Tag Archives: @Wiki_NLW
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
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.
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!
The National Library of Wales hosts the second Wikipedia languages conference
On July the 5th and 6th, The National Library of Wales hosted the second Celtic Knot Wicipedia Language Conference.
The conference is quite unique in its ambitions – with the focus on how small and minority languages can grow and develop Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in their language.
Wikipedia has nearly 300 language editions but some have just a hand full of editors and a few thousand articles. The challenges faced by these communities are often very different to those faced by much bigger Wikipedias. The Celtic Knot conference focused on discussing and addressing some of these issues, such as technical support, community building and partnerships.
The conference was attended by 55 delegates from all over the world, with people attending from as far afield as South Africa, Norway, Spain and Germany. The Celtic Nations were well represented too, with delegates from Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany and, of course, Wales. We are grateful to the Wikimedia Foundation for funding a number of scholarships which allowed us to help volunteers travel to the event.
Delegates being welcomed to the conference by Jason Evans, National Wikimedian
Day one featured a structured programme of presentations and workshops, and the conference was opened by the Welsh Government Minister for Welsh and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan AM, who spoke very positively of Wikipedia as a means of supporting the development of the Welsh language. And she spoke of the importance of the work that the National Library of wales has done in this area, thanks in part to Welsh Government funding.
Eluned Morgan AM speaking about the value of Wikipedia in giving access to Welsh language information
Wikimedia UK’s Wales manager Robin Owain then spoke, as eloquently as ever, about the growth of the Welsh Wikipedia. The Minister, Robin and several others spoke in Welsh with simultaneous translation and the audience seemed to enjoy listening to the Welsh language, some hearing it for the first time.
We were treated to a number of inspiring presentations and workshops during the day. Ewan MacAndrew of Edinburgh University ran a translation workshop and there were a number of Wikidata talks and workshops led by Lea Lacroix of Wikimedia Deutschland. Presentations highlighting the use of Wikipedia for, or within education were particularly popular, with Aaron Morris of Wici Môn discussing the impact of his work with school children and Koldo Biguri of the Basque Wikimedia user group talking about the Basque Wikipedia for children, or ‘Txikipedia’. The great work of the Basque Wikimedia community in this area was further highlighted by Inaki Lopez deLuzuriaga who spoke about their wider education programme, which is supported by the Basque government.
Pau Cabot of Catalonia talking about using Wikidata to generate infoboxes on Wikipedia
After a long day, delegates were treated to a trip on the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway for food and drinks at Y Consti cafe. The National Library of Wales choir kindly sang us all some traditional Welsh songs before we had a Breton folk dancing lesson!
A group of delegates discussing long into the evening
On the second day we kicked off with the a presentation on the Irish Wikipedia and a journey through language gaps on Wikidata, by the library’s very own Wikidata visiting scholar, Simon Cobb. A personal highlight for me, was a video presentation by Subhanshish Panigrahi, a National Geographics explorer who works with Wikimedia India. His talk focused on the importance of recording and preserving endangered languages, and highlighted an Indian dialect which is has just one serving speaker. For me, this brought home the importance of supporting and encouraging the use of minority languages before their use drops to unsustainable levels.
After lunch we ran an unconference session, where delegates set their own agenda. There were data workshops, strategy discussions, lightning talks and even a tour of the library. Delegates from Cornwall were thrilled to view important Cornish language manuscripts from the library’s collection.
Planning the unconferenced sessions
We all came together again for a productive group discussion before the National Librarian Linda Tomos closed the conference with a brilliant talk about the importance of the National Libraries work with Wikipedia and virtual tour through some of the libraries most treasured and important collections.
Feedback from delegates suggest the conference was a great success, and everyone indicated that they would attend the conference again next year. We will continue to work with interested parties to find a suitable home for the conference next year and Wikimedia Norge have kindly agreed to look at hosting the conference in 2020. We really hope the conference, and the worlds smaller language Wikipedia’s can continue to grow over the coming years, and we thank everyone who was involved in making this years event so successful.
4800 Welsh portraits added to Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata
Over the last 4 years the National Library of Wales has worked with Wikimedia to provide open access to more than 10,000 public domain images. These include the Welsh Landscape Collection, photographs, maps and manuscripts.
This partnership has led to more than 455 million views of Wikipedia articles containing National Library images to date.
