Black and white image dating from c.1910 showing a busy beach scene at Aberystwyth with the Pier in the background.

Being a volunteer at the RCAHMW

Anything to do with archaeology is full of surprises, and being a volunteer at the Royal Commission is no exception.  Humble tasks, such as identifying duplicate stock, take on quite a different dimension when, sorting through a pile of nondescript pamphlets, out falls a heartfelt handwritten letter and another window of experience opens up.  It’s like stumbling into a room where a warm, private conversation is going on between friends.  Or you work your way through to the bottom of a box of journals from forty years ago, to find a plain unremarkable folder.  What you find inside takes your breath away as you realise that what you are looking at is a set of first edition etchings, delicately designed and elegantly executed.  You gaze at them in wonder.  A postcard falls out of a book, taking you back to Welsh seaside towns in the 1950s, with the tang of the sea and the sweet smell of candyfloss.  In moments like these I find myself connecting appreciatively with the archival work done by the Commission, where care is taken to respectfully preserve and give a new home to the life of this nation through the experiences of its residents from the past.  Here I am aware of other people’s lives speaking to my own and I find it strangely enriching. This is the unexpected, and perhaps the biggest, surprise of all.

Carmen Mills, RCAHMW volunteer
PhD Candidate Fine Art
Aberystwyth University


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