Tag Archives: Wales
On Wednesday, 10 May, 2017 a fascinating lunchtime lecture by the artist Valériane Leblond and Welsh folklore expert, Peter Stevenson, was held in the Drwm, The National Library of Wales. Valériane introduced her new illustrated map of Wales which is based on the tales found in Peter Stevenson’s new collection of Welsh Folk Tales. With a full house in the Drwm, the lecture was broadcast live via Periscope. You can view the lunchtime lecture, along with other live broadcasts filmed by the Library on Periscope, the live video streaming app.
Valériane Leblond was commissioned by The National of Wales last year to draw up a map of Wales to coincide with celebrations relating to the Year of Legends this year. She worked closely with the author, Peter Stevenson and during the lunchtime lecture pointed out how she was inspired by the tales found in his latest book when drawing her illustrated map of Wales.
Peter Stevenson shared some of the folktales, superstitions and oral anecdotes found in his new book from the tale of ‘The elephant of Tregaron’ to the story of ‘Twm Siôn Cati’ and how they convey the diverse tradition of storytelling. Here is Peter Stevenson, broadcast live following his lunchtime presentation, reading extracts from his Welsh Folk Tales.
To see more live broadcasts from the Library follow us on Periscope.
You can buy a copy of Valériane Leblond illustrated map of Wales and Peter Stevenson, Welsh Folk Tales at the Library shop.
Bethan Rees~ Digital Access
Photographer I.C. Rapoport shares this story behind this image of John Collins in the Aberfan: The Days After exhibition here at The National Library of Wales.
“This is JOHN COLLINS. He was perhaps the most tragic figure of the Aberfan Disaster – not to take away from all those who mourned the losses of their children – sometimes two children. But John Collins situation was so much more poignantly tragic. His home was next to the Pant Glas Junior School and was completely demolished. Where once the house stood on Moy Road, fifteen feet of thick earth and slurry, rock and muck slowly oozed down the hill after the demolition was complete. John’s wife and young son, Peter, were in the home and were killed almost instantly. His older son, attending the nearby Senior School was caught in the avalanche trying to run home to warn his mam. So John Collins lost everything. Home, belongings, family. Nothing remained.
Here he is pictured in the parlor of his Dad’s house in Aberfan wearing a donated suit, the only belongings he had at the time. That and his automobile. Nothing of his life prior to the disaster was left. Not a photo, not spoon or cup. Nothing.
When I sat across from him as the LIFE magazine writer briefly interviewed him I couldn’t bear to shoot the photos as he broke down and wept.
At the urgings of the writer, motioning for me to ‘shoot’ I asked John if he’d mind if I snapped a photo or two of him. “Go on, man,” he said. “It’s your job.” And so I shot several photos, quietly and respectfully.
However, what neither John nor I knew at the time, his releasing me to take his picture would play a part in changing his whole life for the better. For, my photo of him ran in the Aberfan aftermath story and an American woman saw it and was so moved by the photo and his story that she contacted him, met him, and a romance blossomed and they married. He had a new wife, a new life. Of course I was completely unaware of all this as they years passed and then in 2010 I received an email out of the blue from one Bernice Collins who informed me that she was John Collins daughter from this second marriage and told me that it was my photo of her dad that changed his life. John passed away some time ago, but I was thrilled to hear that my work had such an impact on one man.
Ironically she said she met and married a man whose two given names were Raymond Peter – both the names of John’s lost children.”
I. C. Rapoport’s moving images of the Aberfan disaster will be presented in the Aberfan: The Days After exhibition at The National Library of Wales until 14 January 2017.
Bethan Rees ~ Digital Access
Half a century after the tragic Aberfan disaster two exhibitions are held at The National Library of Wales to commemorate those who lost their lives in one of the worst mining disasters in Wales during the 20th century.
Here’s a video which was broadcast live on Periscope, on 17 October 2016, which gives us an insight into what’s available in our ‘Aberfan: Black October‘ exhibition.
The second exhibition, ‘Aberfan: The Days After’ is a collection of photographs by I. C. Rapoport. These black and white photographs, poignantly illustrate the thoughts and feelings of the community in the days following the tragedy.
Both exhibitions will be shown in the Library until 14 January 2017.
