News / Heritage

Helping Bristol to better understand who we are

By martin booth, Wednesday Jun 24, 2020

His father came to Bristol from Jamaica, his grandfather came to Bristol from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales and his great-great-grandmother was an agricultural worker in Wiltshire before arriving in the city.

Marvin Rees already knows snippets of his own history and will research his family tree some more in the coming weeks and months, and share the results of what he finds.

Rees also revealed in a press conference on Wednesday that alongside the statue of Colston and some of the banners from the Black Lives Matter march, “and some other material that has come into public view since it was pulled down as that really informs us about how this conversation was had and what was going on in Bristol at the time”.

He said: “This is about working with people and the city to really fill out the understanding of our story.”

He said that the stories will be linked to community history groups across the city, including Bristol Radical History Group, “who are doing the story of their own geographical patch within Bristol”.

“So by the historians working with the museum, those bits of research from across Bristol can be put into that central holding place within the museum, which is good for Bristol, it fills out story out”.

Rees said that he is “really excited” about supporting other people across Bristol to research their genealogy.

He wants to give every person in Bristol the opportunity to look back at “how they came to be the person they are”.

He said the research will lead to a better understanding of Bristol and the city in which their distant and not-so distant relatives lived.

“I think this will be a really exciting journey for Bristol. Hopefully we can link this up with schools. I’m calling it ‘open source history’, whereby we can get this information and make it accessible to people.”

He added: “What I also really want to be able to do within this history is that you will be able to search Bristol’s history by theme. So for example, when we have got this information in, you can click on women and lots of the history in Bristol that is particularly around women, women’s movements, women’s causes, women’s experiences of Bristol will come up.

“You can click on unions or workers and you will get the history of trade union activity in Bristol, the rebellions, the clashes, the strikes.

“You can do immigration, and by immigration I don’t just mean black and brown people coming here…

“It’s with that understanding that we can then make decisions about who we want to honour within our city’s own experiences.”

Main photo: Marvin Rees

Read more: Mayor to launch commission to research Bristol’s ‘true history’

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