Tag Archives: aberystwyth

Posted - 19-09-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / Research

Aberystwyth shipping records

Creating linked open data for Victorian shipping registers

Volunteers at the National Library of Wales have been transcribing 19th century shipping records for Aberystwyth and these are now being shared openly on Wikidata by the Library’s National Wikimedian.

 

For the first time it is now possible to visualise and query this rich historical record giving us a glimpse of life in 19th century Aberystwyth.

 

In the 18th and 19th Century the Welsh ‘interior’ was not easy to reach. Before the coming of the train and the invention of tarmac, the best way to get goods in and out of West Wales was by boat. Shipping was a booming industry in towns and villages along the West Wales coast and Aberystwyth was no exception. Records for more than 500 ships registered in Aberystwyth survive at the National Library of Wales and Ceredigion County Archive.

 

Aberystwyth Harbour by Alfred Worthington

 

Volunteers at the National Library began transcribing the Aberystwyth shipping records in 2012. The data they extracted contained information about the ships, their crew and the voyages they undertook.

 

In 2016 the library began to explore the possibility of enriching some elements of the data using Wikidata as a platform to share this data. If you are unfamiliar with Wikidata, it is part of the Wikimedia family of websites, which includes Wikipedia, and is a massive database of free to use data. It isn’t even six years old but it already contains 50 million data items about all sorts of places, people, things and concepts, all added by volunteers and organisations wishing to share their data with the world. The library’s Wikimedian collaborated with Ceredigion County Archives, who held additional information about the ships in order to create linked data about the ships themselves. This data included details such as the type and size of each ship, the date and location of construction and, where known, their fate.

 

From this, we were able to begin digging around in the data, and creating revealing visualisations. If you wanted to see the most popular names for ships registered in Aberystwyth, for example, we can easily retrieve and present this information. A map of where the ships were built revealed some interesting facts too. As you might expect, many ships were build locally in Aberystwyth, Borth and Aberdyfi, for example, but the data also reveals that dozens of ships were built in Canada. A little more research revealed that the government of the day was so concerned about a French invasion that they deliberately established ship building yards in safer lands, such as Prince Edward Island off the Canadian Coast, in order to safeguard the ability to move good around the uk by boat.

Word map of most popular ship names

 

Left; ships built in eastern Canada. Right; Ships built in Aberystwyth and Aberdyfi

 

We were also able to plot all the shipwrecks mentioned in the records. This not only highlights the perils of 19th century shipping, but reveals how ships from West Wales villages were traveling the world. From India, China and Africa to South America and even the South Pole, Welsh sailors were very well traveled.

 

The location of shipwrecks recorded in the shipping records

 

After the initial transcription work, many of the volunteers who had worked on the collection were keen to do more, to collect more information about the ships, their crew and their owners, so in 2017 a series of new tasks were set. Volunteers began searching for photographs and paintings of the ships, investigating the fate of more of the vessels, recording the owners of each vessel and they began the mammoth task of researching the lives of every ship’s master mentioned in the records.

 

Whilst the task of identifying all the ships masters will take some time yet, the first of the tasks  has now been completed. Data about the owners of each ship exists in the original shipping records, but was not within the scope of the initial project, so two of the volunteers who worked on the original project, Lilian and Myfanwy kindly went back through the records, and other sources such as the Crew List Index Project and extracted the the data. Much of this has now been incorporated with the rest of the data for each ship on Wikidata. Apart from providing an easy way to search and explore the data held within the collection the improved Wikidata allows us to query and visualize the data in new ways, which helps us better understand what these records tell us.

 

The new data now means that for many ships, we can chart its ownership throughout its life on the seas. We have also been able to create data items for each of the ships owners, be they individuals or established shipping companies. We know where the companies were based, and where individuals lived, and we know, from their names whether they were men or women.

 

For example we know that of the 630 owners identified, 47 were women. More research would be need, but at first glance it would appear that most of those 47 took ownership following the death of their husbands.

