Blog - News
In less than a month’s time, the Library’s Arthurian exhibition will close its doors, and our hero will return to his isle of enchantment.
To mark this year’s Explore your Archive, two events at the National Library on the 15th of November drew attention to all things legendary and archival here.
A lunchtime presentation by Scott Lloyd of RCAHM Wales (author of The Arthurian Place Names of Wales) discussed myths, legends and archaeology, drawing on examples from over a century of archival accumulation by the Commission.
A gallery talk by Maredudd ap Huw, curator of the Arthurian exhibition, led visitors on a trail following the king in his many guises: from the legendary Welsh figure in sources such as the Black Book of Carmarthen and the White Book of Rhydderch, through his medieval French manifestations, before returning to his mixed fate in Tudor Britain.
It is unlikely that King Arthur himself was an archival creator: he was far too busy to keep minutes, file correspondence, and audit accounts. However, manuscripts and books concerning the king may still be seen and enjoyed at the Library’s Hengwrt Gallery until he finally sets sail on December 16th.
Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts
Improving online access to Welsh language health information
The newly appointed National Wikimedian at the National Library of Wales will begin in his new role by tackling an important issue facing Welsh speakers – access to free, quality information on important health and wellbeing issues in Welsh.
Wicipedia is the most viewed Welsh language website in the world with over 90,000 articles. A recent audit of the content revealed that Welsh Wikipedia has very few articles about health and yet the few articles which do exist are, on average, being viewed more times than articles on any other subject. This suggests that Welsh speakers want to consume information about their health in Welsh, through Wicipedia.
- Welsh Wicipedia has 1,500 Welsh language articles on health compared to 84,000 in English
- 2.09% of Welsh Wikipedia articles about Health – 6.67% in English
- Views of Welsh articles about health make up 12% of total page views, more than any other subject.
It is thought that Wikipedia has become the most consulted health resource in the world (based on 4.8 billion pageviews in 2013) and therefore it is vital that it contains reliable, comprehensive information on all aspects of health, from medications, and surgical procedures to fitness, wellbeing and historical information.
It is estimated that poor health costs Wales billions each year, and free easy access to health information through the medium of Welsh (on Wicipedia) would help provide the public with the information they need in a format they are familiar with.
The project, funded by the Welsh Government, will see the National Library of Wales hold a series of public events across Wales, to teach and encourage Health professionals, Medical students and the general public to help improve health content on Wikipedia.
The National Wikimedian will also seek partnerships with charities and institutions who already produce Welsh language health content with the aim of working together to provide access to this content through Wicipedia, with links back to their own online services.
It is hoped that the 9 month project will result in the creation of 3000 new Welsh language health related articles on Wicipedia.
This project aligns with the mission of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, namely, to help develop A healthier Wales and A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. The National Library of Wales is one of the Government’s key partners in delivering on the act.
The project will also help the Library to engage with new communities and develop new partnerships in the education and health sectors in order to promote and develop the use of Welsh as a digital language.
The second Modernist Network Cymru (MONC) conference takes place at the National Library of Wales and Aberystwyth University School of Art on 12-13 September 2017, with ‘Word and Image’ as its theme.
Final Programme and Abstract Booklet
To accompany the conference the Library is exhibiting manuscripts and archives relating to some of Wales’s most important twentieth century writers and artists. The items on display are as follows:
- a sketch of a soldier from David Jones’s manuscript draft of Part V of In Parenthesis (David Jones Papers LP2/6),
- a coloured diagram by David Jones depicting the genealogy of myth (David Jones Papers LO3/3),
- letters from T. S. Eliot to David Jones (David Jones Papers CT1/2),
- a selection of the notebooks of Ray Howard-Jones showing draft poems and drawings (Ray Howard-Jones Papers H2/3),
- papers of the poet R. S. Thomas relating to the publication of an illustrated collection of his poems, The Way of It (1977) (NLW MS 23474C),
- letters from the photographer and artist John Piper to the composer Alun Hoddinott (The Alun Hoddinott Archive BA1/23),
- sketches by the artist Gwen John (NLW MS 22297B),
- Gwen John’s notes on art (NLW MS 22284B),
- ‘Birds in Winter’, an illustrated poem by Berta Ruck, recently purchased by the Library (see the Berta Ruck Archive),
- papers of the writer and artist Brenda Chamberlain (NLW MS 24065E),
- Dylan Thomas’s sketch map of Llareggub, the setting for his play for voices Under Milk Wood (NLW MS 23949E),
- a letter, 16 June 1953, from Thomas to his American mistress Liz Reitell (NLW MS 24091D),
- and a holograph copy of Thomas’s poem ‘Ears in the turrets hear’ (NLW MS 23990D).
The exhibition can be seen in the Summers Room at the National Library on 12-13 September 2017.
