Since the National Library appointed a Wikipedian in Residence in January 2015 many interesting and exciting collaborations have occurred, and the Library is now pioneering a brand new idea – Give a Wikidata expert access to Library metadata so that they can turn it into linked up Wikidata.
The idea of a ‘Wikipedia’ Visiting Scholars is not new, and the scheme, which gives volunteer Wikipedia editors free access to Library collections, has been run by the Wikipedia Library in the United States for several years, but bringing in a Wikidata specialist to work with data sets, as a visiting scholar, is a world first.
Wikidata is a linked database that can be read and edited by both humans and machines. It contains millions of pieces of data on all sorts of subjects, which all link together to form a hive of knowledge and, like all Wiki projects any one can contribute and reuse the Wikidata for free.
A sample of the Library’s huge Geoff Charles photographic collection. Collections can easily be explored geographical using Wikidata.
Wikidata was used to create this Histropedia timeline of National Library Collections with Wikipedia articles.
The first Wikidata Visiting Scholar is Simon Cobb who recently graduated Aberystwyth University with an MA in Information and Library Studies and now works for Leeds University Library. On becoming our Wikidata Visiting Scholar Simon said;
“I will be working to add some of the National Library of Wales’ collections to Wikidata, accompanied by high quality metadata that will link individual items to associated places, people, temporal periods and much more besides. This has the potential to reveal new and interesting links between materials, both within the National Library and far beyond, and this is what I find particularly exciting about having the opportunity to work with the National Library’s datasets and Wikidata.”
Our Wikidata Visiting Scholar volunteering at a Wikidata Edit-a-thon at the National Library.
Our Visiting Scholar’s first task is to use Metadata for 3000 images from the Welsh Landscape collection, which are available on Wikimedia Commons, to create detailed linked data. Simon will then work with the Library and volunteers in the Wikidata community to explore new ways of exploring and analysing the data and associated images.
An image from the Welsh Landscape Collection demonstrating the level of detailed linked data our volunteer is creating for each image.
Wikidata already contains over 17 million entries and is growing fast. At the same time software developers are creating increasingly innovative tools for exploring and analyzing this data. It is hoped that sharing National Library of Wales metadata openly for projects such as this, will enable and inspire the public use of our digital collections and data in many exciting and innovative ways.
This trial scheme is being supported by the Wikipedia Library, and it’s hoped that it can be used to attract other cultural institutions to run similar projects in the near future.
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.
To celebrate #LoveDigital week the National Library of Wales has released high quality digital images of one of its most important and finely decorated medieval manuscripts, The Vaux Passional, into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Many of these images illustrate an account of the Passion of Christ and they also include, perhaps the earliest known portrait of Henry Tudor, later Henry VIII.
Digital copies of some of the most important maps held by the National Library are now available online for the first time. They include the oldest map in our collection, a printed copy of Ptolemy’s 2nd century map of Britain. Ptolemy’s ‘Prima Europe tabula’ is one of the earliest printed maps of the British Isles. It was originally published in 1486 in Ptolemy’s Geographia and is notable for the vivid blue sea; still as fresh and vibrant as the day it was painted. Claudius Ptolemy was one of the first cartographers. His work was rediscovered in Europe at the end of the 14th century and printed copies of this work helped to kick-start the cartographic revolution in Europe in the 1500s.
You can also see Humphrey Llwyd’s Cambriae Typus, the first printed map to show Wales as a separate region along with Christopher Saxton’s more accomplished but unpublished proof map of Wales from 1580 and a whole series of of 16th and 17th century county maps of Wales. The collection of nearly 40 maps is being released via Wikimedia Commons and Peoples Collection Wales.
As the Wikipedian in Residence at the Library, I have been releasing digital content into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons – a vast collection of free to use digital media – since January. Until now, this platform has been used to share digital content already available on National Library of Wales websites, but it struck me that it could also be used to share digitised material still waiting to be ingested into the Library’s online catalogue. By hand picking a small selection of such items, the images and relevant data can be uploaded manually to Wikimedia Commons, making them available to the public for the first time. In theory images could also be shared with other platforms, such as Flickr or Peoples Collection Wales in exactly the same way.
The upload of these maps is part of a trial to monitor the impact of releasing content in this way. We will be monitoring the use of these image on Wikipedia and beyond and thinking about how we could engage the public in reusing the images or creating better data or how such material could be used to educate and inspire.
Several years ago the National Library of Wales digitised around five thousand paintings, sketches, engravings and prints of Welsh landscapes mostly dating from 1750-1850.
