Aberystwyth University, in partnership with the National Library, is launching a new research centre on Friday, 11 November, the Literature and History of Medicine Research Centre. The centre will make use of the research sources in the Library’s medicine collections as a foundation for new academic research in the field. A one-day conference has been arranged for the launch on 11 November. It’s free and you can book a ticket to the event here. The conference will be held in person and online.
The Library’s medicine-related collection is extensive, and includes print material, archival material, manuscript material, architectural material, drawings and photographs. As a result of the Library’s Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS project, the medicine-related material that is part of the Welsh and Celtic Print Collection is now available on the online catalogue in its entirety, with the items that are out of copyright also digitized and available remotely. The print collection includes a number of important research sources, including the reports of the Medical Officer of Health for the rural and urban district councils across Wales, hospital reports and psychiatric hospital reports.
The psychiatric hospital reports offer a good example of the type of information and data that is included in these print sources. If we look at the example of the annual reports of psychiatric hospitals, in this case the reports of the Joint Counties Asylum at Carmarthen (see above for the embedded digital version or click here to see it on the Library’s digital viewer), we can see the feast of core data that the reports offer to researchers. The reports contain data on a large number of aspects of the life of the hospital and its patients including statistics regarding where patients came from, their work, the nature of their illnesses, mortality rates, the patients’ diet, the patients’ ages, readmission levels, the patients’ relationship status, and the institution’s financial statistics.
Such data is fundamental to research in this field, and it is hoped that establishing the Centre in partnership with Aberystwyth University will be a means of strengthening the relationship between the Library, our collections and the research community. If you want to learn more about the partnership, or if you’re interested in the latest research in the field of literature and the history of medicine, book a ticket to the conference!
August is the month of Pride Cymru and an excellent opportunity to celebrate all things LGBTQ+ in Wales. The Library holds a wealth of collections which reflect the contribution of LGBTQ+ people to Wales. One of the first collections that I catalogued was that of Emlyn Williams, the writer and actor, whose stellar career is documented in eight huge scrapbooks, which are crammed with correspondence from stars in the theatrical and creative spheres. Emlyn Williams wrote about his bisexuality in his two published autobiographies, George (1961) and Emlyn (1973), which provide a context to the archive.
There are many other collections in the Library which record the contribution of LGBTQ+ people and also the impact of movements which have not been widely studied/considered in an LGBTQ+ context. To celebrate some of these, Mair Jones, writer and researcher from Ceredigion, will be holding two workshops on 25 August (one in English and one in Welsh) for young people who will be encouraged to explore the themes discussed in the workshops and create new works.
Tickets are available on Ticketsource for the free workshops, which will also include refreshments provided by our fantastic café. We are planning other events for September, which are also funded through the Welsh Government’s Summer of Fun grant scheme. I am also grateful to Josh Littleford @jltoyphotography for creating this amazing Lego library in rainbow colours.
Sally McInnes (she/her), Chair of the NLW Gender and LGBTQ+ Forum
The Library provides an exhibition each year for the St. David’s Day Prayer Breakfast in Cardiff. This special event is organised by a group of Christian members of the Senedd from different parties, and the guests include members of parliaments from across Europe, church and chapel leaders, and representatives of a number of Christian organisations.
The theme of this year’s Prayer Breakfast was “Revivals”. The earliest item in the exhibition was Llythyr ynghylch y ddyledswydd o gateceisio plant a phobl anwybodus (1749) by Griffith Jones, who was responsible for establishing thousands of circulating schools in order to teach people to read the Bible. There was a close connection between these schools and the efforts to persuade the SPCK to provide Bibles in Welsh.
Two letters, giving an account of a revival of religion in Wales by Thomas Charles of Bala were published in 1792. The time of spiritual awakening recounted by Charles led to the founding of the Bible Society, and the exhibition also included the first edition of the Welsh Bible published by the Society in 1807.
In order to reflect the international aspect of the theme, we showed Hanes llwyddiant diweddar yr Efengyl, a rhyfeddol waith Duw, ar eneidiau pobl yn North America (1766), a translation by William Williams, Pantycelyn of a pamphlet describing the spiritual awakening in America two years earlier. Also included in the exhibition were the autobiography of Ben Chidlaw (1890), a Welshman who emigrated to America but was also involved in the 1839 Revival on a visit to Wales, and The revival in the Khasia Hills (1907), the history of the Calvinistic Methodist foreign mission in India.
Two manuscripts from the 1858-9 Revival were shown: the diary of Dafydd Morgan, Ysbyty, and a letter from John Matthews of Aberystwyth. The item which attracted most interest was Evan Roberts’s Bible, which he had with him when working as a miner. The Bible was partially burnt in an explosion in 1897 which killed five of his colleagues. This led to his conversion, described in the diary of the Rev. Seth Joshua, which was displayed beside the Bible. Evan Roberts became the leading figure of the 1904-05 Revival.