Rhys M. Jones
Assistant Manuscripts Librarian
Just days after the National Library announced they were employing the Uk’s first, and world’s second, permanent Wikimedian I travelled to Montreal in Canada for Wikimania – the largest annual Wikipedia conference.
As the name suggests this is an exciting event, bringing together Wikipedians from all around the world, along with hundreds of ‘Wikimedians’ people involved in other Wikimedia projects such as Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons.
Before the main conference got underway I embraced my inner geek and attended the first day of the Wikimania Hackathon. As the National Library of Wales begins to open up its data to the world, we hope we will soon be hosting our own hackathons, inviting developers and programmers to develop new tools, apps and even games, powered by Welsh cultural heritage data.
So taking part in the Wikimania Hackathon was a hugely valuable experience. There were some great outcomes, from improvements to Wikipedia itself to a colour blindness simulator for digital images. So keep your eyes peeled for Welsh Hackathons soon!
Day two was the Wikipedia Medical Conference. In remote parts of the world Wikipedia is the only source of medical information for millions of people, including doctors! In a sector dominated by English language information, Wikipedia provides a platform for health related content in local dialects.
I spoke at the Medical conference about the National Library’s upcoming Wici-Iechyd (Wiki Health) project, aimed at providing free access to important health information in Welsh on Wicipedia, and I had some great discussions with the Wiki project Medicine team about how we can best achieve our goals, and about how they can support our project.
Day three marked the official start of the Wikimania conference, which was opened, as is traditional, by Jimmy Wales himself. With the recent banning of Wikipedia in Turkey, Jimmy was keen to highlight the importance of free access to impartial and accurate information.
The conference schedule was diverse with many threads running simultaneously. I took part in many workshops and informal discussion groups about Wikipedia’s relationship with the cultural sector, known as GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) in the Wikiverse.
What struck me was the range of projects taking place around the world, from volunteer projects aimed purely at improving Wikipedia content about a GLAMs collections, to long term wiki collaborations. The National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, the only other institution with a permanent Wikimedian on their staff, has agreed to share all their digital content with Wikimedia on an open licence. They have already uploaded 130,000 images and frequently run events and outreach programmes aimed at making use of these images, and improving Wikipedia generally.
As the conference progressed I was surprised by the number of volunteers and Wikimedians who now look to Wales, and to the National Library of Wales as role model and an inspiration when running their own projects. This was particularly true of those working with small or minority languages.
Our success in engaging the Library, volunteer communities, the Welsh government and partner organisations with the Welsh language Wikipedia has been noticed by many, and I had some fantastic conversations with Wikimedians from Russia, Finland, Estonia, Brittany, and more, about how we can learn from each other to ensure our languages are able to thrive on Wikipedia and other online environments.
I presented a poster session on the Wikimedia UK residency at the National Library and there was plenty of interest in the work we carried out, and how we achieved our outcomes.
As with last year’s Wikimania, Wikidata sessions were hugely popular. This massive linked open data resource is growing rapidly and offers huge potential for GLAMS to share and develop open data for their collections. Many GLAMS, including the National Library of Wales are already sharing data with Wikidata, but we heard from Beat Estermann of E-Government Institute of the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland that Wikidata is now being used to enrich library catalogues, and I think this method of drawing open data into core library metadata offers some exciting opportunities.
Another big theme of the conference was the planned development of Wikimedia Commons, the website which hosts millions of freely licenced images used on Wikipedia and beyond. The metadata behind these images will be converted to structured (linked) data making it far easier to search, analyse and visualize this massive media archive.
The National Library of Wales has innovated in this area, with the help of it’s Wikidata visiting scholar, by converting detailed image metadata to Wikidata, a very similar data structure to the proposed Commons data, and I have been invited to advise the development team as the new website takes shape.
Despite the dominance of the English Wikipedia, the Wiki movement is truly global, and that was reflected clearly at Wikimania. What is exciting is that the National Library of Wales is at the forefront of this movement, employing new tactics, technologies and techniques to make sure Wales is properly represented online and to ensure that the Welsh language Wicipedia continues to grow and to build upon its status as the most viewed Welsh language website on the web.
This weekend the Nanteos Cup will return to Strata Florida Abbey, where, according to tradition, it was kept by the Cistercian brothers before Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastries campaign which began and which was implemented by the merciless Thomas Cromwell. It seems that the lands and various chattels belonging to the Abbey were sold to the Steadman family, who in tern and through family links, passed the Cup on to the Nanteos family who kept in the manion for many centuries.
What use was made of the Cup at the Abbey is still a great mystery. It is very unlikely that the Cup was used as a communion cup because we can be fairly certain that the Abbey’s communion cup would most probably have been made of silver – as was was the Cymer Abbey communion vessels, discovered by accident by walkers many years ago. However – if the traditions and legends surrounding the Nanteos Cup are fairly accurate – the Cup was definately used during ceremonies at the Abbey.
