Tag Archives: @Wiki_NLW

New Digital Resources for the Summer

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 29-07-2021

Since the beginning of the year work has continued on digitising our collections and the following items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:

Archives and Manuscripts

Peniarth and Llanstephan collections

Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers

33 diaries from the Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers from the period 1888-1924 are now available:

Seals and Ystrad Marchell Charters

 

A selection of documents and medieval seals from the Pitchford Hall Papers and the Estate Records of Penrice and Margam, Chirk Castle, Bronwydd and Wigfair, have been made available, for example:

33 Ystrad Marchell charters have also been made available and can be accessed via the catalogue.

Printed Material

Arthurian collection

 

A selection of volumes relating to King Arthur were selected for digitization in 2019. The following 13 volumes are already available and the work of digitizing the remaining items will continue over the coming months:

Biographies (1809-1889)

 

A further 913 biographies have been made available on the catalogue, including works such as:

Other printed works

 

203 other printed works have also been made available, including:

Maps and Graphic Material

D C Harries photographs

 

102 photographs taken around 1890-1936 by D C Harries of the scenery, buildings and people of the Llandovery, Llandeilo and Carmarthen area have been added to the catalogue. The selection includes photographs such as: Staff standing outside Lipton’s shop, Caerfyrddin, Staff standing outside Star Supply Stores, Llandeilo and Men in cars outside Crown garage – T. Roberts & Sons, Llanymddyfri

Archive of Historical Posters

 

Over 2,630 posters from NLW’s Historical Poster Archive are now accessible to users through the Universal Viewer. This fascinating collection includes a wide variety of items including emigration posters from Aberystwyth and Liverpool to America, ballads and songs, posters advertising local markets and auctions, concerts and ‘eisteddfodau’. The collection also includes a number of posters announcing news of crimes and murders, such as: the theft of John Philip’s mare (1818), the confession of John Griffiths after murdering his wife (1811) and ‘Murder’ (1796).

Dictionary of Welsh Biography

 

20 new articles have been added to the website:

Don’t forget to follow the Dictionary of Welsh Biography’s Twitter account: @WelshBiography

Mapping Land Voices

Discover Sound - Posted 28-07-2021

 

The hills and uplands of Ceredigion keep us busy and happy as peaceful havens to walk and cycle but they didn’t used to be this empty. The stories of the ‘lost’ communities inhabiting our mountain uplands have been documented in a very special way: A wealth of ‘Story of the Forest’ sound archives are housed at the National Library in Aberystwyth.

Interviews with community members made in the early nineties reveal what life used to be like in the uplands. After a couple of minutes of listening, the whole world of a surprisingly recent bygone age of our ‘wild west’ starts coming to life. The interviews unveil a history of the mountain communities who farmed the wild uplands before they were planted with forestry and paved with roads. Many farms moved or were left empty when the uplands were planted after World War II and after the cripplingly harsh winter of 1947. The remnants of these crofts, farms, pens and ‘corrals’ can be seen as ruins around Strata Florida and Teifi Pools; on the Abergwesyn pass and the Cwm Elan mountain road. The busy, resilient and hard working mountain communities who inhabited them are still represented throughout the upland towns and villages.

 

 

 

 

We hear of Dai Jones, the last horseback postman, delivering a weekly round for the General Post Office into the late 1950s. This ‘pony express’ – ran 3 days a week. Horses were central to the hill farming existence, the ‘sheep station’ farms may seem ‘outlying’, but in fact, what appear now as isolated communities were very mobile and culturally central. Men, women and children owned hill ponies which could take them anywhere in the mountain range for the cost of some hill-grazed grass.

 

 

Accounts of dragging a forestry siren up the mountain at midnight to ‘serenade’ a bride-to-be gives a sense of both hard work and wild fun. A farmer tells of breaking horses-in double-quick in the exhausting bogland, and one forester recalls encountering the legendary Free Wales Army platoons on mountain manoeuvres.

The depth and strength of the bonds of these hill farming communities is described in their communal work – every summer there would be mass hand-shearings of up to two thousand sheep at a time, the households of the community all coming together to help each other.

Under a National Lottery Heritage grant, National Library of Wales has commissioned Mapping Land Voices, an art project that aims to encourage access to the archive through walking and drawing old mountain paths whilst listening to their relevant oral histories. These creative, remediations of the mountain legends will be geo-tagged and made in the places the voices describe. It is easy to get inspired.

