Over two days 60 participants were interviewed as part of the Time-capsule project for Lichfield and District. As part of an ongoing project entitled ‘A City as Sculpture’, memories, narratives and stories all related to the area were sought and captured in members of the public’s own words. Images and photographs were brought in by members of the local area to be scanned and archived which could be put into the digital time-capsule to be recorded for the next generations to view and hear. The project therefore relied on participants responses in order to build a collection and it was unknown and unexpected what the responses would be like. The participants responded to an advertisement in the local paper and via social media networks to know the date and time of the event. The participants could also fill in a postcard (either anonymously or not) to write their story if they wanted to. An array of narratives was collected. The depiction of Lichfield was different for everyone, some remembered their past childhoods growing up in the area and described what it was like, and others were visitors and described their experiences presently no matter how long or short their stay in the city.
The gathering of information took place at the local Lichfield Library, through listening to recollections it was discovered that some of the participants including one member of the library staff whom had known the building to be their own primary school when they were a child. Today it is full of shelves of books lining its walls where once there stood a refectory for young children and classrooms. It was heard that even the grand stone fire place that stands in one room was once part of a building that stood opposite where the friary once was. The history of the area was spoken of fondly by participants and the changes that have been observed were described, particularly the changes to the usages of the city through industrialisation and the commercial changes that the historic city has relied upon for development. Places and spaces therefore were shown to have different meanings for different people of varied generations. The park space was described as a highlight by younger generations and parents of small children. Older members of the population described the importance of the many tea rooms and coffee shops as meeting places.
There were emotional responses relayed by those who had lived in the city since birth or at least for many years. It was interesting to find out that many people in the area despite having lived there for over forty years still did not feel as though they were from that area. This provoked the following questions: Is this a sign that local people feel they don’t belong to a community? Or is this depicting a view of insiders and outsiders dependant on place of birth?
Comparing the data collected with that collected in the Burntwood area for the time-capsule, it could be seen that the city enticed a wide range of people who settled in the area for jobs and family homes. Some moved from areas such as Manchester and Lancashire, whereas it was found that Burntwood’s development of population was due more to the Birmingham overspill and the mining industry. This was remembered mostly by the older generation of participants, whereas those born perhaps within the last forty years viewed the area as their home and they did not relay stories related to this but instead were describing how they find and use the city today.
There was a distinct appreciation for the city and most participants had a positive story to tell. Some upset was relayed concerning the forthcoming HS2 which would go through land in the nearby area. It became apparent that the listening of stories was responded to with appreciation and almost a sense of relief to be heard and recorded. Without the recording of which such stories would never be able to be passed on to the next generation to hear and view.
A picture of a tree that was important to one participant was handed in to be scanned. It had names carved into it of a loved one but it had since been chopped down. Yet through digital recording the photographic image of the tree can now be immortalised and shown to others, though this shall never replace the tree, its presence has been captured and preserved in a digital visual form for others to know it existed. The same for all the narratives given in and recorded either written down or spoken, they now are captured in time for future generations to see and hear and they together represent a collective depiction of the city of Lichfield and district for other people to discover in the future.