Tag Archives: @NLWales

Assessing the accuracy of crowdsourced image tags at The National Library of Wales.

Collections / Research - Posted 29-05-2023

Over the last decade the National Library of Wales has developed an award-winning volunteer program, with hundreds of volunteers working to enrich data and our understanding of our collections through a range of tasks, from transcription and indexing to the tagging of photographs.


The library also has a long-standing partnership with Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia and Wikidata – a huge linked open database of people, places and all manner of things. During Covid Lockdowns we trialed the use of Wikidata and IIIF to add descriptive tags to images using open-source software developed by the Wiki community, before embedding this process into our own digital crowdsourcing platform.


An example of an image tagged by remote volunteers during lockdown


Whilst the use of the IIIF image standard has long been established at the National Library, the use of Wikidata to describe our collections is still more experimental. The main advantages we see of this approach are multilingualism and enriched data. 


Wikidata allows users to add labels to items in multiple languages. For example, there is only one item in the dataset for a tree, with a unique identifier, but it can be labelled and described in hundreds of languages, including Welsh. This means our volunteers can work in English or Welsh and we can capture and present that data in any language we choose. It also gives us access to a rich array of additional data about the places, people and things tagged in our collections.


Tagging images using Wikidata was integrated into our crowdsourcing platform


Whilst using a set vocabulary like Wikidata means we can create structured data, as opposed to just collection strings of text where one item might be described in multiple different ways by different volunteers, there are still challenges with our methodology.


Wikidata contains over 100 million items of data on all sorts of things and much of this is irrelevant to our users, meaning there is the risk of tagging the wrong thing. This might be accidental. For example, in one image a boy could be seen kneeling and our volunteers used the Wikidata item for ‘Kneeling Boy’ to tag the image. However ‘Kneeling Boy’ was actually the title of a painting. And so the wrong tag was applied.


It may also be that tags are applied in good faith, but the complex nature of Wikidata’s ontology means that the wrong tag was applied, such as using ‘male’ (gender) instead of ‘man’ (male human) to tag a man in a photograph.


The goal of the photo tagging project is to add tags to a large collection of 19th-century photo albums, providing more detailed data than held in our catalogue. Over the last 12 months over 100 volunteers have taken part in the tagging task on our crowd-sourcing platform with a total of 900 hours spent on the platform. The most active volunteers are those who are part of the library’s in-house volunteer team although the project is open for anyone to participate.


More than 20,000 tags have been added to the photograph collection to date.


Some of the most commonly tagged things in the 19th century photo collection


So, when a Masters Student in Library and Information Science at the University of Maryland enquired about a field placement, we saw a fantastic opportunity to review the standard of tagging by our volunteers so far. Amelia Eldridge, our Masters Student, had visited the National Library while on a visit to Wales as part of an artist residency in 2020. She felt that a field placement with the Library would be an amazing way to combine her interest in Welsh culture with a graduation requirement. 


Amelia set about reviewing a random sample of over 3000 tags. She was looking for the incorrect use of tags and the absence of useful tags, where perhaps volunteers missed an opportunity to add useful data.


Out of 3315 tags reviewed 191 were marked as incorrect which is a failure rate of just 5%. 671 new tags were added to albums considered ‘complete’ (a 20% increase) suggesting that volunteers sometimes missed opportunities to tag certain things. 


Amelia explains that;


“The most added missing tag was “caption” – lines of text used to explain or elaborate an illustration, figure, table, or photograph. With 155 tags added. I added this tag when images/illustrations had descriptive captions within the photo or illustration itself, not handwritten in graphite below it. The second most added was “Victorian fashions”;  fashions and trends in British culture during the Victorian era, with 45 tags added. I added this tag to portrait style photos, where it seemed to me that the fashions the people were sporting were important to the description of the image.


I did not add this to images where people were clearly wearing “victorian fashions” but not done in portrait style. I would however, not  mark it incorrect if another volunteer did. This is an example of ‘tagger bias’, where I found it interesting to see how different people would describe a photo. In most instances I didn’t tag these differences as wrong, rather they caused me to engage in self-reflection.”


One of the images tagged by Amelia as ‘Victorian Fashion’


The observed ‘tagger bias’ is a reminder that crowdsourcing descriptive data, whatever the methodology, is likely to lack consistency as people will tend to tag the things that interest them, or that they notice more prominently when examining an image. The ability to see tags added by others on the platform, however, does allow users to reflect on their own tagging.


