Steel expert calls for help from public to identify photographs

A Swansea University historian is calling for help from the people of south west Wales in piecing together the distinguished history of Port Talbot as a centre of the British steel industry.

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Professor Louise Miskell is an expert on steel history, and is leading a project entitled "Visions of Steel" which aims to bring to life over 1,000 photographs of steelmaking in Port Talbot.

The photographs depict steelmaking people, places and processes from the 1930s to the 1950s – a crucial era when the town’s traditional steel plant was modernised and transformed to accommodate the new Abbey Works.

Louise - steel story

The photographs have recently been digitised by National Library – Peoples’ Collection Wales, who are partners in the project.

Some of the photographs will be on display at a special event, open to the public:

  • Thursday 12 May, Blanco’s Hotel, Port Talbot 6.30pm – 8.30pm      
  • The event is free of charge and open to all.  There is no need to book in advance.

Louise Miskell - Port Talbot displayPicture:  Prof Miskell at an event about the photographs, held in Aberafan Shopping Centre, Port Talbot

Professor Louise Miskell said:

“We need people’s help to date the photographs and to identify the people and places represented in them.  If you have knowledge of Port Talbot’s steel industry, past and present, we would love to hear about it.

Why not come along to our event where you can view some of these photographs and tell us what you think of them.

Your contribution could help interpret this important visual record of Port Talbot’s steel industry for future generations.”

Professor Miskell recently gave a public lecture in which she outlined the Port Talbot works’ key role as a centre for innovation, saying:

“The Steel Company of Wales, formed in 1947 to build the vast new Abbey Steelworks in Port Talbot, played an important part in Britain’s economic reconstruction after the war.

Led by a cohort of talented managers from engineering and financial backgrounds, it quickly gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and outward-looking companies in the UK steel sector.”

The reputation for innovation in steel remains today.  Swansea University experts work closely with the steel industry across south Wales.  

Louise Miskell - Port Talbot display group Picture:  Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock, centre, with Visions of Steel leaflet, with historians and archivists at a display of the photographs in Port Talbot.  Picture credit:  Damian Owen. 

Visions of Steel is an exciting project led by Swansea University in partnership with Port Talbot Historical Society, People’s Collection Wales, the National Waterfront Museum and West Glamorgan Archives, which aims to bring to life over 1,000 photographs of Port Talbot’s distinguished history as a centre of the British steel industry. The photographs depict steelmaking people, places and processes from the 1930s to the 1950s – a crucial era when the town’s traditional steel plant was modernised and transformed to accommodate the new Abbey Works. The first event at Aberavon Shopping Centre on Saturday 7 May put a selection of the photographs on display for the first time and invited the public’s help to date the photographs and to identify the people and places represented in them. The exhibition attracted great interest from shoppers and visitors, many of whom shared their memories and knowledge of the steelworks with the project team.  Aberavon MP, Stephen Kinnock, also came along to see the photographs and discuss the project.  Visions of Steel is funded by the AHRC as part of their Connected Communities Festival 2016.

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