 

 

 

 

Hosted by the Peoples’ Collection Wales, this new-from-old archive of shared art will be part of a searchable National Library/British Library database, indexing the original sound archives through a twenty-first century community response.

The Mapping Land Voices project works on a first-come, first-served basis: to sign up click here

To see the results as they are created in the coming months, follow the link to the Peoples’ Collection Wales website, and subsequent links to the event page or have a listen to the Tywi Mountain Selection sound files as a taster.

To access the sound archive, all it takes is a reader’s ticket to the National Library. You can research which archives are relevant to your local woodlands, and hear stories which are guaranteed to transport you back in time. Visit the Library

 

By Rupert Allan and Dorry Spikes

 

‘The Stroke of the Sun’: Heatwaves in the Archives

Collections - Posted 19-07-2021

Summer is here and with it comes the promise of finer weather. It could be said that commenting on the weather is one of our favourite pastimes here in Wales, and especially at this time of year when we are perhaps all wondering about the probability of a heatwave.

A look through the archives shows that our preoccupation with the weather is nothing new. One of the earliest mentions of a heatwave in Wales can be found in the medieval Welsh chronicle Brut Y Tywysogion (NLW Peniarth MS 20), which records that the year 720 saw a particularly hot summer (pan vu yr haf tessawc).

Brut Y Tywysogion –  (See p.66)

Gerald of Wales may have disagreed with this description – in the 12th century his Itinerarium Kambriae described the climate of the Welsh mountains as wet, cold, and windy, and remarked on the force of the winds (violenta ventorum) that never ceased to blow, which can be seen in a 14th-century copy, NLW MS 3024C (f. 59r).

Itinerarium Kambriae,  (See f. 59r)

Despite Gerald’s observation, hot weather remained much remarked upon in the centuries that followed, and July 1729 appears to have been a particular scorcher. Mary Davies wrote to her brother Adam Ottley of Pitchford Hall of her concern about the hot summer they were experiencing, and ‘not to hurry much about in town in hot weather for fear of put[t]ing y[ou]rself in a fever’.

This does however seem to be nothing compared to the summer of 1825. In August of that year, the antiquarian Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams) wrote in a letter to his son Taliesin that the weather was ‘so hot that many people have fallen dead in the fields and highways by the Coup de soleil (stroke of the Sun)’.

According to the records of the Llysdinam estate, the summer of 1875 was very different. On June 15th, 1875 came a storm so violent that that it caused Richard Lister Venables of Llysdinam to remark that ’I don’t think I ever saw in June such a tempest of wind and rain as we have had’, and noted that it left their barn ‘flat on the ground’. (Llysdinam B1459, pictured below). Just two months later, on the 16th August, Venables wrote that it was ‘the hottest day of the year, with every appearance of lasting’ (Llysdinam B1462).

A meteorological record for Aberystwyth compiled by the New Club, Cheltenham also confirms that 1875 was a warm summer, recording a temperature high of 76F (24.4C) on the 7th of July. However 1876 appears to have been even hotter, recording a maximum temperature of 91F (32.7C) on the 17th of July in Aberystwyth.

In more recent times, the threat of climate change has increasingly made the weather a hot topic of conversation (pun intended), and it seems that changeable weather patterns will continue to form part of our records and conversations for a long time to come.

Lucie Hobson
Assistant Archivist

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Collecting BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) websites

Collections - Posted 12-07-2021

Collecting websites, an occupation of the National Library of Wales for number of years by now, has provided us with an opportunity to explore collections and voices, for one reason or another, may be under-represented by our print collections. BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities across Wales being one such significant voice.

Nowadays, much electronic collecting is done via archiving websites for the UK Web Archive, a consortium of the six UK legal deposit libraries (the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Cambridge University Library, and Trinity College Dublin Library), which aims to collect all UK websites at least once a year.

This collecting of websites has enabled us to collect a plethora of information on BAME voices, communities, services and organisations across Wales. However, a further examination of the way we collected such websites provides a backdrop to the challenges we faced as National Libraries. Back in early 2000’s, when we began collecting websites, we included them within an online portal to validated websites. Crucially, despite providing access to these websites in the short term, we needed permission to archive websites to keep a permanent copy for future researchers. Websites were created quickly, changed regularly and sometimes disappeared altogether often without notice. This lack of permanence resulted in us losing this vital information. This so called ‘Digital Black Hole’ was to become our biggest challenge.