As we are about to open the ‘Arthur and the Welsh Mythology’, exhibition one has to ask whether the legend linking the Cup to the ‘Holy Grail’, an object which has been such a central theme in the Arthurian legends, is indeed true?
You are welcome to visit the Library to view ‘The Holy Grail’ of Nanteos.
Pedr ap Llwyd
Director of Collections and Public Programme
It was the last of my time working at the National Library on Friday. I applied for two weeks work experience there to try and have a better understanding of the place, as it is such a notable organisation in Aberystwyth. The tall, beautiful building is striking and I was impressed the first and every time I saw it. I have to confess that I am not as well acquainted with the interior as a history student should be!
One of the main things that I learnt during my period there was the broad variety of things that were inside its walls. I was already aware that were things there for everyone – as a member of the public I could study a document from a large range of manuscripts, look at exhibitions and presentations, attend concerts and shows, read and research into every subject possible. However while following the staff, I saw that its work went a lot deeper than that. I was able to sample working at many departments and see what many people do not get to see.
I followed the books from their arrival at the library to the reader’s table. I worked with staff to recieve and sort books, catalogue them, and transported documents from the cells to the reading room. As someone with an interest in history and art, more than anything I enjoyed seeing the collections and that was only a small sample of what they have to offer. So, I will be back to the Library very soon.
(The view from the front steps are not half bad either).
MA History, Aberystwyth University
King Arthur is arguably Wales’ most successful international export.
The National Library of Wales has long been a thriving centre for Arthurian studies, based on its unrivaled collections of source materials – both manuscript and printed – from the medieval period to the present. A high point in this designated ‘year of legends’, will be next month’s opening here of a new exhibition devoted to Arthur and Welsh Mythology (Hengwrt and Gregynog Galleries, 22 July-16 December 2017).
The Hengwrt Gallery exhibition will show-case some of the Library’s greatest Arthurian treasures, from the enigmatic warrior’s earliest appearances in Welsh literature to his kingly ‘conquests’ of an European stage by means of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain. Presenting materials in Welsh, Latin, French, Cornish and English, this exhibition will demonstrate how a character of humble origins captured the imaginations of a continent, and became the most famous of all kings.
Highlights of the season include:
• the short, passing reference to Arthur in the Book of Aneirin, possibly his earliest appearance in any work of literature
• the dramatic double-appearance of his fearsome henchman, Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr (‘the brave grey one of the mighty grasp’) in the Black Book of Carmarthen and White Book of Rhydderch
• Arthur’s central role in Geoffrey’s History, the foundation for later multi-lingual legends of the ideal king and his retinue, by one of Wales’ most successful authors.
Finally, the exhibition will also consider Arthur’s last, and greatest battle. Fighting against Mordred at Camlan may well have presented a challenge, but the defence of Arthur’s very existence against mounting scepticism by historians of the Tudor period was a very different struggle.
Your very presence in this exhibition may determine who won that last battle!
Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts
It feels like ‘home’…..
“I really like the work of Osi Osmond. I was privileged to spend time filming with him in his studio -he was a lovely man and very talented. You could sense his love towards what he was painting. He was a passionate man. I bought a piece of his work – a very beautiful one of horses on the beach. I have chosen this particular painting because it is typical of his work and I love the rich blue colour. Although I’m not familiar with this coal tip in Bargoed, there is something so familiar and Welsh about the painting and it feels like ‘home’. Lovely.”
Nia Parry, Television Presenter and Producer
During the next months, presenter Nia Parry will be choosing her favourite art works from the National Collection.
There isn’t anyone in Wales who isn’t familiar with the works of Kyffin Williams, and I really like his Patagonia Collection. I’ve spent a lot of time in Patagonia over the years and it was always wonderful to hear the residents talking about Kyffin’s visit. The image in this painting is very familiar to me and brings back fond memories of happy times spent there. I got to spend an afternoon in the company of Kyffin a few months before he died and talked fondly about Patagonia and its people.
The Kyffin Williams Bequest Project
The Library has an extensive collection of the works of Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), the naturalist, antiquary and traveller who was born in Downing in Flintshire. The first volume of his Tours in Wales was published in 1778, and the second (the first part under the title A journey in Snowdonia) in 1781. His main work on zoology (British zoology) appeared in four volumes between 1761 and 1777, with a new edition published in 1812.
Pennant travelled extensively in the British Isles and the continent of Europe. His description of London was first published in 1790, and a new edition appeared in 1814 with the title Some account of London, Westminster, and Southwark, including a number of additional illustrations. I recently purchased a copy of this edition to add to our collections.
The illustrations show how much the capital has changed in two centuries. The general view of the city still looks quite rural. In the picture of Westminster the Abbey looks familiar but the iconic building of the Palace of Westminster does not appear, most of the present building dating from after the fire in 1834.
This copy is in four volumes bound in blue morocco with gold tooling. The bookplate with the name Gyrn shows that the volumes were in a private collection in Wales before turning up in the catalogue of a bookseller in London.