European Travellers to Wales project awarded follow-on funding

Posted on 13 June 2017
Dr Rita Singer, Professor Carol Tully, Dr Heather Williams, Scott Lloyd, Susan Fielding

The project team - Dr Rita Singer, Professor Carol Tully, Dr Heather Williams, Scott Lloyd and Susan Fielding

The European Travellers to Wales research project, for which the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS) was a collaborating partner, has received follow-on funding for impact and engagement from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Led by Bangor University, the continuing project will be a collaboration between Bangor and CAWCS, working alongside the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Visit Wales, and began on the 1st of June 2017.

European tourists visiting Wales will be able to read historical accounts of visits to Wales through the ages via a new portal to be completed next year. With tourism from Britain and Europe contributing to £5.1 billion annually to the Welsh economy, a figure which is expected to grow, the portal will be a valuable resource for Visit Wales’ in promoting Wales’ landscape, history and culture.

This project will build on the work undertaken from 2013 to 2017 on the European Travellers to Wales 1750-2010 project, a collaboration between researchers in Modern Languages based at Bangor University, Swansea University and CAWCS and their partners at the National Library of Wales and within the museum sector in Wales.

Broadly speaking, the original project set out to explore the responses in travel writing of European travellers coming to Wales over a period of nearly three centuries. The research uncovered travellers' responses to Wales as a peripheral, at times unexpected nation with a culture often little known in the European context.

Underpinning the project was the creation of a searchable open access database of accounts of travel which now contains over 400 entries.

“We’ve found previously unstudied accounts providing insights into how others have viewed Wales,” said Professor Carol Tully, who is leading the project from Bangor University’s School of Modern Languages & Cultures. “Some of the writing is in diaries or letters, and many were not intended for publication.  The breadth of the topics discussed shows a long-standing interest in Wales. Not all the visitors were tourists in the modern sense, some were refugees or on business, but they all provide insights into Wales by visitors from other European nations,” she added.

This follow-on project aims to exploit the material held in this database by working with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Visit Wales to help to promote Wales, its history, cultural heritage and landscape more widely to national and international audiences by developing an interactive mobile-friendly website that allows users, primarily but not exclusively from German and French-speaking Europe, to create themed travel routes through Wales and to access historical, site-specific material that interprets individual locations from the perspective of travellers through time - in particular the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Speaking about the opportunities this follow-on funding will create, the Director of CAWCS, Professor Dafydd Johnston said:

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to extend our collaboration with Bangor University and draw on the expertise of the Royal Commission in order to apply the findings of our research to enrich contemporary travellers’ experience of Wales.”

The interactive website will make this newly recovered historical material available to new, general audiences in a way which will have a positive impact on tourist activity in Wales, contributing to one of the most important elements of the Welsh economy and targeting one of the key markets identified by Visit Wales. The development of this new website will exploit the unexpected quality and quantity of previously unknown or forgotten material dating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which has been uncovered during the main research undertaken for the European Travellers to Wales project and which is now surfaced in the database.

The material in question covers a period of great change in the landscape, culture and heritage of Wales and modern-day visitors will be able to 'experience' those changes through the eyes of their travelling predecessors, thus opening up a unique view of Wales to a new generation of travellers from Europe, but also casting a new light on the perception of Wales over time for visitors from the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. This will be made possible through the collation of existing digital materials and the development, using the expertise of the Royal Commission team, of new digital resources consisting of historical visual material, digital visualisation and reconstructions, panotours of gigapixel photography and Virtual Reality experiences. Downloadable materials will also be made available.

The website will be hosted by Bangor University and promoted globally via the various platforms operated by Visit Wales.

For more information about the project, and to explore the ‘Accounts of travel’ database, visit the project website - http://etw.bangor.ac.uk/

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