Now the Library is pleased to announce that nearly 5000 portrait prints, photographs and paintings have been placed in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
Along with the images, the Library’s National Wikimedian has also shared rich metedata for every image as linked open data on Wikidata.
The Library’s main goal in releasing such content is to increase access to our collections and to contribute to the creation and sharing of knowledge about Wales and its people.
It is now hopped that the Wikimedia community will begin to use these images to illustrate Wikipedia articles. The National Library also plans to run a project to increase engagement with this collection, and hopes that volunteers will be encouraged to create Wikipedia articles about the Welsh sitters, artists, printers and photographers involved in the collection.
Because all these images are freely downloadable and in the public domain, we also encourage others to reuse them for any purpose they see fit, from education to the creative industries this is a free resource for everybody.
The creation of linked data for the collection also offers interesting opportunities for researchers and academics. For the first time we can properly disambiguate (untangle) the names of the artists and sitters in order to better understand the makeup of the collection. For example 12 different individuals named John Jones have been identified in the collection, and we now know who they all are, and many are now connected via Wikidata to Wikipedia articles or Dictionary of Welsh Biography entries.
We can query and visualize the data in a number of ways using a Sparql query service. For example, we can analyze which engravers copied works by specific artists, and we can see the most frequently depicted types of people (clerics, by a country mile) and features, such as coats of arms, and border decoration.
visualisation of the data showing which printers copied work by certain artists
Visualization of the most frequently depicted things in the collection
We can easily visualize the sitters who appear most in the images using Wikidata’s ‘Main subject’ property. General Thomas Picton, a Welsh born war hero is depicted most often, with 32 portraits. Interestingly his Wikipedia article reveals he was not such a great hero after all, having been convicted of abusing women.
Visualization of the most frequently depicted sitters
We can also explore the collection chronologically and a first look reveals a clear correlation between the popularity of certain types of portrait and historical events. For example the number of images of preachers and clergymen increase dramatically at times of Religious revival.
A timeline of the most frequently depicted things in the collection over time
Wikidata is a multilingual platform, so it also allows us to utilize the multilingual nature of Wikidata’s descriptive labels to view our data in dozens of languages. The Metadata held by the library for this collection was only available in English, however, by converting it to Wikidata 83% of the 40,000 data items were automatically available in Welsh, thanks to the work of Wikidata volunteers, who have added Welsh language labels to many Wikidata items. We hope to engage with Welsh speaking volunteers in order to make 100% of the data available in Welsh.
Linking our heritage
Another advantage of sharing our data on a public platform like Wikidata is that many other institutions have done the same, and this means that we can begin to build an extensive network of connected data. The data allows us to connect our own collections together, so for example we can see which publishers have published works in both the Welsh Portrait Collection but also the Welsh Landscape Collection. We have also been able to quickly identify over 400 portraits of people featured in the dictionary of Welsh Biography, and we are now connecting those portraits to the Welsh Biography Website.
All images by one publisher. Blue denotes images in the Welsh Portrait Collection and yellow shows images published by the same publisher which now form part of the Welsh Landscape Collection
Beyond our own institution, we can see which of our sitters also have portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, and we can identify the artists and sitters in our collection who have an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry. In this way the worlds cultural heritage can be connected together to provide the public with easy access, in one place, to a rich and diverse range of sources.
Jason Evans, National Wikimedian
Several years ago the National Library of Wales appointed the Worlds first Wikidata Visiting Scholar. The volunteer, Simon Cobb, has worked with the library ever since to share, enrich and explore the library’s data using Wikidata – a massive open access linked data repository which contains tens of millions of pieces of data on just about every subject imaginable. In this guest blog, Simon presents his recent work, using open library data on periodicals, publishers and printers in conjunction with the latest Wikidata visualization tools. Jason Evans, National Wikimedian.
Recent developments in Wikidata have made it possible to display more items from the National Library of Wales’ collections on a map. A cluster feature in the Wikidata Query Service map view has enhanced geolocation data visualisation and the new geoshape datatype provides access points for content discovery.
Previously, the display of geolocated images was hampered by only one item per coordinate location being shown on the map. Since a SPARQL query can return multiple results with an identical location this was never an ideal situation. The problem is, in fact, inherent to linked data because every item with a specific relationship to a place will appear at exactly the same point on the map. This is due to the coordinates being attached to the place rather than each individual item.
