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Understanding Southwell

Unit(s) of assessment: History

Research theme: Global Heritage

School: School of Arts and Humanities


Southwell also referred to as ‘The jewel in Nottinghamshire’s crown’ has a unique and rich heritage. It brings together a large number of houses of historical and architectural merit, a long history, an idyllic landscape and rich agricultural and heritage traditions.

The Southwell History Society and the Southwell Community Archaeology Group have formed the Southwell Heritage Trust that aims to highlight Southwell’s unique heritage and promote Southwell as a tourism destination. With the community at the core of this heritage project the Southwell Heritage Trust has decided the explore the concept of the ecomuseum as a management tool. Ecomuseums are in-situ based heritage organisations that allow communities to democratically manage their heritage and can serve as a vehicle for sustainable tourism development.

At Southwell the ecomuseum can be a loosely-structured vehicle through which the communities can manage their own heritage, and encourage audiences to learn, visit and enjoy the sites. Ecomuseums often have different satellite site that are connected to one central hub. This opens the opportunity to link different sites in Nottinghamshire to Southwell and the project.

Research Aims

  • To work alongside the community to develop a heritage project that meets their needs.
  • To explore expanding the ecomuseum concept to the broader East Notts area to incorporate sites in Laxton and Tuxford amongst others
  • To work with the community to explore local history and cultural landscape
  • To develop a best practice approach in cooperation with other ecomuseums in the UK and establish an ecomuseum network

Addressing the Challenge

This is an exploratory, community-led project that is at it’s beginning stages. There are two initial stages planned, after which we will decide with the Southwell community on how to take the research further. Stage 1 will be an initial community consultation at six different locations in Southwell including the library, the market, the Minster etc. As part of that we will also offer presentations/talks/pop-up slots on the proposal to various interest groups in and around Southwell such as U3A, Primary Schools, Minster School etc.

If Stage 1 has successful outcomes and residents would like to see the proposal further developed, there will be a second larger more in-depth single event in late May 2019 (Stage 2). The aim of the event will be to encourage those residents who had expressed an interest in being further involved at Stage 1 to be invited to explore the proposal further.

Making a Difference

The project aims to draw together the interwoven strands of Southwell’s and Nottinghamshire’s long and important story through community-led activities.

It presents a unique approach to heritage and history in the East Midland and will benefit the residents of the Southwell and broader East Notts area who will have greater involvement and access to their heritage through cutting edge museology. It will also enable them to use their heritage assets to develop sustainable tourism and support the local economy.

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