When it came to the incorrect use of tags there was a clear pattern, as Amelia explains;


“I did mark certain tags as incorrect. The top three relate to gender. The most marked incorrect tag was ‘man’ (male adult human) with 74 tags marked incorrect. I would mark this tag as incorrect when there were multiple male presenting people being tagged as only one man. I felt that the correct tag for these images, because there were multiple men depicted, was ‘group of men’. Then came ‘male’ which is intended only to be used to describe “sex or gender”. 45 tags of this kind were marked. I would either correct these to ‘man’ or ‘group of men’ depending on how many male presenting people were in the actual image. The third most corrected tag was ‘woman’ with 18 incorrectly tagged. I would correct this tag if, like with the men, multiple female presenting people were tagged as only one. They would be changed to ‘group of women’. ‘Female’ was also used incorrectly to describe a female person, but only 2 times. ‘female’ and ‘male’ were used in early albums I evaluated, and the volunteers corrected themselves quite quickly it seems.”


The fact that so many of the incorrect tags result from an honest misunderstanding of the data suggests that providing greater guidance and training resources for volunteers could easily reduce the error rate significantly. 


There were also a few issues regarding ethnicity, where individuals were tagged as Italian, Chinese or Native American. As Amelia was keen to stress, “we cannot assume identity”. Wikidata does have data items for identifying residence of a place regardless of ethnicity and Amelia suggests that the use of these items would be less problematic, although assuming people in a photograph taken in Italy are definitely Italian is still difficult to assert with any authority. For example, Amelia suggests that when “ ‘Native Americans in the United States’ was tagged within an image, changing it to ‘Indigenous Peoples of the Americas’ may be more inclusive and accurate.” Again, providing clear guidance for volunteers may help reduce examples of this problem.


An image incorrectly tagged with ethnicity


I asked Amelia what her recommendations would be for reducing the number of errors.


“It is my feeling that many of the tags marked as incorrect, could be avoided by training the volunteers to not add them. For example-avoid tagging ethnicity, or the gendered tag when describing a male or female. I would hesitate to have a specific set of predefined vocabulary tags, just because I wouldn’t want to limit the volunteers. As I’ve mentioned, something interesting about this project for me was seeing how there are different approaches to describing an image. And, as I’ve also mentioned, by and large the volunteers are already doing a good job at deciphering and tagging what is within the photo albums.

Another suggestion- do the volunteers learn any background on the photo albums before they begin their tagging work? Maybe a short talk with the curator in charge of them? Or a pre-recorded video for remote workers? I think some would find this interesting, and provide an opportunity to see another side of the library (curatorial).”


Amelia’s work to review the tagged albums and to identify patterns in user behavior will be incredibly valuable as we look to develop and progress our crowd-sourcing opportunities. Her perspective as someone who also contributed to the tagging as a volunteer will help us improve our service moving forward. The overwhelming conclusion here is that actually, the volunteers have done a great job at tagging the albums with impressive accuracy. Amelia’s suggestions for training resources and asking curators to give some history and context for the collections being tagged are incredibly useful and something I hope we can develop for our next tagging project.


Amelia presenting her findings to NLW staff with Jason Evans, her supervisor at NLW.

So a massive thank you to Amelia for this work. We wish her all the best with her Masters and hope she got as much out of her field placement as we did!  

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The Hay Festival

Collections / Uncategorized - Posted

The Hay Festival starts this week, and I thought I’d look into how a small, quiet town in Powys ended up hosting one of the biggest literary festivals in the world.

Back in the 60s, local business man Richard Booth opened a second-hand book shop in Hay-on-Wye, a decision that would forever change the history of the town. Within a few years, he had six book shops, and their popularity attracted even more booksellers to the town. This in turn led to Hay-on-Wye being labelled “The Town of Books”. Booth was well known for his eccentricities, as can be seen when he famously declared independence for the town, and made himself its King. This 1983 article from The Daily Telegraph shows us an example of his political pursuits, and his entry in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives further insight into his life:

‘Horsepower manifesto by eccentric bookman’ – The Daily Telegraph, 23 May 1983 (The Telegraph Historical Archive). Booth, Richard George William Pitt, 1938-2019 (The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).



