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New Carmarthenshire Archives building preparing to open

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Preparations are underway to open the new Carmarthenshire Archives building with the first collection arriving from storage this week.

The historic Vaughan Pedigree returned to Carmarthenshire this week to be permanently stored at the new £2.2 million purpose-built facility located at the rear of Carmarthen Library.

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Carmarthenshire’s archive collections have been held outside the county since 2014 whilst building work was underway.

The document, which dates back to the 17th century, shows the ancestry of Sir Richard Vaughan from royal roots including Hywel Dda, Roderick the Great and William the Conqueror.

Over the next few months hundreds of historical records will make their way back to Carmarthenshire into the new state of the art accommodation with the complete collection expected to be in by late spring.

The building boasts one of the highest performing structures in the country.

With its energy-efficient design the building minimises the energy required to maintain storage conditions and ensures that the collection remains protected even in the event of a power outage.

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The building is split over three floors and includes a search room with seating to accommodate 10 customers and a map table two strongrooms, a conservation suite, an isolation room, cataloguing rooms and a cleaning room for inspection of newly arrived documents.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “I am absolutely thrilled that we are able to welcome our historical collection back to where it belongs. Once our complete collection is back in Carmarthenshire we will be working towards achieving accredited archive status which will provide national recognition of excellence within the sector.”

Carmarthenshire Archives Service houses the records of Carmarthenshire County Council and its predecessor bodies and records deposited by organisations and individuals from across the council area dating from the 13th century to the present day.

The new archives facility is due to open in late spring.

Lead image: Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths with the historic Vaughan Pedigree (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Books & Literature

Library staff help bring new-style Swansea stories to life

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Swansea library staff are at the forefront of a unique new storytelling experience coming to the city this month.

Teams from around Swansea Council’s libraries service are playing their own unique roles in immersive experience StoryTrails.

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It’s part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, a ground-breaking UK-wide celebration of creativity in 2022 and is led by the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling: StoryFutures Academy.

“Our library staff provide the Swansea public with a great service day in day out.

“It’s great that they’re using their talent, skills and dedication to help bring StoryTrails to life in Swansea.

“It will be an amazing two days of fun for local people and I know that families from around the area will enjoy the new experiences it brings.”

Library staff involved include Karen Gibbins, Gwilym Games and Bethan Lee.

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Library services manager Karen Gibbins (Image: Swansea Council)

Library services manager Karen said: “StoryTrails is the UK’s largest ever immersive storytelling project. It’s great for Swansea to be one of the 15 venues and it’s great for us library staff to get involved.”

Local studies and special collections librarian Gwilym said: “StoryTrails will allow local people to experience Swansea in a completely new way through the magic of augmented and virtual reality. They’ll use new technology to travel back in time, experiencing gripping local histories.”

Local studies and special collections librarian Gwilym Games (Image: Swansea Council)

Principal librarian Bethan said: “Our Swansea stories will be brought to life in the places where they happened, reanimating public spaces and creating a free, entertaining and playful family-friendly experience.”

StoryTrails will visit Swansea Central Library on August 10-11 from 11am -7pm when local creative talent will help showcase the stories.

Digital storyteller Owen Richards is making an interactive immersive map of Swansea. Filmmaker Jay Bedwani is making an augmented reality story trail around the city.

Stories will be brought alive in new and surprising ways with the help of archive material from the BFI, national and regional film archives as well as the BBC.

Swansea’s audiences will be guided through an immersive tour of the city as they explore stories across virtual and augmented reality and via a series of installations.

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Outside the library, visitors will enter a virtual story portal to begin the StoryTrails experience, guided by a free mobile AR app and local performers. Photo ID will be required to borrow equipment for this.

The AR trail, accessed through mobile devices, invites visitors to discover Joe Cascarini’s route to building the now famous Swansea brand Joe’s Ice Cream, from his arrival from Italy in the 1920s, through his supportive relationship with his sister to present day and a digital centenary party to which everyone is invited. 

The trail was created using film from BBC, British Film Institute and local archives to present a window into the past. Visitors can borrow devices from the library and follow guided AR trails across the two-day event as well as follow the route independently by downloading the app onto their own devices.  

Inside the library, visitors will be immersed in a virtual map of the city that will be made up of 3D models and audio stories. They will also have the opportunity to explore further stories via bespoke virtual reality experiences.

The immersive map reveals 10 stories of local people and familiar landmarks, such as Mumbles Pier, the Swansea.com Stadium and the National Waterfront Museum. 

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The map was created by 3D-scanning people and buildings that build up a picture of the life and heritage of each location. The 15-minute films play on a loop throughout the day and a further 20 stories can be viewed on iPads in the library.

Professor James Bennett, director of StoryFutures and StoryTrails, said: “This is about getting people excited about where they live – helping them connect with stories of their towns and cities from the past and present through a new lens.

“New technologies like AR and VR can help build these connections and reignite people’s passion for the past.

“These technologies are for everyone – we want to find ways to engage people from all generations and spark a genuine celebration in each of our incredible locations.”

