Posted - 02-12-2016 No Comments


Christmas at the Library

Well, Christmas has arrived at the Library! It’s the 2nd of December, and it’s time we joined in the festivities. If you come to the Library sometime between Monday and Christmas, in the Peniarth exhibition Room (ground floor),  you’ll see a large photograph by the photojournalist Geoff Charles. It’s a photograph of some children proudly displaying their magnificent snowman (see gallery below). But there’s something a little different about the snowman in Peniarth….. it has no face!

Pop up to the Library and lend your face to the poor snowman for a moment. You could ask your friends to take your photo, and why not share it with us on social media, and we’ll share it through our accounts. Remember to include the hashtag #nlwchristmas in your message. You could even wish somebody Merry Christmas by using the magnetic letters to spell their name on the photo.

Do you enjoy carol singing? Why not visit on 15 December between 13:15-14:00 when we’ll be holding a Carol Service in the Drwm (free admission by ticket).

While you’re here, why not pop to Caffi Pen Dinas to enjoy some treats? We’ll be serving Christmas dinner on 7, 8 & 14 December (see the poster in the gallery above for more details). You’ll also pass the Library shop which is always a good place to find some gifts for that special someone. The Library will be open late on 8 December until 19:00 for our Christmas event, when Father Christmas will be in his grotto and there will be free mulled wine and mince pies to enjoy, an evening for the whole family (further times and details in the poster in the gallery above).

And what better as you leave, than to take a minute to enjoy the wonderful view over Aberystwyth town, and Cardigan Bay? And who knows, if you’re very luck, it might be snowing… and you can build your own snowman!

Share your snowman photos with us:

Siân Pugh
Digital Access

Posted - 01-12-2016 No Comments


Celebrating Christmas at The National Library

What are you up to on the evening of the 8th of December? Why not join us at the Library for an evening of festive cheer? The Library will be open late until 19:00 with plenty of things to entertain the whole family.

Storm image: © Iestyn Hughes

The Library shop, which is always a good source of gifts for every taste, will be open late, so why not finish your Christmas shopping at the Library? A host of local authors and artist will be joining us, including the star of S4C’s Prynhawn Da and Heno, Lisa Fearn, promoting her new book ‘Blas/Taste’. Lisa will also be demonstrating some recipes from the book, so a chance to taste some of the delicious recipes.

Lisa has also very kindly donated a fantastic prize for the evening’s raffle, which is held by The National Library of Wales Staff Association, with the proceeds going to the Hywel Dda Health Charities Send a Gift Appeal. Lisa runs ‘The Pumkin Patch Kitchen & Garden’, and has donated a 3 hour session at one of her workshops where one adult and two children get the opportunity to learn of the links in growing and cooking food, bringing a real understanding of where food comes from. Other raffle prizes consist of a voucher at The Library Shop and a photograph by ex-member of staff and author of ‘Tywydd Mawr mewn lluniau’ (‘Extreme Weather in Wales’), Iestyn Hughes and a print by local artist Wynne Melville Jones.

Of course, there will be one very important gentleman joining us for the evening, Father Christmas will be in his grotto from 17:00 onwards, so make sure your bring the children with you. You’re also welcome to enjoy the children’s activities in Hafan while you visit.

Do you enjoy Carol Singing? There will be an opportunity to join in some congregational singing at 18:00, when members of local ABC choir will be joining us for a carol or two.

So, make a note in your diary and join us for an evening filled with Christmas fun. Remember to share your photos with us on social media using the hashtag #nlwchristmas

Siân Pugh

Digital Access

Posted - 28-11-2016 1 Comment

Collections / News and Events / Research

There had come to Aberystwyth a great opportunity. Were they going to rise to it?

This call to arms came from the industrialist David Davies of Llandinam in a speech he gave to a packed public meeting held in Aberystwyth in May 1905. He declared that ‘[w]hat they wanted was the pence, shillings and five pound notes of all the people in Aberystwyth to prove…that they were worthy of the great, trust, honour and privilege offered’. Of course, that privilege was the National Library of Wales.


