When we think about local history, it is perhaps easiest to think about the use of the land; those who made use of it and the changes they brought. The landscape is constantly transforming from season to season. There are changes in industry, in working practices, settlement use and advances in technology from cement to the combine harvester to the motor car.
But what about the impact art has made on the landscape? Creativity goes hand in hand with inspiration of the landscape, and we often see the results of this creativity in art galleries, museums; in our own homes. The 2014-2019 HLF funded project Creative Wiltshire is looking at the impact that creativity has made on our county, acquiring items made by creative people on behalf of the county’s participating museums, archive and local studies libraries. More recently the project has been considering public art; the extent, location and condition of works in Wiltshire and the role it plays to enhance the places where we live and work.
I have been running a number of volunteer workshops, calling for volunteers to help locate, investigate and map public art in the county, and our discussions have centred on that quite often very personal idea of what exactly is public art? To some it is an eyesore, to others a show of creativity to inspire others, a display of craftsmanship, perhaps sometimes evoking a sense of community effort or setting a community’s celebration or commemoration in time.
Public art is vulnerable; sometimes temporary, sometimes controversial, but without it we would not be a society which strives, which shares, which inspires, which provokes thought in spaces that are open to all. What a richer society we are because of it.
Art is part of who we are. It is an important addition to local history which gives us an insight into the mindset of communities past and present.
There’s still time to take part in the Public Art Project. Visit
Visit Creative Wiltshire and I hope to see you soon!
County Local Studies Librarian & Project Co-ordinator
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre