BLOG - Monthly Archives: November 2017

Posted - 30-11-2017 2 - Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Hywel Griffiths

New Horizons– blog post by Dr Hywel Griffiths, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University as part of our #LoveMaps Campaign

See a zoomable version of this volume

I like maps that give me a new perspective on a familiar scene. We are so used to seeing maps of the world drawn using the Mercator projection that other projections challenge our expectations and can appear strange. Every map projection, of course, distorts reality – the Mercator projection causes areas which are far from the equator to appear larger than they are, so that Greenland looks larger than Africa and Alaska looks larger than Brazil. In reality, the converse is true, and some have argued that the Mercator projection has political influence as the ‘smaller’ countries close to the equator are viewed as being less important due to how they appear on the map. Despite the fact that other projections have been proposed and used, online mapping services such as Google Maps and Bing Maps, which are such an important way that the majority of the world’s population use maps, use the Mercator projection.

There are maps of the main harbours of Wales, and detailed notes on their suitability and potential for shipping and trade in supplementary material. As with some of the other maps that I have discussed, there are some very interesting yet unfamiliar names on this map of the coastline from Wallog towards Aberystwyth harbour, such as ‘Brin Diodde’ and ‘Pen Cwnhingen’, and the ‘Patches’ at the end of Sarn Cynfelyn is described as a ‘patch of foul ground called Caerwyddno.’ In the supplementary material, Morris suggests that Gwyddno Garanhir’s kingdom – Cantre’r Gwaelod, was flooded around 500 AD! Interesting accounts are given of the problems, caused by siltation, faced by ships as they tried to sail into the town harbour. Once again, as with the other historical maps, these maps are interesting and important sources of information about the characteristics of the coastline which could be useful for projects such as CHERISH which is investigating the possible effects of climate change on coastal heritage.

The change in emphasis from a viewpoint which focuses on the land, with the sea on its margins, towards a viewpoint in which the sea occupies a more central place is a recent development in cultural geography. The fluid, dynamic nature of the sea challenges traditional ways of mapping, governing and experiencing the world. Perhaps Lewis and William Morris also saw that, and felt the attraction of the waves.

 

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Collections

International Digital Preservation Day #IDPD17

Today is the first International Digital Preservation Day . The aim of the day (30 November 2017) is to create greater awareness of digital preservation and the issues associated with preserving and providing access to digital material. There are particular challenges associated with the preservation of digital material, notably the fast pace of software and hardware developments, the increasing complexity of digital resources and the resulting impact on the stability of such media. If digital material is to remain accessible, both in the short-term for business continuity, research, economic and legal requirements and for preserving the historic record in the longer-term, measures have to be taken to ensure that this information is accessible.

The International Digital Preservation Day (#IDPD17)has been co-ordinated by the Digital Preservation Coalition. The NLW is a long-term member of the DPC, the aim of which is to support its members to make digital information available in the future. It has published a ‘Bit List’ of the World’s Endangered Digital Species which has been unveiled today as part of this campaign to raise awareness of the need to preserve digital materials.

 

As one of the examples of digital content at risk, it highlights digital photographs. It states that more than 2 billion people worldwide use smartphones, and will take hundreds and thousands of digital photos per year, sharing them on social media with friends and family. There is currently no in-built mechanism for these photos to be archived at the point of creation and accessed in the long term. The DPC concludes that although technological solutions are a challenge, human behaviour is a greater risk and that we all need to take responsibility for preservation.

The National Library of Wales has been taking responsibility for preservation by working with the Archives and Records Council Wales to ensure that digital information will be available for the future. Today it is launching the first Digital Preservation Policy, which provides a framework for enabling digital material to be preserved and available across Wales both in Welsh and English.

The Library has also developed a technical infrastructure for ARCW partners which enables the transfer of the digital information, together with its metadata, to a system which ensures its integrity over time, whilst providing access through the partners’ own systems.

By working together in Wales and throughout the world, we can ensure that digital information is available to support decision making, to evidence transparent, responsive and accountable activity and to preserve our cultural heritage.

 

Sally McInnes

Head of Unique Collections and Collections Care, NLW and Chair of the Archives and Records Council Wales Group on Digital Preservation.

 

Posted - 29-11-2017 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – David Meredith

David Meredith, Chairman of the Sir Kyffin Williams Trust takes part in our #LoveArt Campaign.

Y Parchedig John Parker 1798 – 1860

One of the few painters who painted Aran Benllyn and Aran Fawddwy in Meirionnydd (that I know of).

He was interested in painting landscapes and specializing in painting ‘rocky places’ e.g see his beautiful paintings of the top of Aran Fawddwy, held at the Library. He was also interested in churches of the Gothic architecture. His painting of a fine oak screen at St Crwst’s Church in Llanrwst is excellent and also Aran, a feast to the eye. John Parker was a native of the Oswestry area.

He was the Rector of Llanmerewig in Montgomeryshire and Llanblodwel, Shropshire. He also painted castles, flowers and plants and painted in England, Ireland and the mainland of Europe.
As one who lives round the corner of Aran Benllyn and Aran Fawddwy, John Parker’s work means a lot to me.

Another impressive painting by John Parker is the painting of Talardd Farmhouse, Cwm Cynllwyd Llanuwchllyn with both Aran’s as background. Howel Harris, the reformer, stayed in the Talardd Farmhouse, while visiting the Valley in the eighteenth century. 25 years after the death of Howel Harris, John Parker was born.

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Posted - 27-11-2017 No Comments

Collections

National Assembly for Wales Archive

Over the past few months the National Library and the National Assembly for Wales Commission have been working in collaboration on an exciting project to develop, safeguard and allow public access to the Assembly’s archive. The project’s aim was to develop an archive strategy for the Assembly that will facilitate the transfer of the Assembly’s historically significant and important records to the National Library.

This bilingual archive will contain a variety of records that evidence the Assembly’s main business functions, including material relating to legislation, records of Plenary and Committee meetings, reports, rules and guidelines, and the Assembly’s Record of Proceedings (i.e. the Assembly’s equivalent to Hansard).

 

We intend to receive records in a variety of formats, including hard copy and electronic records. The archive will be multi-media in nature that not only includes written documents in various forms but images and audio-visual material also. The National Library already archives the Assembly’s official websites, which are available to browse through the UK Web Archive.

The Library has received physical records relating to the Committees of the Second Assembly dating between 2005 and 2007. This material gives us a greater insight into how the committees functioned and the decisions they made. Among the files are the papers of over twenty different committees, which include records such as agendas, meeting minutes, correspondence to the Chair and other related papers.

We hope to receive further deposits to the archive over the next few years and look forward to continue working with the Assembly to develop this important archive for the future.

 

 

Rhian James

Archival Strategy Project Manager (National Assembly for Wales)

Posted - 23-11-2017 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Hywel Griffiths

Bogs, islands and rivers – blog post by Dr Hywel Griffiths, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University as part of our #LoveMaps Campaign

See a zoomable version of these maps

These two maps from the historic Gogerddan Estate collection, published around 1790, represent the two places closest to my heart in north Ceredigion – Aberystwyth town and Llanbadarn parish, and Cors Fochno, a stone’s throw from the village of Tal-y-bont. Apart from a period of a year and a half I have lived in this corner of the world since arriving at the University as a fresher. I moved to Tal-y-bont for seven years before recently moving back to Llanbadarn. Five minutes’ walk from our home in Tal-y-bont led me (and more often than not, my daughter Lleucu in the pram) along the side of Coed Tan-yr-allt to a sweeping vista over Cors Fochno, Ynys Las and Borth. The view never disappointed whatever the weather, with the russet bog, the deep green of the south Meirionydd hills and the blue (or grey) of Cardigan Bay constrasting beautifully.

Apart from the personal connection which makes one try to work out what was in such-and-such a place two centuries ago, the two maps tell interesting stories about our historical relationship with water, rivers and the sea. If you are familiar with these areas, you will see that these watery environments have changed considerably. On the edges of Cors Fochno, the map shows the meandering course of the Afon Leri before it was straightened and ‘Aberlery’ (the mouth of the Leri) near the present-day location of Borth Golf Club. The name persists today even though the mouth of Afon Leri has been moved again further to the north. This is an example of how our relationship with the landscape, particularly how we name places, can preserve the memory of the nature of the landscape even after the physical characteristics of that landscape has changed. The names of the ‘pills’ (small channels which fill at high tides), the ‘islands’ (Gwaethfoed, Fochno, Cynfelin) and the small features in the centre of the bog (Bedlwyn, Bryn Sanct, Llwyn y Garreg) are all magical. The map is also a valuable record of the ‘sand burrows’ (or dunes) during this period, and alongside detailed investigations of the sediments in the bog, these historical documents can tell us a great deal about the environmental history of the area.

The map of Aberystwyth shows that the town’s big shopping centres, the railway station, and many other buildings are built on an area that was called ‘the Marsh’. Water would have flowed past what is now the Mill pub, and a branch of Afon Rheidol flowed to the north of Plascrug. During this period it would have been much more commonplace for rivers to have branches like this – the current single channel pattern so common on Welsh rivers is a relatively recent development. In the eighteenth century, before draining the marshes, urbanisation, and in the case of Aberystwyth, the development of tourism, Welsh rivers would have flowed through estuaries and coastal wetlands and it is possible that we see traces of this on the map. The change since then has been dramatic – houses, shops, offices, schools, hotels, roads and railways have all been built on the formerly marshy floodplain.

