Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Welsh Experience of the First World War ( launched!

I’m really delighted to announce the launch of This digital archive is an integrated collection of materials relating to the impact of the First world War on all aspects of Welsh life, from the archives and special collections of Wales. The project was funded by the Jisc e-content programme as a mass digitization initiative.

Lots of wonderful people said nice things about the project at its launch (you can read their remarks here), and we were especially please that John Griffiths, the Welsh Minister of Culture, was able to attend, but here are the key things that I think are really important about this project:
  • Although the project was led by NLW,  this was an important partnership, fostered by the Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum. Our partners were the special collections of Bangor University; Cardiff University; Aberystwyth University; Swansea University; University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the National Library of Wales, and BBC Cymru Wales, as well as 5 archives and local records offices: Conway, Flintshire, Glamorgan, and Gwent.
  • Most of the funding (£500k) came from Jisc, but the balance came from the partners in the form of in-kind contributions. This shows how the project was regarded by those involved
  • is NLW’s first mass digitization of archives, making accessible some of the most significant and iconic archives in Wales. NLW was able to develop a workflow for digitisation or archival content that built on its existing expertise and investment in digitisation of print, photographic, and audio-visual materials. 
  • Although the project was led by memory institutions, it had scholarly collaboration at its core. We had an academic advisory group of some of the foremost researchers working on topics related to the First World War and its impact on Wales, and their advice and input at all stages of the project (especially selection of content and user design) was invaluable
  • The People’s Collection Wales led a series of community generated content workshops around Wales, which followed a principle of “targeted crowdsourcing” of content, enabling us to ask for specific types of content. 
  • The project has uncovered a lot of ‘hidden histories’: material that was either to fragile to consult, too vast to work through without visiting the archives, or in private hands but of significance to scholarship. This will allow greater exploration of a number of research themes.
  • The project has followed principles of user led design, and brought digital humanities principles to the creation of a digital archive. I’ve written elsewhere about how this will increase the impact of the resource. 
  • The potential for re-use of the content is enormous. The project has already been used to develop a resource: Paul O’Leary at Aberystwyth University has used the content to develop an Omeka-based digital exhibition on the Great War and the Valleys, exploring the impact on civilians of “Total War”.
The most important thing is that the material is all freely accessible under a creative commons licence enabling use and re-use. We hope that it will become a major resource for scholars, educators, and the public as we start the centenary commemorations of the First Worlds War. On a personal note, given that my own research relates to the use of digital resources, I am really pleased to have led the development of a resource that I hope to revisit often as new uses of the content become possible. 

Oh yes, and there are lots and lots of people to thank, and I tried to list them all here.