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 MA Archiving Administration students from the University of Wales Aberystwyth 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
This is a bit of a detective story. In 1979 the Library received a photocopy of a small map of Breconshire; the owner knew nothing about the map and asked if the Library could identify it. Despite the best efforts of the Library staff who even enlisted the help of the British Library’s map curators the item could not be identified. The photocopy was added to the collection with a note to the effect that should the map ever be identified the owner was to be informed.
Fast forward to spring 2019 and a Pembrokeshire map dealer called Berian Williams contacted me sending a scan of a small map of Breconshire and asking if I could identify it for him. At first I was stumped, it didn’t match any of the county maps I’d seen before. According to Mr Williams the previous owner had suggested that it might come from “The Pocket Tourist & English Atlas” by Orlando Hodgson published in 1820; however, that atlas did not contain county maps of Wales, though the style of the maps did look similar. Mr Williams also mentioned an article about a pack of playing cards by John Allen upon which Hodgson’s maps were based, but again this had no Welsh counties.
It was at this point that I came across the photocopy from 1979, it appeared to be the same map and on closer examination it turned out to be exactly the same copy (several stains and marks on the scanned image matched the photocopy). Having looked through all my printed references I was stuck and wrote back to Mr Williams saying so and telling him that it might take some time to track it down, if indeed that were possible.
And there this story might have ended; but I started thinking about the similarity with the Allen playing cards, was there a connection between the Breconshire map and the maps in Allen’s pack of cards? I decided to check the literature to see if Allen might have produced another set of cards with the Welsh counties, however there was no record of such a set. The article about the Allen cards also mentioned an imprint by Robert Rowe the engraver so I decided to look into him also. One of my reference works told me that Rowe had engraved another set of playing cards for a John Fairburn in 1798, could this be the source of the card?
I decided to see if there were any references to this set of cards online as they were not recorded in any of the reference works I checked. Eventually I came across a reference to Fairburn’s playing cards of 1798, this stated that the set included Welsh counties and more importantly had images of some of the cards – which matched the map we had. Finally the mystery was solved.
But this detective story ends with a surprise twist. After informing Mr Williams about my discovery I decided to enquire whether the map was going to be put on sale, with a view to purchasing it for the collection. To my complete astonishment Mr Williams replied that he had decided to donate it to the Library. This is an incredibly generous donation and we are most grateful to Mr Williams for his kind gift. This map has now joined the 1.5 million maps which form the National Map Collection here at the Library as part of Wales’s cartographic cultural history.
This video is part of the Story of Wales series. Click on the Story of Wales category on the right to see all the posts. You can also subscribe to our blog on the right to receive weekly emails of all our posts.
Dusty old deeds and documents? Dull and tedious? You must be kidding! Yes, the outer wrappers are very grubby but the documents inside are pristine, barely touched for a century or more. These are files from the Longueville solicitors’ office in Oswestry.
They derive from routine work carried out for the Brogyntyn estate which was one of their major clients. They deal with sales and purchases of property, family wills and settlements, and the work of those who acted as trustees for the family of Ormsby Gore, Barons Harlech.
Several items of interest have emerged, including the wonderful inventory of Glyn Cywarch, 1876 (see previous blog). There are details of a property at 12, Grosvenor Crescent, London, leased to William Richard Ormsby Gore by the builder, Robert John Waller, with full specifications of the painter’s works and fixtures for the house, 1871. There are interesting sale catalogues which record the dispersal of the Brogyntyn holdings in North Wales in 1911. The properties included the pilot houses and several desirable building plots in Borth-y-gest, Caernarfonshire, so you can trace developments there since that date.
Above all, there are hundreds of deeds, mainly for the purchases of houses, farms and lands near Oswestry. One massive parcel contained 9 packets holding 99 ‘old deeds’ dated 1607-1894, recording purchases by the Peate family of Pentreclawdd Farm in Selatyn, sold to William Richard Ormsby Gore, second Baron Harlech, in 1899. Another large bundle relates to the Pentrepant estate, which was purchased by Brogyntyn for £29,000 from Ethel Mary Ttrollope of Crowcombe Court, Somerset, in 1894. Many deeds record transactions of the Payne family of the Brick Kilns and the Jones family of the Forest. Among the latter was discovered the death certificate of poor William Jones who committed suicide ‘during a fit of temporary insanity’ at Wenlock Borough Lunatic Asylum, Bicton Heath, aged 36. Yet another intriguing tale has been unearthed from the dusty depths of the solicitor’s office.
