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The preservation of the past

Hi and welcome to my latest weekly blog detailing my journey in the Mills Archive, where I talk about all of the things which I have found particularly interesting. This week I have come across quite a few books pertaining to the conservation and preservation of mills. This of course got me thinking about just how important preserving our past is, however big or small that historical material may be!

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Last summer in the sweltering heat of 40 degrees, I visited Rome with my family, where we visited one of the great world heritage sites: the Colosseum. Now, as you will all know, the Colosseum was originally used for barbaric games to the death, pitting men against wild animals, criminals against gladiators, etc. As the Roman Empire fell, and the bloodlust reduced, the Colosseum eventually fell into disuse. People were trying to find a use for this archaic structure, and eventually in the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V tried to transform the Colosseum into a wool factory, with workshops on the arena floor and living quarters in the upper stories. So basically he tried to create a massive mill! However, that plan fell through due to the massive cost, and the Colosseum was next plundered for its building materials when it was used as a quarry. The stones of the Colosseum were even used to make the steps of St Peter’s Basilica which was completed in 1626 (the pretty building pictures). But even after all this misuse, conservation efforts were still made in the 1970s, and today it is a monument to a different time, a time of barbarity, where people can come to visit to be awe-inspired by its grandeur and its historical significance.

Now if those conservation efforts hadn’t have been made we would have lost one of the ‘wonders of the world’. This is why it is so essential to maintain our historic monuments, if we don’t, it will rob the future generations of being able to enjoy what we perhaps sometimes take for granted. This is one of the main reasons why I want to get into heritage!

Now, as many of you are millers and mill enthusiasts, I am sure you will be just as enthused about conserving the past as I am, and will recognise the importance of conserving smaller historical material such as books and documents. However, although a majority of people in this country will recognise the importance of conserving our historical monuments, they will often negate the importance of the smaller historical objects, like archival records. It is no good having a monument and having no idea why it is there and what it was used for. Books and documents give historical sites depth and context, drawing people in to come and learn about the historical site – not just to see it! The Mills Archive Trust helps to preserve those documents and makes them accessible to the public, meaning we aren’t looking at a windmill and thinking, “Why does it have those fans on it?”!

As touched on above, here at the Mills Archive we have thousands of books and documents which are about specific mills. A great example of this are our pamphlets on ‘Crabble Mill’. The pictured pamphlet is just one in a series of many about the mill which was restored in 1973, enlightening the reader on the history and significance of the mill! Books and documents like this allow us to contextualise mills, making them even more impressive than they already are! There are so many different pamphlets, documents and books relating to mills in the archive, so if you’re going to see any mill this summer, why don’t you pop in and make use of our extensive archive and read ahead before you visit them!

So that’s all for now, join me again next week where I will be discussing what new highlights have piqued my interest!