If the item is an image of Aberystwyth Castle, it depicts the castle and, conversely, the castle is depicted by the image. This is a semantic relationship between the subject (image) and object (castle). The location of the castle is recorded as latitude and longitude coordinates, and thus a query to show on a map the location that the image depicts will use these coordinates. Other images that depicts Aberystwyth Castle will also have these exact coordinates.
The marker cluster plugin was implemented to address this problem and it is now possible to view two or more items with the same coordinates. Nearby map markers are grouped using an animated clustering functionality to display an increasing number of clusters, with fewer markers in each, as one zooms in closer. The real gamechanger, however, is the spiderfied markers. Rather than having a solitary marker at a shared location, multiple markers now spiral outwards from a central point, with legs being used to retain their attachment to the precise location and thus show all items in situ.
Spiderfied markers of periodicals published in Carmarthen. Unexpanded clusters and single markers are also shown. Each marker contains the periodical’s title, place of publication and cover image (if available). This map is available at: http://tinyurl.com/ycnjsylv.
Carmarthen is an important town in the early history of printing in Wales. Some twenty-eight titles in the Welsh Journals and Welsh Newspapers Online digital collections were printed in the town, with twenty-six being first issued before 1900. These periodicals have the same place of publication (i.e. Carmarthen), and thus appear on the map at their shared coordinates. The markers are spiderfied, colour coded according to decade of publication and arranged in a chronologically ordered spiral, starting in the centre with the earliest publication.
In late 2017, a new geoshape datatype was implemented in Wikidata. As the name suggests, it is for storing geographic information in a manner that will produce shapes on a map. Geoshape data can be a single marker at a specific point, a line between two or more points, or a shape, known as a polygon, which is the area enclosed by a point-to-point line, traversing at least four points, with the first and last point being identical. A line or shape is created by structuring geocoordinates to represent the relationship between a series of points; somewhat like a dot-to-dot puzzle. Additional data about a place, such as the address, postcode, website or Wikipedia article, can be attached to a geoshape.
The National Library of Wales was the UK’s first Wikidata geoshape. The popup information box includes an image, link to the NLW Wikipedia article and SPARQL queries of the Library’s collections. Markers indicate features of interest and provide images from different vantage points.
Since a geoshape can contain multiple points, lines and polygons, it is possible to store data about a group of related locations like, for example, buildings with a similar use. This is a great way to visualise the booktrade locations in Wales that have been added to Wikidata.
Multipolygon geoshape data showing book trade locations in Carmarthen, past and present. These locations and those in other parts of Wales are stored as a single geoshape in Wikimedia Commons (see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Data:Book_trade_in_Wales.map).
Whilst the book trade locations geoshapes are relatively simple and, therefore, not burdensome to create manually, others, like, for instance, those of castles depicted in the Welsh Landscape Collection, are much more complex. The intricate geoshapes that are formed by sections of perimeter wall between towers or bastions and surrounding the bailey and keep of a castle can be slow and fiddly to make but, luckily, we can draw on linked data instead. A link is forged when an OpenStreetMap feature is tagged with a Wikidata ID and this enables a SPARQL query to retrieve OpenStreetMap data about Wikidata items in the results. Such linking can make a large amount of existing geoshape data accessible.
Geoshapes of buildings shown in the Welsh Landscape Collection prints shown in the historic counties of Wales. The buildings are OpenStreetMap features, tagged with the qid of a Wikidata item returned by a SPARQL query, imported as geoshape data and combined with historic county geoshapes from Wikimedia Commons.
Geoshapes of buildings shown in the Welsh Landscape Collection prints shown in the historic counties of Wales. The buildings are OpenStreetMap features, tagged with the qid of a Wikidata item returned by a SPARQL query, imported as geoshape data and combined with historic county geoshapes from Wikimedia Commons.
The results of a SPARQL query to retrieve images from the Welsh Landscape Collection can be visualised on a map with geoshapes to represent the building depicted. Shown above, the results for Tintern Abbey are spiderfied to expand a cluster of images with an identical geocoordinates from a single point within the geoshape. Previously, it was only possible to display one of these images on the map view results.
Simon Cobb, Wikidata Visiting Scholar at the National Library of Wales
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.
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.
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?