Looking back to our BAME collections in 2005, the websites often focused on, as today, on removing economic and social barriers to BAME communities across Wales. However, of the twenty or so BAME websites collected, many are no longer live, therefore regrettably lost to our collections. Even though we are aware of what existed c.2005, in most cases, we did not have permission to archive this content. The UK web Archive contains a snapshot of what we collected in the 2000s.

Thankfully, the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 went someway in addressing this issue and we are now entitled to copy UK-published material from the internet for archiving under Legal Deposit which is done through an automated process, known as web harvesting which collects millions of websites each year and billions of individual assets (pages, images, videos, pdfs etc.).

Returning to collecting BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) websites, we are now able to archive all websites that fall under the UK Web domain for researchers of the future. To improve access to BAME websites, the UK Web Archive have grouped them within a ‘Black and Asian Britain’ Collection, an ever-increasing growing collection which has over 750 websites listed, 138 of specific Welsh interest.

The National Library of Wales have collected a diverse collection of websites and a small number of twitter feeds covering BAME Organisations, Societies, Protest groups, Communities, Authors, Artists, Festivals, Music, Dance, Welfare, Education, to your local BAME Sports Clubs which have been archived by the UK Web Archive. This is a substantial increase from the handful of websites collected c.2005 to the hundreds that we collectively collect today along with the other UK Legal Deposit Libraries, but more importantly, have archived therefore available and accessible to researchers of the future.

There are still challenges. Access to websites archived under non-print legal deposit regulations is more restrictive than the internet in general. Even though we have archived the websites, most are only available to view on Library premises. Additionally, we contact website owners and request permission to make our archived copy publicly available through the UK Web Archive. We hope to have as many websites as possible accessible in this way.

It is good to say that this grouping of websites is one of our more valuable collections within the UK Web Archive but the wider aim is to encourage and build on our partnerships and feedback from external bodies and BAME communities to further develop and improve this collection of BAME related websites from across Wales and build on what we have so far collected. You are also most welcome to suggest any UK based website that you feel should be archived for the Black and Asian via the Save a website form to help us develop this collection of websites.

Aled Betts,
Acquisition Library and Web Archivist

 

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Reliving Campaigns from Two Decades Ago

Collections / New Accessions - Posted 05-07-2021

The period before an election is always a buy one for the Welsh Political Archive, we’re working to collect material from the campaign and members who are standing down, or wo lose their seats often get in touch to offer their papers.

A fascinating addition to the Ann Jones AM (Women’s Archive of Wales) papers. arrived at the Library during this busy period. Ann Jones presented her papers via the Women’s Archive of Wales as part of the Setting the Record Straight project. Which works with women who are or have been members of the Senedd to record their oral histories and arrange for their papers to go to an appropriate archive.

The first group of Ann Jones’ papers told the story of the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011 and her background as a fire officer is clear in the recent addition. In 2000 a plan was published which would have resulted in merging all the fire control rooms in Wales including the north Wales control centre in Rhyl. Three files in the papers detail Ann Jones’ cmapaign to retain the control room in Rhys through letters, press releases and other documents.

The majority of the group records Ann Jones’ role in the campaign to ensure projects to support children in Wales following teh annoucement by the Children’s Society that they would withdraw from all their operations in Wales. The correspondence with the Chief Executive and trustees of the Children’s Society, bishops, staff and partners convey they shock and anger at the annoucement. The papers related to the UK Parliament Welsh Affairs Committee investigation pose some interesting questions and the hard work done in a working group established by Wales’ new Assembly to ensure that the projects continued is clear in the working papers, annoucments and correspondence. As a result, Tros Gynnal (https://www.tgpcymru.org.uk/) was established to continue the work.

This was a big story at the time but the real story is what went on behind the scenes. Thanks to Ann Jones, the whole story can now be told.

