The Atlanterra Project and the development of interpretative animation & international slate studies

The first four months of 2014 saw the culmination of a four year project that examined the valorisation of the mining heritage and laid the foundations for World Heritage Studies of the building-stone and slate industries. It examined the mining heritage from both a geological and archaeological/historical viewpoint and explored how to showcase this heritage using the application of new digital technologies. As a result The Royal Commission recently won the first Peter Neaverson Award for Digital Innovation given by the Association for Industrial Archaeology for its animation of the world’s largest early to mid-nineteenth century copper works – Hafod Copperworks in Swansea.

Stephen Hughes, Projects Director, RCAHMW & TICCIH Secretary

Using material from the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)and their expertise in industrial archaeology together with historic images from the West Glamorgan Record Office and Swansea Museum, the animation recreates the detail of buildings, machinery and processes on the site as well as a sense of the highly industrial nature of the Lower Swansea Valley in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The animation can be viewed on line youtube.com/watch?v=1Y8DAXaMihc.

The Atlanterra: Green Mines II European Inter-Regional Project formed in February 2010 by a group of geological, archaeological, tourism and regeneration organisations from France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Wales, led by the municipality of Noyant-la-Gravoyère. An understanding of historic mining fields can only be achieved by a determination of their geological structure considered together with their archaeological remains. Consequently, the project partners have included the Instituto Geologico y Minero de España (IGME), the Laboratorio Nacional de Energia e Geologia of Portugal (LNEG) and the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI). The RCAHMW has led on the archaeological objectives that included the demonstration and diffusion of digital and laser-scanning techniques.

Laser-scanning of a significant site such as that carried out in the Vivian Slate Quarry, part of one of the world’s biggest nineteenth-century mountain terraced slate quarries, at Dinorwig, Llanberis, North Wales can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=PH1Gf1LY2Ms. These laser-scans of large industrial landscapes can be used to produce on-line ‘fly-throughs’ which seem to have an almost magical other-worldly feel that draws new audiences to go and explore these sites for themselves. The Royal Commission also commissioned an equally attractive scan of an underground mine-pumping waterwheel in a lead mine in mid Wales which can be viewed online at welshminestrust.org/ystrad-einion..

This work helped inspire our Atlanterra project partners to produce their own ‘fly-through’ films. One has just been produced by the Copper Coast Geopark in County Waterford in Ireland of the conserved copper mine engine-houses on the cliff at Tankardstown and can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=rcqZfnXcJjk . Another has a fly-through of the remaining dry underground tunnels and mineral formations in the mine. This includes a 3D digital representation of all the levels, shafts and tunnels ever worked in the mine constructed from the historical mine plans archive held by the Geological Survey of Ireland. This can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=f1w1sBfbN1s..

The digital and laser surveys have helped produce the high quality results from which animators can build 3D models conveying reliable information to cultural tourists. The Royal Commission’s initial animation of the building of the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in north Wales available at youtube.com/watch?v=nqeCu6jd9W0 , produced in 2009 though this lacked a sound track..

Animations of two of the major slate-quarrying and mining sites at Maenofferen Blaenau Ffestiniog and Vivian’s Quarry at the Dinorwig slate-quarrying complex have been produced as part of the Atlanterra Project and will be available at youtube.com/user/RCAHMWales. An animation of the railway inclined-planes at the Vivian’s Slate Quarry is already available at youtube.com/watch?v=UUUAfQOnDnk ..

The Atlanterra partnership has included representatives of areas that had some of the biggest international slate-producing industries. The largest industry developed in the Loire Valley in France in the medieval and post-medieval period and then was overtaken in scale by the nineteenth-century Welsh industry. In the twentieth century the Spanish slate industry has become the largest in Europe. Discussion and field visits have allowed draft documents to be produced as a foundation for future World Heritage Studies of slate and building-stone to be produced in consultation with a wider range of TICCIH members..

The methodology of producing animations for industrial archaeological interpretation continues and the annual Digital Past Conferences are one vehicle for carrying this discussion forward (check www.rcahmw.gov.uk for future conferences). Some further work has been carried-out as part of the Metal Links Irish-Welsh partnership led by the Royal Commission in Wales.

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