THE ELDER DEMPSTER LINES HERITAGE ARCHIVE
A Project Overview
The musings of a Maritime Historian
The views expressed in this document represent the thoughts of the author and should not be taken as the officially agreed policies and procedures that will be adopted by Liverpool John Moore’s University or the EDL Steering Committee.
LOSS OF OUR HERITAGE ARCHIVE
Providing an accurate record and insight into our past has traditionally been tasked to sponsored museums, their curators and the professional historian/author. The Museum Industry is currently in a state of flux with museums closing and research facilities affected by financial cutbacks. In an effort to fill the failing financial coffers, many museums have resolved to attract fee paying visitors by any means available. Consequently family entertainment is taking priority over providing an important public education & research function. To some extent broadcast ‘Media’ and the Web have come to the rescue and filled some of the gaps in the public’s thirst for real knowledge. The role of the historian, both the professional academic and the amateur, is still of paramount importance and increasingly so; that is if we are to leave a meaningful and true legacy for those that seek a full understanding of history. In our new rapidly changing world it is becoming increasingly important that we quiz the elders in our society about the skills and the political and working environments that they experienced in their day – the end of colonialism, ‘The Empire’ and the age before computerisation and containerisation.
RECORDING OUR HERITAGE ARCHIVE (see attached EDL HERITAGE ARCHIVE (OVERVIEW)
In preserving our heritage it would seem that most researchers, writers, and museum trusts favour one of two options: Option One, the academic preference for investigating the causes and consequences of historical events and lifestyles: Option Two, researching and documenting the practicalities of how we led our lives and physically undertook our everyday working tasks. If we are to build a complete picture of the influence of shipping upon society, we should encompass both options. Essentially concentrating our efforts into ‘That Which Was Achieved by Company & Trade Development’ -
Option One has been well researched in the past resulting in the publication of several Company Histories. Likewise there are other publications and texts in existence that refer to the development of West Africa and the West African Shipping Trade. Elder Dempster’s contribution to the development of Liverpool and the social and financial influence on the UK in general falls within a grouping that which we can refer to as ‘THE TRADE MAKERS’: Stolen from the title of Prof. Peter Davies’ history of EDL this makes a good generic title that encapsulates the full subject.
Option Two may be described as ‘THE SHIPPING PROCESS’, again self explanatory and encapsulating information sources being focused on the experiences of retired and ex EDL Office and Seafaring Staff.
THE SPAN OF TIME:
Option One: ‘THE TRADE MAKERS’ facilitates the production of meaningful timelines that illustrate the regional development and the colonial history of the West African trading area. Parallel timelines can also be used to illustrate links with EDL development and its impact on Liverpool.
Option Two: ‘THE SHIPPING PROCESS’ is mainly reliant upon obtaining written and oral testimony from a living memory bank. These human resources represent a period of history in which they witnessed the end of an era, the last embers of British Colonialism and the decline in the use of conventional dry cargo ships. An era without computers and mass containerisation that represents traditional operational shipping practices that were familiar even to pre WWII operations. Our resources include access to those witnesses that worked for EDL in the mid 1950’s – late 1960’s, focus groups that include Head Office, Agency and Seafaring Staff. We have a real time capsule that reflects shipping before the late 1960’s and pre WWII.
EMPLOYEE & OTHER FOCUS GROUPS:
The Fourah Bay Reunion Association is just one of the organisations participating in the Elder Dempster Lines HLF Heritage Archive Project. Whilst encouraging its members to participate in the gathering of ‘Oral History’ by the Liverpool John Moores University team. It will making an added contribution by directly canvassing its own members and establishing its own information source that can be accessed by the LJMU team. The methodology used to gather data may differ to that followed by the LJMU Oral History Team, however this is necessary to handle what may be a substantial archive. The attached (Phase One) diagram ‘ ELDER DEMPSTER LINES: HERITAGE ARCHIVE (OVERVIEW)’ identifies three specific possible ex employee focus groups. EDL Head Office Management & Staff (Brown) – EDL Agents & Staff (Blue) – EDL Sea Staff (Green). The Fourah Bay Reunion Association membership and contribution will focus on those ‘green’ highlighted sections. The two following strategy may also be applied to the other two areas of focus.