 

The records show how the ships often changed hands regularly. If we take the rather appropriately named ‘Volunteer’ we can plot a chart which shows all of its owners, the other ships those people owned, and the other owners of those ships – painting a complex picture of the business of ship ownership in West Wales. And it should be stated that the 630 owners identified will, in many cases, simply be the majority shareholders, or the appointed owner/manager. Many of these ships had multiple shareholders, meaning people from many walks of life could afford to invest in the busy shipping trade.

 

Owners of the ‘Volunteer’ with other connected ships and their owners

 

We can also see who the big players were in Aberystwyth by querying ship owners by the number of ships they owned. Thomas Jones, an Aberystwyth shipbuilder comes top of the pyle, owning more than 20 vessels at one time of another.

 

Ship owners, ordered by the number of ships they have owned

 

Timeline showing the ships owned by Thomas Jones

 

Wikidata, like Wikipedia, is a platform which anyone can edit so any one can now help to improve the data. If they spot mistakes, or have extra information it can be easily added directly to Wikidata. Our volunteers are still working hard to collect even more data so the amount of data connected to the Aberystwyth Shipping records will continue to grow over the coming months and years. Everyone is free to explore and reuse the data, so for the technically minded among you, please feel free to hack, create, mash and re-work our data, and be sure to share the results with us!

 

Jason Evans

National Wikimedian

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Posted - 17-12-2012

View & Listen

A Journey in Time

Last week, I finally got to view the following title A Journey in Time with its newly recorded narration that was carried out earlier this year. This 15 minute amateur film features scenes of the railway between Strata Florida(Pontrhydfendigaid/Ystrad Meurig) and the town of Aberystwyth. It dates from 1964 & 1969 and was shot by Daniel A. Daniell on R8mm film. The soundtrack was co-ordinated by Roger Humphreys and the commentary was written and spoken by Brian Hopton.

A fascinating film showing the steam age and well worth a visit to the Archive for a viewing.

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Posted - 15-11-2010

Collections

Standard 8mm collection

Currently, I’m in the middle of inspecting and transferring a standard 8mm collection. What I enjoy most with the amateur captured small format films is that they’re a window into a very private world. Approximately 50 reels were donated to the archive and these silent films seem to date from the 1950s/early 60s.  I’ve had to wear a face mask whilst inspecting some of these reels as there’s quite a bit of mould present. These reels were then hand cleaned with a chemical called perchloroethylene before the transfer.

From what I’ve viewed with the current digital video transfers, it’s predominantly scenes from the Aberystwyth area which includes GPO workers raising a satellite onto Blaenplwyf transmitter mast in addition to scenes taken from the top!, the town’s harbour plus the National Eisteddfod of Wales that visited the town in 1952.

Once these reels have been transferred to digital tape, a DVD copy will be made for the depositor and another copy for our Viewing Room. These titles should be available to view in December.

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Posted - 01-07-2010

News

A radio interview with Rhys Mwyn

Over the last few months I have been interviewed and have been featured on a few Welsh language television and radio programmes, talking about my work at the Archive. I don’t mind doing them since it hopefully increases awareness of the Archive within Wales while giving me more confidence in public speaking.

Next week I will be interviewed again, this time by a hero, friend, co-collector and co-enthusiast of the Welsh Rock Scene; Rhys Mwyn. Rhys and his producer will be visiting the Archive next Monday to talk about the Archive, the collection policy as part of Rhys’s tour of Wales looking at various areas’ contribution to the music scene in the past and now.

I first met Rhys at The Angel Public House in Aberystwyth in March 1990, at the time he was playing with the band Yr Anrhefn. They were about to release their single Rhedeg i Paris (Running to Paris). Since then, when we meet it’s a meeting of minds of music; the Welsh underground cultural scene and life in general.

I look forward in welcoming Rhys to the Archive, since he has given many, many items to us and also is a valuable contact for information and other contacts.

I am informed that the programme is likely to be broadcast on Radio Cymru on Wednesday the 7th of July.

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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