It was a privilege to display these treasures from the Library’s collections in the foyer of the Senedd and discuss them with the guests. In creating the exhibition I sought to recount the work of God through a number of revivals in Wales, as well as revivals in other countries which have either had an influence in Wales or benefited from the contribution of Welsh missionaries.
This year’s Welsh Political Archive annual lecture was held on Tuesday 2nd November. Last year’s lecture had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 restrictions and replaced it with an online discussion panel, so Professor Paul O’Leary’s lecture was long awaited.
2020 was the first time in its history the lecture had to be postponed, and this year was the first time it was held outside Aberystwyth. The Senedd in Cardiff Bay was the venue for the 2021 lecture, entitled Lloyd George, Empire & the Making of Modern Ireland.
As Paul O’Leary noted Lloyd George had been active during his early career in campaigns for Welsh home rule and as chancellor had given financial support to the National Library. It was therefore fitting that the National Library should hold a lecture on Lloyd George at the Welsh Parliament.
Ireland had played a role in Lloyd George’s career since his election to the UK Parliament in 1890; he was passionate about home rule and was inspired by the Irish land agitators but the British Empire was central to his worldview. Paul O’Leary argued that while he sympathized with unionists in the north he believed that the United Kingdom was a nation of different nations but he did not see the countries of Britain, Wales, England Scotland and Ireland in the same way as the dominions such as Canada and Australia. Giving Ireland similar status was a step too far.
The Irish Consul General in Wales was watching the lecture remotely and the Llywydd of the Welsh Parliament, Elin Jones was in the audience.
The Welsh Political Archive annul lecture has been part of the National Library’s calendar for 30 years with a mix of politicians, journalists and academics having delivered the lecture over the years. However, due to the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it wasn’t possible to hold the lecture this year, even though all the arrangements had already been made.
But every challenge is also an opportunity and so we decided to try something a bit different; an on-line panel discussion using Zoom to bring together creator and users of political archives to discuss their experiences and ideas.
We had a fascinating discussion for just over an hour on a mix of questions which I’d prepared and questions submitted by the audience; some of which dealt with serious issues and others touching on lighter subjects. We looked at the role of archives in the age of social media, ensuring that we properly record the stories of all the communities of Wales, which movements we need to make sure we record and what ideas or items would best tell the story of 2020.
The session is available to view (in Welsh) on the Library’s Facebook page and we’ll be preparing versions with English and Welsh subtitles to be made available alongside the annual lecture during the next few weeks.
A new crowdsourcing project aimed at documenting the built heritage of Wales through photography and Wikipedia articles.
The National Library of Wales is once again teaming up with Menter Iaith Môn, with funding from the Welsh Government language unit, to deliver this exciting new project.
Wales has thousands of important listed buildings, from great castles built by the Welsh princes to churches, stately homes and terraced houses. In Wales there were once more seats in chapels than there were people to sit on them and now those chapels are disappearing fast. We also have more modern buildings which need documenting, such as hospitals and health centres, schools, libraries and sports facilities.
For this project we are asking you to check out what needs photographing in your area. If you are out walking the dog, running, cycling or just stretching your legs after that Sunday roast just take your phone or camera and snap a few shots for us along the way.
These images will form a new collection at the National Library of Wales and will be made freely available for reuse on Wikimedia Commons, so that they can be used to improve Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia is a fantastic platform for us to collaboratively record and share our local history and recent studies have shown that having good quality Wikipedia articles can help to significantly boost tourism.
We are not looking for professional quality photographs, or fancy stylized shots. Just simple documentary images which you can snap on anything from a DSLR to your mobile phone, so everyone can get involved, from Grandma to the Grand kids.
As part of the project we are even planning on working directly (remotely) with schools to get kids snapping buildings in their area and then we will teach them how to use those images to improve relevant Wikipedia articles.
Contributing to the project is easy. An interactive map will show you all the places that need photographs in your area, and our video tutorial will talk you through the simple upload process. So please, check out what needs photographing in your area, and register today to ensure that your images are included in our new digital archive.
To celebrate Libraries Week the National Library hosted a Welsh language Translate-a-thon for students at Aberystwyth University hoping to pursue a career as translators. The goal was to translate existing English Wikipedia articles about famous writers into Welsh. The event was part of a wider WiciLlên project, funded by the Welsh Government and aimed at improving online access to Welsh language information and data about literature and the Welsh bibliography.
The National Library of Wales’ National Wikimedian helps the library support and contribute to Wikipedia. The Welsh language Wikipedia has been the focus of this work since collaboration began in 2015. The Library and its main funder, the Welsh Government have recognised the importance of this hub of Welsh language knowledge in building a sustainable and thriving future for the Welsh language – Welsh Wicipedia is already the most viewed Welsh website and now has over 100,000 articles. However there is still lots of work to do in order to give access to ‘all knowledge’ in Welsh.
The Library has been working with the Professional Translation Studies course at Aberystwyth University for several years, building on the idea that using Wicipedia’s content translation tool for perfecting translation means students can actively contribute to the improvement of freely available Welsh language content whilst studying, giving real value to their assignments.
