A VALLEYS landmark is set to be transformed into a £12 million family history and genealogy visitor centre.

Plans to refurbish the historic General Offices at the former Ebbw Vale steelworks into a top historical visitor’s attraction will include the relocation of the Gwent Records Office, which has one of the largest archives in Wales.

The priceless collection, which covers five kilometres of shelving at its current home in Cwmbran, has records dating back to the 1300s and will form the cornerstone of the unique history and genealogy centre.

A new purpose-built, environmentally controlled extension will be built at the General Offices to house the archives, which forms part of the larger regeneration of The Works project as a whole.

The new centre, which is set to open in 2010, will feature the latest in interactive technology including a digital newspaper archive, photos, maps and films as well as multi-touch surfaces, interactive games and a 3D cinema.

Deputy minister Leighton Andrews, who announced the plans yesterday, said family history was a growing industry and the new centre would provide visitors with the opportunity to trace their ancestors, which is one of the fastest growing pastime in the western world.

He said: “The new centre will be able to offer much more than merely access to records and data - the vast store of easily accessible information will also enable people to paint a picture of the world their ancestors lived in and provide a snapshot of Welsh history”.

Councillor Des Hillman, leader of Blaenau Gwent council, said: “How fitting that the new General Offices will bring the very latest 21st century digital technology here to help regenerate Blaenau Gwent which was at the heart of the industrial revolution and a pioneering centre for steel making technology.

“The restoration of this landmark building is a major step forward for our exciting partnership project to redevelop the whole of The Works: Ebbw Vale progressively over the next few years.”