Monthly Archives: August 2014

Millions of historic images posted to Flickr …

BBC News, 29 August 2014.

Internet Archive Book Images library

Cat The project has resulted in even more pictures of cats being put on to the internet

An American academic is creating a searchable database of 12 million historic copyright-free images.

Kalev Leetaru has already uploaded 2.6 million pictures to Flickr, which are searchable thanks to tags that have been automatically added.

The photos and drawings are sourced from more than 600 million library books scanned in by the Internet Archive organisation.

The images have been difficult to access until now.

Mr Leetaru said digitisation projects had so far focused on words and ignored pictures.

“For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works,” he told the BBC.

“They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.

“Stretching half a millennia, it’s amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time.

Internet Archive Book Images Visitors to the site are free to copy and make use of the pictures without charge

“Most of the images that are in the books are not in any of the art galleries of the world – the original copies have long ago been lost.”

The pictures range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright restrictions kick in.

Piggyback program

Mr Leetaru began work on the project while researching communications technology at Georgetown University in Washington DC as part of a fellowship sponsored by Yahoo, the owner of photo-sharing service Flickr.

To achieve his goal, Mr Leetaru wrote his own software to work around the way the books had originally been digitised.

The Internet Archive had used an optical character recognition (OCR) program to analyse each of its 600 million scanned pages in order to convert the image of each word into searchable text.

Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea This drawing, dating back to 1502, is one of the oldest in the collection

As part of the process, the software recognised which parts of a page were pictures in order to discard them.

Mr Leetaru’s code used this information to go back to the original scans, extract the regions the OCR program had ignored, and then save each one as a separate file in the Jpeg picture format.

The software also copied the caption for each image and the text from the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it in the book.

Each Jpeg and its associated text was then posted to a new Flickr page, allowing the public to hunt through the vast catalogue using the site’s search tool.

“I think one of the greatest things people will do is time travel through the images,” Mr Leetaru said.

“Type in the telephone, for example, and you can see that all the initial pictures are of businesspeople, and mostly men.

Telephone The library of pictures allows users to explore how technologies developed over the years

“Then you see it morph into more of a tool to connect families.

“You see another progression with the railroad where in the first images it was all about innovation and progress that was going to change the world, then you see its evolution as it becomes part of everyday life.”

‘Hit and miss’

Archivists said they were impressed with the project.

“Finding images within texts and tagging large collections of images are notoriously difficult,” said Dr Alison Pearn, a senior archivist from the University of Cambridge and associate director of the Darwin Correspondence Project.

“This is a clever way of providing both quantity and searchability, and it’s great that it is freely available for anyone to use.

“The image identification has picked up things like library stamps and scribbles in the margins, and the tagging is a bit hit and miss, but research has always been at least in part about serendipity, and who knows what people will find to do with them.”

Car from 1890 The images should prove useful to amateur and professional historians

Mr Leetaru’s own ambition is a tie-up with the internet’s most famous encyclopaedia once his project is completed next year.

“What I want to see is… Wikipedia have a national day of going through this to illustrate Wikipedia articles,” he said.

“Take a random page about a historical event and there’s probably a good chance that you’re going to find an image in here that bears in some way on that event or location.

“Being able to basically enrich [them] would be huge.”

Edinburgh shops The many illustrations available include this sketch of Edinburgh shops published in 1846

He added that he also planned to offer his code to others.

“Any library could repeat this process,” he explained.

“That’s actually my hope, that libraries around the world run this same process of their digitised books to constantly expand this universe of images.”

Hafod-Morfa Festival video …

This video celebrates the June 2014 Living History Festival at Hafod-Morfa. It was filmed by Swansea University students for the completion of phase one of the regeneration of Morfa Copperworks at Hafod Swansea.

The day included a visit by the minister for natural resources, culture and sport, John Griffiths AM.

Conference – Classical Celtic: Wales and Scotland in Mediterranean Light

National Museum Cardiff, 19 September 2014, 10am-5pm

Exploring the nature of the domestic tour in Romantic-era Wales and Scotland (1760-1820).

You are invited to this day conference, which explores how historians and artists pictured our past, and how tours to Greece and Italy may have influenced them.

For more information, including how to register, please visit our website.