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Thomas, Gwen and Salvador

Collections - Posted 29-06-2021

Tucked in the last but one file of the Gwasg Gregynog archive to be catalogued, a file mainly devoted to the far from straight-forward passage through the press of Gwasg Gregynog’s first, experimental, publication, R. S. Thomas’s ‘Laboratories of the spirit’ (1976), is a single stray letter from 1938, presumably preserved as a keepsake and then lost in the paperwork. It is a letter from Thomas Jones CH (1870-1955), chairman of the predecessor Gregynog Press, and until 1936 Deputy Secretary to the UK Cabinet, to Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951), one of the Davies sisters of Gregynog, owners of the Press, written in May 1938, in the midst of the period of Appeasement:

Street Acre
St. Nicholas-at-Wade
Thanet
Station (3m) Birchington-on-Sea
Sunday, 22 . v . 38

My dear Gwen
Madariaga & I are not very good for each other with all this sabre-rattling in Europe. I dont know which of us is the more depressing. It is a wretched time even for the old & what must it be for the young. Not until this year have I ever felt ready to slacken my hold on life. I wish you were nearer today. . . .

M. has the power to liberate his mind in books & plays & poems. He is working on a series of sonnets which condense the message of his World Design. I have been going over them & suggesting minor changes of word or phrase here & there. His power over the language is amazing. He asked me this morning if you would care to print them at the Press in a small book to sell at no more than 10/. He is sure many of his American friends would buy copies, especially in the present mood. It would be in size something like the George Herbert but that Wardrop could advise about. He will improve some of the lines. He may call them The Dream of Adam or perhaps (as I suggest) The Home of Man – the last words of the sequence. This little book which I have read this morning is for your own room.

Ever
T. J.

Salvador de Madariaga (1886-1978) was a Spanish diplomat, writer and pacifist. He had been Spanish ambassador to the USA and France, permanent delegate to the League of Nations, and minister for education and justice. Since 1936 he had been in exile in England from the Spanish civil war. Both he and Thomas Jones had family homes in the village of St Nicholas-at-Wade, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. The sabre-rattling is probably the partial mobilization of Czechoslovakian armed forces along the German border on 20 May, in response to intelligence reports (later proved false) of menacing German military concentrations. The Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Germany, had happened only two months earlier, so the Czech government was understandably on edge. Madariaga might also have been upset by the Vatican recognition of Franco’s fascist government in Spain on 5 May.

Madariaga’s ‘The world’s design‘ was newly published. The Library’s copy is stamped 21 April 1938. The Gregynog Press had previously published his ‘Don Quixote : an introductory essay in psychology’, in 1934, translated from the Spanish by the author and his wife, Constance H. M. de Madariaga. This was in a limited edition of 250 numbered copies (NLW holds copies no’s 14 and 27), before being published by the Clarendon Press for the mass market in 1935. There are a few post-1938 letters from Madariaga in the Gregynog Press and Thomas Jones CH archives (both held by NLW) which may be worth exploring, but a cursory search suggests Madariaga’s sonnets remain unpublished.

The ‘little book’ originally enclosed in Thomas Jones’s letter to Gwen Davies is J. M. Edmonds, ‘Some Greek poems of love and beauty: being a selection from the little things of Greek poetry made and translated into English’ (CUP, 1937). Edmonds (1875-1958) was an English classicist and poet, whose most lasting contribution are probably the two military epitaphs:

Went the day well?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.

When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrows these gave their today.

This book and a couple of Jones’s comments in the letter seem oddly personal, but perhaps this was typical of Jones and Davies’s working relationship. The most striking part of the letter is Jones’s world-weariness at the thought of another war.

Stephen Benham
Archivist

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Recording of songs learnt as a child and music teacher anecdote by Mrs Lydia Watkins

Discover Sound - Posted 24-06-2021

Firstly, I want to thank the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project for giving me the opportunity to listen to and give my opinions on this sound recording and all future ones. I believe this is an integral part of retaining Welsh history and culture for future generations and I am honoured to be able to help out with this wonderful work.

Starting out, I am impressed with the sound quality of this recording, considering it is from 18th July 1974. I listened to the recording with headphones and there wasn’t any form of crackling or feedback, which proved to me that the interviewer cared about getting an authentic listening experience for the listener. It felt as if I was in the room with Lydia. As for my listening experience, it was my first time listening to such a recording and I was pleasantly surprised. There were really personal feels to the song, as if we were in an intimate setting. The gentle, soft timbre of Mrs Watkins’ voice was soothing and it really made me feel at ease listening to it.

