Students from Swansea University have uncovered the past of the University’s students’ union, uncovering details of what it was like to be a Swansea student many moons ago.
They discovered evidence for 1920s style speed-dating, a cheaper beer campaign lasting 30 years and an article from a student newspaper on the pressing issue of dirty crockery and bad food.
Even during the so-called “swinging 60s”, rules uncovered for the female halls of residence were strict indeed.
The research was carried about by history students at the University. One student, Sion Durham, was awarded an Archives Wales prize for his contribution, where amongst other things he discovered a long running campaign for a student bar.
Sion said records should the campaign lasted 30 years, but was held-back by, “one wild night in 1958 which ended up with lots of glasses being smashed”.
“After this episode students needed to prove more than ever that they were trustworthy enough to run their own bar. In fact this didn’t happen until 1988,” he added.
And what-of the strict female dormitory rules? It was found that during 1956 – 6 female residents had to “air rooms, make beds and wash up…and to ask permission from the warden if they wished to be away overnight”.
There were some serious discoveries made too. A plaque from the 1980s was discovered opposing Sourth African apartheid. It was commissioned to commemorate a visit by an African National Congress Representative while Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned.
The idea behind this research work was to design a new module that gave Swansea University students the experience of sharing practical historical knowledge, said Dr Louise Miskell, senior lecturer in history and classics. The hope is to improve students’ employability after graduation.
“Working with original sources is really important to Swansea, and when the Student Union records were deposited in the archive it was the perfect opportunity,” she said.
“It meant students were able to look at minute books of meetings, student newspapers, and all the doings of previous generations of students at Swansea.”
Dr Miskell said that previously, student unions were not seen in the way they are today. “They’ve also had a really important role in politics and campaigning over the years, which really comes across in the archive.”
“This was a strong feature of the literature, exhibition and web material the students produced during the course of their studies,” she said.
Swansea University archivist Elisabeth Bennett said the institution would be incomplete without the history of the students.
“Here at the Richard Burton Archives our aims are to preserve the records in our care and to help people use them,” she said.
“It’s great to see students using archives as part of their courses and there is a lot more potential for them to be used as we are open to the general public as well as staff and students.”