The festival itself was the brainchild of Peter Florence, a local actor who supposedly staged the first festival in 1988 with his winnings from a game of poker. He managed to convince the playwright Arthur Miller to attend, and as this article in the World Literature Journal points out, Miller initially thought Hay-on-Wye was a sandwich!

‘Outposts: Literary Landmarks & Events’ – World Literary Journal, 2006 (JSTOR)



The first festival was a big success, which resulted in the Sunday Times sponsoring the event in its second year. As this announcement in the newspaper shows, they were proud to sponsor this festival, which according to them, was in a “living bookshop”. The event itself managed to attract a stellar list of authors, such as Ruth Rendell, John Mortimer, Ian McEwan and Benjamin Zephaniah.

‘Book Yourself a Festival’ – The Sunday Times, 12 March 1989 (Sunday Times Digital Archive)



Over the years, the festival has attracted some of the biggest names in literature, and as it grew, celebrities from other fields were invited to participate. There was much excitement when Bill Clinton attended in 2001, branding the festival “the Woodstock of the mind”. However, as this article at the time shows, there were some initial fears that these celebrities were drawing attention away from writers.

Making Hay – The Guardian, 31 May 2001 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers (Guardian & The Observer)



Luckily, this has not been the case, and the festival has continued to champion authors and their works. Now in its 35th year, it contributes to a number of educational and environmental projects, as well as holding overseas festivals in Europe and South America. Here’s a quick insight into what can be expected in this years’ festival

‘Are You Ready For Hay?’ – Western Mail, 29 April 2002 (Newsbank)



If you aren’t able to make it to this years’ festival, why not visit the Library, and read Ellen Wiles’ experience of the festival, in “The Hay Festival: The Remote Welsh Field That Stages the Global Publishing Industry”, available in our reading room via electronic legal deposit:

Os na allwch chi gyrraedd yr ŵyl eleni, beth am ymweld â’r Llyfrgell, a darllen profiad Ellen Wiles o’r ŵyl, yn “The Hay Festival: The Remote Welsh Field That Stages the Global Publishing Industry” sydd ar gael yn ein hystafell ddarllen trwy adnau cyfreithiol electronig.



Paul Jackson,

Legal Deposit and Aquisitions Librarian.

A Tribute to Graham Thomas

Collections - Posted 25-05-2023


Graham Charles Gordon Thomas was born in Cardiff in 1941. After school and graduating with First Class Honours he went on to study at Trinity College Dublin. Graham spent a number of years in Dublin, as an MA student under the auspices of the Welsh Language Department at University College in Cardiff. He was researching the subject of ‘Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Prydain’ (‘The Thirteen Treasures of the British Isles’), a series of items in late-medieval Welsh tradition. That meant doing a lot of research on folklore and he spent most of his time at the Irish Folklore Commission. Graham’s time in Ireland during the 1960s furnished him with many anecdotes, many involving nuns. He later studied here in Aberystwyth at the College of Librarianship before embarking on his first job at Liverpool University Library. He worked in a department where the medical journals were kept. Doctors from some Liverpool hospitals used to call him to ask him to look at the journals to see what the appropriate ‘dosages’ of some of the drugs were to give to their patients! This was very risky, as Graham’s eyesight was by his own admission not good at all at the time. Later he worked for the Board of Celtic Studies before joining the National Library of Wales as Research Assistant in 1974.

Graham’s scholarly contribution was very significant. His great work (which he had been working on since around 1974) of indexing all the Welsh prose texts in manuscripts was a huge project. The work he carried out on it was incredibly detailed. It would be fair to say that Graham knew more about the Welsh prose of the manuscripts than anyone else, ever. Fortunately his work is to be carried on by Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru.

He retired as Assistant Archivist in 2001 having written numerous articles for academic journals on charters and other medieval manuscripts. He published his magnum opus on ‘The Charters of the Abbey of Ystrad Marchell in 1997. After retirement in 2001 he continued to write and in 2014 published a translation of Bewnans Ke, a play in Cornish from c.1500 about the life of St Kea.

Graham was erudite, knowledgeable and an inspiring colleague. In retirement he continued to work on his prose index and other academic projects, often to the accompaniment of Handel. I was fortunate to meet Graham in 1992 when I started work in the National Library of Wales and struck up an immediate friendship and like many others benefitted greatly from his knowledge and especially his enthusiasm for the Library’s collections.