StoryFutures Academy, the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, is at the forefront of training and up-skilling creative media professionals in the use of the next generation of storytelling tools.

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It is run by Royal Holloway, University of London and the National Film and Television School (NFTS).

StoryFutures Academy wants to ensure that the UK’s creative industries are not only the best trained in the use of these game-changing technologies but that the future workforce properly represents the full diversity of UK talent.

Lead image: Swansea libraries staff – key members of the city’s StoryTrails team. (Image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Hospital doctor prescribes reading in bed to boost well-being

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A book trolley service has been rolled out in Morriston Hospital in an attempt to consign patient boredom to the pages of history.

The scheme, which sees patients presented with books, magazines or puzzles, was successfully launch in Neath Port Talbot (NPT) Hospital last winter.

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Such was its success in preventing boredom and promoting well-being it has since been expanded to Morriston Hospital thanks to the support of library services and volunteers.

The idea of reading in hospital beds was championed in NPT Hospital by Dr Aisha Ansar and initially trialled in Ward F (medical ward) by members of staff.

Dr Ansar said: “We think it’s a great service and the staff of Ward F have been instrumental in helping to set this up. We ran a pilot and the staff themselves took the trolley round to ensure that it could be done safely with minimum disruption.

“Obviously the wards are too busy for this to be a long term solution, so we’re thrilled that the volunteer service has come on board to provide volunteers to take over the trolley rounds. This will allow us not only to sustain the service, but to roll it out to other wards and other Swansea Bay sites.”

Clinical Librarian, Jennie Roe said: “There’s plenty of evidence of the benefits of reading – it has been used to reduce anxiety and depression, and a study found that participation in activities such as reading and doing crosswords is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. It’s so important to keep patients engaged, particularly in medical wards where they may be for a while.”

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Morriston based library assistant, Angela Higgins (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Morriston based library assistant, Angela Higgins said: “It was initially started in Neath Port Talbot Hospital, Books on Wheels, which was a great success. It was then rolled out into Morriston.

“We’ve had support from the medical doctor, Aisha Ansar, who implemented it onto the medical wards, with great success.

“So far, we’ve had such good feedback from staff and patients that we have rolled it out onto the surgical wards and other departments in the hospital.

“We’ve had great support from the matrons – we wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support – and obviously the volunteer service – they have been brilliant – we couldn’t do it without them.

“It’s of such great benefit to the staff and obviously the patients, for their well-being.

“We have two trolleys at the moment covering medical wards and surgical wards.

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“We’ve got fiction, crime, family sagas – in large print as well – and we also give out magazines.”

The health board’s volunteer service is also working with Discovery, a student led charity based in Swansea, whose volunteers have been creating activity packs and puzzles for distribution on the wards.

Angela said: “Some people like a book, some people like a magazine. It’s all about having some sort of contact with people as well. Especially if you haven’t seen your relatives for a long time.”

Book trolley volunteer Susan Davies (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)
Book trolley volunteer Susan Davies (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Book trolley volunteer Susan Davies said that it wasn’t all about books.

“Some of them just enjoy having a chat for a couple of minutes,” she said.

“It’s nice to see a different face, I think that’s what the patients quite like. It’s only recently visiting has been reintroduced and you are the only person they saw outside of medical staff.

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“Of course, they do like the books – murder mysteries and thrillers seem to be the most popular genre – and they are always surprised to discover that there’s no charge. That’s quite an asset as some are worried that they haven’t got their purses or wallets.

“They are always very thankful.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire children urged to take part in Summer reading challenge

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Children in Carmarthenshire are being urged to take part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge which is all about science and innovation.

They’re being asked to visit any of Carmarthenshire’s libraries during the school summer holidays to ‘meet the Gadgeteers’.

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Through an exciting book collection and accompanying activities, the ‘Gadgeteers’ will help spark children’s curiosity about the world around them and encourage them to feed their imagination. They will be boggled by brilliant facts and be inspired by tales of creativity and invention.

The Summer Reading Challenge is open to all primary school-aged children aged four to 11 and combines free access to books, and fun, creative activities during the summer holidays.

Children can sign up through their local library where they will receive their Gadgeteers core pack poster. They can set a reading goal and borrow and read books of their own choice.

Children who complete the Summer Reading Challenge are presented with a certificate and a medal.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism Cllr Gareth John (pictured at Carmarthen Library with children from Ysgol Y Dderwen) said: “The Summer Reading Challenge is a fun initiative for families during the summer holidays, and it’s free to take part.

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“It can help children to improve their reading skills and confidence before they return to school in September, and it is also a good opportunity for families to explore the range of books available at our libraries.

“With plenty of options across picture books, early readers and middle grade books,

there is lots to keep children busy.”

The Summer Reading Challenge, a unique partnership between The Reading Agency and public libraries across the UK.

Children are also encouraged to explore the dedicated Summer Reading Challenge website, where they can take part in the digital Challenge and explore various online activities.

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Lead image: Cllr Gareth John at Carmarthen Library with children from Ysgol Y Dderwen (Image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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