|WHILE the north wing of The General Offices on The Works site, Ebbw Vale, will be home to the Gwent Records Office and Steelworks archive, the south wing will take the form of a unique tourist attraction.
Beginning in a 360º projection map room, visitors will move through a series of interlinking chambers all individually designed to bring the history of the Valleys alive in an interactive genealogy experience.
Over the next few weeks, the Gazette will take a closer look at each to give future visitors a better idea of the wonders which await, beginning with the room themed, Are You Belonging?
Visitor centre manager Angharad Collins explained that the design aims to get people thinking about where they belong, and which random connections and relationships they could have with others.
“In the Valleys, you’ll often hear people asking ‘are you belonging?’, meaning are you related to a person or place,” she said.
“In the Valleys, our links to home, family, community and work are very strong. Finding out about your family tree can bring some surprises along the way, and you might be amazed at some of the random connections you find.”
This room uses the life story of trade union leader and historic Ebbw Vale figure Eugene Cross to highlight someone who connected with thousands of people across his lifetime.
“Maybe your ancestors helped forge the steel from Ebbw Vale that built the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” added Angharad.
“If they worked here in the 19th century they may have rolled the world’s first steel in Ebbw Vale in 1857. In their own right these are amazing facts, but when you make a connection directly to them they become more emotive because you appreciate your relatives made them happen.”
Those researching the family trees can often come across some uncomfortable truths, so the room also includes a Dark Secrets booth which looks at issues like bigamy, incest and murder.
The final section advises people on where to look for their own history starting with parish records and census information in the GRO.
Angharad added: “The ebb and flow of people in the Valleys has resulted in many random connections, so we suggest that visitors see what they can discover.”