W. Troughton

Photographic Collection Curator


This blog is also available in Welsh.

The Coronation

Collections - Posted 05-05-2023

The Coronation of King Charles III is an opportunity to see how such occasions have been marked in the past and how this is reflected in the collections of the National Library.

The Coronation is essentially a Christian ceremony, and it used to be the custom to print the sermons preached during the service.  There are several examples of these in the Llandaff Cathedral collection which was purchased by the Library in 1984, including this sermon by William Talbot, Bishop of Oxford, preached at George I’s coronation in 1714.



In 1820 the Merionethshire lexicographer, grammarian, editor, antiquary and poet William Owen Pughe wrote a poem under his bardic name Idrison to mark the coronation of George IV.



Music is another important element of the ceremony, with new pieces being composed for each coronation.  Our musical collections include a hymn by the Rev. W. Morgan and an anthem by Sir John Goss, both with Welsh words, published for George V’s coronation in 1911.  But in Newtown that year the annual sports and musical festival had to be postponed because of the coronation festivities.



When George VI was crowned in 1937, the Rev. Arthur Morgan preached a sermon with the title “The meaning of the Coronation” in Shirenewton Church in Monmouthshire, which was subsequently published.  The celebrations in Connah’s Quay were more light hearted, including football and netball matches, a firework display, and a present of chocolates for primary-school children.




In 1953 services were held in the chapels of Penygroes, Carmarthenshire, and a cymanfa ganu in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II.  Maesteg Council marked the occasion by  publishing a special issue of its official guide.



These are just a few examples of events held throughout Wales and the United Kingdom.  I wonder what publications will be added to our collections following this year’s celebrations.

Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Discovering Medieval Aberystwyth

Collections - Posted 03-05-2023


Over the last couple of months a number of local organisations including the National Library of Wales, Ceredigion Archives, Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth University and the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales have teamed up to celebrate the world of medieval Aberystwyth. In addition to its many holdings relating to Aberystwyth and the Middle Ages, the Library itself has of course been based here for over 100 years following its foundation in 1906.

The ‘Discovering Medieval Aberystwyth’ project has proved to be a great success, with talks, guided tours of the town, and activities all designed to help us understand what life in Aberystwyth was like centuries ago. On the 20th April the programme of events culminated with a talk on ‘Discovering Medieval Aberystwyth in Manuscripts’, accompanied by a pop-up exhibition of manuscripts from the Library’s collections.



The event proved very popular with excellent talks and presentations by staff from the Library and Aberystwyth University. One of our archivists Dr David Moore took us on a virtual tour of the Library’s collections of medieval manuscripts and documents relating to Aberystwyth, and Dr Rhun Emlyn and Dr Louisa Taylor, lecturers from the University’s History department gave fascinating presentations of the results of their recent research into life in medieval Aberystwyth and the documents and seals of the Gogerddan Estate Collection. The event was rounded off with a poetry reading from the work of one of Aberystwyth’s best-known medieval poets Dafydd ap Gwilym performed by Eurig Salisbury of the University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies. Eurig humorously brought to life two of Dafydd’s most famous poems – ‘Merched Llanbadarn’ (‘The Girls of Llanbadarn’) and ‘Dewis Un o Bedair’ (‘Choosing One from Four’).



The accompanying exhibition featured a selection of items from the Library’s collections, all of which are described in our catalogue and are available to view either digitally or in our Reading Room. Why not take a look yourself – who knows what you might discover about medieval Aberystwyth?



Items featured in the exhibition included:

Peniarth MS 540: Bede’s De natura rerum (12thC, Llanbadarn Fawr)

Peniarth MS 20: Brut y Tywysogion: The battle of Aberystwyth 1116 (c.1330, Strata Florida)

NLW MS 9429E: Aberystwyth Borough Charter (1277 (copy))

Peniarth MS 28: The Laws of Hywel Dda (13thC, Deheubarth)

Gorgerddan Estate Records, series GAB: Deeds of Aberystwyth burgesses (14thC, Llanbadarn & Aberystwyth)

Peniarth MS 22: Brut y Brenhinedd  by Dafydd ap Maredudd Glais (1444, Aberystwyth)

Peniarth MS 54i: Dafydd ap Gwilym: Merched Llanbadarn (composed 14thC, Llanbadarn parish/Brogynin)

Peniarth MS 49: Dafydd ap Gwilym: Dewis Un o Bedair (composed 14thC, Llanbadarn parish/Brogynin)


Lucie Hobson

Assistant Archivist


This blog is also available in Welsh.