To view more live broadcasts from the Library follow us on:
Bethan Rees ~ Digital Access
Hundreds of new articles created, thousands of images shared and millions of hits on Wikipedia
It’s been a year now since I began my journey into the world of Wikipedia. My brief was simple enough – get people editing, engage the community and embed an open access ethos at the National Library of Wales.
With 18 billion page views a month it seems that Wikipedia is most peoples’ one stop shop for information of any kind, and across the world top cultural institutions have been teaming up with the giant encyclopaedia in order to share their knowledge and their growing digital collections. The Nations Library’s goal is to provide knowledge for all, and Wikipedia is just one avenue being used to share that knowledge.
Making Wikipedia better
Wikipedia has not been without its critics, and its policy of inviting anyone and everyone to contribute means that some articles have certain shortcomings. To help remedy this and to better represent Wales on Wikipedia, a number of community events, or ‘Edit-a-thons’, have been organised to train new Wikipedia editors on a number of subjects from Medieval Law to the Rugby World Cup.
Over 100 people have volunteered to have a go at editing during organised events, and Wikipedia’s introduction of the new ‘Visual Editor’ has made contributing even easier.
A volunteer improving Wikipedia articles relating to WWI at a Public Edit-a-thon event
Staff and members of the Library’s enthusiastic volunteer team have also been busy working on Wikipedia related projects, and with 6.5 million printed books in the Library vaults there is no shortage of information to be added.
Through the course of the year it has also become apparent that Edit-a-thons act as a gateway for community engagement. They help engage the public with the library, its collections and with Welsh heritage in a flexible, inspiring and subtle way.
The Library began digitising its collections nearly 20 years ago and has now amassed hundreds of thousands of digital items representing all aspects of Wales cultural heritage. More recently a major shift in policy meant that they no longer lay claim to copyright of digital images, if copyright in the original works has expired.
This open access policy has led the library to start sharing parts of its digital collections on Flickr, and social media. During the residency the library have taken the next step towards openness by sharing nearly 8000 images with Wikipedia’s sister project Wikimedia Commons, where they are freely available to all without any restrictions.
Already, National Library of Wales images have been added to over a thousand Wikipedia articles in more the 70 languages and since those images were added, these articles have been viewed nearly 33 million times, highlighting the incredible exposure Wikipedia can facilitate.
Statistics highlighting the impact of sharing images via Wikimedia Commons
Improving content and sharing collections are both crucial aspects of the residency but it is equally important that the benefits of activities are clearly recorded and shared with others.
Demonstrating impact certainly made it easier for the Library to extend the residency, and one of the library’s major partners, People’s Collection Wales have taken big steps toward open access and a sustainable relationship with Wikipedia.
One of the first things I did as a Wikipedian was to delve into the world of Twitter as a way of networking and sharing news about the residency, and this has led to great exposure both for the Library and for Wikipedia in Wales. Community events and digital content shared with Wikimedia Commons has caught the eye of news agencies, magazines and bloggers alike.
Infographic highlighting advocacy work during the first year of the residency
Together the Library and Wikimedia UK were able to extend the residency beyond the initial 12 months and the post is now funded until August 30th 2016.
Work on improving Wikipedia content will continue in English and in Welsh and thousand more images will be made available via Wiki Commons.
Images from the National Library of Wales on Wikimedia Commons. (left to right) Powis Castle 1794, ‘Boy destroying Piano by Philip Jones Griffiths, The siege of Jerusalem from the medeival ‘Vaux Passional’ manuscript.
Existing partnerships will be built upon, but I also want to reach out to other Welsh cultural institutions and encourage them to get involved in any way they can.
One of the biggest challenges between now and August will be finding ways to get Wikipedia into the education sector – to encourage young people and their teachers not to ignore the enormous globe shaped elephant in the room, but to engage with it responsibly.
Finally, all credit to the National Library who have embraced Wikipedia. With their open access, knowledge for all, ethos and my residency has been supported at every turn. Steps are now being taken to ensure that the legacy of the Wikipedian will be long and fruitful, helping ensure that Wales, its people and culture are well represented on the world’s biggest ever encyclopaedia.
Jason Evans, Wikipedian in Residence
Fifty years ago on the 15th of September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four black girls attending Sunday school.
