Sunday, April 8, 2018

All the Presidents Men and Women

No this is not a reference to the 1976 film about the Watergate Scandal and no it does not include Robert Redford or Dustin Hoffman, but it does include a few scandals and a few hero's and gives some thoughtful insight into the history of the Society and the changing history of the way people view science, culture and wildlife over the ages.

The President's pages are now all live on the website and the Society history section is now substantially complete so what does all of  this tell us.

One thing is that we have a lot of information available about some fascinating people and it has been a real pleasure to explore all of this and share it with the people of Cardiff and through the internet the world.

In doing this I have amassed a personal archive of over 1000 images, snippets of information and I have created 117 webpages with about 350 images on them totally a bit over 70Mb if information (which admittedly is a very small number in terms of file sizes these days)

Robert Drane, Thomas Henry Thomas, William Adams

Interestingly in these days of social media and where GDPR regulations are coming into force to ensure that people's personal details are kept private, it is the earliest presidents who were the easiest to research as the details of the daily lives of the forward thinking people who formed the Cardiff Naturalists' Society were documented on an almost daily basis in the local newspapers of which there were many, covering what was at that time a relatively small, but fast growing town.

The details recorded about people's attendance at scientific lectures and the events of the Society in those early days would probably have people reaching for lawyers in order to sue someone these days.

Eleanor Vachell, Franklen G.Adams, Henry Heywood

The research into those early years was massively helped by the wonderful National Library of Wales Newspapers on-line site. it is fantastic how those early newspapers (up to 1919 as far as I can tell) are scanned and OCR'd to make the information available

Also the fact that we as a society agreed and made available our Reports and Transactions to be scanned into their Welsh Journals on-line site was a wonderful boon. The same scanning and OCR process has made searching for information about former members much easier than reading through about a meter of bookshelf every time I wanted to look something up. One note on this is that not all journal copies are coming up in the searches.

The National Library have been made aware and they say that they have scanned and OCR'd them all, but there is a problem with some metadata which is preventing some issues appearing. Hopefully they will sort this out sometime soon and I will be able to perform another set of searches to see if anything more comes up

A H Lee and unknown junior member, A H Trow, A W Sheen

The Glamorgan Archives have also been wonderful and a number of the pictures have come from materials that we have deposited at the archives and are available for any bonafide researcher to make use of.

Things got harder to research after about the 1950's  whilst the society was still thriving at the time, the level of coverage in local newspapers started to drop and by the 1970's things seem to get very hard and it is not until the 2000's where we start to find information getting easier to find again in the internet age.

I suspect that gap will be filled in in some way with the scanning of further publications and a lot more information coming onto the internet, but there are likely to be gaps still in those years where the telephone took over from letter writing and there is nothing to place in the archives.

Sir Cyril Fox, Canon Charles J Thompson, Charles Vachell, A W Sheen

Also in those years the fragmentation of scientific interests led to many more specialist groups being setup and a loss in the overall place that a local general natural history society had in Cardiff's culture. Such is not uncommon, but also not always the case, but one thing is clear from my experience is that the published press have a much lower interest unless a story that could grab a headline is placed on their plate with little work for them to need to do.

Other institutions have been very helpful as I have come across items that relate to things in their collections and I would like to list some other information sources and institutions that have been particularly useful or helpful at this time (there are yet more people or institutions which are individually thanked within the pages)
  • National Museum of Wales 
  • Cardiff University
  • Guernsey Museum
  • Dr Mary Gillham Archive project
  • Vachell Family Archives
  • www.cardiffparks.org.uk 

Linda Nottage, Mary Gillham, Peter Price

Noting recent privacy aspects, we have left it up to living people as to whether they want a page in the system and some have not yet decided or got around to providing a set of information that they are happy with. There are also a few people who I have struggled to find any information about (mostly in that information blackout age) and I need to continue the search, but that will have to be as a much lower priority project.

So I may well come back and update some of those pages and it's worth keeping an eye out for updates. 

Andy Kendall
Publicity Officer and 113th President 



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