Many of these are accurate topographical representations which are of huge value to historians, conservationists and archaeologists, whilst others are romanticised artistic works which simply capture the beauty of the Welsh landscape and aspect of Welsh life in a time before the invention of the camera.
As Wikipedian in Residence, making this collection available to Wikipedians was one of my first priorities, and now the entire collection is being released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.
Already these fantastic images of castles, high streets, churches, ruins, and more, are being added to Wikipedia articles.
Events will soon be held to make more use of these images on Wikipedia, enriching the history of Wales on the world’s most used encyclopaedia.
Browse through the images here and please let us know if you are interested in helping us by adding these images to Wikipedia articles.
A plan of a first bridge to be constructed between Anglesey and mainland Wales. 1820
Historical newspapers; column after column of minute and unimposing text interspersed with what, presumably, were meant to be images. Until recent times searching old news for something specific was like searching for a proverbial needle in a hay stack. In Wales that all changed in 2013 when the National Library of Wales launched a beta version of its free Welsh Newspapers Online website. Using the latest technology the text of hundreds of newspaper titles were thrust into the digital sphere. Long forgotten tit-bits and obituaries, headlines and controversies were made fully searchable, unlocking a vast vault of knowledge.
Now the National Library has replaced the beta version with a slick new interface with plenty of new features and an additional 400,000 pages, bringing the total to over 1 million. To test the power of this immense archive I performed a simple search for one of my Victorian ancestors. The little I knew about him came from my Grandmother who recalls childhood stories of her great grandfather, the son of an Irish immigrant, a watchman on Barry Docks who whistled whilst he worked, and a man she claimed hung himself on the back of his bedroom door, because he thought God had forgotten him. What could all this technology tell me about dear old Tom Foley?
The new interface for the Welsh Newspapers website
I searched for ‘Thomas Foley’ and limited my search to Glamorgan papers and found myself with hundreds of possible hits. Some were not relevant but I had definitely found my Great Great Great Grandfather. Working through the results chronologically the earliest record I found was 1890. He was a rigger living in Penarth, and a member of the Cardiff Riggers and Boatman Union. In a letter to the Western Mail he bemoaned that a recent meeting was ‘more like a bedlam than a meeting of sane men’
But quarrelsome men were soon the least of Foley’s problems. On April 3rd 1891 the Barry Dock news reported a ‘Serious accident to a rigger at Barry Dock’. Some months later Foley gave his own account of the accident;
‘On the day after Good Friday I was working on the SS. Emilie in Barry Dock, when I accidentally fell from a ventilator backwards down the empty bunker hatch, from the top to the bottom…When I recovered consciousness I found myself on the deck with a number of men around me’
A panoramic view of Barry Docks 1901. NLW tir03330
Foley had survived his fall but would never work as a rigger again. He was taken at once to Cardiff infirmary where he was diagnosed with a fractured hip. Then, he complains;
‘I lay there for a fortnight without any further examination, or even a lotion or liniment, or anything whatever to alleviate my pain, although I was complaining daily’.
The poor man was then discharged and lay bed-bound for several months with one of his legs ‘two inches longer than the other’. Thankfully for us, his affliction gave him even more time to write, as his letters to the Barry Dock News come thick and fast. Following the horrors he faced at the Cardiff Infirmary he began to campaign for a local hospital to serve the busy and dangerous docks.
He wrote to thank the manager of the SS. Emile who presented him with £25 to start him in some kind of business. But instead he found work as a Watchman, just like my Grandmother recalled. I figure he spent the money on books, as he soon begins quoting Greek history and Shakespeare in his prolific contributions to the local press. He even donated antique books to Barry Library – all diligently reported in the local papers. In December 1891 he even composed a poem following news that a collection had been raised to support the widows of two friends lost at sea.
A poem written by Thomas Foley in 1891.
In 1895 a report on the ‘Grand Eisteddfod at Barry’ describes the occasion that Foley won a ‘special prize’ in the short hand competition, having taught himself just two months earlier. ‘Mr Foley was enthusiastically greeted as he ascended the platform….and the president remarked that Mr Foley had….emulated some of the most famous scholars of Greece and Rome (Cheers)’. He certainly possessed the Greeks passion for politics. Following his attendance of a political debate Foley lambasted the politicians in a lively open letter. ‘If I am to judge from the observations of the three speakers the conservatives are a most contemptible class, and the liberal unionists is the lowest animal in the scale of creation’ He goes on, in as plain a tongue as you could imagine, to describe the Tories as ‘a very naughty lot of people’.