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
Generating Article Placeholders on the Welsh Wikipedia
The Welsh Language Wicipedia already punches above its weight with seventy thousand articles. That’s roughly one article for every eight Welsh speakers. But now a student in Germany has developed a new tool which can fill in the gaps on Wikipedia by borrowing data from another of Wikimedia’s projects – Wikidata.
The aim of this new feature is to increase the access to open and free knowledge in Wikipedia. The Article Placeholder will gather data, images and sources from Wikidata and display it Wikipedia style, making it easily readable and accessible.
Currently the Article Placeholder is being trialed on a few smaller Wikipedia’s and after a consultation with the Welsh Wicipedia community it was agreed that we would activate the new extension here in Wales.
The most obvious advantage of this functionality is the easy access to information which has not yet been included on Wicipedia, and with 20 million items in Wikidata, it’s not short on information. This in turn should encourage editors to create new articles using the information presented in the Article Placeholder.
But perhaps the most exciting aspect of using Wikidata to generate Wikipedia content, is that Wikidata speaks hundreds of languages, including Welsh! This means that many pages it generates on the Welsh Wikipedia appear entirely in Welsh.
If the Wikidata entry being used hasn’t yet been translated into Welsh, the Placeholder will display the information in English, however it is now easier than ever to link from the Placeholder to the Wikidata item and add a Welsh translation. And plans are underway to hold Translate-a-thons with Welsh speakers in order to translate more Wikidata items into Welsh.
It is hoped that embedding this feature into the Welsh language Wicipedia will provide Welsh speakers with a richer Wiki experience and will encourage more editors to create content and add Welsh translations to Wikidata, cementing the place of the Welsh language in the digital realm.
Wikimedian in Residence
National Library of Wales
A guest post by the National Library’s Wikidata Visiting Scholar
More than three-quarters of the 4,800 prints in the Welsh Landscape Collection have now been added to Wikidata as part of the Linking Landscapes project, which was launched in April. The goal of this project is to create high quality Wikidata for the entire collection, with every print being represented by an item in the database and linked with other items by statements that capture the characteristics of each work. In order to achieve this goal, metadata for the collection have been converted into statements that are comprised of Wikidata properties and values, thus forming links between the prints and other entities in the database. The properties correspond to metadata elements, such as title, description, artist, publisher, date, medium etc., and the values can record temporal or quantitative data, such as publication date and dimensions, or can link to related Wikidata items. These items can be the people involved in creating and distributing the prints, such as artists, engravers, printers and publishers, production methods like etching, aquatint and mezzotint engraving, subjects depicts, for example geographic locations, and descriptors of image content, which can include objects, concepts and activities.
After the initial process of assigning a Wikidata property to each metadata element and structuring the metadata in a spreadsheet so that it was in a suitable format to upload via the Quick Statements tool, it was possible to replace a large amount of the semantic metadata with the Qxx number of the corresponding Wikidata item. Metadata for approximately 3,000 prints were fully converted into Wikidata statements in this manner, which enabled the project to progress quickly. Lists were generated of the geographic locations/features, artists, and publishers that remained in their semantic form due to either the absence of an equivalent Wikidata item or lack of necessary information to identify and/or disambiguate them.
Most of the publishers have now been identified using a combination of the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) and British Book Trade Index (BBTI) databases and the information, such as addresses, contained within the prints themselves. In many cases, the publishers and artists overlap, particularly where the publisher is a lithographic printer or print seller for example, and the same resources, along with Benezit Dictionary of Artists, have, therefore, also been valuable for identifying and describing artists and engravers in the collection. The information gathered from these sources has been used to create Wikidata items for some 150 publishers and, if possible, a statement containing the VIAF identifier has been used to link these data to existing authority files. In the instances where a publisher does not have an entry in either VIAF or BBTI, it has been necessary to conduct further research to identify them, drawing on a range of digitised newspapers, directories, books and documents. Bring together the information available in range of dispersed sources has the potential produce interesting, and somewhat unexpected, results, as the example below shows.