It was interesting to hear that Mrs Lydia Watkins, from Ontario, Canada, was originally from Merthyr Tydfil. She has retained her Welsh childhood memory of the songs she sang, which proves how connected she is to her Welsh identity. There is also a sense that she can have a dual identity – she can be both Canadian and Welsh, with neither part of them cancelling out the other. Both can co-exist in the same space for her, and both can be honoured just as much as the other. In light of this, it was intriguing to hear her clear, lilting Welsh dialect as she sang. The songs she sang were Anwylaf Lecyn Byd imi yw Cymru fechan lon (My favourite place in the world is Wales), Tra Bo Dau (While There’s Two) and Y Gelynen (The Holly). Her decision to sing them in Welsh shows how she has further kept hold of her Welsh heritage and roots, even though she was situated at the time of the recording in Ontario. It’s a wonderful melding together of cultures, and connects future generations of Welsh children to the cultural songs of Wales.

She talks of a music teacher giving voice training to one of her pupils, who threw up his hands in despair and said an interesting statement: ‘you sing in the cracks.’ The cracks indicate the gaps, the small fissures in a larger structure, where things are easily lost and forgotten about. Singing in the cracks, therefore, heavily implies that the teacher’s voice is so powerful and important that they manage to penetrate the cracks of the world, yet still be impactful. It was a brilliant statement and really made me think about the idea of being able to extend a voice into the places we don’t think they can go. It reminds me that the cracks are still places, even if we don’t value them, and that they will always be filled with sound if we remember to include them. Singing, then, never leaves anyone out in being able to reach the cracks. It’s kind of poetic, no?

Another quote stuck with me: ‘singing, and sitting beside someone you thought could sing anyway.’ The idea of community was established, and the trickle of laughter that accompanied it before Mrs Watkins launched into song again make it personable, relatable. The rest of the clip was her continuing to sing the songs I mentioned above, and it was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of life. A quiet moment to reflect, to bask in the beauty of Welsh folk songs carried over from childhood, and even though I didn’t understand the full meaning behind the words, I still felt included as an English speaker. They spoke to me in the universal language of music. It was wonderful.

Overall, I loved listening to the audio and I highly recommend everyone else does so too. You will feel nostalgic for the memories these songs bring, especially if you have grown up or are familiar with these songs. I am looking forward to seeing what else I can discover about Wales’ traditions and histories.

Until next time, dear readers.

Alice Tucker, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Volunteer

 

A Rose at Midsummer: The significance of Midsummer Day in the Margam Abbey charters

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 21-06-2021

As much of medieval life was centered around religious belief, the daily services of the church (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline) helped to mark the passing of time, particularly for those in holy orders. Consequently, one of the most common types of manuscript to be found in medieval homes were those that allowed the laity to observe these services – known as the ‘books of hours’.

For those who could afford them, books of hours were often richly illustrated, and could serve just as much of a decorative purpose as a religious one. But for the average lay person, life was more concerned with the farming year and the passing of the seasons. Many books of hours included illustrations of agricultural tasks which were carried out at various times of the year, such as sowing crops, harvest time, or tree felling, often associated with the various feast days across the year.

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The De Grey Hours: [mid. 15th cent.]. A task for midsummer – an illustration of scything in June, with the symbol of the zodiac denoting Cancer, the crab (f. 6r)

In a legal sense, these holy and saints’ days were also commonly used in medieval charters to record the date. Hundreds of examples of this practice can be seen in the collection of the charters of Margam Abbey, Glamorgan, part of the Penrice and Margam Estate Records at NLW.

Margam Abbey was founded in 1147 as a daughter-house of the Cistercian order at Clairvaux and was endowed with a large amount of land by Robert, earl of Gloucester (charter 1). By the late 13th century, Margam was Wales’ richest monastery, owning land and granges in both Wales and England, and Gerald of Wales wrote of Margam in his Itinerarium Cambriae (c.1191) that it was ‘by far the most renowned for alms and charity’. As a result, the Margam Abbey charters, including those of the Penrice and Mansel families, comprise one of the largest and most complete monastic collections in Britain. The majority of its records consist of sealed land grants to and from many of the ruling families of Glamorgan, ranging from the 12th to the 16th centuries. As well as being a source of local history for Glamorgan, Margam’s charters also help to place it in a wider European context – not only containing royal charters and letters patent, but also a number of 13th-century papal bulls (charters 82-84, 141, 171, 173-4, 185, 245) confirming the importance of Margam to the Cistercian order.

