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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.
Rare Books Librarian
The Welsh Wicipedia becomes gender neutral.
The Welsh Wicipedia has become one of the first Wikipedia’s in the world to offer as many articles about women as it does about men.
Historically Wikipedia has struggled to attract female editors, who make up around 15% of Wikipedia contributors globally, and this is reflected in the imbalance of content being created.
Addressing this gender imbalance has been a strategic priority for Wikimedia for some time and Wikimedia UK has been working with partners in Wales to help put things right.
The National Library of Wales, have been partnering with Wikimedia UK for several years have been doing their bit to encourage more Women to edit Wikipedia.
Last year the Library took part in the global Art and Feminism Edit-a-thon, which takes place in hundreds of locations around the world. This was the first time the event was held in Wales.
This year the Library’s Wikimedian in Residence will be helping a Machynlleth community group to run their own Art & Feminism Wikipedia event.
The library’s award winning volunteer team has also been getting stuck in, with 10 women volunteers now contributing weekly to Wikipedia projects.
The fact that the Welsh language Wicipedia exists at all is testament to the resolve of the people of Wales not just to preserve the Welsh language but to see it flourish, but a Wikipedians work is never done! Why not give editing a try?
Two of the National Library’s Chaucerian treasures have enjoyed world-wide acclaim during the last few months.
Our most famous English manuscript, the late 14th- or early 15th- century Hengwrt Chaucer (Peniarth MS 392) was selected by Christopher de Hamel for inclusion in his Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Penguin, Allen Lane, 2016), published in September, and thereafter shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year. Sharing the stage with twelve of the world’s top medieval manuscripts – including the Codex Amiatinus and The Book of Kells – our celebrated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, which may be the earliest extant version, is examined, discussed, and survives the experience relatively unscathed.
Christopher met and examined the manuscript here at the Library in 2015, and also made use of the beautiful images which are available to all on the Library’s website.
Our second Chaucerian celebrity, a lesser-known gem known as Troelus a Chresyd (Peniarth MS 106), was discussed by our Chaucerian champion, Sue Niebrzydowski of Bangor University, in a blog on the Global Chaucers platform in November.
The tragedy of Troilus and Cressida’s doomed romance was dramatized by Shakespeare at the beginning of the 17th century, and around the same period, an anonymous dramatist wrote a Welsh-language play based on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde as well as Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid. The Welsh Troelus a Chresyd survives in only one manuscript, written in the distinctive hand of John Jones of Gellilyfdy, Flintshire, a scribe who spent many hours transcribing texts in London’s debtors’ prisons before his death in 1658.
A common bond between both Chaucerian manuscripts is their crucial preservation, during the mid 17th- century, on the shelves of Robert Vaughan’s remarkable library at Hengwrt, Meirionnydd. It seems that in 2017 – 350 years after his death – Vaughan’s legacy is truly one of international significance.
Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts
During the next few months, a team of Library staff will be working together to develop a new website for Welsh journals.
What will be on the new website?
The journals available on the new website will span a period of over two centuries between 1795 and 2006. These titles were digitised by the Welsh Journals Online project funded by jisc and also as part of the project funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government, which also created content displayed on the popular Welsh Newspapers Online website. The exact number of titles and pages on the website will be confirmed soon.
What will be the difference between the Library’s Newspapers and Journals websites?
The main difference between the two websites will be their content: the Newspapers including daily, weekly and fortnightly publications, and the Journals those that were published monthly or less often.
Generally, the two websites will work in a very similar way. It will be possible to search the journals and filter your results. We will also be looking to see how the journals data can be used to offer users ways of browsing the content when they may not be looking for specific information, much in the same way as the Newspapers website. However, differences in the original materials and the related data will be reflected in the presentation of the titles and some of the functions on the Journals website. This will also be an opportunity to make some improvements, which will eventually be introduced on the Newspapers website too.
How will the website be developed?
