“Digital key to commemorating First World War” – First Minister

08 / 08 / 2012
 Digital technology will play a prominent role in commemorating the centenary of the First World War in Wales, First Minister Carwyn Jones said today (Wednesday 8th August).

Digital key to commemorating First World War – First Minister


Whilst visiting the stand of the National Library of Wales at the National Eisteddfod, he outlined his vision to mark the centenary, including making sure Welsh experiences of the conflict are captured digitally for future generations.

The First Minister also heard about a £1 million project led by the National Library, to digitise manuscripts, photographs, moving images and much more revealing the hidden history of the war and how it affected all aspects of Welsh life. The project received a grant of £500,000 from the Joint Information Systems Committee and additional financial support from the Welsh Government.

Collections to be digitised include 190,000 pages of printed text, photographs, 50 hours of audio and 20 hours of audio visual materials.  Much of the content is fragile, difficult to access, and dispersed around institutions in Wales.

Key materials include the records of the Welsh Army Corps; Welsh newspapers 1913-1919, Welsh periodicals and other printed publications, diaries, journals and letters, literary archives, including those of the ‘Welsh War Poets’, notably Edward Thomas, David Jones and Hedd Wyn.

The First Minister said:

“I feel that it is extremely important that we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of the people who died during the First World War, a conflict that changed Wales and the world forever.

“Between 2014 and 2018 there will be commemorative ceremonies in Wales and farther afield to pay tribute to the service men and women and civilians who lost their lives during the First World War. 

“We must ensure that the stories of our grandparents and great grandparents are made available through digital resources for future generations to better understand and learn lessons from such a transformational event in our history. There are so many tales to be captured. Look at the story of the Welsh miners who used their skills to build tunnels under no man’s land and how Welsh coal powered the British navy – both deserve their place in Welsh history. The First World War saw the Women’s Land Army established and women employed on police duties for the first time. We are working to make sure the story of Wales and the First World War is captured for all of us.”

In March this year the First Minister announced that Sir Deian Hopkin had been appointed as his expert advisor for commemorative activities to mark the Centenary of the First World War

Professor Sir Deian Hopkin, President of the National Library of Wales, welcomed the First Minister to the Library’s stand to outline further details of the scheme.

Sir Deian said:

“The outbreak of the First World War began a series of events that transformed Wales forever.  Almost every family and community in Wales was touched by the tragic loss of so many young men, while society more generally saw far-reaching changes in politics and the franchise, in the organisation of the state, in the role of women in our economy and society, and much more.  I was honoured to be asked by the First Minister to look at the most appropriate way of marking the centenary and this exciting digital project will be central to our plans.

“It is important that the commemorative activities engage with as many people and associations as possible. During the autumn we will be holding meetings across Wales to gather ideas and to help to develop a wide-reaching programme of activities for 2014-2018.   I have already met representatives of the UK Government and other key stakeholders, and in Wales I will be working with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, the Imperial War Museum, the Heritage Lottery [fund], the Arts Council of Wales and the BBC as well as colleagues at the National Library to ensure that Wales’ distinctive experience and contribution is properly reflected.  The advice of experts in the fields of history, literature, art and music will also be a key to ensuring the most appropriate legacy for these commemorations so that future generations gain a better understanding of these monumental events and their impact.”

In March this year the Welsh Government announced that the home of Hedd Wyn, the posthumous winner of the ‘Black Chair’ at Birkenhead Eisteddfod, has been secured for the nation as part of plans to remember the First World War.