Carto-Cymru – The Wales Map Symposium 2023

#LoveMaps / Collections - Posted 28-04-2023

Once again this May sees another Carto-Cymru – The Wales Map Symposium. This time we will be meeting face to face, for the first time since 2019. This is the seventh annual symposium and our theme this year is the work of the Ordnance Survey (OS). We will be looking at how approaches to mapping the landscape have changed over time and how historical OS maps can help us to understand our physical environment both past and present. 

As usual the event is being held jointly between the National Library and the Royal Commission who are based here in the Library’s building. This year’s event is also being held in association with the Charles Close Society and ties in with their AGM which is also being held at the Library the next day. 

We have a very exciting line-up of speakers this year, we will be welcoming back some old hands, but also seeing some new faces. 

Our first speaker will be Keith Lilley, Professor of Historical Geography at Queen’s University, Belfast. Keith is one of our regular speakers, this will be his fourth appearance at the event and this time his topic will be ‘Excavating’ the map: Landscapes of the Early Ordnance Survey in Great Britain and Ireland.  

Keith will be examining the relationship between ‘map’ and ‘field’ looking at sites of survey and survey practices that not only shaped the making of the finished map but also materially shaped those landscapes the map represents. He will then go on to look to the OS maps themselves, to reveal insights into the field-operations of those OS personnel on the ground. 

Our next speaker, Dr Rob Wheeler, is honorary secretary to the Charles Close Society and he will be discussing the ‘blue & black’ OS drawings. Rob will explain how the Ordnance Survey produced new editions of its 1:2,500 scale plans by printing a version of the old edition in light blue and using this as a drawing key. Since the blue would not photograph, only the lines overdrawn or added by the draughtsman would appear on the finished map. Many of these MS drawings for England are held here at the National Library, those for Wales are held by the Royal Commission. 

These maps are not simply a manuscript version of the new edition superimposed on a blue of the previous one. The blues are normally not the printed version of the previous edition, but manuscript documents associated with its survey and drawing. The source varies according to whether the previous edition was a 1st or 2nd edition. These drawings can provide topographical information additional to that on the printed maps. 

Our final speaker of the morning session is Jess Baker of the Ordnance Survey who will talk to us about how the way that OS works has changed over time and provide us with a detailed view of OS’s history and highlight notable moments that have affected that change. 

Jess will tell us about why certain features have been added and taken off maps over time, the rationale behind differing styles and symbologies used, and even how the artwork on map covers has evolved. 

After lunch Scott Lloyd of the Royal Commission will talk to us about the Meresmen and the Parish Boundaries of Wales. He will examine the processes behind the creation of the parish boundaries on the first edition 25-inch mapping for a small number of parishes in North-east Wales. 

Scott will discuss the surveyors sketch books with notes by the meresmen appointed to represent each parish, the subsequent Boundary Report books dealing with issues on the line of the boundary, the printed ‘sketch maps’ and the Journals of Inspection which record the comments of concerned landowners. All of which preceded the printed map and allow an insight into the establishment of the boundaries. 

The next talk will be a tour of some of the Ordnance Survey publications held here at the National Library. In this talk I will endeavour to show some of the less well known and perhaps surprising maps produced by the OS. 

Since the National Library of Wales was founded in 1907, it has acquired thousands of Ordnance Survey maps, many directly from the Ordnance Survey through Legal Deposit, but also through donation and purchase. This is especially true of those maps published prior to the Library receiving copyright status in 1911. As a result, the Library has a wide range of Ordnance Survey publications, mainly maps, but also textual works. While we tend to concentrate on maps of Wales, I hope to show that our collection of OS maps contains much more. 

Our final talk sees Mike Parker, kindly taking time out from promoting his new book, taking us on a journey through nearly half a century of studying and writing about Wales and maps. 

Mike’s talk will mix some of the history of Welsh cartography, with thoughts about Welsh representation in the wider map world, together with an exploration of some of its quirkier corners. 

We are looking forward to a really great day and to learning lots of fascinating things about OS maps. It is really great to be meeting again face-to-face. There are tickets still available and it would be wonderful to see as many of you as possible on the day. For those that cannot make it the event is also being made available online. 

