Signing the MoU: Cllr Martyn Alvey and Professor Martin Siegert, with (back row, l-r) Deborah Tritton (Archive Services Manager) Dr Garry Tregidga and Dr Joanie Willett (both Institute of Cornish Studies)

The celebration and preservation of Cornish culture and heritage is the focus of a new agreement between two of the Duchy’s leading organisations in the field.

The University of Exeter and Kresen Kernow – the Archives and Cornish Studies Service – have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which could lead to them working on joint research projects or funding bids, promoting Cornish heritage nationally and internationally, and developing employability skills for students.

Kresen Kernow (‘Cornwall Centre’) is home to the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps and photographs related to Cornwall’s history. The state-of-the-art archive centre is based in the former Redruth Brewery and contains more than 1.5 million items dating back 850 years, along with exhibition space, a café and research and activity areas.

The signing of the MoU took place as part of an event at Exeter’s Penryn campus called Ragdresow Nowydh, which celebrated the vibrant cultural and heritage programme of the Institute of Cornish Studies at the University.

Professor Martin Siegert, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Cornwall), who signed on behalf of the University, said: “Society and culture are two of the cornerstones that define the University’s work in Cornwall. It speaks to our commitment to fairness and social justice, and our passion for the history of the Duchy, and how that wealth of heritage can inform a prosperous future. So, we are delighted to have agreed to explore collaborative opportunities with Kresen Kernow, whose archive is a beacon of excellence. Together, I hope we can develop some exciting and impactful projects together.”

Cllr Martyn Alvey, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Climate Change, Cornwall Council, signing on behalf of Kresen Kernow, added: “Research, access and collaboration are at the heart of the service at Kresen Kernow. We hope that working together more closely will lead to a greater understanding of Cornwall’s rich historic record and make a difference to people and communities today through projects that uncover new perspectives and previously hidden histories. From how records are evolving in a digital age, to the role of archives in contributing to personal wellbeing and a sense of place, there are exciting opportunities to explore together sustainable and creative approaches to questions and challenges.”

The partnership is particularly important for the work of the Institute of Cornish Studies. Co-Director Dr Garry Tregidga said: “We have worked together for several years in relation to initiatives like the Cornish Audio Visual Archive and the Cornish National Music Archive. This exciting development gives us the opportunity to extend our relationship further in order to implement a comprehensive programme in relation to the study of Cornwall’s past.”

The signing was one of several events at Ragdresow Nowydh, which saw members of the public, University staff and guests from the heritage and cultural sector gathering to look ahead to new projects and opportunities.

Among them was a ‘cultural marketplace’ for people and projects in the sector; the launch of a new Arts and Cultural Unit within the Institute of Cornish Studies; talks by Cornwall Heritage Trust and the Cornish National Music Archive, and the launch of a new book entitled Cornish Herstory, edited by Dr Lesley Trotter, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Cornish Studies.

The event also attracted several international speakers, including Professor Rebe Taylor, from the University of Tasmania, who discussed indigenous and colonial histories; and Dr Dustin O’Hara, from Western Washington University, who spoke on digital humanities and community storytelling in Redruth and Camborne.

“A belief in the transformative potential of arts and culture to bring people together and create new ideas and outcomes is one of the principles of the work we do here in Cornwall,” added Clare Saunders, Professor in Politics and Head of Department for Humanities and Social Science Cornwall. “Ragdresow Nowydh brought that to life in a vibrant celebration on campus, and it was affirming to see so many people creating connections, starting conversations and exploring opportunities to work together.”