We started the project in 2009 as an opportunity to celebrate our Seavington villages, bring people together, to hand down memories and share experiences.
Hundreds of people have lived, worked and died in the Seavingtons building their homes, changing the land use and leaving their mark.
Knowing the history of these settlements makes living in Seavington a richer experience – it is enriching to understand the present if we know the past.
For current residents, the project will provide a collecting point for historical information and for families who originated in Seavington, the project will provide a global route to help research their family history.
Seavington comprises two slightly different but well integrated communities: the indigenous families who have lived and worked here, often for hundreds of years and whose relatives have emigrated all over the world, and the incomers who have moved here following work or retirement.
Firstly, there is a need to capture the experiences and memories of the people who have always lived here as their lives have seen huge changes over the last 100 years. They have seen their village change from a living and working environment to a residential community who are either retired, or travel elsewhere to work.
In the last year we have been concentrating on collecting material that already exists in the community. We have been donated over 200 photographs depicting life in Seavington over the last 100 years.
We have recorded conversations with some of Seavington’s oldest inhabitants, which we hope, with their families agreement, can put on the website.
We have looked back through the Seavington News since it started in 1980 and extracted all the articles that have historical significance and talked to Andrew Norton and Bob Chamings about the Seavington Hunt.
Core funding was given by the Seavington Parish Council and The Seavingtons’ News to get us started. On browsing the net, we discovered that many other towns and villages had their own history websites including Winsham locally, so we went to see John Sullivan at Winsham who has been running the Winsham Web Museum for seven years for advice. John also runs Winsham’s Magazine and newletter. We then decided to look into the ‘Web Museum’ route because it offered an exciting alternative that can be achieved economically using mostly volunteer time.
We had a web designer in the village – Eugene Mulligan – who agreed to work with us to create a website.
We then went to see Ian Wait the Managing Director of Branstons (potato merchants) at their depot in Seavington to explain what we were proposing and to ask if they had any information about the history of Branstons. We also explained that we were holding a launch event and hoping to set up a website. In response they kindly offered to sponsor our first years’ operations including the launch event and setting up the website.
We, Carolyn, Nicky and Ry – the project team, are not historians. It was necessary to do some research, talking to people, get training and learn from others experiences. Now we see our roles as curators of the museum, managing the information to make it widely available.
From the start we had a great deal of support in particular from Tom Mayberry, Somerset Heritage Officer who is based at the Somerset Records Office which is currently moving to new premises in Taunton. Tom invited us to the Somerset Records Office and gave us a guided tour and lots of advice about where to start.
We were introduced to Anne Healey MBE who has spent her professional life recording oral history of people in Somerset for the Glastonbury Rural Life museum. To see some of her work visit the Somerset Voices website. Anne came over and gave us an afternoons training on oral history techniques which was extremely helpful. Also Joseph Lewis from the Heritage Information Service at Yeovil Museum has been helpful in assisting us with information about copyright and procedures.
The advantages of the Web Museum approach is that it can continually be added to and updated as current events become history – and more material becomes available from home and abroad – and it can be accessed anywhere in the world.
The disadvantage is that it excludes people who are not connected and these are the very people often who have donated so much material – and therefore it does remain our ambition to publish a book of the best information from the web museum in due course.
We have been very encouraged by the hit rate the web site is receiving including many contacts from abroad.