Heritage Champions – Swansea’s Richard Burton Archives recognised for preserving our past

Swansea University Richard Burton Archive

The Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University, which holds material of local, regional and national significance, celebrates 10 years of accreditation status in recognition of its high standards, both in looking after valuable records and in making them available to researchers and the wider community.

Archive Service Accreditation is the UK standard for archive services, and the Richard Burton Archives was the first university in the UK and the first service in Wales to receive accreditation status after the launch of the standard in 2013.

Swansea University Richard Burton Archive

‌Head of Cultural Collections, Engagement and Curation Siân Williams said: “We were honoured when we secured the accreditation as it defines good practice and identifies agreed standards within the archive sector.

“I am delighted to say that since then, we have gone from strength to strength and pride ourselves in always looking for ways we can expand our collections and improve the service we offer to users.”

The Archives are home to more than 1.7 kilometres of documents, comprising photographs, audio cassette, paper and parchment, film and born digital material.

To mark the anniversary of accreditation, the team has been delving into the Archives to explore some of the key moments from the past 10 years. Among the many highlights are:

Hannah Ellis with the Dylan Thomas notebook at the Swansea University Archives.
Pic: James Davies.
  • The ‘lost’ Dylan Thomas notebook – in 2014 the University successfully bid for the notebook, one of five used by Dylan Thomas and described as “the most exciting discovery since the poet’s death”;
  • Union Matters – a project to digitise and conserve the records of the South Wales Miners’ Federation dating from 1899 to 1934 which contain a wealth of information including the 1926 General Strike and the economic depression of the 1930s;
  • Swansea University’s Centenary in 2020 not only saw the Archives receive more than 50 new deposits of material but it also supported Dr Sam Blaxland on his research into the history of the University, as well as the oral history project Voices of Swansea University, 1920-2020; and,
  • Becoming Richard Burton – the Archives provided key items for this successful exhibition in the National Museum Cardiff which followed the story of how Richard Jenkins became Richard Burton, star of stage and screen.

Besides welcoming staff, students and the public, the Archives also continues to host student groups from various academic departments including those studying the MA module Communicating the Past: Public History using Historic Collections which sees students investigate an archival collection and produce an online website.

The Archives has been supporting a number of researchers and media companies using the collections to gather content to mark events such as for the 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common protests, and currently the 40th anniversary of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike.

As the home to the Raissa Page Collection, staff are anticipating the launch of publication Raissa Page: A Life in Photography later this year while gearing up for the centenary of Richard Burton’s birth in 2025.

Read more about in the Richard Burton Archives’ blog  and find out how to access its collections