Wales: National broadcast archive opens
March 16, 2023
Half a million clips from the history of Welsh television and radio are to be made available to the public thanks to the opening of the Wales Broadcast Archive Centre.
Housed at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth – with 12 ‘Clip Corners’ opening across Wales – it will be the first national broadcast archive in the United Kingdom, and one of the most usable broadcast archives in Europe, transforming public access to a century of Welsh broadcast history with film, video and audio in both Welsh and English digitised for discovery.
The Wales Broadcast Archive Centre offers an interactive exhibition and digital access to material that has been preserved in various formats throughout the decades.
Visitors can search sound recordings of BBC radio in Wales from the 1930s onwards, television broadcasts by the BBC and commercial broadcasters in Wales including HTV Wales and ITV Cymru Wales from the 1950s onwards and from 1982 – all the programmes of S4C, the first Welsh language TV channel.
Hugely significant moments in Welsh history have been recorded for future generations through general news and documentary items covering events such as the drowning of Tryweryn, the Aberfan disaster, the Miners’ strikes and the opening of the Senedd. Also included are clips that cover all aspects of Welsh life, from extensive coverage of Welsh sport since the 1940s to entertainment and drama including the BBC’s longest running Welsh soap opera – Pobol y Cwm – which first aired in 1974.
The permanent exhibition uses interactive technology to showcase the archive’s highlights along with an adaptable exhibition that will change regularly. This includes an audio and video lounge that function as audio-visual bookshelves for casual browsing. The key service will be delivered through terminals which will enable unprecedented access for the public and academics to research a vast collection of digitised material from Wales’ audio-visual heritage. Bespoke activities for schools and groups are available at the National Library’s Wales Broadcast Archive Centre.
”The Wales Broadcast Archive Centre is not only a century of Welsh broadcasting history, but a century of Welsh history,” notes Ashok Ahir, President of the National Library of Wales. “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. Some are stories as they were told to Wales, others are stories that have been told by Wales. People will be able to see themselves in the stories that they see and hear. We want people to come and learn, share and enjoy the history of Wales, not only in Aberystwyth, but all across Wales.”
In a first for the National Library, the public will be able to access its broadcast archive from outside its Aberystwyth base – with new locations at the Wales Millennium Centre and across Wales opening in 2023/24. These include:
- 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, Wrexham
- North East Wales Archives, Ruthin
- Anglesey Archives
- Glamorgan Archives
- Pembrokeshire Archives
On the significance of the Wales Broadcast Archive Centre being accessible in every corner of Wales, Ashir said: “One of our key aims at the National Library Wales in Aberystwyth is that our amazing collections are accessible to everyone in Wales. At any of our Clip Corners across Wales people will be able to log in to the National Library, log in to the Wales Broadcast Archive and watch and listen to the history of their local community. Not only will they be learning about the stories of their community, but how those stories sit in the wider history of Wales.”
Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “The creation of the Wales Broadcast Archive is a special event both in the development of our National Library and in preserving the best possible record of our cultural heritage. I am immensely proud that Wales is the first place in the UK to have a national broadcast archive and I am pleased that the Welsh Government was able to contribute funding to enable the project to be taken forward. I wish the team at the National Library every success and I look forward to following the progress of the Archive over the years to come.”
Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said: “Broadcasting has played a major role in documenting the history of modern Wales – from heart-breaking news reports from the scene the Aberfan disaster; to inspirational lectures like Saunders Lewis’ Tynged yr Iaith, S4C’s first broadcast in 1982 and the high and lows of Wales football team at the Euros in 2016 and the World Cup in 2022.”
“It has also allowed us to look back and learn about our heritage through programmes such as The Dragon Has Two Tongues: A History of the Welsh in 1985, The Story of Wales in 2012 and has put Wales on the map with popular series such as Doctor Who, Keeping Faith and Hinterland.”
“It is our privilege to support this important and ground-breaking project which will preserve and share the broadcast heritage of Wales so that today’s and future generations can appreciate, enjoy and learn from it for years to come.”