This project involved the collection and archiving of the history of an area, through gathering narratives, memories and stories from the residents of Burntwood, and of Lichfield City in Staffordshire.
Data was gathered through conducting interviews of local habitants of the town of Burntwood (participants included the Burntwood history society, Chase Terrace Ladies group, Burntwood Breast Cancer group, local school children and their parents, library members and staff, and general visitors to Burntwood library). Then on a second collection event data was gathered from local habitants of Lichfield City.
Through documenting narratives in different media forms – video, scanning in collected photographs, audio recordings and collecting written words/anecdotes onto postcards. All the data was then archived in a digital ‘time-capsule’ and will be buried for future generations to find as a piece of archaeology. It is the modern day version of, and homage to, the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ which was a collection of Anglo-Saxon gold that was discovered and unearthed in the same area.
In Burntwood, the variety of information that was recorded from many different generations offering their perceptions of growing up in the area, showed a distinct difference between age groups as they described their observations of the changes that had been observed over time and as the town has evolved and expanded from an era where it was made up of individual villages divided by fields, through to its mining industrial days of development and up to modern day, a now urban landscape as a whole united town of people from many other areas.
In Lichfield there were emotional responses relayed by those who had lived in the city since birth or at least for many years. It was interesting to find out that many people in the area despite having lived there for over forty years still did not feel as though they were from that area. This provoked the following questions: Is this a sign that local people feel they don’t belong to a community? Or is this depicting a view of insiders and outsiders dependant on place of birth?
Comparing the data collected with that collected in the Burntwood area for the time-capsule, it could be seen that the city enticed a wide range of people who settled in the area for jobs and family homes. Some moved from areas such as Manchester and Lancashire, whereas it was found that Burntwood’s development of population was due more to the Birmingham overspill and the mining industry. This was remembered mostly by the older generation of participants, whereas those born perhaps within the last forty years viewed the area as their home and they did not relay stories related to this but instead were describing how they find and use the city today.
The ‘Time-Capsule’ project is the first project to commence as part of a new Art initiative entitled ‘A City as Sculpture’. You can read more observations on this project by following this link: http://acityassculpture.com/?p=139