Truro Historical Project

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: History


This project brings together the History Department of the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus, the Truro Historical Project (which is a two-year initiative funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and under the general direction of the Town Clerk) and Truro City Council's Community Development Partnership. The Truro Historical Project was originally designed to explore the city's history through the documents, artefacts and images that are found in the record offices, museums and similar institutions in the local area and beyond. These materials can illuminate much of the city's history, but they give only very limited insights into lives of the ordinary citizens of the city and, curiously, they are of limited help in revealing the period of intense change in Truro's very recent history since 1945. Anna Green of the Department of History at the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus, not only has extensive experience of conducting and directing large-scale community oral histories, she is also responsible for the Public History stream of the syllabus, under which students undertake project and dissertation work with local museums and similar organisations. Green's expertise and ability to direct student project work in directions that could contribute significantly to illuminating the context of Truro's postwar history, suggest very clearly that a medium-sized community oral history project could extend our understanding of those aspects of Truro's history for which the documentary sources were most problematic. In selecting where and how many oral histories to undertake, the director of the Truro Historical Project and Green have elected to undertake life histories of the elderly residents of five postwar housing estates (originally built by the local authority) and to work in collaboration with Truro City Council's Community Development Partnership, which has made excellent progress on three of these estates and is looking to expand its activities on the other two. By collaborating with this initiative, the community worker can both introduce the historians to her elderly contacts, but also use the networks of the elderly to extend her own network and to make progress in developing community awareness and solidarity on the two 'new' estates. The Truro Historical project has already planned and budgeted for an exhibition in the city centre at the end of its term (summer 2010), but by adding a new element that celebrates the lives and contributions of those inhabitants that are most difficult to access and, even more important, by ensuring that the oral history element of the expanded exhibition can be taken to the community centres on these estates, this initiative will ensure that the primary goals of the Historical Project (an accessible, enjoyable history of the city) the Community Development Partnership (to empower the inhabitants of these estates and celebrate their contribution to Truro life) and of the University History Department (to work with the local community in constructive partnership) are met successfully.


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