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.
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.
A visualization of linked open data for Welsh interest books published by the University of Wales Press
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.
Wikipedia editing events held recently by Menter Iaith Môn and the National Library of Wales
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.
The Peniarth Manuscripts form one of the most important collections held by the National Library of Wales. Its 560 manuscripts date from the 11th Century onward and contain some of the most important and iconic Welsh literary works in existence, including stories from the Mabinogion, the Book of Taliesin and the earliest copies of the ancient Laws books of Wales. In 2010 the collection was included in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register, further underlining its importance as a national treasure.
The collection has of course been catalogued and digitisation of the entire collection is currently underway. So now seemed like a good time to explore the potential of linked data in order to better understand and explore the makeup of the collection.
At the National Library of Wales we have now converted collection Metadata to Wikidata for a number of collections including paintings and printed material. This has lead to an enrichment of data and easy access to tools for querying and visualizing the collections. Creating Wikidata for each of the Peniarth manuscripts would result in similar advantages, but first the existing metadata would have to be cleaned and refined before being mapped to entities within Wikidata. Some mappings were easy, for example metadata tags for parchment and paper were easily matched to the relevant Wikidata entities. Dates and measurements simply needed formatting in a particular way in order to add them to Wikidata, and the QuickStatements (QS) upload tool contains detailed instructions on how to do this.
Much of the data already existed in set data fields making mappings fairly straight forward. However the metadata for many manuscripts also included a text based description of the item, which in many cases included additional information such as the names of scribes and people whose works are represented within the manuscript (authors). Extracting this data was more difficult. By filtering searches for specific sentence structures and/or certain keywords it was possible to semi automate the extraction of this data, but it also required manual checking to avoid mistakes. Once the names, works, subjects and genres were extracted they then had to be matched to Wikidata items. If these items did not yet have a Wikidata item, they were created whenever possible using data from other sources.
The ontology for describing manuscripts on Wikidata is still being tweaked, so in order to properly separate and describe both the scribe/copyist of a work and the authors of works included in a manuscript it was necessary to create a new property on Wikidata, which can now be used to describe the scribe, calligrapher or copyist of a manuscript work.
Once the data was prepared in a spreadsheet it was uploaded to Wikidata in stages using the Quickstatements tool. We also uploaded sample images of the 100 or so manuscripts which have already been digitised to Wikimedia Commons. Since the implementation of structured data on Commons any upload which links to the relevant item on Wikidata it now pulls in much of the relevant descriptive data automatically, meaning there is a lot less work involved in preparing a batch upload of images than in days gone by. Since the National Library uses IIIF technology to display its digital assets, we also included persistent id’s to our image viewer and links to IIIF manifests in our Wikidata upload.
Once the data is uploaded it can immediately be queried and explored using the Wikidata SPARQL Query Service. This tool has a suit of visualisation options, but there are a number of other useful visualisation tools which can be used in conjunction with a sparql query without the need for any coding knowledge, such as the Wikidata Visualisation suit and RAWGraphs.
In many cases it is technically possible to retrieve the same data from standard Metadata as you can from the linked data – it’s just that we don’t have the tools to easily do so. For example we could easily list manuscripts from smallest to largest, or oldest to youngest, or perhaps explore the relationship between the size of a manuscript and the date it was created.
Interestingly, this query clearly shows a trend of increasing size in the manuscripts over time and it also seems to point to a trend towards producing manuscripts of similar sizes at different periods in time.
We can also easily analyze data about the language of the works in the collection. It’s worth remembering that many works contain texts in more than one language, but we know that 43% of items contain Welsh language text whilst 33% contain English and 19% contain Latin.
Whilst this is definitely useful, the extra information extracted from text descriptions in the metadata begins to enrich and add further value to the data, allowing us to perform new queries on the data. For example we can attempt to break down the collection by genre and main subject for the first time. This of course is only as accurate as the original data, and in some cases the variety of content within a single manuscript makes it impossible to apply an overarching content type, but in terms of research and discoverability, the data certainly provides new insight. For example, we can identify all manuscripts which contain correspondence, and then see who the main subject of those correspondence are, and because Wikidata is linked data we could then access biographical data about those people.
Many of the manuscripts in the Peniarth collection include copies or partial copies of other notable works, in fact some of the manuscripts are copies of other manuscripts in the same collection. Using Wikidatas ‘Exemplar of’ property it was possible to connect the manuscripts to data items for the works they contained. Again, I suspect the original metadata does not identify all the works included in the manuscripts so the results of any query will not be exhaustive but they will represent all of the current data in our catalogue.
We can see from the visualisation the no fewer than 22 manuscripts contain text from the codification of Welsh Law by Hywel Dda, 21 manuscripts are copies of other manuscripts in the collection and 12 are exemplars of various printed books.