As we turn from the past and look to a future during which flooding and storms are likely to happen more often, and as we consider the challenges that coastal towns and villages face, these maps hold lessons for us. We now have to live with the implications of urbanisation and land drainage etc. but where possible, coastal wetlands should be preserved, as they can act as a buffer between us and storms and coastal erosion. These maps are testament to the fact that people have lived, and learnt to adapt to the rhythm of land and sea in these communities for centuries, and in that fact there is hope that we can continue to do so for centuries to come.

In the meantime, I will show these maps to Lleucu. Show here what her hometown used to look like and show her Cors Fochno as it used to be when the mythical witch that she is so fond of hearing about lived there.

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Posted - 22-11-2017 1 Comment

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Meri Huws

Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws introduces her favourite art works from the Library’s collection as part of the #LoveArt Campaign.

She has chosen ‘Greenham Peace Vigil’ by Claudia Williams as her final choice.

Divine and Spiritual

The last piece that I’ve chosen is another piece by Claudia Williams – but this time it a portrait of the peace camp at Greenham Common that was established in the early 80s to protest against nuclear missiles.  My mother was part of this important historical event – something that I am very proud of.

It is interesting how the artist has chosen to portray the family orientated, spiritual side of the protests – with the non-traditional headscarf worn by many of the women in the painting of interest to me.  There is something divine about the painting and the strength of the mothers and the women unmistakable.  It also portrays the range of ages, from young mothers to older women and children, who were part of this important protest

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Posted - 20-11-2017

Collections / Events / Exhibitions / News / News and Events

Arthur’s return to Avalon

In less than a month’s time, the Library’s Arthurian exhibition will close its doors, and our hero will return to his isle of enchantment.

To mark this year’s Explore your Archive, two events at the National Library on the 15th of November drew attention to all things legendary and archival here.

A lunchtime presentation by Scott Lloyd of RCAHM Wales (author of The Arthurian Place Names of Wales) discussed myths, legends and archaeology, drawing on examples from over a century of archival accumulation by the Commission.

A gallery talk by Maredudd ap Huw, curator of the Arthurian exhibition, led visitors on a trail following the king in his many guises: from the legendary Welsh figure in sources such as the Black Book of Carmarthen and the White Book of Rhydderch, through his medieval French manifestations, before returning to his mixed fate in Tudor Britain.

 

It is unlikely that King Arthur himself was an archival creator: he was far too busy to keep minutes, file correspondence, and audit accounts. However, manuscripts and books concerning the king may still be seen and enjoyed at the Library’s Hengwrt Gallery until he finally sets sail on December 16th.

Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts

Posted - 17-11-2017

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Kyffin Williams 100 Exhibition: ‘Behind the Frame’ 
Curating the exhibition



‘This is the land that has obsessed me throughout my life. My love of it 
is not superficial but deep, for my family have for so many generations 
had the same feeling for the land and its people. When I left art school 
I did not have to think what I should paint for my subject was deep 
inside me and waiting for me to record it’.

(Kyffin Williams, ‘The Land & the Sea’, Gomer Press,1998).

The Kyffin Williams Exhibition which opens on the 16th of February, 
2018 will commemorate the centenary of the birth of one of Wales’ 
leading artists. It is therefore an opportunity for the National Library 
to celebrate its rich collection of the Anglesey born artist’s works –  
from his iconic landscapes and powerful seascapes of Anglesey,  
north-west Wales and abroad to his emotive portraits. There is also an opportunity within the exhibition to view lesser-known works by the 
artist previously unseen by the public, which include his preparatory 
works such as his sketchbooks and his printing blocks. The Library 
houses over 200 oil paintings, over 1,200 works on paper and over 300 
original prints by the artist.

Many people mainly associate Kyffin Williams with his impasto technique 
of painting – placing the oil paint down thickly onto the canvas using 
a palette knife. An extremely interesting aspect of the research into 
this exhibition was to discover the early works which the artist created 
whilst he was a student at the Slade School of Art and an art teacher at 
the Highgate School in London in the 1940s through to the early 1970s. 
These early works are of great importance in showing how Kyffin 
developed his technique and iconic style of painting which from the 
beginning of his career caught the imagination of the people of Wales.

