In early 2012, West Lothian Council Archives was successful in a bid for a £42,858 grant from the National Cataloguing Grants Program. The grant was awarded to enable the Archives to appoint a Project Archivist who could catalogue the records of the Livingston Development Corporation, and five other collections that concerned the town of Livingston; and then also to produce an online catalogue and write a summary guide.
Since the project post began in July 2012, we have been thinking of ways to try and share the depth and breadth of information we hold relating to the history of Livingston and to try and show people, who are perhaps not familiar with archives, how the documents and records - archives - can illuminate and provide information on a variety of subjects. This blog, and its linked twitter feed, is one format that we thought we would try.
The blog is based around the reports of the Assistant Housing Visitors of the Livingston Development Corporation from 1970 to 1978. The Assistant Housing Visitors were employed to visit tenants to welcome them to the town and help them through any problems they might have. Their reports over eight years record a town in its formative adolescence and provide a raw insight into life in a new town.
The result of these reports is that we have a personalised record, almost a diary, of Livingston as it tried to deal with the huge array of issues that creating a town from scratch can bring. When these reports were written the town was almost eight years old yet problems included packs of stray dogs, poorly constructed houses that leaked whenever it was slightly wet, loneliness and the “New Town Blues”, staggering electricity bills caused by inefficient heating, unemployment and the poor provision of social services in a new town - to name but a few! On a more positive note the reports record the sense of social solidarity that arose amongst the first immigrants to Livingston - Livingston to this day has a breadth and depth of social activities that more established towns find hard to match.
The reports are insightful record into what, even at just forty years distance, can be viewed as another era – this was still a time when men were “breadwinners” and women were “housewives” - when many of the new residents in Livingston had been brought up in the old slums of Glasgow that were being swept away.
Archives are the basis on which history is written, and the scale of change in Britain, since 1970 is recorded in these reports.