Using the newly created Scribe property on Wikidata we have been able to link data for each manuscript to the data items for every scribe mentioned in the metadata. Three scribes stand out as the most prolific, with their hand writing appearing in dozens of Manuscripts. Two of the three, Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt and W.W.E Wynne of Peniarth once owned much of the collection and did much to annotate and copy the texts. The third, John Jones, was a well known collector and scribe, and is credited with copying many texts which might otherwise have been lost forever. By exploring which scribes contributed to which manuscripts we can identify connection between otherwise unconnected individuals.
Finally, it’s important to underline the fact that Wikidata doesn’t just allow us to explore individual collections in new ways, it acts as a hub, joining collections together in an ever expanding web of cultural heritage data. We have added a lot of data for people in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography for example, and a simple query now allows us to identify all of those who contributed to the Peniarth collection.
In the same way, we can link to collections in other institutions, many of whom are also beginning to add their collections to Wikidata. Oxford University is one such institution and this means that manuscripts of Welsh interest at Jesus College like the Book of the Anchorite of Llanddewi Brefi and the Red Book of Hergest are now connected through linked data to the copies of those manuscripts in the Peniarth Collection.
As more and more collections are added to this huge linked open network we will increasingly be able to reconcile, explore and make sense of our combined cultural heritage, which for hundreds of years has existed in closed silos. By applying new technology and Open licensing, cultural institutions can now breath new life into old data, and reach a wider audience than ever before.
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.
For the last 14 weeks as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, the Library has welcomed 10 students from the MA Archive Administration and MSc Digital Curation courses from Aberystwyth University’s Department of Information Studies to work on one of our sound collections. We would like to thank the students for all their hard work and contribution towards the project, and to Crystal Guevara for writing this Blog about their time spent with us.
Timber, forest fires, road building, and World War II stories are just some of the subjects that are covered in a collection made up of 167 MiniDiscs, each containing interviews recorded from people who worked for or around the Forestry Commission.
As part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, the National Library of Wales is working on preserving and making available sound recordings that tell the story of wales through oral histories. Dr. Sarah Higgins, professor at Aberystwyth University arranged for ten students in the post-graduate Archive Administration course to help the Library work on a project called the Story of the Forest.
I was one of ten students that got to work on the project and I found that my appreciation for the people who had started the work for this story grew from admiration to urgency so that more people could hear and learn from the experiences of the forest workers who transformed the landscape of rural Wales.
The majority of these recordings are in Welsh, the remainder being in English. To place you somewhere in the timeline of history we’re talking about mid-Twentieth Century Wales. Due to a high demand for timber, the Forestry Commission bought slate quarries and farms to transform those areas into plots for forestry farming. Naturally, this meant an adjustment in lifestyle and some people adjusted well to it while others longed for the way that things used to be. The people who were a part of these changes weren’t interviewed until 2002 and 2003 by a team of interviewers who were motivated to get on record the rich details of this time of transition and change.
Because the interviews were recorded on MiniDiscs, they needed to be rescued from becoming completely inaccessible, since so much of the technology around MiniDiscs has already become obsolete. So, our job as archive students was to digitise the recordings on the MiniDiscs, catalogue all of the interviews, transcribe them, and then put together an online exhibit to showcase some of these interviews along with old photographs provided by the interviewees. To get all of this done we got to work with some of the Library staff. They gave us guidance on what to do and we in turn strategized the timetable and roles and responsibilities.
Everyone on the team got to perform unique tasks and we sought to rotate everyone through all the necessary jobs to get a chance at trying different things out. Each task required a different learning process and each one was vital to make these stories publicly available.
During the digitising I was able to appreciate having technology that allowed us to continue preserving these stories. While transcribing, I got to hear first-hand the core of what we were doing. Listening to the interviews, was insightful and eye-opening. They contain stories about forestry policy, road building, nursery work, farm life, and other topics like Land Army Girls, Prisoners of War, and life post-World War II. Then, while cataloguing we strived to do things meticulously, but efficiently to create useable information that would help future users navigate through the collection.
To become more connected with the project and feel the real human connection with the interviewees and their stories, we organized a trip to Corris. Corris is one of the places mentioned often in the oral histories and only a 40-minute drive from Aberystwyth. While we were there, we could see for ourselves the different types of trees in their separate sections, covering the hills. We took pictures of our visit to include in the online exhibit and add our own perspective to continue telling the story of the forest.
It was a great journey beginning to end. As we are only aspiring archivists at the moment, we relied heavily on the knowledge of all the library staff helping us work the technology and understand the metadata standards. Alison Smith, Berian Elias, Rhodri Shore, Gruffydd Jones, and Elena Gruffudd were especially helpful. That in and of itself was a lesson applicable in how to help and educate people who are learning to use archives.
