The role of UNESCO and its Memory of the World programme are the subjects of the Library’s lunchtime lecture on 28 February. The main objective of UNESCO is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication. It is probably best known for its role in the protection of heritage around the world, both physical and digital, for the benefit of current and future generations. In Wales, six sites have been given the status of World Heritage Sites, including four castles, a town built around an ironworks and an incredible aqueduct.
In 1992, UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme to highlight the value of documentary heritage. Importantly, UNESCO sees its value not only in reflecting and promoting understanding of national memory and identity, but also as underpinning good governance and sustainable development. Heritage is therefore part of the sustainable development agenda, which is the centre-piece of both UNESCO and the wider UN’s activities until 2030.
To be inscribed onto the Memory of the World, documents need to be both of outstanding national or international significance, and permanently accessible and re-usable to all without hindrance. The work of the NLW supports and aligns with these aims. Since its foundation, the Library has been committed to collecting, preserving and giving access to all kinds and forms of recorded knowledge, especially relating to Wales and the Welsh and other Celtic peoples, for the benefit of all. The Library’s strategic plan places an emphasis on extending sustainable access to its collections, through digitisation, through the preservation of physical and digital material and through outreach activities.
Peniarth MS 1 – The Black Book of Carmarthen
The Library has four inscriptions on the Memory of the World UK Register: the Survey of the Manors of Crickhowell and Tretower; the Life Story of Lloyd George, the Peniarth Manuscript Collection and the Hepworth Cinema Interviews. Andrew Green, the former Librarian of the National Library of Wales, posted a blog about the value of UNESCO inscriptions. He identified three types of value which ensued from inscription on the register: gaining public recognition, securing publicity and attracting resources. These have certainly been true for the Library, which has used the inscriptions to promote the Library’s collections, thereby enhancing understanding of the distinctive character and identity of Wales, as well as supporting the successful submission for Archive Service Accreditation and for numerous applications for grant funding. The global role of UNESCO is also of considerable value to the Library, as it is an authoritative voice for the protection of the heritage and a source of information and best practice.
On Wednesday, 10 January, Professor Iwan Morus will present a lunchtime talk on William Robert Grove.
Grove was a scientist from Swansea who was brought up during the ferment of the Victorian industrial revolution. During this period the appreciation of the importance of science and its use in everyday life gathered pace. Grove’s neighbours included the botanist Lewis Weston Dillwyn and the industrialist John Henry Vivian. Both became Fellows of the Royal Society, as Grove did himself: evidence of Wales’ scientific heritage from the period.
Grove studied in Brasenose College, Oxford, before moving to London to commence a career in the law. His interest turned to science and specifically to the chemical reactions that produce electricity. He discovered the acid nitrate battery (the Grove cell) and he attracted the attention of Faraday. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1840 and he was appointed a Professor in the London Institute a year later.
Grove’s vision was for such batteries to be used in the future to power transportation. Indeed, the German engineer, Moritz Hermann van Jacobi used a series of Grove batteries to power an electromagnetic motor boat on the river Neva in St. Pertersburg. The technology was also used by the telegraph industry in America.
When Grove experimented further he developed the gas battery by placing tubes of Oxygen and Hydrogen alternately in dilute sulphuric acid and connecting them with Platina foil. The battery transformed Oxygen and Hydrogen to electricity and water. This was the forerunner of the modern fuel cell. He also introduced early ideas on the Conservation of Energy.
By Grove’s death in 1896 a future was foreseen where electricity would be all-powerful. Though the complete dream was not realized (coal and gas came to prominence), battery technology has developed rapidly, and is essential to many aspects of modern life. If a new and clean technology can be developed, the debt to this notable man from Swansea would be considerable.
Interestingly, Grove returned to the law later in his life;, he became a QC and was appointed a judge
In less than a month’s time, the Library’s Arthurian exhibition will close its doors, and our hero will return to his isle of enchantment.
To mark this year’s Explore your Archive, two events at the National Library on the 15th of November drew attention to all things legendary and archival here.
A lunchtime presentation by Scott Lloyd of RCAHM Wales (author of The Arthurian Place Names of Wales) discussed myths, legends and archaeology, drawing on examples from over a century of archival accumulation by the Commission.
A gallery talk by Maredudd ap Huw, curator of the Arthurian exhibition, led visitors on a trail following the king in his many guises: from the legendary Welsh figure in sources such as the Black Book of Carmarthen and the White Book of Rhydderch, through his medieval French manifestations, before returning to his mixed fate in Tudor Britain.
It is unlikely that King Arthur himself was an archival creator: he was far too busy to keep minutes, file correspondence, and audit accounts. However, manuscripts and books concerning the king may still be seen and enjoyed at the Library’s Hengwrt Gallery until he finally sets sail on December 16th.
Philip Jones Griffiths, John Bulmer, Marian Delyth, Rhodri Jones, Pete Davis, Peter Finnemore, David Hurn, Jeremy Moore, Amanda Jackson, Jon Tonks, Alison Baskerville, Bedwyr Williams, Tessa Traeger and Homer Sykes are just some of the photographers who have spoken at LENS since its inception in 2005. Each year our one day Documentary Festival of Photography has hosted talks by four, sometimes five, photographers – each with their own style and message to portray.
On Saturday November 4th we will be hearing from Sebastian Bruno, an Argentine/Spanish visual artist, who works with photography, moving image and installation also Gerallt Llewelyn, who has been photographing in North Wales in a career spanning nearly 40 years and has mastered a number of genres. Another veteran of the Welsh Photographic scene is Bernard Mitchell who will be launching his book “Pieces of a Jigsaw: Portraits of Artists and Writers of Wales.” Dr Christopher Webster continues to lecture on a number of aspects of photography, whilst Richard Jones, like Gerallt a native of North Wales, is renowned for his stunning landscape photography.
I look forward to hearing their talks and being inspired by their creativity. Come along, sit back and be inspired.
In 1567 the first translation of the New Testament into Welsh was published in London. A law had been passed in 1563 instructing the bishops of the Welsh dioceses and the bishop of Hereford to arrange for the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer to be translated into Welsh by 1st March 1567. Most of the New Testament and the whole of the Prayer Book were the work of one translator, William Salesbury. Salesbury was a native of Llansannan in north Wales, who converted to Protestantism while studying at Oxford, and was responsible – as either author or translator – for most of the books printed in Welsh up to 1588.
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.
This weekend the Nanteos Cup will return to Strata Florida Abbey, where, according to tradition, it was kept by the Cistercian brothers before Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastries campaign which began and which was implemented by the merciless Thomas Cromwell. It seems that the lands and various chattels belonging to the Abbey were sold to the Steadman family, who in tern and through family links, passed the Cup on to the Nanteos family who kept in the manion for many centuries.
What use was made of the Cup at the Abbey is still a great mystery. It is very unlikely that the Cup was used as a communion cup because we can be fairly certain that the Abbey’s communion cup would most probably have been made of silver – as was was the Cymer Abbey communion vessels, discovered by accident by walkers many years ago. However – if the traditions and legends surrounding the Nanteos Cup are fairly accurate – the Cup was definately used during ceremonies at the Abbey.
As we are about to open the ‘Arthur and the Welsh Mythology’, exhibition one has to ask whether the legend linking the Cup to the ‘Holy Grail’, an object which has been such a central theme in the Arthurian legends, is indeed true?
You are welcome to visit the Library to view ‘The Holy Grail’ of Nanteos.
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.