A few weeks ago, the Library welcomed Myra Booth-Cockcroft, a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow, to the Archives and Manuscripts Department for two weeks of work experience. The Library would like to thank Myra for contributing this blog of her time with us and for her work cataloguing some of the inscribed Strata Florida slates.
During the past two weeks, I have been in the Archives and Manuscript Department of the National Library of Wales, getting some experience in the variety of work that goes on there. I met with staff from several different areas of the Department who provided an introduction to their working day, showing me the processes for (to name but a few!): cataloguing manuscripts; cataloguing large archives; manuscript digitisation; conservation, restoration and quarantine; early printed books; creating facsimiles; electronic archives and digital conservation. I also spent a morning observing the work of the staff at the South Reading Room desk, who answer enquiries and facilitate readers’ access to the Library’s collections. I particularly enjoyed having a go at preparing Peniarth MS 6 for digitisation (and getting to see the handwritten notes of J. Gwenogvryn Evans inside!) and photographing another of the Peniarth manuscripts with the staff working on the ongoing project of digitising the entire Peniarth collection. I was also privileged to be able to spend a day working alongside Dr Daniel Huws, Dr Ann Parry Owen, Dr Maredudd ap Huw and Gruffudd Antur, preparing Volume 3 of the forthcoming publication A Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes.
I gained experience in cataloguing a variety of items: a collection of letters by the Welsh poet and artist David Jones to the French Professor of English Literature Louis Bonnerot; a genealogical roll of Francis Vaughan, dating to 1591, from workshop of renowned Welsh genealogist, Twm Sion Cati; a collection of the papers of the 19th century Welsh antiquary, Owen Williams (Owain Gwyrfai); a stray leaf from a late-13th century manuscript containing the Latin text of Psalm 87 from the Vulgate Bible; and another stray leaf from an early-13th century manuscript, which has survived due to being repurposed as a pastedown for a later manuscript. Perhaps my favourite task of the fortnight, however, was cataloguing the 15th century Strata Florida Slates.
This collection of 35 inscribed slates have been at the Library since 1946, when they were discovered at the site of the Strata Florida Monastery. It was extremely exciting to be able to examine the slates, which have inscriptions in Welsh, Latin, and English, and feature drawings depicting both humans and animals, as well as geometric patterns. The slates are totally unique in a Welsh context, however we find parallels for them in the inscribed slates of a similar date found in Smarmore, County Louth, Ireland, in 1959 and at Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1991. The Strata Florida Slates provide a glimpse into life at the Monastery in the 15th century: one of the slates gives a list of tenants of the Hafodwen Grange and records how many truggs of oats each tenant had to pay as rent for his land (SF1); three are inscribed with poetry in the cyhydedd nawban and cywydd metres (SF2, SF3 and SF4); three appear to have been used as practice for gravestone inscriptions (SF11, SF12 and SF13); and several others portray animals and people, perhaps partly depicting hunting scenes. While examining the slates, I discovered that two of them (SF23 and SF25) are in fact two halves of what was one slate at the time of inscription, revealing a full-length portrait of a bald man in a tunic – perhaps one of the Strata Florida monks? No doubt there is much more to say about these fascinating inscribed slates and I look forward to further research into them being carried out!
I would like to thank the National Library of Wales for a truly fantastic couple of weeks. In particular, thanks to Maredudd ap Huw for organising such a varied and interesting programme of work for me, to all of the staff of the Archives and Manuscripts Department for giving up some of their valuable time to show me their work and for being so welcoming. I am grateful also to the AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Celtic Languages for providing the funding for my time at the Library.
PhD candidate, University of Glasgow
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is an exciting UK project that’s funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the British Library.
The National Library of Wales is proud to be one of the 10 Hub partners participating in the project where half a million rare and at risk sound recordings will be digitally preserved and 100,000 made 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, poetry, radio sessions to Welsh pop and folk music.
We will preserve sound recordings that are held on obsolete medium and are under threat of physical degradation. Experts suggests we have no more than 15 years to save these sound collections before they will be lost forever.