To see these oral histories start off in a cardboard box and now find them searchable on the British Library catalogue brought a great sense of accomplishment for the entire team.
17 of these stories are now available to listen to online on the People’s Collection Wales website, along with more detailed stories about the specific process of cataloguing, digitising, transcribing, and work on the exhibit.
As International Conscientious Objectors’ Day is taking place across the globe today – 15th May, The National Library of Wales’ Screen and Sound Archive would like to draw your attention to a short film available on the BFI Player entitled Defending This Country Only Means Attacking Another. The title was taken from a Peace Pledge Union [PPU] placard seen in the film which was shot by Mr J. Fred Phillips, a cinema operator in Brynmawr from 1923 to 1958. He was also captain of the Monmouthshire Golf Club, Abergavenny, and husband of Pollto Williams, a finalist in several national ladies golf championships at Llandrindod. Other placards indicate the PPU beliefs: Mass Murder is No Defence of Liberty and Peace is Indivisble – We Seek Peace on Earth, Goodwill to ALL MEN. Hand-crafted placards that have a drawing of a blood splatter on them accompanied by the words Munitions from Ebbw Vale suggest that this could be a protest against the opening or operation of such a factory in the area. The Society of Friends (Quakers, pacifists) had set up projects for the unemployed (e.g. boot and furniture making – see also the film Eastern Valley on the BFI Player) in Brynmawr and area during the 1930s but many of the unemployed found work in munitions factories in Ebbw Vale during WWII. Or, given that the PPU undertook a Carlisle to London peace campaign in 1938, could this footage show a campaign visit to Ebbw Vale?
The Peace Pledge Union [PPU] was initiated in 1934 by Canon Dick Sheppard who had been an Army Chaplain during WWI. He wrote a letter to the newspapers asking men (as women were already active in the peace movement) to sign a pledge if they were sickened by what looked like the stirrings of another war: ‘I renounce war, and I will never support or sanction another.’ He was overwhelmed by the response. The movement included women from 1936. Today, the PPU is the provider of the white poppies worn on Remembrance Day. Such poppies were first worn, at the instigation of the Co-operative Women’s Guild on Armistice Day, 1933 (Armistice Day became Remembrance Day after the Second World War). Many of the women had lost loved ones during WWI and despaired at on-going preparations for further war. It was also felt that remembrance should include all the non-military victims of war too. The pledge today is as follows: ‘War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.’
Mary Moylett, Cataloguer (Film) Screen and Sound Archive
Last month marked 30 years since the invention of the World Wide Web. Fortunately, the National Library of Wales and its partners have been archiving Welsh websites and preserving this history for generations to come. As a result, at the end of last year, the new UK Web Archive website was officially launched. This new site is a response to changes made to Legal Deposit legislation following the passing of the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-print Works) Regulations in 2013 meaning Legal Deposit now encompasses electronic and online material such as websites, blogs, e-magazines and materials on CD-rom.
The purpose of the UK Web Archive is to collect, preserve and give permanent access to key UK websites for future generations. The 2013 Regulations presented the Legal Deposit Libraries with a huge challenge as one of the requirements is to archive the whole UK Web Space. As with previous UK Legal Deposit Acts, primarily dealing with print material, legal deposit of online material only extend to items published in the UK.
Furthermore, due to the 2013 Regulations, the scope of our collecting substantially increased. For instance, the UK Web Archive collects many millions of websites and billions of individual “assets” (html pages, images, pdf’s, video’s etc.). Since 2017, the UK Web Archive has collected approximately 500TB of data. At least once a year, the British Library performs an automated “crawl” under the terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 to capture as many UK websites as we can identify. This will result in further substantial increases in the huge amount of data that we now collect.
The National Library of Wales and our Legal Deposit Libraries partners, led by the British Library, had been archiving websites from 2003 to 2013, but this was a permission-based model. In order for us to archive a website we needed prior permission from the site owner. Because of the new Regulations, we no longer need permission to archive a site if it is published in the UK.
As for access, the site is viewable from here. However, under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 access to much of the archived content is restricted to a UK Legal Deposit library reading room. Therefore, you will see a ‘viewable only on Library premises’ alongside many descriptions to archived websites directing you to one of the UK Legal Deposit Libraries for access.
The UK Web Archive aim is to provide ‘open access’ to as many of these sites as possible therefore we are still contacting owners of websites requesting permission for us to open up access to archived versions of their websites. For instance, we already have an arrangement for a number of years with the Welsh Government allowing us to provide open access to their growing list of websites.
