If you’ve been struggling recently to find something good to watch on television then a trip to The National Library of Wales could hold the answer.
No, we’re not suggesting you swap binge-watching for book-worming (although the venue does hold some world-famous tomes amidst its six million-strong collection) – the library is now home to the first National Broadcast Archive in the UK, granting members of the public access to more than half a million clips from the history of Welsh television and radio.
A wealth of archival footage from the BBC, ITV and Welsh-language channel S4C are all available, as well as BBC radio recordings that date all the way back to the 1930s, providing visitors with a (sometimes slightly fuzzy) window into over a century of Welsh broadcasting.
Featured clips include news reports of history-defining moments, such as the Miners’ strikes and the opening of the Senedd (Wales’ government building), broadcasts of Welsh sporting triumphs, including the unlikely success of the Wales men’s football team at the 2016 UEFA European Championships, and classic episodes of Pobol y Cwm, the BBC’s longest-running soap opera, which is broadcast entirely in Welsh.
Alongside the main centre housed in the National Library of Wales, which includes an interactive exhibition that showcases some of the archive’s most significant entries, there will also be around a dozen ‘Clip Corners’ operating in other public venues in Wales, granting remote access to the database from sites across the country.
These ‘Clip Corners’ are scheduled to be up and running in the next 12 months, and will be available in the following locations: Carmarthenshire Library, West Glamorgan Archives, Wales Millennium Centre, Conwy Culture Centre, South Wales Miners’ Library, Llanrwst Library, Caernarfon Record Office, Merthyr Library, Coleg Cambria Yale in Wrexham, North East Wales Archives in Ruthin, Anglesey Archives, Glamorgan Archives and Pembrokeshire Archives.
Speaking about the launch of the new archive, Ashok Ahir, President of the National Library of Wales, said, ‘The Wales Broadcast Archive Centre is not only a century of Welsh broadcasting history, but a century of Welsh history. And for the first time in that century, it’s available for the people of Wales to enjoy.’
‘Across our hundreds of thousands of clips donated by BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Cymru Wales and S4C, we have stories from every corner and every community in Wales,’ he added.
Considered to be one of the most user-friendly broadcast archives in Europe, the opening of the new database and accompanying exhibition is great news for TV and media enthusiasts, but it also adds yet another valuable resource at the library for anyone hoping to research Welsh ancestry, with old news reports a potential source of information regarding long-lost relatives.
There was more good news for the archive following its opening in Mid-March, when it was announced the project had received an additional award of nearly £250,000, earmarked to improve accessibility. The funds, provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will be used to adapt the database to provide better access for those with disabilities, including the creation of a subtitling programme for content used for outreach projects.