Tuesday 12 June 2012

Ely history group looking to the future with your help

A volunteer run picture archive preserves a vital part of Ely's heritage and history. Browsing through the collection, there are reminders of people, their lives and buildings, I was particularly struck by the unusual double chapel in Ely Cemetery, completed by local builder Richard Freeman in 1856 and the absolutely breathtaking photograph of the rood screen, one of Sir Ninian Comper's early works, at St. Peter's Church Broad St. Ely.

1854 to 1856 - The Cemetery Chapel, Ely.Built by local builder Richard Freeman in 1855/6.One half for C of E. the other for non conformists. Courtesy of Ely group of CCAN
1888 to 1898 - The rood screen, one of Sir Ninian Comper's early works, at St. Peter's Church Broad St. Ely, courtesy of the Ely Group CCAN
The Ely group of CCAN (the Cambridge Community Archive Network) has worked hard to archive the pictures collated online. Today, I was invited to their meeting as part of their look to the future work of the group.

We discussed a whole range of issues. The overriding message that emerged was the need for a new level of engagement with the wider community. How do you attract the interest of the young people to the history around them? How can you become an even better source that people will increasingly look to for news and information on the hidden or newly discovered heritage around them?

Recording the voice of local residents, shop owners and people associated with the City of Ely is already underway. Living on the crest of today, even living memory shines a light on a dramatically different world decades ago and beyond. Being able to hear the direct testimony in local voices will  be a great step forward.

In our digital age, adding written words to the existing and new images in the form of testimony, records and memories in one resource is still the most powerful tool online. People search for information using text and still mainly find their information in the written word.

Help is needed with the digging for information and writing about the great and small people and events around the City of Ely – and with preserving the information.

I found a stark example of the fact that history still has relevance to today when wandering around Ely Museum, after the meeting had taken place in one of the rooms there. The museum is located in the old gaol and had a frozen display of prisoners awaiting trial, deportation and execution upstairs. The shocking treatment of one prisoner in the late 1800s caused visiting magistrates to raise the question of inhumane treatment – a topic that is current today with the debate swirling around the legality of deporting Abu Qatada to a country where he might be tortured.

Members of the Ely group of CCAN at Ely Museum
The Ely group of CCAN pictured above is a dedicated team that would welcome help and involvement from others in Ely in preserving the city's history; whether young or old, whether making a small or major contribution in interest and time.

Why wait until YOU are history? Get involved now! Contact Chairman Peter Kerswell, Tel: 01353 666655, Email: elyarchive@hotmail.com 

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