Within this exhibition we shall also gain an invaluable insight into 
Kyffin’s creative mind by taking a look at a few films on the 
artist and also his diaries and letters which are housed within 
our archives. Kyffin Williams was a skilled writer who instantly caught the 
reader’s imagination and his entertaining autobiographies are 
testimony to this. This exhibition will therefore be an unique 
opportunity to celebrate Kyffin’s words and images in an extremely 
effective manner on the walls of the National Library’s iconic Gregynog 
Gallery.

 

Morfudd Bevan, Art Curator, National Library of Wales

Posted - 16-11-2017

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Hywel Griffiths

Encroachment on the bed of a river – blog post by Dr Hywel Griffiths, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University as part of our #LoveMaps Campaign


Over a decade ago, when I was studying for a PhD, I spent quite a bit of time digging through the survey archives of Environment Agency Wales (as it was then called). The topic of my PhD was how Welsh rivers had changed in the historical period (mainly the second half of the twentieth century), specifically, the processes of erosion and deposition that had operated on river beds.

To find evidence of these changes, I needed to resurvey river cross sections first surveyed by the Agency and its predecessors like the National River Authority and the drainage boards before them. Often, between the 1950s and 1970s these surveys were associated with engineering work on the rivers which aimed to reduce flood risk. Usually, this would entail dredging gravel from the channel and grading the bed of the river so that the river profile was smooth and ‘tidy’ – rather than having alternating deep pools and shallow riffles. In the 1990s extensive surveys were made of many rivers to provide data to inform flood risk policies and practise.

Sometimes, especially either side of bridges, cross sections dating from numerous years would be available and it would be possible to overlay them to see how the geomorphology of the channel had changed over a decadal timescale. The Agency was very generous in granting me access to their records, and I made copies of hundreds of pages of survey data and location maps. The oldest example I saw were these pages – maps and surveys of Afon Teifi around Cilgerran from September 1851 (printed in 1853). After the PhD, I gradually forgot about the maps.

Finding them again in the National Library was a lovely, unexpected coincidence. The maps show the course of Afon Teifi between Llechryd and Aberteifi – the furthest downstream of the numerous bedrock gorges on the river. During the nineteenth century this area was extensively quarried for slate. The map comprises a number of elements; a small inset map showing the course of the river, a more detailed map of the river channel, cross sections across the river and a longitudinal river bed profile on the bottom of the page. Although I do not know for certain what the motivation for the survey work or the production of the map was, it is reasonable to assume that they are in some way related to the slate quarries which were at their most productive around this period. There are red areas on the map and the cross sections and the explanation says ‘The Red Tint on the Plans and the Sections shows the Encroachments on the Bed of the River’. That is, these are the areas where the quarry waste raised the river bed elevation and reduced the capacity of the channel. The impact that this waste had on the natural shape of the river is clearly seen on the cross sections and on the longitudinal profiles.

As with the tithe map that I discussed in my first post there are tensions in these maps. On one hand, they are examples of how human activities, particularly mining for coal, slate and metals, impacted Wales’s rivers. Once again, the map is wholly English in terms of language (spelling Teifi as Tivy, for example) when, in fact, Welsh would have been the first language of the majority of the area’s residents, quarrymen, fishermen and poachers who would have walked the river banks. In that respect there is a world of difference between these maps and the wonderful map of the same area drawn by Idris and Beryl Mathias. However, I am also fond of these maps, for two reasons. First, they remind me of the happy time I spent wandering the river banks of Wales, either on maps or in the field. Second, I think they are examples of maps which combine artistic elements with the scientific/technical elements of topographic surveying. There is a ‘scientific’ element to making the map of course – correctness of scale and measurements, for example. In the process of producing the map, however, the maker of the map had to make artistic decisions. Which colour and pattern to use for the slate? Which colour for the river water? How to represent the slope topography? The unnecessary flourishes, like the shading on the cross section outlines, suggest an artistic approach. The map, therefore, embodies both the wasteful, destructive tendency of humanity and its positive, creative tendency.

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Posted - 15-11-2017

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Meri Huws

Over the next four weeks Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws will introduce her favourite art works from the Library’s collection as part of the #LoveArt Campaign.

She has chosen Gwilym Pritchard by Claudia Williams as her fourth choice.

Honesty and love

This week I have chosen an honest and loving portrait by Claudia Williams of her husband, Gwilym Pritchard.  In the portrait we see a handsome gentleman, with striking white hair sitting behind his easel.  Claudia has created many portraits of him since the early 60s and it’s interesting that there is one constant thread, which is her unequivocal love and respect for him.

Of course, Claudia is most renowned for her portraits of family or friends, mostly women, in day-to-day situations – the dining table, play ground, seaside, bedroom and more recently, hair salon.

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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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