Session 11: Ystafell 11 From print to pixels: current work at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
Chair: Scott Lloyd
Contributors: Adam N. Coward, Rita Singer, James January-McCann
Since its inception in 1908, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has enjoyed a rich engagement with the field of Celtic Studies, examining a wide range of structures, from the prehistoric and Iron Age periods up until the present day, which are integral to Welsh culture and society. Indeed, early members of the Commission included leading Welsh Scholars and Celticists such as John Rhŷs, Edward Anwyl and John Morris-Jones. Bringing the Royal Commission into the twenty-first century, this panel consists of three papers showcasing our current and ongoing work:
- The first paper explores the historic purpose of the Royal Commission, namely the production of inventories of ancient and historic monuments ‘connected with or illustrative of the contemporary culture, civilisation and conditions of life of the people in Wales’, and how these developed into the Commission’s modern online database, Coflein. After an exploration of the changing nature and qualities of the inventories relative to contemporary antiquarian, archaeological and historical thought in Wales across the twentieth century, this paper turns its attention to Coflein, examining how the coverage, usability, accessibility and academic rigour of the database compares with these earlier works.
- Most recently, the Royal Commission has collaborated on or led two projects in which digital products played a significant role in interpreting and presenting research to a wider audience, specialists in the field and general public alike. These two projects were made possible through interdisciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations between researchers in modern languages, literature, archaeology, history and marine science. The first project’s website, Journey to the Past, combines expertise on the history of travel writing in modern European languages with archival resources concerning the history and built environment of Wales, including a reconstruction of a nineteenth-century Tintern Abbey which can be viewed in Virtual Reality. In a similar fashion, the website created for the U-Boat Project 1914-18 presents current research about the impact of German submarine warfare in Welsh waters during the First World War. The website includes open access material and virtual 3D-reconstructions of 17 featured wrecks. These resources provide unprecedented access to Wales’s heritage including the remains of vessels on the seabed and the streets of Victorian Merthyr Tydfil.
- One of the Commission’s ongoing projects is the List of Historic Welsh Place Names, a government-funded project to record and protect Wales’ place name heritage, from archaic forms of town names, to the names of fields, rivers and rock formations. The third paper discusses the myriad of sources used in the compilation of the database and the ways it can be of use to the academic community, with a particular focus on those projects already making use of, or contributing to, our data. Attention will also be paid to the multilingual nature of the database, which contains forms in Welsh, English, Latin, Norman French, Norse, Greek and Flemish. This paper will be delivered through the medium of Welsh, with simultaneous translation.