John Petts’ final design for the ‘Alabama Window’
The Church was one of the primary institutions in the black community and became the organising centre for the local civil rights movement. The protest marches and sit-ins they organized in April 1963 produced retaliation and brutality from the police, and many residents disagreed with the settlement reached in May. Governor George Wallace told the New York Times that in order to stop integration Alabama needed a “few first-class funerals”, and the church became an obvious target. On the 15 September, a fortnight after Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream‘ speech, members of a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the church that killed the four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair, injured several others, and wrecked the building, smashing the stained-glass windows. Mass violence broke out across the city, and the National Guard was called in to restore order.
The callous murder of innocent lives brought widespread condemnation and sympathy, and forced city leaders to deal with the racism. A $52,000 reward was offered for the arrest of the bombers, and Governor George Wallace offered an additional $5,000. Martin Luther King sent him a telegram stating that “the blood of four little children … is on your hands. Your irresponsible and misguided actions have created … the atmosphere that has induced continued violence and now murder.”
The bombing marked a turning point in the American Civil Rights Movement, having the opposite effect of what was intended, ensuring the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. However justice for the victims took much longer – although four individuals were immediately suspected, their prosecution stretched out over four decades.
John Petts, Self portrait, 1937
News of the tragedy stirred John Petts, a stained glass artist, at his home in Llansteffan: “the news on the radio … left me sick at heart … as a father … I was horrified by the death of the children; as an artist-craftsman, hearing that the stained-glass windows of the church had been destroyed, I was appalled … and I thought to myself … what can we do about this?” “Could not some of us … join together in a positive gesture of Christian sympathy in the face of destructive evil, and, as a token, put back at least one of those windows.” He contacted David Cole, the Western Mail’s editor, who enthusiastically took up the idea and the next day the Western Mail launched a campaign with the headline: ‘Alabama: Chance for Wales to Show the Way”. It was agreed that individual donations would not exceed half a crown (12½ p). “We don’t want some rich man … paying for the whole window. We want it to be given by the people of Wales.” Money flooded in, the £500 target reached within days and the fund closed at £900.
A telegram was sent to the Rev. John Cross: ‘The people of Wales offer to recreate and erect a stained glass window to replace the one shattered in the bombing of your church. They do this as a gesture of comfort and support.’ A reply accepting the offer was received stating that ‘Wales was the only country to offer such direct and material assistance’.
Study for the head
John Petts was commissioned to make the window. “I agreed on condition that the work on the design would be my gift, the money collected going to the cost of making the window and transporting it to the United States.” He travelled to Alabama to discuss possible designs, but struggled “to create something truly worthy of … the simple issue of what one man does to another during his short spell in this shrinking world” “… it was clear that the window in its context of violence must make a statement and an impact both simple and strong – as positive and simple as Christ’s message”. “Eventually one idea grew in strength: the figure of a negro, yet of Christ too, a suffering figure in a crucified gesture, with one hand flung wide in protest, the other in acceptance … remembering the sight of a negro figure twisting under the assault of fire-hoses, his arms up-flung. The jets of water transfixing the figure became the bar of a Cross symbolising all violence.” As the Reverend Arthur Price explains, the representation of Christ as a black man was controversial “for many people in the white community during that time, to say that Jesus Christ was black and of African descent would be blasphemous”. Patterned across the base of the design are Christ’s words “You do it to Me”, spelling out the Christian message of brotherly love. Below are the words “Given by the people of Wales, UK MCMLXIV”.
Dedication service of the Wales window, 6 June 1965
John Petts used deep blues and purples that glow in the strong light, the figure outlined in an abstract cross of light coloured glass. A rainbow crowns the figure’s head, promising the end of the storm and symbolising racial diversity and unity. The design was approved, and the completed window displayed in Cardiff before being shipped to America. John Petts, David Cole and the Mayor of Cardiff sent a telegram to the dedication service on Sunday 6th June 1965: “The thoughts of the people of Wales will be with you during your dedication service. May the Wales Window symbolise the reaffirmation of Christian love and unity”. At the service pastor John Cross said that: “it might serve as a constant reminder that there are persons in the world whose hearts are filled with love and brotherly kindness.” Click here to see a photograph of the window.
The church has become an important historical landmark, attracting thousands of visitors, and the window is regarded as one of the key icons of the American Civil Rights Movement, a powerful protest against intolerance and injustice.
