Historic Welsh ballads online for a new global audience

Historic news once sung on street corners is now being captured online in a virtual resource. 4,000 ballads from 18th and 19th century Wales are launching on a website run by Cardiff University and the National Library of Wales.

The songs document the important issues of their day, such as workers’ rights and crime, as well as local festivals and village gossip.

Funded through a £66,000 grant from JISC, the project has completed a network of digital resources giving access to these precious documents. Academic editor of the Welsh Ballads project, Dr Wyn James of Cardiff University’s school of Welsh, commented: “Ballads were the ‘daily newspapers’ for the poor throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, and were sold cheaply and widely at markets, fairs, and villages; they communicated news on local matters and overseas events of the day. “We have selected around 15,000 pages of rare Welsh and English language ballads and have now made them available for audiences around the world to study and enjoy.”

Ben Showers, programme manager at JISC, said: “The Welsh Ballads project puts in place the final piece of a national jigsaw of digitised ballads. Adding to the ballad collections of England and Scotland this new archive will help make this a unique and indispensable resource for researchers, students and interested members of the public. “This project is part of JISC’s continued work to enhance collections of significance, and ensure that resources are not left in isolation, but brought together for the benefit of research, teaching and learning for everyone.” Digitisation of the ballads collections was carried out in Cardiff University’s information services directorate and the National Library of Wales.

“With the funding from JISC we are able to put ballads studies in Wales on the world map, comparable with the best of other ballads projects in Britain and America,” said Janet Peters, director of university libraries at Cardiff. “Two rare ballads collections are now available from one website at Cardiff, jointly linked with a full catalogue and scanned pages at the National Library.”

Cardiff University also intends to make a small selection of sung audio recordings of some rare Welsh ballads available later in the year.

Listen to a pilot recording at: http://www.cf.ac.uk/insrv/libraries/scolar/digital/welshballads/wg3526030.html

Access the collection at: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/insrv/libraries/scolar/digital/welshballads.html

Find out about how JISC is developing online content for teaching, learning and research at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/digitisation.aspx

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