Carto-Cymru 2023 will be held on 12 May with registration from 9.30. For further information and tickets please visit events.library.wales 

Huw Thomas 

Map Curator 


The Welsh and the marathon

Collections - Posted 17-04-2023

Long distance running has long been associated as part of Welsh folklore, with the likes of Guto Nyth Bran being made famous for epic running feats. That being said, the renowned status of Welsh runners didn’t just end within those legendary tales, as in more recent times, a number of Welsh individuals have also gained recognition for their running prowess and subsequently become part of the Marathon Hall of Fame.



Welsh Marathon Legends

Steve Jones

Tredegar born, who won several majors between 1983 and 1993. His crowning glory coming in Chicago in 1983 where he broke the world record with a time of 02:08:05.

Tanni Grey Thompson

Olympian who not only won several gold medals in 4 separate Olympics at various distances, but also won 7 London marathons between 1992 and 2002.

Angharad Mair

Winner of the Reykjavik marathon in 1996 and has also competed in several races over the world.


Not only have Welsh runners gained notice throughout the running world, but some truly epic marathon races are now part of the runner’s calendar. The jewel of the crown being the Snowdonia marathon, which traverses the wondrous scenery from between Llanberis and Beddgelert. Highlights of recent races can be re-watched at the National Library, as they were initially aired on S4C.


A small selection of other marathons from around Wales:

Great Welsh Marathon (Llanelli)

Newport Wales Marathon

The Wales Marathon (Pembrokeshire)

Man v. Horse (Llanwrtyd Wells)



Turner, J. Guto Nyth Brân: bachgen cyflyma’r byd, 2012

Grey-Thompson, T. Aim high, 2012

Norris, V. In the long run, 2012

Neal, C. The world marathon book: a celebration of the world’s most inspiring races, 2018

Pfitzinger, P. Advanced marathoning, 2009



Edwards. A, ‘Wedi rhedeg y ras i’r pen’, Cristion, Rhif. 178 (Mai / Mehefin 2013), p. 4-5

Dafydd, L. Rhedeg ras galetaf Ewrop . . . y merched a marathon Eryri, Golwg, Cyf. 22, rhif 8 (22 Hydref 2009), p. 34-35

Jones, R. A. 4:46:36 – marathon yn y meddwl, Barn, 544 (Mai 2008), p. 26-27


Ian Evans

Shared Cataloguing Programme Manager

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Legal Deposit Print and More

Collections / Reader Services - Posted 05-04-2023

Here is a selection of some of the many thousands of books that reach the National Library through Legal Deposit every year. As one of the Legal Deposit Libraries for the UK and Ireland we receive a copy of nearly every book and periodical published in England, Scotland and Ireland – as well as Wales. It’s difficult sometimes for people to grasp the extent of our Legal Deposit collection. So if you’re interested in the Amazon rain forest or the mysteries of the human mind, want to see the latest issue of Poetry Wales or Four Four Two, want to understand how a fusion reactor is likely to work, or just pore over the novels of your favourite author, pop into our Reading Room with your reader’s ticket. We have almost everything for ever.

On the 6th of April this year we will be celebrating Non Print or Electronic Legal Deposit along with the five other legal deposit libraries. Ten years ago the National Library of Wales, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, Trinity College, Dublin, the Bodleian Library, Oxford and Cambridge University Library were granted the right to receive electronic publications in addition to those in print. That doesn’t only mean a change in format from a book in your hand to text on a screen. The switch to electronic publications has also increased the amount of knowledge we have to offer you.

Everyone is now familiar with e-books and e-periodicals and many hundreds of thousands of these are now available in the Reading Room of the National Library but not everyone realises that the world of ‘publishing’ includes all the websites of UK webspace. Imagine how much of this material disappears every year as web pages are updated. The role of UKWA the UK Web Archive is to ensure that the content of BBC Wales, Diverse Cymru or the Football Association of Wales web pages as well as many thousands of other websites, big and small, from Wales and the rest of the UK, are kept safe for the future.