In February 1905 the Treasury had agreed to make a contribution towards the cost of establishing a national museum and library for Wales, and it was announced that a Privy Council Committee was to be formed to decide where these institutions should be located. The announcement made clear that a great emphasis would be placed by the committee on the amount of public subscriptions raised by each town. By 1910 a total of 872 subscriptions had been recorded which came from individuals, couples, families, businesses, groups and local authorities from across Wales. They pledged from as little as 10s. up to £5,000 towards the building of the library at Aberystwyth.


One Cardiganshire resident, John Francis, pledged £100 to the fund. A London-Welsh businessman with shops in Brixton, he had retired to Cardiganshire and purchased the Wallog estate, north of Aberystwyth. At the other end of the scale, Barnett Pareezer, a theatrical manager based at the New Market Hall pledged 10s. 8d. Pareezer was Polish and travelled around Britain with his wife who was a ballad vocalist and sketch artist.



If you would like to find out more about the early subscribers to the library building fund, I will be giving a talk on the subject on 30th November at 1.15 in the Drwm.



Calista Williams


Calista is in the process of completing her PhD on the topic of the National Library of Wales and National Identity, c.1840-1916.

Posted - 24-11-2016 1 Comment


Story Behind the Image: ‘John Collins’ by I. C. Rapoport

Photographer I.C. Rapoport shares this story behind this image of John Collins in the Aberfan: The Days After exhibition here at The National Library of Wales.

“This is JOHN COLLINS.  He was perhaps the most tragic figure of the Aberfan Disaster – not to take away from all those who mourned the losses of their children – sometimes two children.  But John Collins situation was so much more poignantly tragic. His home was next to the Pant Glas Junior School and was completely demolished. Where once the house stood on Moy Road, fifteen feet of thick earth and slurry, rock and muck slowly oozed down the hill after the demolition was complete.  John’s wife and young son, Peter, were in the home and were killed almost instantly. His older son, attending the nearby Senior School was caught in the avalanche trying to run home to warn his mam.  So John Collins lost everything. Home, belongings, family. Nothing remained.

Here he is pictured in the parlor of his Dad’s house in Aberfan wearing a donated suit, the only belongings he had at the time. That and his automobile.  Nothing of his life prior to the disaster was left. Not a photo, not spoon or cup. Nothing.

When I sat across from him as the LIFE magazine writer briefly interviewed him I couldn’t bear to shoot the photos as he broke down and wept.

At the urgings of the writer, motioning for me to ‘shoot’ I asked John if he’d mind if I snapped a photo or two of him. “Go on, man,” he said. “It’s your job.”  And so I shot several photos, quietly and respectfully.

However, what neither John nor I knew at the time, his releasing me to take his picture would play a part in changing his whole life for the better.  For, my photo of him ran in the Aberfan aftermath story and an American woman saw it and was so moved by the photo and his story that she contacted him, met him, and a romance blossomed and they married. He had a new wife, a new life.  Of course I was completely unaware of all this as they years passed and then in 2010 I received an email out of the blue from one Bernice Collins who informed me that she was John Collins daughter from this second marriage and told me that it was my photo of her dad that changed his life. John passed away some time ago, but I was thrilled to hear that my work had such an impact on one man.
Ironically she said she met and married a man whose two given names were Raymond Peter – both the names of John’s lost children.”


I. C. Rapoport’s moving images of the Aberfan disaster will be presented in the Aberfan: The Days After exhibition at The National Library of Wales until 14 January 2017.


Bethan Rees ~ Digital Access


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Posted - 21-11-2016 No Comments


A world without records is a world without memory

Today is the first day of the Library’s Explore Your Archive week.  During the week we will be taking the opportunity to celebrate archives and share information about our collections. The Explore week is also a chance to think about how archives can still be relevant and for us to invite you to explore the treasures to be found here in the Library.





If you go into your attic, what will you find there? Junk? Or a treasure chest of items from your past that invoke happy memories?  Maybe you’ve got old diaries, photographs or letters that belonged to your grandmother or grandfather, which, when you look through them all tell you so much about their lives from a bygone age.  In much the same way, over the years, the Library has collected and kept all kinds of material that by now provide so much insight into past lives.


