A new approach to recording village history

In a small rural settlement such as Winsham, that has existing over hundreds of years, probably very few people have been concerned about what future generations would get to know about their lives.
On a daily basis, then as now, they were probably more concerned with feeding themselves, their families, and keeping a roof over their heads.
Go back just a couple of hundred years, however, and probably most people in the village would have been unable to read, and even if they could, not many books or printed documents would come their way.

The records that were created during those times, and for hundreds of years before, were, for the most part kept by the Churches; in the Parish Registers of Marriages, Births & Deaths, and by the large Estates held by wealthy land-owners, who kept track of their tenants and other property.
Records kept by the Church and the land-owners were of course susceptible to loss and damage by fire, flood damp, and just the passage of time, although many do survive to this day. For ordinary folk the only record of their often short lives would have been an entry in a Parish register.
Then things began to change. In the 19th Century, people such as those who lived in rural areas such as Winsham would have become more aware of the world around them. The railway would have brought news and people from outside. Slowly improving standards of education, the ability to travel and improvements in communication with the iNew Approachnvention of wireless telegraphy. The keeping of records, which although had always been done started to have a relevance for the ordinary person.  Even humble folk had a Birth Certificate, a Marriage Certificate, and a record of their attendance at Sunday school; something that might be treasured by a son or daughter when they passed away. However as the generations go by even these records can disappear. And with each item lost goes a small piece of our collective heritage.
The problem is basically a practical one, and one of physical storage. Just as people have difficulty in finding space for storage in their own home, setting up even small local archives or museums is fraught with the practical considerations of availability of spaces or buildings, acquisition of exhibits and the cost and practicalities of maintenance, heating, lighting, control of access.
The Internet , through the vehicle of a Museum Web site has very few of these problems. Server space is inexpensive and virtually unlimited. Exhibits can be viewed 24 hours a day every day of the year. Only images are displayed, so the actual artefact only needs to be photographed or scanned, so no physical storage facility is needed. For small communities it solves the problem of recording its past as we hope is evidenced by the Winsham Web Museum, probably the first Museum of its type to be created in the UK.
By studying the various galleries, at last it is possible to build a picture of life would have been in the past. The further back we go the dimmer the picture, the nearer the present the better the record.

This web museum is archived by the British Library, and as a result has a reasonable expectation of being capable of being viewed by many generations to come, despite the changes in technology that are certain to come.
JSS 2013

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