Thanks to Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, we will be able to preserve and protect some of Wales’ sound recordings and make them publicly available. In order to fulfill this, we will be working with some of our partners in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea and Tredegar.
While digitising the recordings we have unearthed some lost and forgotten interviews from people talking about their childhood memories back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, their school days, family life, communities, and local dialect.
Wales is a country with a variety of customs and traditions which are an important part of our culture and history. By saving these recordings we allow future generations to hear our past and learn about our history.
Stories about local customs from the 19th Century are being told, for instance the ‘Mari Lwyd’ a medieval folk custom, with the purpose of collecting money for the poor and homeless to make up for the lack of support from the government. A tall person was nominated to lead, holding the horse’s skull, with two others behind holding the offerings collected. The Mari Lwyd was last seen in New Quay in 1887.
A description of the ‘Ceffyl Pren’ can be heard. This was a wooden horse used as a practice of social justice. The aim was to punish those who did something against the spirit of society when the law could not. The rider and horse was made of wood and straw in order to represent the guilt. A hood was worn by those who carried the effigy, to hide their identity, and a procession took place through the public areas of the town leading to the home of the culprit, and three weeks later the effigy was burnt in front of the culprit’s house.
Thomas Williams talks about the ‘gogryddion’ (sievemakers) moving into the community and used for processing wheat. He recalls a tradition where a sixpence was thrown in with the wheat, and when the coin appeared it indicated the wheat was ready. The sieves were made out of split willow and the makers were known to be Mormons.
During the three years a wealth of history, traditions and heritage will be saved and without the means to preserve these recordings the first-hand accounts could be lost forever.
If you would like more information about the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, please contact us on: email@example.com
In September-October 2018, Dr Stéphanie Prévost, Senior Lecturer in 19th-century British History at Paris Diderot University, spent some time in the UK, both here at the National Library of Wales and in Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, undertaking research into the Gladstone’s Pamphlet Collection on the Gladstones and the Eastern Question, including former Premier William E. Gladstone’s response to the Armenian massacres of the 1890s.
This blog appears on the 2019 anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
‘To serve Armenia is to serve Europe’ was British Liberal Premier W.E. Gladstone’s mot d’ordre to former French Ambassador in London on his last visit to the Grand Old Man, most probably in the winter of 1896-1897. Estimates now indicate that the three waves of the Armenian massacres that occurred in the Ottoman Empire in 1894-1896, possibly at Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s explicit behest (hence their being referred to as ‘Hamidian massacres’), killed some 200,000 to 300,000 Ottoman Armenians, not to mention other forms of violence. Gladstone’s long-lasting interest in Ottoman Christians, which is traditionally associated with his fiery defence of Ottoman Bulgarians in 1876, was again revived when news of massacres, this time against Ottoman Armenians, first appeared in the British press in late 1894.
Regarding Gladstone’s reading on the Armenian massacres, the Gladstone’s Pamphlet collection at the National Library of Wales, but also at the Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden where the volumes once owned by the Liberal Premier are also now held, partly make up for the silence of the last volume of the Gladstone’s Diaries. His long-standing public interest in the fate of Ottoman Christians, his speech at Chester in 1895 in defence of Ottoman Armenians immediately after the Liberal General Election defeat and his international status as the ‘defender of the oppressed’ account for the inflow of material (foreign or else) published about the Armenian massacres. As such, not only did Father Charmetant, Director of the French Works of Catholic Schools in the East, send him a copy of his original pamphlet Martyrologe arménien: Tableau officiel des massacres d’Arménie (1896), in which he produced an estimate of victims of the Armenian massacres across the Ottoman Empire, but he also made sure that ‘the Grand Old Man’ could read the English version en avant première. That he did shows through the many annotations, absent from the French text.
Deeply stirred by the Armenian massacres, Gladstone translated in his own words Charmetant’s ‘final appeal to dying Armenia of Christian Europe’ in his own forthcoming pamphlet. Penned in Southern France where he was staying at Lord Stuart Rendel’s to restore his declining health, The Eastern Crisis: A Letter to the Duke of Westminster eventually appeared in March 1897 and proposed an assessment of Turkish policy vis-à-vis Ottoman Christians since the 1856 Treaty of Paris, by which European powers protected Ottoman territorial integrity and independence against the promise that reforms (especially regarding the equality and protection of Ottoman non-Muslims) would be fulfilled. Gladstone cited another foreign authority on the Armenian Massacres, this time German missionary in Armenia Dr Lepsius, for his assessment of casualties as evidence of Ottoman misconduct. The copy of the English translation of Dr Lepsius’s Armenia & Europe: An Indictment (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1897) at the Gladstone’s Library is replete with notice lines of different colours and marginal marks, which all give a sense of the intense outrage reading in that case created.