The Library of Congress’ copy of the fourth edition of John Hicklin’s The hand-book to Llandudno has been digitised and we find, bound in the back of it, sixteen pages of publisher’s advertisements under the title Catherall and Prichard’s hand-book to Llandudno. Although Catherall & Prichard were co-publishers of this book and, as stated in the colophon, they were also responsible for its printing, the mere presence of the colophon before these extra pages and the change in running head confirm that they are not part of Hicklin’s work. This well disguised supplement was included by Catherall & Prichard, who evidently seized the opportunity to increased their earnings on this title by selling advertising space to local traders, thus providing them with a medium through which they could promote their establishments to an audience of Victorian tourists who purchased this travel guide, which had been published in London, Chester and Bangor, before or during their visit to the Queen of Welsh Resorts, Llandudno. These advertisements are a valuable source of information concerning several of the publishers in the Welsh Landscape Collection.
The firm Catherall & Prichard, comprised of the Chester bookmen Thomas Catherall and George Prichard, was itself responsible for publishing around eighteen of the prints during their partnership; Catherall also issued nearly one hundred prints under his name alone. At the foot of the third page of Catherall & Prichard’s hand-book, William Bridge (1808-86), a bookseller and stationer based in Conwy, who published around fifteen of the prints in the collection, advertises the Llandudno branch of his circulating library which, in addition to lending books for a fee, offered visitors to the town a selection of newspapers from London and the provinces every Saturday, presumably received in the weekly delivery of books and periodicals that he received from London. Indeed, Bridge’s Llandudno premises seems to have catered for the tourist market, which flourished after the town was connected to the railway network in 1858, with ‘views’, i.e. prints and photographs, and hats, both straw and fancy, for ladies and children amongst his range of souvenirs. On the very same page is the advertisement of another bookseller, Herbert Ellerby (1817-95). Unlike Bridge, who lived and worked in Conwy all his life, Ellerby was new in town.
Herbert Ellerby was born in York, the fourth born child of William (1771-1839) and Martha (1783-1859). His father was a shoemaker in Leeds until he became a travelling agent for the Religious Tract Society, and it was due to the responsibilities of this role that the birthplaces of his six children were distributed between Leeds, York and Whitby. The family crossed the Pennines when William Ellerby established a Religious Tract Society bookshop at 31 Piccadilly, Manchester and it was here that Herbert cut his teeth in the book trade. After William Ellerby died on 6 July 1839, Herbert supported his mother, who had signalled her intention to carry on trading from the Religious Tract Repository in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of 20 July 1839. Shortly after the Repository had relocated to Market Street in 1842, the booksellers were trading as M. Ellerby and Son, an acknowledgement of Herbert’s role in the business, and their advertisements were a regular feature in the Manchester Guardian, until the announcement of their closing down sale appeared in the 17 March 1849 issue of the same newspaper.
Three months later, Herbert Ellerby and his wife Sarah, who he married in 1845, their daughter Maria, and Mrs Ellerby senior were the only cabin passengers on board the Lima when it set sail from Whence, London for the four month journey to Port Jackson, Australia. The crossing does not appear to have been entirely to Ellerby’s satisfaction. In a letter, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 1849, he recounted how ‘many of the passengers … [were] victimized to a considerable extent’ and described ‘the conduct of Dr [John Dunmore] Lang’, who chartered the Lima, ‘as cruel and unjust in the extreme’. It seems that his discontent did not end there, for the Moreton Bay Courier reported that Ellerby had sued two of his fellow passengers in a dispute over the conveyance of his luggage. After a bad start to his life down under, Ellerby completed the purchase of fifty-five acres of land at Moggill, Brisbane, for fifty-five pounds, in March 1851. It was reported that he planned to use fourteen acres to grow cotton. It is possible that he was successful in this venture, since on 20 January 1855, the Cheshire Observer and General Advertiser noted that a warehouse in Todd Street, Manchester belonging to Herbert Ellerby had burnt down, destroying cotton with a value of £60. The Ellerbys had sailed back to London in March 1854, with two additional members, daughters Jessie and Francis who were born during their time in Australia.
Herbert and Sarah Ellerby arrived Llandudno their three daughters and his mother, during the summer of 1856 and established a bookshop, known as the Central Library, at Tudno House, Church Walks where they had taken up residence. Ellerby’s time in the town is well documented by the advertising and directory listings in The North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser for the Principality, which reveal that he was lending books for a penny per day in 1858, when his first promotional material appeared. In the 24 July 1858 Chronicle we find Ellerby’s announcing a recently published ‘1s. packet of Llandudno Views’, which he ‘offered at 9d’. It is possible that this packet contained some of the prints in the Welsh Landscape Collection, which were engraved by Rock & Co., and published by H. Ellerby in late August and early September 1857. Amongst these five prints, there is one that is distinguished by an initial W., partially erased but not replaced with an H., leaving a gap before the family name. On another print, we find the name W. Ellerby intact, an indication that Herbert’s elder brother, the printer and publisher William Porter Ellerby (1812-81), who was based in Manchester, had some connection to the business in Llandudno.