Coarse leader Mandi Morse says: “We are delighted to be able to take advantage of the Wikipedia platform while teaching the postgraduate Professional Translation Studies course. It gives our students great experiences as they develop their translation skills, giving them the opportunity to practice translating all kinds of subjects and contexts. Wikipedia is certainly extremely useful and enriches our provision”
12 students attended the event at the National Library, and 9 new articles were created. In many cases, making information about these people available in Welsh for the first time. New articles include German novelist Gerhart Hauptmann, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1912 and English Children’s author Joan Aiken. You can find a full list of articles created are available on Wikimedia.
We hope to facilitate similar events in the future in order to support the improvement of Welsh language content online and to encourage Welsh Universities to think about how they can do the same.
In early 2018, to coincide with the launch of the Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame exhibition, the Library began collaborating with Smartify, a company who had developed a smartphone app for use with in-house exhibitions in museums, galleries and libraries worldwide.
It is an app that allows visitors to scan items on display at the Library with their smartphone to receive further information about it or about the creator of the work. The app is simple to use and free to download from the iOS and Google Play store. What is special about the app is that it gives you context surrounding the item and therefore enhances the users’ experience.After scanning an item, it is possible to save it in a personal gallery so that you can view the digital image or read about the item once you get home.
One of the Library’s items featured on the app is the original copy of the Welsh National Anthem ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau’. After scanning an opening in this manuscript, not only will you be able to view interpretive information about the item but you will also have the opportunity to listen to the first known audio recording in Welsh, when the singer Madge Breese was recorded by the Gramophone Company, singing the anthem on 11 March 1899. The app certainly offers our visitors a new and interactive experience in today’s digital world!
Since the Library began collaborating with Smartify almost two years ago we continue to increase the number of items from the Library’s collections that are included on the app and ensure that all the information about the items is available in Welsh and English.
Next time you visit the Library remember to look out for any items on display with the Smartify logo beside them and give the app a go!
For further information on how to use the app visit our Smartify page
Sharing data and information about Welsh literature with the world
The National Library of Wales working in partnership with Menter Iaith Môn for a second time has secured a grant from the Welsh Government for the WiciLlên project, in order to deliver an ambitious project focused on openly sharing information about Welsh literature on the Wikimedia projects.
The project will consist of two main strands. Firstly the National Library will begin sharing a huge dataset of all books of Welsh interest ever published in Wales. This dataset contains information about nearly half a million books, their authors and publishers.
As part of the WiciLlên project the first 50,000 of those records will be enriched and shared as linked open data on Wikidata. The data will be searchable and reusable in dozens of languages, including Welsh. This will improve access to this important dataset, help improve citations on Wikipedia and provide opportunities for developers and researchers wishing to re-use the data.
The second strand of the project will focus on improving content on the Welsh Wikipedia. The National Library will deliver a Hackathon event and a series of Wikipedia editathons, whilst Menter Môn’s Wikipedian in Residence will deliver events for school children of different ages.
Nia Wyn Thomas, who heads Menter Iaith Môn said: “It’s a privilege, as always, to work with Wikimedia UK and the National Library to enrich open content in Welsh through the skilled hands of Anglesey’s children. Over the period of the collaboration, we are proud of the work that has been achieved, and the impact of the work around developing children’s digital competency through the medium of Welsh, be it their first, or second language. The influence of the work on the development of the Welsh language is also great, in a field where the language is not always seen as progressive”
The project has already started and will run until March 2020.
In December 2017 the Library’s National Wikimedian began work on a Welsh Government funded project to improve the quality of information about people related to Wales on the Welsh language Wikipedia.
The entire project was planned using Europeana’s new Impact Playbook with the aim of exploring and document the changes, or impacts, to different stakeholder groups of delivering a range of Wikimedia based activities focused around collections at The National Library of Wales.
The Impact Playbook works by creating clearly defined change pathways with measurable outcomes (or changes) during the planning process, insuring that a wide range of outcomes and desired impacts can be assessed and measured at the end of the project.
This is the first time a project focused on Wikipedia based activities has been assessed in this way, so this was a great opportunity to explore and document the impact of working with Wikimedia in the culture sector.
The project focused around the release of 4,862 Welsh portraits to Wikimedia Commons, with an emphasis on improving access to Welsh language content and providing opportunities for the public to engage through the medium of Welsh.
Bilingual Wikidata was created for each portrait. This data was used to help create nearly 1,500 new Welsh Wikipedia articles, utilizing 25% of the images. The images generated 1.6 million page views in 55 languages in the space of a month, greatly increasing access to information about Welsh people.
Working with Menter Iaith Môn, a series of events were held at schools highlighting how Wikipedia-based learning can contribute positively to schools’ targets for the Welsh language and digital literacy.
A ‘hackathon’ event demonstrated the value of open data to the creative industries in Wales and a number of use cases were documented.
The project demonstrates how working with Wikimedia can help cultural heritage institutions build and support new communities and achieve outcomes which align with their core values whilst increasing access to, and use of, their digital collections.
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.