You can search the catalogue on our website here: https://www.library.wales

Robert Lacey
Head of Collection Development


Idris Davies: Welshman, miner, and remarkable poet

Collections - Posted 03-04-2023

April 6th, 2023 marks 70 years since the death of Welsh poet Idris Davies in 1953. He became a poet of great knowledge and skill, and his work is known for its unflinching honesty of a period of hardship and change in Rhymney, South Wales in the 1920s and between two World Wars. Though this is the theme that he is mostly known for, Davies also gained repute in discussing war, politics, and faith in his works, with Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot among his admirers.

Born on 6th January 1905 in Rhymney, Davies was the son of a Welsh-speaking colliery winderman, Evan, and his wife Elizabeth Ann. Like countless other young boys at this time, Davies left school at 14 to work as a miner in the Abertysswg and Rhymney Mardy Pits, like his father. The claustrophobic and stifling conditions of the pits are brought to life in Davies’ notes and memoirs, including describing how he lost part of his middle finger in an accident in an almost detached, matter-of-fact manner.



NLW MS 10811D, poetry by Idris Davies (1920s-?1953)


The danger the men faced every day down in the mines was something that Davies began to get grimly accustomed to, and yet more hardship was to come. The General Strike of 1926 and a long period of unemployment for Davies and his fellow miners fuelled his deep-rooted anger due to the grossly unfair and iron-fisted treatment of the miners, and is felt throughout his poetry. It was this anger and contempt that was to become one of Davies’ main qualities in his work.

Yet throughout this unflinching poetic representation of South Wales life in the early 20th century also came through a stoic sense of pride in ‘his’ Rhymney, and indeed of Wales as his homeland. He used poems such as Gwalia Deserta (NLW MS 22399C) as an ode to the gwerin to not only highlight the betrayals suffered by the people of South Wales but also their hopes, with great effect.



NLW MS 10811D, poetry by Idris Davies (1920s-?1953)


Idris Davies’ work continues to stand as a testament to yet another of Wales’s great poets, although it is fair to say he has not always received the praise he deserved, especially during his lifetime. The National Library of Wales is fortunate to hold many of his notes, diaries, and works; his notes and diaries (NLW MS 22402B, NLW MS 22414C) give a special insight into the mind of Davies from a different perspective and portray a deeply thoughtful and sometimes sensitive approach to life. His years and suffering as a miner shaped his love and appreciation for simplicity itself, such as fresh air and sunlight. This is felt most keenly in his gentle reflection on death in Request:

‘Scatter my dust on the moorland

Where I dreamed my boyhood’s dreams,

Where the reeds are, and the curlews,

And the quiet springs and streams.’


Idris Davies items held at the National Library of Wales can be browsed here in our Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue.



Jenkins, Islwyn (1986), Idris Davies of Rhymney: a personal memoir / by Islwyn Jenkins. Llandysul: Gomer.

Jenkins, I. & Black, C. (1990) Idris Davies: Bardd Cwm Rhymni = Idris Davies : Rhymney valley poet. Cardiff: HTV Cymru Wales Community Education Department.

Islwyn Jenkins, 2001,  DAVIES, IDRIS (1905 – 1953), miner, schoolmaster and poet.


Ceri Evans

Trainee Archivist


This blog is also available in Welsh.

New digital resources for 2023

Collections - Posted 31-03-2023

Our digitisation work has continued behind the scenes and the following items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:


Peniarth Collection



Welsh Political Ephemera

All the items in the Welsh Political Archive collection relating to the Welsh devolution referendum campaigns in 1979 and 1997 have been digitised:

Rhodri Morgan letters

Between 1961 and 1963, Rhodri Morgan, who would later become the First Minister of Wales, studied at Harvard University in the United States of America. While he was there he wrote a series of 88 letters to his family in Swansea describing his experiences, the news, and his views on the important issues of the day. The letters show Rhodri Morgan developing his political thinking and the experiences that influenced him.

  • Letters from Rhodri Morgan, 1961-1963 (Papurau Prys Morgan: File 25)
  • Letters from Rhodri Morgan, 1961-1963 (Papurau Prys Morgan: File 26)
  • Letters from Rhodri Morgan, 1961-1963 (Papurau Prys Morgan: File 27)

Lord Ogmore Papers

Typescript of ‘The dedication of a prince’ by Lord Ogmore giving an account of the investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969. Lord Ogmore was a member of the organising committee for the investiture and the typescript contains 12 chapters reporting on the different aspects of the event including the work of the organising committee; preparations and exercises, opposition, description of the day and subsequent events.