The Project Team includes staff with the range of skills needed to develop the new website, including curatorial knowledge, skills relating to the management of data, technical infrastructure, digital access and web development. The team meets daily to share information and report on progress. The Agile project management methodology is applied to develop the website that best meets the needs and expectations of users using the resources and data available.
When will the website be launched?
We are working to complete the work and launch the website in the spring (April-May). Thr launch date will be announced in due course.
How can I get more information about this work on the new website?
The Twitter account (Username: Cylchgronau Cymru, @welshjournals) is used to share the latest information about the work.
Can I help in any way?
We are looking for individuals to give their opinion on the new website and to help with its testing. If you would like to contribute to the project in this way, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be very pleased to hear from you.
Dr Dafydd Tudur
Head of the Digital Access Section
A new project will focus on improving Welsh language Wikipedia coverage of the Welsh Pop Music scene.
The Welsh Wicipedia contains around 90,000 Welsh language articles and the Wikipop project aims to add 500 more articles in a bid to record and enrich the written history of the vibrant Welsh music scene.
Source: Wikimedia Commons CC_BY. Attribution Silvio Tanaka, 2009.
January marks two years since the National Library of Wales first appointed a Wikipedian in Residence. In those two years the Library has helped to train new Wikipedia editors who have created hundreds of new articles, and the library has lead the way in promoting open access to Welsh cultural heritage.
15,000 digital images from the library’s collections have been shared on an open license via Wikimedia Commons and library images used in Wikipedia articles have now been viewed nearly 200 million times.
Now, with the help of a grant from the Welsh Government and in collaboration with Wikimedia UK, the National Library is embarking on a 3 month project to create and improve Welsh language Wicipedia articles about Welsh pop music.
The aim is to create 500 new articles using a variety of methods including an outreach program and a series of ‘edit-a-thon’ events which will encourage people to write new content.
Members of the public and organisations will be encouraged to share information which may already be available, and coders and the National Library will trial automated creation of Wikipedia articles using data.
If you would like to be involved in this exciting new project, please get in touch.
Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales
When I moved to Aberystwyth, having retired from teaching History and Politics, I knew that I wanted to volunteer at the National Library of Wales. I’ve been doing that for over a year now, and have had the opportunity to work on a range of projects, with a range of people and using a range of different skills.
Consistent throughout this has been the Ordnance Survey Maps of England project, which has been a long-term project to put into a database thousands of OS maps acquired by the Library in various states of preservation – from pristine to barely hanging together. Many of them were used by the surveyors to work on the next editions and show their annotations of how things had changed in the landscape and the process of producing the maps – even down to spilling their tea over them!
By the 1930s many of the maps (which showed part of the country’s defence capability and military preparedness) were stamped SECRET – I’ve seen subsequently that these were used by the SAS in various areas to arrange arms caches and other tactics for resisting possible Nazi invasion.
Two digitisation projects that I’ve been involved with are:
- The Cynefin Project – to geo-reference the tithe maps of Wales of the 1840s and transcribe the corresponding surveyors’ schedules. This collection documents the patterns of landholding and tenancy throughout the country; it shows how important woodland was to local economies, woods invariably being retained by the landowner rather than being rented out. And,
- Transcribing The Welsh Book of Remembrance, which contains the names of all soldiers of Welsh origin, or who served in a Welsh regiment, that lost their lives during the Great War. The transcription will create a searchable interactive tool to create a lasting legacy for those who died in the War, as well as being an important resource for future historians of that conflict.
Last week I started on a new project (which could turn out to be the most ambitious and absorbing use of volunteers yet!), to list and write commentaries on the hundreds of photographs associated with railways that the Library has throughout its collection. The aim is to create a central database that will make the life of anyone trying to find images of railways, locomotives or railway workers in the Library much easier, but it can often (even on the experience of the first images) involve a good spell of research to identify those images and put them into context. This task alone should keep me out of mischief for the coming months!!
More information on The National Library of Wales’ volunteering scheme
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