In January 2012 the National Library in partnership with Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff University, Swansea University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the People’s Collection Wales, BBC Cymru Wales and the Archives and Records Council Wales began a mass digitisation project funded by JISC and the Welsh Government as part of worldwide commemorations of the centenary of the First World War. I became project manager in May 2012.
The project plan called for the digitisation of around 200,000 pages of audio, audio visual, archival, manuscript, newspaper, periodical, photographic material from the collections of the partners either from or relating directly to the period of the war and the creation of a unified interface. While listing all the material that we’re digitising would take far too long, here is a selection which gives a taste of what will be available.
- Over 95,000 pages of newspapers. These include material in both English and Welsh and from all parts of Wales. We’ve also tried to ensure that different political and religious viewpoints are represented. Thanks to work undertaken by Canolfan Bedwyr at Bangor University we will be providing a facility to search Welsh language newspaper material in English and machine translation of individual articles.
- Archives from all institutions including the papers of the Welsh Army Corps and Aberystwyth Comforts for Fighters fund from the National Library of Wales, Edward Thomas archives from Cardiff University, papers relating to the poet Hedd Wyn and the conscientious objector David Thomas from Bangor.
- Minutes of the South Wales Miners’ Federation for the war period from Swansea University.
- Student magazines from Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Trinity St. David.
- Over 500 minutes of audio and audio visual material from BBC Cymru Wales and oral history recordings from the South Wales Miners’ Library.
- We have been working on preparation and scanning on material since the start of 2012, and between October 2012 and February 2013 material from most partners came to the National Library for digitisation. Cardiff University and BBC Cymru Wales have undertaken this part of the work themselves.
- While there is still some material to digitise, work is now moving towards the development of the website along with all the behind the scenes work to ingest digitised material into NLW’s digital repository. This includes cataloguing, development and use of volunteers to check the transcriptions of the audio material. We’re also working on publicising the project and making sure that once this vast amount of material is available freely on the web, universities, schools, community and history groups and individual researchers will be able to make use of it.
Over the next few weeks teams from the National Library will be visiting a number of locations across Wales and asking people to bring in any records they may have which relate to the experience of the people of Wales during the war; including records of chapels, societies and sports clubs. If you have anything stashed away in your attic, we’d love you to bring it along.
This has been a wonderful project to work on and we’ve found a wealth of fascinating material. We make regular updates on the progress of the project on our own project blog where you can see some of the examples of the material that we’ve digitised. You can also find a full list of the material there too.
Our aim is to open up this hidden body of information for others to re-use and to support the sombre commemoration of this terrible event in world history one hundred years on. If you know of any local groups, projects or schools that would be interested in using our digitised resources I’d be really glad to hear from you. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.