Typically, each charter records the day upon which it was signed or sealed, usually given as a feast day or saints’ day, and the year of the reigning monarch. Midsummer Day or Canol Haf – usually celebrated on 21st June but also known as Gŵyl Ifan due to the feast day of St John the Baptist falling on the 24th June – was a significant date in the farming year as it marked the longest day and the turning of seasons as the days shortened and harvest time was nearing. In Margam’s charters, Midsummer is used as a dating clause in several instances. A quit-claim by a William de Marle to Margam Abbey (charter 227, 1354) is dated Midsummer Day, while charters 193 (1312) and 228 (1357), also quit-claims to the Abbey, are dated at Margam ‘the Sunday after Midsummer’ and ‘the Saturday after Midsummer’ respectively. It is not only within land grants that this dating occurs. Charter 233 (1366), which detailed assizes recovering the Abbot of Margam’s salmon fishery from one Res [Rhys] and one Howel, stated that for their piscine thievery each were fined threepence in damages on ‘the Monday before Midsummer Day’.

This theme of agriculture is abundant when looking at the rent requirements in some of Margam’s charters, which stipulate what is given in exchange for each piece of land. Rents could include livestock, crops, or spices, as well as money, and could stipulate a nominal amount in order to make a legal exchange. Charter 302 (1315) asks for just ‘a rose at Midsummer’ in exchange for the rent of half an acre of land; a rose is also given in charter 329 (1383) for a burgage. Charter 306 (1315) more generously specifies a garland of roses to be given annually at Midsummer in exchange for six and three-quarter acres. Symbolically, the only time roses are stipulated to be given is at Midsummer, and they do not appear as an exchange at any other date in Margam’s charters.

Of course, these dates were not always reliable. Margam may have been the wealthiest Abbey in Wales but news in the medieval period travelled more slowly than today and could be hampered by events of the time. Charter 336, for example, issued during the Wars of the Roses, was dated at Oxwich, Gower, on 4th April, yet supplies the year (1461) as the reign of Henry VI, rather than that of Edward IV whose accession had been on the 4th of March previously. Evidently the announcement of Edward’s accession had not yet reached Gower at the time.

Margam Abbey was a prominent landmark in south Wales for nearly four centuries, but it did not survive Henry VIII’s dissolution. In 1540 the Abbey and its lands, including its church, bell-tower, fisheries, cemetery, water-mill, and a large number of its granges were sold to the Mansel family for £938, six shillings and eightpence (charter 359). Incidentally, the charter granting Margam’s dissolution was dated at Westminster on 22nd June. It appears that the Abbey saw its final day at Midsummer.

View catalogue: https://archives.library.wales/index.php/penrice-and-margam-estate-records

Lucie Hobson
Assistant Archivist

 

Further reading:

  • Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales, translated by Lewis Thorpe (London: Penguin, 1978)
  • The scriptorium of Margam Abbey and the scribes of early Angevin Glamorgan: secretarial administration in a Welsh marcher barony, c.1150-c.1225, Robert B. Patterson (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2002)

 

 

 

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Artist Interviews

Discover Sound - Posted 16-06-2021

This is the final blog post from our group of Aberystwyth University MA students studying Archives and Record Management who have been working alongside the National Library of Wales as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project to catalogue recordings from the Heritage and Cultural Exchange archive in Butetown, Cardiff.

 

 

The most recent recording I catalogued was a talk by a local artist Jack Sullivan (1925-2002) who worked as a police officer in the Tiger Bay area from 1948 to 1955, as a British Transport Policeman. Jack walked the beat, often at night, patrolling Cardiff docklands. As he strolled through the city streets, he made some 800 sketches of the people and places he saw.

The tape consists of Jack Sullivan describing his painting from his time in Kenya where he worked as a police officer. The paintings focus mainly on tribal women in traditional dress and jewellery. Jack Sullivan provides several stories of his experiences of policing in Kenya and stories around the paintings including several bloody tales of tribal warfare, cattle raiders and even tales of peoples’ belief in witchcraft. Listening to the recording makes you envious of the exciting life he has led and the people and places he has seen (a feeling that was heightened given the current restriction we are living under!). This is a feeling I have experienced listening to a lot of the recordings and has led me to the conclusion that everyone has a story to tell.

