in the vast and ever-growing Collection. Perhaps you’d like to see what your village looked like in the past or to learn about medieval Wales; we have something for everyone in our Collection. You can also contribute your own story to the Collection by registering for an account on the website. Every item, be it a photograph, video or audio recording, that is contributed to our website helps piece together the people’s story of Wales and enriches our country’s culture and heritage for us and future generations to enjoy.”

How do you support adult learning? 

“Our website enables learners to enhance their knowledge of their local area and Wales and its international connections. It also allows learners to enhance their digital skills by digitising, uploading and publishing content on our website. We have various tools to help along the way, including How-to Guides and information articles. For those wanting a more formal approach, we offer free bespoke online training to individuals, local community groups and organisations in Wales. The training delivers a step-by-step guide on digitising content and breaks down tricky topics such as copyright.”

How do you support reminiscence activities? 

“It can be argued that the People’s Collection Wales website can be used for reminiscence activities. However, the richness of our website also means that it can be time-consuming to find relevant material quickly. Therefore, the curated ‘Memory Archive‘ account was set up, led by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. It aims to provide a one-stop-shop – or, at least, a starting point – for free archive materials suitable for reminiscence work. 

It holds a variety of images and sound recordings for reminiscence use with people living with dementia and was developed in consultation with healthcare professionals. It has a series of Memory Tree and Timeline posters and a teaching resource. 

The images and recordings are divided into collections. Some are based on themes related to home and work life, such as ‘School Life’, ‘Kitchens’, ‘Mining’ and ‘TV and radio’. Other collections are based on decades within living memory (e.g., the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, etc.). All these collections can be used for reminiscence work. 

The Memory Archive can be used both for ‘simple reminiscence’, which is a discussion (often in a group) around specific themes of the past and for ‘life story’ work, which looks at a particular person’s life from birth to the present day.  

All images in the Memory Archive collections can be downloaded and printed for use in reminiscence sessions.”

Why we are working with the People’s Collection Wales 

The People’s Collection Wales website has so many resources that allow us to explore history online. When we train our clients about reminiscence activities, we often refer to the map search tool. Using this, we can explore historical archives curated by local people. For example, in a Torfaen care home, we were able to show members of staff images of an early 20th century construction factory, which evoked childhood memories of grandparent’s jobs and the trinkets they’d bring home from work. This inspired their staff to run similar reminiscence activities with the individuals they support. The digital tool acts as the facilitator for powerful and emotive conversations, which can inspire individuals to explore digital tools for further well-being benefits.

Adult Learners’ Week 

Learning is a life-long experience, and at Digital Communities Wales we focus on how individuals can improve their digital confidence, health and well-being. When it comes to feeling confident about using a digital device and understanding how to access Internet services, many people need support with the Essential Digital Skills. A lot of our work involves supporting the people of Wales with these skills, and there are also great resources online that anyone may freely access to learn more, such as Learn My Way. Alongside this however, it is vitally important that we identify and showcase the many interesting things we can do online, day-to-day, that inspires and motivates us to learn.  

Online content, such as People’s Collection Wales, can inspire us to learn about our local history and reminisce about the past. You do not have to look further than a web-browser to access many historical and reminiscence tools online. Libraries now let you borrow e-books and audiobooks online, there are many podcasts about Welsh history and many other resources online allow you to access historical records and learning.