This year is the centenary of the death of the Baptist missionary Dr Timothy Richard. Born in Ffaldybrenin, Carmarthenshire, Richard has been described as ‘one of the greatest missionaries whom any branch of the Church has ever sent to China’. He was appointed Secretary of what became the Christian Literature Society for China, he was Chancellor of what was later Shanxi University, he was conferred the rank of Mandarin of the Highest Grade by the Chinese Government and was awarded the Order of the Double Dragon. Such was his influence that it has been claimed that ‘he enjoyed greater power than any Welshman in history, apart from David Lloyd George’ and that the name of ‘Li Timotai’ was known and respected throughout China.
The National Library of Wales marks the centenary by presenting a collection of 32 letters that Timothy and his wife, Mary, wrote to his mother, Eleanor, in Ffaldybrenin, near Llandeilo. The letter have been specially digitised and are now available to read online for the first time.
Timothy Richard was the youngest of nine children born to Eleanor and Timothy Richard of Tanyresgair, Ffaldybrenin. He was baptized in 1859, when he was about 14 years old, and became a member of Caeo Baptist Church. He entered Haverfordwest Baptist College in 1865 and was sent as a missionary to China by the Baptist Missionary Society in 1869.
It is the extent of Richard’s later influence that gives particular significance to these documents, but they also serve as a record of his personal experiences as a missionary, and of challenges that would have been faced by the many other missionaries and their families who travelled to distant parts of the world during the 19th century.
Written between February 1878 and May 1884, the first nine letters belong to the early period of his mission to China. In the eight years between his arrival at Shanghai and the earliest of the letters, Shandong and Shanxi, the provinces where he was based, had suffered widespread famine which had claimed millions of lives. Richard’s response was to organise relief for the victims, and he succeeded in raising thousands of pounds towards the cause.
Timothy writes to his mother in Welsh (the following excerpts are my own translations of the text) and, in a letter dated 20 October 1882, he tries to convey the geographical scale of China and the challenge that he faced as one of the few Christian missionaries there.
‘Think of Wales.’ he wrote. ‘There are many who have never been beyond the county where they were born. The whole of Wales is hardly a small place. Think of Wales tenfold, now Wales a hundred-fold, now three hundred-fold, one after the other, that’s how it is with the vast land of China. How many missionaries are there in the whole land? There aren’t enough people to place one missionary in an area the size of Wales. Imagine there were only one preacher in the whole of Wales and you can comprehend how few are the labourers in this vast land. Keep praying for us – we are often in danger. Yet thank God for his great mercies in delivering us since we arrived here.’
The letters demonstrate clearly his conviction and commitment to the mission, the sacrifices made and the dangers that they faced as a family. He spent long periods away from his wife Mary and their daughters, visiting the disparate churches which had been formed and distributing Christian literature. When writing the letter dated 17 May 1884, he had received news of the birth of his fourth daughter and notes that this was the third time that he had to leave home when expecting a new arrival. Three months later, he mentions that Mary was not recovered from the birth, that the baby was also unwell, and that he expected to return home in three weeks.
The collection of letters includes two that were written by Mary Richard to her mother-in-law (written in English). Mary (née Martin) had travelled to China with the United Presbyterian Mission, and it there that she and Timothy met. They married in 1878. In her letters, Mary also shares her conviction, her support for Timothy, but also her longing for family and friends:
‘… it is now 7 years since I said goodbye to all the dear home friends. I often wish I could see you to tell you how happy your son Timothy has made me. God is very good to us. We and our children enjoy very good health. Out little girls are a great joy to us. Ella & Mary still pray in Chinese not knowing enough English. They always remember grandma in Wales.’
In the spring of 1885, Timothy Richard and his family made the journey back to Wales. 23 of the letters were written between April 1885 and May 1886. They were sent from various towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales as Timothy travelled widely to give talks to churches and at colleges about the missionary work in China. They family was to return to China to continue the work in the autumn of 1886.
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.