Conference – Ireland, Wales, and the First World War: History, Myth, and Cultural Memory

I am involved in the organisation of the above conference, which is taking place at Cardiff University early next month. There are still places left to attend the conference and we are keen to attract delegates from a wide range of institutions and organisations.

We wondered if the conference might be of interest to some your members. If so, would it be possible to circulate the information below and the attached programme to them please? There is a charge to attend the conference, but it is possible to book to attend the opening lecture for free.

Elinor Shepley
PhD Student and Postgraduate Tutor
School of English, Communication and Philosophy
Cardiff University

Ireland, Wales, and the First World War: History, Myth, and Cultural Memory

An Interdisciplinary Conference hosted by the Wales-Ireland Research Network

September 10-12, 2014, Cardiff University

2014 marks the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914—1918) and events are already being held to commemorate the United Kingdom’s experience of the War. Yet such commemoration is never straightforward or uncontested. The cultural memory of the lives lost in the war has itself been a continuing source of conflict and debate.

While many of the commemorative events of 2014 will focus on a centralised, British view of the war, this interdisciplinary conference will offer an opportunity to examine the war from distinctively Welsh and/or Irish perspectives, focusing attention on the ways in which cultural memories, memorials, and mythologies are constructed in contested national contexts.

We are delighted that the opening of the conference will be marked by a special guest lecture from His Excellency Dr. Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Dr. Mulhall will be delivering his lecture ‘Secret Scripture: Two Irish war poets, Thomas Kettle and Francis Ledwidge’ at the start of the conference on Wednesday 10th September at 5.30pm.

Entry to this lecture is free, but attendance at the conference is charged.

Keynote Speakers

* Dr Paul O’Leary (Aberystwyth University): ‘The Flower of the Dark: Joseph Keating Writes the Great War’

* Professor Sir Deian Hopkin (President, National Library of Wales): History and Myth: Remembering the First World War in Wales

* Dr Mary-Ann Constantine (Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies): ‘Robert Graves, Wales, Ireland and War’

The full programme is here – Ireland, Wales, and the First World War: History, Myth, and Cultural Memory.

For further information, to register for Dr. Mulhall’s lecture, or to book a conference place, please contact the conference organisers at:

Or visit:

Bryn y Don Park, August 17

On Sunday August 17 The Friends of Bryn Y Don Park are holding a history event to share memories and photographs of North Hill and Mayhill at Hill Chapel.

Call in for a cuppa, bring your photographs share your memories.
Hear about our Star Path the first in Wales. Swansea Your Story is displaying photographs and memories of life on the hill along with photographs from their lottery funded project a town and city in photographs.

The event takes place at Hill Congregational Chapel North Hill Road between 3pm – 5pm. Leisurely walks will be lead to the park to show how the area has been improved the new play area and our Star Path the first in Wales only the second anywhere to see it at its best though you need to visit at night when the path gives off its magical glow. Other events being run by the friends include Ti Chi on Saturday Mornings and a foresting event on Sunday 31st August.

Free event. For further Information telephone 07794 450918, 07706 275984, or email

Bryn y Don Park

The green space that joins North Hill to Mayhill, is a little-known Swansea park. Thanks to the newly formed Friends of Bryn y Don Park, an area of Swansea that had become rundown and underused has undergone a transformation, much of the work having been undertaken by local residents.

The Park is reached from North Hill Road by walking up ‘Bryn y Don’ Road past the 6 houses that overlook North Hill. The Park is situated behind and above Sea View Terrace from where panoramic views of the city can be enjoyed. The Park boasts the First Star Path in Wales. Every night from dusk to dawn, the path gives off a magical glow.

A fork in the path leads either to the lower entrance on Baptist Well Place past garages and a car turning area or the higher entrance at Baptist Well Place. At the top of the hill is a children’s playground and picnic area.

Memories of Phil Arnold (now living in Canada)

I lived in number 18 North Hill Road right next to the Farmer’s Arms.

18 North Hill Road was a two up two down with a lean-to out the back and a toilet about 25 feet down the back garden. We had no running hot water and only a gas ring until I was about 4 or 5 to cook on.

From the time television was introduced all the kids in the area went to “Paddy’s” house, She ran a bookies service which she legitimized in later years. But every day for children’s hour we could go into her house and watch TV. We finally had a television when I was about 7.