These collections of archives are so much more than dusty bits of paper – they all play a collective part in saying something about the lives of our ancestors, whether they were rich land owners or farm hands. They shed light, as would be expected, on the lives of eminent individuals, national events or big decisions, but they can also show us how ordinary people, people like you and me, lived. They provide insight into our communities, cultural life, habits or customs.

The Library safeguards all these for you and for future generations, but we also do more than that.  Through our work of sorting and listing all these collections we strive to provide access to them. These collections aren’t just to be put in boxes and locked away, we want you to look at them and use them to learn about the past.


During our events this week we will take the opportunity to show you how you can use archives to find out about the past.  There will also be a chance to learn about the diverse aspects of our work. So why not take the time to visit, who knows what you might find.


Nia Wyn Dafydd

Assistant Archivist

Posted - 17-11-2016 No Comments


A world class map collection

The National Library of Wales is home to the Welsh National Map Collection which contains one and a half million maps and atlases; this makes it one of the largest map collections in the World.

Of course, the focus of the collection is material relating to Wales, and the British Isles; but what most people may not realise is that we also hold a large collection of overseas mapping from across the globe; this is what makes the National Map Collection so important, especially when most university map collections are being downsized or disposed of altogether.

In the age of Google maps there is an assumption that detailed mapping of the whole world is only a click away. However, in reality detailed up-to-date topographic mapping of much of the world is still scarce and paper map collections still have their place in providing both current and historic mapping.

The overseas map collection has grown through two main sources of acquisition, firstly through legal deposit, as a legal deposit library the National Library of Wales has the right to receive a copy of any map or atlas published in the UK and the Republic of Ireland; this includes mapping of other countries. This has provided us with a large collection of commercially produced maps and atlases, such as the map of New Zealand by Philip’s from 1925 shown in the gallery.

In addition to the commercial mapping we also received mapping produced by the British Government of other countries, mostly British colonies and overseas territories. Most of this material came from the Directorate of Overseas (formerly Colonial) Surveys and its successor Ordnance Survey International. This is an invaluable source of mapping for a number of countries especially in Africa and the Caribbean, such as the map of Barbados from 1960 shown in the gallery.

Our second major source of acquisition is the Ministry of Defence. The MOD map library has historically held multiple copies of published mapping from all over the world, when this mapping is superseded by newer mapping the older mapping is disposed of to map collections throughout the UK, including the National Library of Wales. This allows us to receive, free of charge, mapping for other countries at detailed scales which we would never be able to afford to buy, such as the USGS map shown in the gallery, showing part of Los Angeles from 1981.

One major influx of material came after the Second World War when millions of sheets of mapping were being disposed of, not just maps made by the UK, but also maps made by the US Army Map Service and maps captured from the Germans. Some examples are shown in the gallery.

While overseas mapping may not be the most widely recognised part of the National Map Collection it is an invaluable source not just for historical information, but also for information about environmental and social change in our world and may even provide the most current available topographic detail for some areas.

It is worth remembering that, in an age of online mapping and satnav, paper maps still have their uses and the National Map Collection is a great resource for the people of Wales.

Huw Thomas

Map Curator

Posted - 10-11-2016 No Comments


I C Rapoport Photographs of Aberfan disaster

It was on every news station that October morning. A mountain had fallen on a junior school in Aberfan, Wales. Scores of children were dead or missing along with many of their teachers. It was Friday, 21st of October, 1966.

Moved by the tragic news reports from Aberfan, photographer I C Rapoport travelled from New York to the South Wales village to document the shock and grief and the stirrings of life after so much loss.

These are a small selection of some of those photographs. They show how a small community came to terms with the terrible event that had befallen them.

(click on the image to see a larger version, then click on the ‘i’ to learn more about the image)

All images: © I C Rapoport


You can see more of I C Rapoport’s photographs of the aftermath at Aberfan in our exhibition of his work, ‘The Days After’ which is open at the National Library until 14 January 2017. The Library also has an exhibition ‘Black October’,which includes items from our collections documenting the events and the reaction in Wales.