Calvinistic Methodist Archive

Printed Material

Over 800 items from the print collection have been made available on the main catalogue, including works such as Libri Walliae (Vol. I, Vol. II and Supplement) and a selection of early printed items purchased by or recently donated to the Library, for example:


More biographies have also been added to the catalogue, including titles such as:

Maps and Graphic Material

Photographic collections

LLYFRAU FFOTO 6803 X ‘Souvenirs of Adelina Patti

Adelina Patti (1843-1919) was one of the greatest nineteenth-century opera stars. This elaborately decorated album is a piece of classic Victoriana, contains a collection of photographs documenting the career of Adelina Patti by leading photographers of the day in Paris and London, showing the soprano in various operas at the height of her fame during the 1860s.

Don Griffiths 1964 Collection

Don Griffiths was a professional photographer in Newtown employed by the Montgomeryshire Express and associated publications. He was taking pictures from Rhyl to Brecon between the 1960s and the 1990s. Many of the items are of considerable interest both locally and wider afield as they represent a snapshot of life in the communities of Montgomeryshire during an era of sociological and technological change. The assignments include local personalities (e.g. Rhiannon Jones, Cwmtrefarlo & Trixie), social (e.g. Newtown Carnival; Llanidloes “Miss Valentine”; Welshpool Pantomime; Christmas Cavalcade, Newtown; Twist & Shout), religious (e.g. Llanidloes Methodist Church Party; Montgomery Church Sunday School Party), cultural (e.g. Gorsedd Stones Reach Newtown; Caersws Amateur Operatic Society; Kerry Male Voice Choir) and national (e.g. Royal Welsh Show; General Election 1964) events, road accidents (e.g. Overturned Lorry nr Llangurig; Motor Accident, Buttington Bridge), schools (e.g. Gungrog Infants School; Llanfair School Eisteddfod; Machynlleth School Fire), sports (e.g. Unidentified Soccer Team) and local businesses (e.g. Wynnstay Egg Production; Welshpool Horse Mart). The work as a whole provides an overview of life in Newtown, Welshpool, Llanidloes and surrounding rural areas during the mid 1960s. This collection of around 3500 negatives represents the output of 1964.

Guy Hughes Collection

A collection of 315 black and white whole-plate negatives by Pwllheli photographer Guy Hughes dating from 1909 to ca. 1935. Subject matter includes social occasions (e.g. Roller Skate Carnival, Llanbedrog; Group In Fancy Dress outside Plas Glyn-y-Weddw; May Queen, 1913), local businesses, especially mines and quarries, banks and hotels (e.g. Crosville Motor Services Leyland Bus; Nanhoron Arms Hotel; Caernarfon Brickworks; Quarry Buildings and Terrace of Houses) and local events (e.g. Amateur Dramatics; Large Wedding Group; Children in Pierrot Costumes; Newly built Council Houses, Ffordd y Maer, Pwllheli and the opening of Pwllheli’s new railway station).

John Peris Jones Collection

97 glass negatives, the majority of views in and around Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant during the first decade of the twentieth century (e.g. Old Market Hall, Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant, demolished 1901; Market Hall, Llanrhaiadr. [c.1905]; Vyrnwy Hotel & Lake; Tafarn Llaw / Hand Hotel, Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant] [c.1905]). The collection also contains a few portraits of local people and groups (e.g. T. Lloyd the Harpist [c.1905]; A.B. Lewis Grocer & Provision Dealer [c.1905]; Two ladies in costumes [c.1905]) and Montgomeryshire Yeomanry marching from camp at Llanfyllin. [no.2] [c.1910]).

Hywel Harries Slides

A collection of 371 35mm mounted slides, the majority being record photos of artworks by the late artist, teacher and cartoonist Hywel Harries (1921-1990). His views of both urban and rural Wales (e.g. Pencader; Graig, Pontypridd; North Parade & Seilo, Aberystwyth; Cardiganshire Village; Cae’r Gog, Aberystwyth; Talybont, Ceredigion) remain popular, notably his more impressionistic dock scenes from South Wales (e.g. Dockside cranes; Docks; Ship in dock; Docks, Port Talbot). He also painted a small number of portraits (e.g. E.D. Jones, Librarian; T. H. Parry-Williams; E. G. Bowen). The collection also includes a small number of reference photographs of people and places.


Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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