John Petts’ designs for the Wales Window were donated to the National Library of Wales in 1970. They are being digitised at present, and will be displayed on the Library’s Digital Mirror.
Morfudd Nia Jones
The National Library of Wales offers a spectacular backdrop to one of the most important days of your life.
You are able to choose between spectacular rooms for your ceremony. The Council Chamber is the oak-paneled, art nouveau room that can accommodate up to 100 guests and can be laid out in two different styles depending on your choice. The President’s Room offers a more intimate feel, able to accommodate up to 30 guests. Both rooms provide unrivaled views over the town of Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay beyond.
The wonderfully maintained grounds and the panoramic views from the Library provide the ideal backdrop for those everlasting wedding day photographs. The Library’s Wedding Co-ordinator will be able to offer assistance on how to organise your ceremony at the Library. Should you wish to have a post-wedding canapés and drinks reception or have any other special requests, please feel free to discuss them with the Wedding Co-ordinator, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone on 01970 632801.
The National Library of Wales is also able to offer you services prior to your big day.
Why not design your own wedding stationery, to give your special day that personal feel; the Reprographic Department are able to print your invites, order of service, place settings and thank you notes. We are able to provide you with the personal touch to a professional standard. Why not telephone 01970 632850 to discuss your individual requirements.
In the Library’s Shop you are able to purchase your special wedding gifts from the engraved love spoons personalised with your own message, to some luxury chocolate wedding favour gifts. And for after the big day, why not store your memories in a Wedding Keepsake Box, with a handmade embroidery decoration or your photographs in a photo album and presentation box, both hand-made from lovely ‘Lokta’ paper.
The shop also offers a wedding list service – please email email@example.com or call to speak to one of our assistants for further information. Feel free to browse the Shop online at www.llgc.org.uk/shop, or contact us by telephone on 01970 632548, or call by to discuss your requirements with the friendly staff.
The Library’s magnificent, some say ‘block-busting’ Christopher Williams exhibition will open on 7 July and will be opened officially by the former MP, Kim Howells, on 14 July.
I guess, like many, I was more familiar with one of Christopher Williams’s paintings than I was of him.
The painting is Cymru’n Deffro (Wales Awakes). It’s of a beautiful woman rising, phoenix-like from the darkness into the light. Not a new metaphor. But it’s done its job because I’ve seen it used several times for the very purpose Williams give to it – a short hand, uplifting visual expression of the rise in Welsh national consciousness and confidence.
Christopher Williams and 'Cymru'n Deffro'
In his book, Gwenllian, Peter Lord places a sketch of Cymru’n Deffro, on the cover, fully aware of the instant visual hit such a striking image would instil in the public. And in many ways, Williams is the ideal man to place at the forefront of Peter Lord’s book. After all, Christopher Williams failed to gain wide acclaim from many in the art establishment in Wales – the establishment Lord criticised for having an aesthetic which was divorced from the population it was meant to serve.
As Prof Robert Meyrick, the exhibition’s curator noted, a former National Museum of Wales’s director, Cyril Fox deemed Williams’s painting lacking in ‘sufficient artistic importance to warrant the occupation of space,’ while the Museum’s Keeper of Art, John Steegman, thought them ‘empty’ and ‘deplorably bad’ – no matter how greatly they were ‘admired by the uncritical in south Wales’.
In his seminal 1992 pamphlet, The Aesthetics of Relevance, Lord maps out the intellectual and aesthetic obstacles put in place of exhibiting Welsh art. He criticises the art establishment in Wales of failing to appreciate and celebrate art from Wales which was of Wales and spoke to Wales, preferring instead to attack it or belittle it for not being of sufficient aesthetic quality.
Although Lord is appreciative of the work the National Library and National Eisteddfod has done over the decades in collecting and exhibiting Welsh art, he is critical of the broader art establishment in our country.
It’s only fitting then that one of those artists who suffered from the kind of lack of Welsh aesthetic which Lord campaigned against is given pride of place at the National Library. It’s equally fitting that the National Library, itself a magnificent manifestation in Portland stone and granite, is a tangible example of the kind of patriotic Welsh can-do attitude which was the epoch to the Cymru’n Deffro painting and a fulfillment of that desire.
In a way, the Christopher Williams Retrospective exhibition will be a homecoming for one of our lost sons.
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.