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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Wales Smithsonian Cymru

Heritage Meets Innovation:

"Recycling" Heritage Sites in Wales

Although once known as the world's first industrialized nation, Wales is more celebrated today for its rural, bucolic landscapes. Its history of heavy manufacturing and natural resource extraction lives only in the memories of former workers in the coal, slate, iron, and woolen industries.

Fortunately, many industrial sites—including several branches of the National Museum Wales—have become heritage interpretation sites, employing some of these former workers as guides. For instance, St. Fagans: National History Museum is in part an open-air museum where special demonstrations of crafts and domestic life illustrate both the rural and the industrial history of Wales. The museum interprets Welsh contemporary culture, including that of some of the country's most recent immigrants, around the theme of belonging.

  • The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in South East Wales was designated a World Heritage Site in 2000, recognizing that South Wales was the world's major producer of iron and coal in the nineteenth century. The area includes evidence of coal and ore mines, quarries, a railway system, furnaces, and homes of workers.
  • You can pan for gold at the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, a National Trust Wales site that interprets the history of gold mining in Wales. Today, Welsh gold is still used for the wedding rings of the British royal family.