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Pembrokeshire Tourism Members Blog

Pembrokeshire Echoes - building Pembrokeshire Ecomuseums

Pembrokeshire Tourism - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

In Pembrokeshire, PLANED and local communities are leading the way to develop local Ecomuseums. Using the Ecomuseum principles, communities are creating new tourism products and interpretation and sharing information between community heritage projects.

PLANED and a variety of local and national partners are working with Pembrokeshire communities to look at how landscape and seascape have shaped people’s lives. Over the years, surroundings have determined occupations, culture and customs of local communities here in Pembrokeshire. The best people to explore these layers are those who live in a community; those who walk its lanes and paths, sail its waters and know its characters.

History is all around, from ancient earth works, castles and forts, to chapels, kilns and quays. It is evident in stories, passed down by word-of-mouth: through songs, poems, recipes and customs or legends told through place-names, family names or even field names.  These are ‘echoes’ of geography, history, society and culture and they combine to create the ‘feel’ of a place.

In Pembrokeshire this is shared with others in all sorts of ways; from leaflets and ‘heritage trails’ to events like Saundersfoot’s Cawl Championships and Llangwm’s community opera. Social media and ‘phone apps are an increasingly popular means of communicating information. Sharing local pride in heritage is the principle behind Ecomuseums which are well established in Europe as well as the Ukraine, Canada and Japan.

The ‘Echoes’ partnership is currently working with coastal communities, bringing people together to explore special features; how they might be shared and how the local economy can benefit.

A participating community will have an opportunity to:        

  • Audit or ‘map’ features that make it unique; some may not be as obvious as others
  • Explore its ‘layers’ with specialists such as geologists, archaeologists, dramatists and artists
  • Look at different ways of interpreting heritage and sharing it more widely
  • Develop an ‘Information Folder’ to provide visitors with different perspectives
  • Train local ‘Ambassadors’ to share the story, helping visitors become aware of the ‘echoes’
  • Access training e.g. archiving and digitising material for Peoples Collection of Wales
  • Share technology – linking to apps like ‘Culture Beacon’
  • Promote local businesses throughout Wales and further afield
  • Work to develop Ecomuseums as part of a ‘deep-map’ of Pembrokeshire

So, what exactly is an Ecomuseum?

An ecomuseum is described as ‘museum without walls’ focusing on local people celebrating their sense of place. They are interdisciplinary museums which present the history and heritage of a particular community or region in the context of its society, culture, and natural environment. It is not necessarily defined by conventional boundaries but for example, by a common landscape, dialect, industry or musical tradition.

‘Heritage’ can be interpreted as ‘place’, including history of people and things, what is visible and what is not, tangibles and intangibles, memories and future. Local councils, agencies and communities work together to develop, and take care of, all that’s special about an area.

A few principles:

  • A balance between preservation and tourism, retaining integrity is important
  • Long term and holistic planning is important
  • Part of a total environmental approach, such as using traditional building techniques 
  • Visitors are welcomed and informed in a way that engenders mutual respect
  • A locality’s well-being is enhanced without compromising traditional values 

The ecomuseum concept is common in Europe and countries ranging from China and Japan to Canada, where the ‘Kalyna Country’ of Alberta is named after a cranberry plant, covering 20,000 square kilometres, it’s the world’s largest ecomuseum.

In the UK, an ecomuseum is being developed around the Battle of Flodden in northern England. Their principle is:

  • To allow communities, projects, locations and events to retain their individual ownership but to be linked through a single brand.
  • An ecomuseum is focused on the identity of a place, local participation and aiming to enhance the welfare and development of local communities.

In Wales, many projects celebrate local heritage, spanning pre-historic farming to the industrial revolution, with princes and kings, religious fervour and culture along the way.

Developing an Ecomuseum approach can cover several communities in an area with common heritage (roughly relating to the Welsh concept of ‘bro’) and in addition to councils and local agencies, will involve school children, older people, local community groups, WI, church and chapel groups, farming organisations and special interest groups such as history and civic societies.

Long-term residents and more recent residents will be able to work together in a common project, while beneficiaries could include local contractors, farmers, tourism businesses and service providers. Marketing would include local crafts and products; good signposting and interpretation of local features and trails.

On a pan-Wales basis, local projects could link to others through common themes - industry, seafaring - and work closely with the National Museum of Wales for national exhibitions.

For more information about the ‘Pembrokeshire Echoes’ project and how you can get involved, contact: PLANED on 01834 860965 or e-mail 

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