My mother smoked ‘Players Weights’ at the time and it was my job to go down to Trollope’s to buy them. Most times Gordon was behind the counter and would rhyme to me, “Phil, Phil, from Gibbet Hill, never worked and never will.” This must have been somewhat of an omen because I grew up to intensely dislike manual labour. He would also on occasion grab my hand and bend my finger down onto the first joint and torture me with armburn (twisting the skin in opposite directions). Years later my mother told me that he had been in a Japanese POW camp and “came back in a hell of a mess”. I remember the brothers, Hadyn and Frank but I know there was at least one other.

I remember Florrie and Ivor Walters who were the newsagents and sold vinegar by the jug full, out of a huge glass bottle wrapped in straw. They had a tiny shop next to Hill Congregational. Living next to the Farmers gave me an early view of the problem with alcohol. It also gave me a way to get into my back garden by climbing the wall and crossing over. The landlord then had a corgi, and they kept chickens and used china eggs to encourage laying.

When very young I played in the Anderson shelter that was still out our back, then suddenly, one day it was gone.I have memories of it being so big but of course as I was only about 28 inches high everything seemed big. My mother told me a story that once, right in the middle of an air raid my grandfather, who would have been about 75, saw a glowing light in the street right outside our house. He went to the light, ignoring all protestations to the contrary, picked it up and placed it in a bucket of water. Thatlight was the ignition light of an incendiary bomb. Apparently, he would say his reasoning was

“I went through the first lot and came out all right.”

I don’t remember many of the neighbours except Tommy and Lilly Trick and The Dahlgrens’ (Robert) and the Hearns (Sheila) across the street.

I lived about 200 yards from the Swansea Boys Club yet never put foot in the place.

Nearly opposite the Boys Club was the Jews Burial ground (that’s what it was known as in my time) and I was fascinated by what secrets lay beyond the high, black wall and the iron gate. Although I never had the courage (or the mean spiritedness) to climb in.

Living on North Hill Road and going to Terrace Road School meant that I could come home over the fields that ran along-side the back of Mount Pleasant Hospital. It was a hold-over from Victorian misery and still housed some long time workhouse “inmates”. I remember a very tall man with gigantism; a man who was bent over at the waist and who shouted and screamed a lot (what horrors did he still see?).

It was a frightening place for children but as boys we took that as a challenge to sometimes sneak through the hospital grounds on our way to school, always afraid we would bump into one of the scary men. Ivor was one of those, although he wasn’t a bit scary. He must have been a friend of my grandfather. He was a midget who because of his condition was abandoned by his parents and left in the “care” of the workhouse. He walked with the aid of sticks and used to come to our house ever so often to use my grandfather’s shoe last to repair his boots. He wore glasses and had a very pinched little nose. He was always very kind and friendly to me and was a happy little man.

Wanting and needing notice and acceptance, I one day jumped from the wall of the hospital onto the garden below (just by Millers Shop). Word spread and I was dared to do it over and over again which, of course, I did. It is a jump of about 10ft and I always landed on my feet without hurting myself or so I thought. I’ve had back problems all my life, due in part; I’m sure, to that stupid act. We had great adventures. We “climbed Everest” on our way up to the field in front of the Round top school. Even with friends we never went right up to the school in case the crazy kids from Mayhill got hold of us. We played “best faller” copying dying acts from TV and films.

I remember a boy (David?) fell down the quarry at the back of Hill Street and was in a strange leg splint for months — I think he must have broken his pelvis.

It’s strange what memories do to you. I remember mostly long, hot summers and strangely floating lolly pop sticks in the gutters swollen with rain. I remember getting thruppence for school.

I remember cockle women from Penclwydd who sold cockles and whelks and lavabred (yeuck!) The fishman and the bread man, the coal man who had walk through our house to pile the coal in the garden, and the ashman. It probably wasn’t but life seemed so much simpler then.



Digital Past 2015 comes to Swansea

Organised by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, Digital Past is an annual conference which showcases innovative technologies for the data capture, interpretation and dissemination of heritage sites. Open to anyone working in, or studying, the archaeological, heritage, education or museum sectors, the conference is aimed at allowing informal networking and exchange of ideas within a friendly and diverse audience made up of participants from commercial, public and third sector organisations.