By June 1859, Ellerby’s Central Library had relocated to new premises on Mostyn Street, as depicted in prints by Day & Son (above) and W. Banks & Son, and he was now offering ‘a great variety of stereoscopic slides … [and] photographs of Welsh scenery’, in addition to his standard range of views, maps and guide books. Indeed, Ellerby seemed determined to cater to even the niche tourist markets and he announced in the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent of 11 June 1959 that he had published J.M. Coley’s Medical guide for visitors at Llandudno, which he would post to anywhere in the United Kingdom for seven penny postage stamps. Facing competition from two other libraries in the town, Ellerby strived to make his new bookshop the premier haunt for the literary holidaymakers, and he bolstered his own list by offering ‘a selection from Mudie’. If any confirmation is required of just how enticing the town’s libraries were to its visitors, it is provided by Mr Morrell, who advertised his boarding house on Church Walks as ‘situated within three minutes’ walk of the public baths, libraries, and promenade’. But relations between the competing librarians must have, on the whole, remained amiable, for Ellerby published a series of photographic views in collaboration with the postmaster Mr Powell and one of his rivals, Mr Stavely, who could offer his subscribers, in addition to his library stocked with Mudie’s books, a reading and news room, billiards, and warm or cold showers and baths. This innovative combination was apparently not a success and the enterprise was wound up in July 1862. The original premises of the Public Baths, occupying the site of the present-day Grand Hotel, can be seen in one of the prints published Ellerby.
On 14 July 1859, Martha Ellerby died, aged 76. In the years that followed, Herbert Ellerby focused his energy on the Central Library, with his advertisements increasing in both size and number as he promoted his latest publications and new products. However, the loss of his youngest daughter, Henrietta, aged 17 months, on 15 November 1862 seems to have sapped the ambition from Ellerby. He ceased advertising entirely during 1863 and even in the following year those advertisement that carried his name were limited to new titles that listed the booksellers in the town who had stock on hand. Then, on 4 February 1865, an advert appeared in The North Wales Chronicle offering ‘For immediate disposal, A bookseller and stationer’s business, the best in the Town, and thoroughly established.’ Although, Ellerby does not elucidate his reasons for selling, he does reveal that ‘the time is limited’ and states sufficient reasons for the relinquishment will be given. Tantalisingly we are not privy to that information, but it seems probable that his hand was forced by events elsewhere. The London Gazette, 10 February 1865 documents the dissolution of a partnership between one William Porter Ellerby and Frederick Augustus Banks, who were advertising agents operating as Ellerby and Company, on the very same day that the Central Library was put up for sale. The extent to which Herbert Ellerby was exposed to the debts incurred by this concern is not known, but he found a buyer for his business within a month and the only further details of his departure from Llandudno are provided by George Felton of the Mostyn Estate Office, who had been instructed to sell Ellerby’s remaining belongings, household goods including his furniture and carpets, by auction at the Central Library on 14 March.
Ellerby left Llandudno with his family in the spring of 1865 and worked as a bookseller in Sandbach, Cheshire, for some years before moving to Manchester where he lived with his daughters. On 26 April 1895, Herbert Ellerby was admitted to Manchester’s Withington Workhouse, and died there a few weeks later on the 9 May. He is buried in Brooklands Cemetery, Sale, Cheshire, alongside his wife Sarah, and daughters Ethel and Marion. Even though Herbert Ellerby spent less than a decade in Llandudno, he is linked to the town by the prints and books that were published at the Central Library and the output his marketing campaign.
Hopefully, as the remaining items from the Welsh Landscape Collection are added to Wikidata more details will emerge about the artists and engravers who created these prints and the printers, publishers, booksellers and other traders who disseminated them. The activities of some of these individuals are not well documented so it will be fascinating to see if queries in Wikidata can reveal links between their work and others in the book and print trades in Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And even if no connections are discovered in the course of this project all is not lost because there is always the potential for a Wikidata item to link with another item in the future when more collections are added to the database.
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National Library of wales
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