Other related posts:

Posted - 08-11-2016 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

The Welsh Political Archive Annual Lecture 2016

The Welsh Political Archive annual lecture is now a well-established event in the calendar of the National Library of Wales.


The Lecture is delivered on the first Friday of November, usually immediately after the Welsh Political Archive’s advisory committee meets, but this year the committee met in September to coincide with the Revolution exhibition, leaving the lecture as a stand-alone event for the first time since 1987.


The lecture’s purpose is to raise the profile of the political archives at the National Library and the Welsh Political Archive; a programme within the National Library to collect and promote material which reflects the political life of Wales. The lecture often draws the media’s attention and has been given by a combination of historians such as Deirdre Beddoe, politicians such as Lord Morris of Aberavon and journalists such as Jeremy Bowen over the years.


This year’s lecturer, the Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP was a journalist but is better known as a politician. As the respected member for Cynon Valley since 1984, Ann Clwyd held a number of roles in the Shadow Cabinet but is also well known for her campaigning work on a number of issues including care standards in the NHS, international development and on behalf of the Kurds of northern Iraq.


The subject of the lecture was another issue close to Ann Clwyd’s heart; the mining industry. In the lecture she discussed issue around the campaign for compensation for former miners, the Aberfan tragedy, the Miners’ Strike in 1984-5, the campaign to save Tower Colliery in Hirwaun and the campaign for an inquiry into the events at Orgreave in June 1984.


It was wonderful to see the Drwm full, and the discussion that followed the lecture was very interesting. The text of the lecture is now available to view on the Welsh Political Archive pages on the National Library’s website.



Rob Phillips

Assistant Archivist, Welsh Political Archive.

Posted - 03-11-2016 No Comments

Digitisation / Exhibitions / News and Events / Research

The National Library of Wales on Flickr

Explore thousands of images from the archives on Flickr Commons

Users of the National Library of Wales website can explore many thousands of digital images from the library’s vast collections.

However, we also believe in sharing our digital content as widely as possible, and sharing our content with the popular Flickr community gives us a great opportunity to engage with new users and share the rich visual history of Wales.

Over the years the images we have shared with Flickr have been viewed millions of times, and there appear to be some clear favourites, like ‘Dog with a pipe’ which went viral, attracting more than 25,000 views.

Every month at least 20 new images are hand picked and uploaded to Flickr and this month we have kept it topical, uploading old photographs of Bonfire builders and fireworks displays.

New content is being added all the time so why not follow us on Flickr to see all our latest uploads?

Jason Evans, Digital Access

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Posted - 31-10-2016 No Comments



It’s that time of year again and another LENS rolls around on Saturday November 5th. Based around the theme of conflict this years speakers are all able to give different interpretations and insight into the subject.

John Bulmer came to prominence during the 1960s as one of the first proponents of colour photography for the Sunday Times Colour Supplement for whom he visited over 100 countries.

Almost as well travelled is Jon Tonks, best known for his compelling recent book ‘Empire’ which documents four remaining British possessions scattered across the Atlantic. He has also undertaken projects in Namibia and Vanuatu.

Conflicts far and wide have occupied Alison Baskerville who has undertaken projects to connect history, social reform and ongoing cultural shifts specifically in the area of the role of women. Her work has taken her to Mali, Somali and Afghanistan. Having served in the armed forces she has a unique insight into her subject matter.

Abbie Trayler-Smith had hoped to speak at LENS this year but is at present covering the ongoing conflict in Iraq. Instead she has produced an audio visual presentation especially for LENS. Photographs from her personal project ‘The Big O’ dealing with childhood obesity have recently been added to our collection.

Our final speaker is Aled Rhys Hughes who will be giving a gallery talk on his current exhibition (Mametz) which chronicles present day Mametz Wood. A century ago it was the scene of bitter hand to hand fighting, recalled in David Jones ‘In Parenthesis’


Wil Troughton

Curator of Photography

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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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