My search revealed so much material that I could probably write a small book about the trials and tribulations of Mr Foley, and it pains me to omit so much, but every story must have its ending. Everything points to a passionate and driven man. I see him, through my rose tinted specs, as a working class hero, a self-educated immigrant breaking down long established social barriers. So would such a man have taken his own life? Did he really hang from his bedroom door?
In fact, he did not, but the truth is sadly very near to the mark. On Boxing Day 1910, reports the Barry Dock News, Foley hanged himself from his bedpost with a handkerchief. But that is not all. His son, my Great Great Grandfather found his body, and fearing the shame a suicide would bring on the family, cut him down and, with his friend, put him to bed and suggested his father’s ‘weak heart’ was to blame for his demise. The very words spoken in the inquest are recorded in the paper, and the Coroner warned the son that his ‘foolish behavior’ could well see him stand trial for murder. Thankfully though he was eventually cleared and went on to become the Dock Master for Great Western Railways at Barry Docks – another story for another day.
I recon there must be tens if not hundreds of thousands of stories waiting to be discovered amongst metadata and algorithms of one of Wales’ richest and most diverse digital archives. Search for your story today at Newspapers.library.wales
Wikipedian in Residence, National Library of Wales
The anthem was found in the back of a pamphlet dated 1875
This year marks 150 years since the first Welsh settlers embarked for Patagonia in South America in search of a better life. To celebrate the founding of Y Wladfa the National Library of Wales has curated an exhibition entitled “Gwladfa” (Colony) which features archives, manuscripts, photographs and artworks from the Library’s collections. The exhibition also features a Welsh Bible that was carried to Patagonia aboard the Mimosa in 1865. As The Wikipedian in Residence at The National Library I have been planning Edit-a-thon event to improve Wikipedia content relating to the Welsh colony and also, in association with People’s Collection Wales, to invite the public to share old documents and photos relating to Y Wladfa.
As I sorted through the research material I had gathered ready for the event I came across an old pamphlet entitled “Adroddiad y Parch. D. S. Davies am Sefyllfa y Wladfa Gymreig” (A report by the Rev. D.S. Davies on the situation in the Welsh Colony) in which the author reports on the state of agriculture, the wild life, animals, religion, and all aspects of life in the Colony. Dated 1875 the pamphlet is clearly a piece of clever propaganda aimed at encouraging others to emigrate. At the very end of the report, under the title “Gwlad Newydd y Cymry” is a song, attributed to one Lewis Evans, a poet, harpist, and one of the first Welsh settlers to immigrate to Patagonia. I recognised the song at once as a reworked version of Evan James’ popular “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”. This Patagonian version begins “Y Mae Patagonia yn anwyl i mi” and ends “O! bydded I’r Wladfa barhau” The piece describes the beauty of the river Camwy and the great white mountains of the Andes.
The piece is very much presented in the report as a song for a new Welsh nation – a kind of “National” anthem. And this is 1875, 30 years before the original composition was first sung before an international football or rugby match. By 1875 “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” was popular at eisteddfodau and other social events, but this find suggests that, for some, it was already very much a considered a “national” anthem. So far we have found no other reference to the Patagonian anthem in other sources and it seems that it has been largely lost to history for nearly 150 years, until its recent rediscovery. The patriotic piece evidently never caught on in Patagonia, where the Welsh community today sings “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”.
This discovery gives us a fascinating insight into the lives of those pioneering early settlers. The song portrays a people celebrating the foundation of a truly Welsh Nation, free from the historic oppression of their tradition, language and culture.
On the 10th of June 323 BC Alexander the Great lay on his deathbed aged 32 and his vast empire soon fell into turmoil. His legacy is far reaching, but perhaps one of his greatest achievements was the foundation of Alexandria in Egypt.
The Greek, or Hellenistic, culture he seeded there and throughout his realm lead to the creation of the Royal Library of Alexandria. The Library boasted reading rooms, lecture halls, acquisitions and cataloguing departments and was part of a wider ‘Musaeum of Alexandria’.
Over two thousand years ago the Alexandrians paved the way for the modern National Library. Fire famously robbed the ancient world of many of its literary treasures when the great library burned.
Two years ago the National Library of Wales was itself ablaze, very nearly leading to a very Welsh ‘Greek Tragedy’. To celebrate the life of Alexander, the National Library has released digital images of thirty one 15th century decorated illuminations from ‘The Battles of Alexander the Great’.
These images from one of our most treasured illuminated manuscripts have been released into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons where they can be freely accessed, downloaded and used in Wikipedia articles.
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.