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Posted - 13-09-2019

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The Dictionary of Welsh Biography

This post is a part of the Story of Wales series, which looks at different aspects of Welsh history, and how today’s Wales remembers, and shapes it. Subscribe to the blog on the right to ensure you don’t miss any posts.

Developing an interactive timeline

Wales is a small but proud nation, a nation which has contributed more than its fair share of reformers, inventors and innovators to society. From Aneurin Bevan’s NHS to Edward George Bowen’s development of Radar, Wales’ contribution to technology and civilisation as a whole, should not be underestimated. And lets not forget, Wales too has entertained us with sporting greats, actors like Richard Burton and a plenitude of musical talent.

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography has for many years recorded the lives of our most celebrated people, so that we never forget their contribution to Wales and the world. Since 2004 all these biographies have been available bilingualy on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography website, and it’s regularly updated with new entries – over 5000 and counting.

Portraits of People in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography from Wikidata

In recent years, in a bid to make this resource as open and accessible as possible, the National Library has been sharing the data behind the website openly to Wikidata – a lesser known sister of the one and only Wikipedia, designed for sharing information as data, rather than prose, freely and openly with the world. Like Wikipedia anyone can edit and improve the data in Wikidata and we now have a rich resource of data about our 5000 VIPs. Wikidata lets us plot birthplaces on a map, it lets us connect data about people’s education with data for the schools and universities they attended, and we can see which other institutions hold relevant records, like portraits or archives.

The birth place of everyone in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Explore      –      A map plotting the journeys taken by Welsh Missionaries, using Wikidata.

Our volunteer team has also been busy using the Dictionary of Welsh Biography to create Wikipedia articles for the people, so that we effectively have two versions of every article – one a peer reviewed and carefully managed historical record, and the other, a community managed, constantly evolving article which anyone can contribute to and reuse freely.

Following the launch of a new website for the Dictionary of Welsh Biography last year, we secured funding to work with developers to add a new and exciting feature. Using the enriched data from Wikidata, and thousands of digital images from the library collections, we are developing an interactive timeline which will allow users to explore all 5000 people in the dictionary chronologically. Click on a person on the timeline and you will be able to see the relevant Dictionary of Welsh Biography entry and the Wikipedia article.

An early version of the timeline currently being developed

What’s more, the timeline will allow users to filter the records based on where they were born, where they were educated, their occupation and more. And these filters can be used in combination, so if you only want to see all the Footballers born in Aberdare, that’s fine! The Library has also carefully curated a timeline of important events in Welsh history which can be overlayed on the timeline to give more context to the lives of these people.

This level of interaction and customisation will help bring the dictionary of Welsh Biography to life. It will be easier than ever before to search and discover the lives of our most important citizens – the people who helped shape the story of Wales.

The timeline should be live later this year.

Jason Evans

National Wikimedian

This post is also available in: Welsh

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

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

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