Reflecting on the other series of recordings we have catalogued one thing I was struck by was the timing of these interviews. To me the recordings, especially the 1987 interviews tell a story which is common to many places in the UK in the twentieth century: the move from an industrial society to a post-industrial society. The people interviewed experienced the docks in its’ ‘heyday’ when Coal from the Valleys made it one of the busiest docks in the world and have witnessed its decline and, at the time of the interviews, the redevelopment of the docks. This is a story that is mirrored across the UK in the twentieth century, the move from an industrial to post-industrial society and a similar story would emerge around the Liverpool and London dock both of which have undergone huge redevelopment and regeneration projects in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Also hugely significant is that these recordings are an invaluable resource when it comes to studying race relations in Britain in the twentieth century. A topic which is hugely relevant in the kind of debates we are having as a country; these tapes tell the story of the experiences of one of Britain’s earliest multi-ethnic communities and are therefore a great resource as we move towards an ever more diverse society.

This project took place with the pandemic as a backdrop which has posed many challenges, most of them logistical. However, the digital nature of the material we catalogued made it well-suited in a pandemic when our group was split from the Isle of Man to Kent and had to work largely remotely. For the first part of the project, we conducted our meeting on Microsoft Teams which was not ideal but on reflection 10 to 15 years ago such technology wouldn’t have been sophisticated enough to allow us to proceed. Once we had all returned to Aberystwyth and could meet in person, we found that the meeting ran much more efficiently, not to mention more enjoyably.

From a personal standpoint this project has been a very useful learning experience. I had fairly limited practical experience of cataloguing before. I had some cataloguing experience from previous work experience, but I was unfamiliar with concepts such as standardization and interoperability (the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information) before starting my course. It is, of course, very important for metadata to be precise and consistent and I feel that you can learn a lot from the process of creating it and having your peers check your work. The ongoing process of review was very beneficial as it turned what could be a solitary exercise into a collaborative learning experience. I also feel that I have learnt more about the most sensitive aspects of cataloguing. Having to listen to each recording whilst considering how the release of any information could affect identifiable data subjects brought home to me the responsibility of the role. Overall, I feel that the project has left me better placed to search for work in the sector and has given me positive practical experience to talk about in any job interviews.

Finally, as this is our last blog post, I would like to take this opportunity to thank The National Library of Wales for giving us the opportunity to be involved in this project and for providing us with ongoing support and feedback.

Michael Holland, MA Archives and Record Management Student, Aberystwyth University

 

Teaming up to save the bits: digital sustainability in Wales

Collections - Posted 15-06-2021

The ability to remotely connect and network with colleagues has been one of the positives that have arisen from these challenging times. From my home in Aberystwyth, which is not always the most accessible of places by non-digital highways, I am able to engage with experts, learn from their experiences and contribute to discussions on a global basis. Although we have been building digital preservation capacity in Wales for many years, these encounters have inspired us to extend the reach of the work being undertaken to promote digital sustainability. Working with the sector, developing the use of digital technologies and sharing skills are key elements of the Library’s new strategic plan which will be launched shortly.

The opportunities presented by the use of platforms such as Teams and Zoom enable a more proactive engagement than has been previously possible. Through using these communication platforms, it is possible to discuss issues relating to sustainable access to digital material. The associated technological, organisational and policy issues which arise from providing access to digital material in the long term can be tackled by working collaboratively.

A particular innovation which will commence soon is the ‘Saving the Bits’ programme, which will be open to organisations across Wales. Sessions will discuss theoretical and practical issues, making reference to existing models, tools and workflows, which can be adopted by organisations. Taking advantage of new technologies, these sessions can now be both readily accessible and interactive, using presentations, live demonstrations and breakout discussions.

These sessions would not be possible without the resources and training materials which are now freely available; but what online meetings enable is greater coordination in the use of these resources and networking over how to implement new techniques more effectively. It is hoped that these sessions will contribute to the building of the community which is committed to saving the digital heritage a bit at a time.

Sally McInnnes

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

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

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