Daily Life Records in the Archives

Lifelogging and bloggers who record their daily events are not just a twenty-first century phenomena. Archives Assistant Sarah Thompson explores examples from our Archive collections to look at ways in which people have been recording their daily life throughout the centuries.

One of the earliest examples of daily life in the local area was discovered on the back wall of Cathole Cave, Gower – an engraving, measuring approximately 15 x 11 cm, ‘tentatively interpreted as representing the head, torso and antlers of a reindeer’ has been radiocarbon dated to 14,505 ± 560 BP!

Diaries and journals

One record of daily life found within our collections are diaries and journals kept by individuals, such as

The Archives also holds the diaries of Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn (industrialist and politician) and you can find out more in a recent guest blog by Aleksandra Ferek, a first-year student at Swansea University, in which she compares the account of his life to her own diaries.

Letters and postcards

Letters and postcards are another fascinating insight into daily life and can be serious, full of news, humorous, scribbled in haste or carefully composed and elegantly written. Letters can reveal love, friendship, grief, aspirations and opinions, the everyday and the extraordinary, as well as connections and relationships.

Daily life within organisations and businesses

Minute books, account books and other records of local organisations also reflect daily life. There are diaries with accounts for Wernfadog Farm, and diaries of Church notices delivered at Sunday services for St David’s Priory Church and other Roman Catholic churches in Swansea.

The business records of coal, copper, tinplate and other industries, as well as their trade union counterparts, are another useful source that reveal daily life and disputes in the area.

Declaration by Amos James, 9 September 1899 (Ref. LAC/87/D/8)

Swansea University Students’ Union newspapers

The Students’ Union newspaper collection consists of over 800 newspapers, dating from 1921 to the present day. The newspapers offer a fascinating insight into all aspects of daily student life, including attitudes towards the University, gender, fashion, comedy, relationships, current affairs, and the surrounding community in Swansea.

Extract from ‘The Undergrad’ student newspaper, University College Swansea, Winter 1922
Photographs

Photographs are an important and a very visual reference to the past. The Raissa Page Collection shows life through a different lens, her photographic archive representing the social life of Britain in an honest and often hard-hitting way – pictures like these paint a thousand words.

Oral histories

Another type of record of daily life are oral histories, a form of testament created for the future. These are exemplified in the Voices of Swansea University, a 1920-2020 oral history project, set up by Dr Sam Blaxland, which aimed to capture the memories and experiences of individuals who have studied and/or worked at Swansea University, since its formation in 1920. In this clip, David Snoswell (former vice-president of the Athletic Union while a student, interviewed by Dr Sam Blaxland, VOSU, C0001/45 [00:08:59-00:10:17]) describes his experience of living in ‘digs’ in Brynmill.

Capturing daily life in the 21st century

Within the last few decades, blogs, tweets, Instagram stories, are the predominant way that people are recording their daily life. The archives and records management profession are having to move forward fast with ways to appraise and preserve this digital, fast-moving, vast amount of material and it will be interesting to see how historians will access and interpret these sources in the future.

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