Of course, the UK Web Archive will continue to expand and develop over the coming months and years. The UK Web Archive is one of many initiatives undertaken to successfully respond to the new Regulations and the challenge that the Digital black hole presented to us as Libraries. Now the site is live, we hope to increase interaction with our users. For instance, a feature of the site is Special Collections and if you would like to see content included in one of our special collections or provide general feedback on the UK Web Archive then please get in touch. We will be very happy to hear from you.
The National Library of Wales is one of the 10 Hub partners across the UK participating in the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, which is funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the British Library.
The British Library and the 10 Hubs will digitally preserve half a million rare and at risk sound recordings, and make 100,000 available online.
From September 2018 until September 2021 the National Library of Wales will digitise, catalogue and assess rights for 5,000 sound recordings from Wales. They will include a range of subjects from oral history, lectures, dialect to Welsh pop and folk music.
The aim is to transform access to sound collections in Wales making them available online and on site at the Library. In order to fulfil this, we will be working with some of our partners in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea and Tredegar.
We are looking for volunteers or students who wish to gain work experience to support the project.
We have a range of activities on offer from creating inventories, help prepare digitisation work and content research. Training will be provided.
If you have an interest in learning more about Welsh history and sound recordings, keen to learn and develop new skills why not join our warm and friendly team.
During Tudor and Stuart times, heraldic visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Heralds or their deputies to scrutinise, register and record the coats of arms of the nobility and gentry in England, Wales and Ireland. Having recently purchased a fine pedigree roll of the period, the National Library invited two modern-day heralds to visit us in October: the present Wales Herald Extraordinary, Mr Thomas Lloyd, and his predecessor, the sprightly 90-year old Dr Michael Powell Siddons.
They are seen here inspecting (and no doubt approving of) the heraldic roll, dated 3 December 1591, which was recently purchased by the Library at auction in Shrewsbury. The roll (now NLW MS 24125G) traces the pedigree of Frances Vichan (or Vaughan), heiress of Hergest Court, Herefordshire to ‘Kradog, Earle of Herefourde, Lord of Radnor and Knight of ye Round Table in King Arthur’s time’. Frances married Herbert Jeffreys of Kirham Abbey, Yorkshire, whose grandfather, Col. Herbert Jeffreys, had been Governor of Virginia.
The 2-metre long roll, which seems to be in the hand of Richard Adams, scribe and painter of Ludlow, was produced by Thomas Jones (c. 1530-1609) of Fountain Gate, Cardiganshire. Jones, the almost mythical ‘Twm Siôn Cati’, is popularly depicted in later literature as a brigand and rogue, and is sometimes described as ‘the Welsh Robin Hood’. In real life, he was a canny producer of pedigrees for the up-and-coming Welsh nobility, and had cornered the market for ornate displays of prestige and one-upmanship on parchment. Strict accuracy was not always a primary consideration, and having appealed to the vanity of his patrons, one can almost imagine this entrepreneur’s smirk as the pocketed the proceeds of his latest venture.
Back in March, the Library published the first group of Peniarth Manuscripts to have been digitised as part of an ambitious plan to present the contents of the entire collection online.
This week, as the Library celebrates items and collections which have been inscribed on UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register, we announce that images of a further 25 manuscripts from the Peniarth Collection have appeared on our website. They are presented here according to dates of creation:
From the 14th century, we welcome 190, a Welsh manuscript containing religious texts such as Lucidar and Ymborth yr Enaid, together with 328 and 329, two legal manuscripts in Norman-French, with the latter containing the text of Magna Carta.
From the beginning of the 15th century, we welcome the Latin and English religious texts of 334, and from the middle of that century, the work of Petrarch in a Latin manuscript produced at Oxford (336), and the Welsh text of Gwassanaeth Meir (191). An abundant crop from the second half of the century includes Welsh Law (175), a calendar in the hand of Gutun Owain (186), and poems written by Huw Cae Llwyd (189).
A dearth of sources from the first half of the 16th century is followed by an abundant crop from 1550 onwards, including the manuscripts of Roger Morris of Coed-y-talwrn (169), Thomas Evans of Hendreforfudd (187), lexicographer Thomas Wiliems (188), Simwnt Fychan (189), and another version of Gwassanaeth Meir (192). Pedigrees are represented in 193, and medical tracts in 184, 206 and 207.
Robert Vaughan did not neglect contemporary manuscripts, and 17th century examples include a collection of Welsh poetry (184), grammars and vocabularies written by John Jones of Gellilyfdy (295, 296, 302, 304 and 305), and volumes written by Robert Vaughan himself (180 and 185).
Finally, one lonely manuscript of Welsh sermons (324) from the 18th century, possibly the product of Montgomeryshire.
For a complete list of all Peniarth Manuscripts available digitally, consult the dedicated page on our website. Meanwhile, our diligent digitizers continue to work through the collection!
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.