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January 23, 2012

Journalism News
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» Exposure radio is live online

The Exposure radio project is live on the web as of 10.00 this morning.  Tune in for news, music and discussion all aimed at the University of Glamorgan community. The project, based at the Atrium in Cardiff, is live Monday to … Continue reading

March 25, 2010

History Division News
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» Re-reading the Past

<image src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2010/3/25/Screenshot.png" height="425px" alt="screenshot" width="712px" />

Saving Cardiff's Rare Books Collection

For decades, Cardiff Council Library hid a treasure – a collection of 18,000 rare books purchased and donated in the nineteenth century for the benefit of the people of the city. During the twentieth century, the books were almost forgotten – the catalogue which had recorded their existence destroyed; the hoard presumed to be an insignificant, lesser copy of greater collections elsewhere.

In fact, like any rare books, the Cardiff Council holdings were truly distinctive. Industrialised printing, developed in the nineteenth century, produces identical copies. Print with moveable type, used in European book production from the mid-fifteenth century, created books as part of a slower and more flexible process. Binding and colouring vary from one exemplar to the next , and even the text itself can vary within one print run, as the manufacturers modified text in response to political events and censors' reactions. Readers frequently added their own notes in ink, even to lavish and costly books: this was seen as a way of adding value to the material. Every item in a rare books collection is a unique artefact, offering new information about the past.

There's more still to the Cardiff collection. After it was announced in 2007 that the books were to be auctioned off, scholars protested and began a long overdue investigation of the collection. Among recorded holdings, they found 175 incunabula – the most treasured of rare books, printed before 1500: estimates for the number of incunabula editions worldwide are only 28,000. They found rare seventeenth-century editions of Shakespeare's works, with copious handwritten notes from early readers. Other highlights include scarce civil war tracts, atlases and herbariums, Welsh-language material and art-house prints. We have much more to learn about this collection: statistically, it's highly probable that it contains titles unknown anywhere else in the world. There's no doubt that its contents can help to update and revise our grasp of past events. But its mere existence is significant for Cardiff's history: the donors and purchasers of these books firmly believed that the city needed a truly world-class library, and that the books they collected would be appreciated first and foremost by the general public.

For this reason, the Cardiff Heritage Friends group campaigned for the books to be kept in Cardiff and made available to its people as the donors intended. We were delighted to learn, earlier this month, that the collection will now be preserved for the city thanks to a shared initiative between Cardiff Council, Cardiff University, the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). For more on the books and the campaign, see the Cardiff Heritage Friends website.

February 4, 2010

Journalism News
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» Less than two months to decide the future of news in Wales

Hopes for a continuing – and improved – news service on ITV Wales depend on the speed with which a choice can be made between the three consortia bidding for the contract.

The chairman of the panel set up by the Government to choose between them admitted in Cardiff today (3 Feb) that they would have to make a decision by the end of March if there was to be any chance of finalising a contract before a General Election in May.

The Conservatives have made it clear they are opposed to the plan for pilots in Wales, Scotland and the North-East of England to replace the current ITV news service. If they win the election, all bets are off.

A one-hour session at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay this afternoon was the full extent of public participation in the selection process. Apart from a group of students from Cardiff University – and one from Glamorgan – the public appeared to be represented by interested parties from the Cardiff media world.

Gordon Main of Pembrokeshire TV – an experiment in local web-based journalism (who’ll be speaking here at the Atrium next month) – complained that the whole process of bidding and selection had been carried out without a real public debate.

All three bidders – in their pitches – promised a new start for journalism in Wales if they were successful, which was no surprise as the panel have made it clear they don’t want ‘business as usual’.

All three talked about ‘citizen journalism’ and offered people the chance to tell their own stories in one way or another. When pushed, they appeared to concede that it had more to do with a two-way relationship between the production company and the public than with turning citizens into journalists. People will be encouraged to contribute their stories, videos and pictures and, in return, the news provider will make its publicly-funded output freely available to local websites, bloggers and other non-commercial outlets. They were pressed hard on the need to fund real journalism rather than feed off enthusiastic amateurs.

The web, of course, featured large in all three plans. While the main evening TV news would be the ‘showcase’ (in the words of one of the bidders), the website would be central in all three plans (the UTV-led consortium’s site is already live at www.waleslive.tv).

So what’s the real choice? The biggest beast is Taliesin, which has ITN, the current ITV Wales news staff and what Clive Jones called ‘the Grand Alliance’ of media companies from across Wales (in TV, radio and many local newspapers) along with no fewer than four universities (www.taliesinnews.co.uk). He promised ‘the first comprehensive alternative to the BBC across every platform’ with ‘100 platforms’ to tell stories. The word heavyweight doesn’t do it justice – this is a truly big beast and that may be its weakness. It sounds as though it would be bigger than the BBC, raising the fear that it will limit the range of journalism on offer rather than promoting diversity. (At an earlier session, hosted by Ofcom, one of Taliesin’s potential partners had spoken of the benefit of more ‘consistency’ in the news – which would save people the trouble of having to choose between different versions of a story!) When questioned, both Clive Jones and Spencer Feeney, editor of the Swansea Evening Post (a member of his consortium) denied that all its outlets would be pushing the same story. Jones was the only one to promise investigative journalism.

The idea that a company from Ulster should be qualified to run the news service in Wales may not immediately ring true. But UTV’s news service is acknowledged to be good and beats the BBC hands-down. They own Welsh radio stations Swansea Sound and The Wave and they’ve teamed up with North Wales Newspapers in what comes to look like a strong bid. They stole a march on the competition with their own publicity van broadcasting the message in words and pictures outside the Millennium Centre.

Llanelli-based Tinopolis presented a very confident pitch, based on the wide experience of a Welsh-based company which has become (through acquisitions) ‘the biggest independent supplier of public service programming’ in Britain (www.tinopolis.com). Of the three, this was the bid which seemed to have its finger most on the pulse of the changing world of communications and the blogosphere; if that’s what the panel are looking for, this could be the one to watch. Rather than a heavyweight consortium, they’re selling this as a network of bloggers, local websites and professional journalists passing information in both directions. Their weakness must be their lack of experience in news.

There was a nice moment when a student tweeter asked each of the bidders to sum up the unique character of his pitch (ideally in 140 characters). Two pleaded commercial confidentiality. Ron Jones of Tinopolis highlighted his idea of an ‘open-source’ network, giving a helping hand to other new media to get off the ground.

James Stewart.

October 28, 2009

History Division News
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» Story of Wales and Slavery

<image title="J.H. Stobwasser, Gracebay Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies, c. 1830" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/crop.jpg" alt="plantation illustration" />

Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery at the National Assembly

<image title="Sugar Curing House, from Diderot, Encyclopedie, i. 1762" class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/10/28/crop2_1.jpg" alt="illustration" />

How are our lives connected to the world of Atlantic slavery? One clue may lie in the things we eat and drink. For example, the well-sugared cup of tea first become part of the British way of life in the eighteenth century and the ‘cuppa’ has never gone away. Therein lies a story...

Find out more by visiting a new exhibition at the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff that traces the connections between Wales and slavery. Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery – A Story of Wales & Slavery looks at the problem through the history of food and gardens, by tracing the connections between Caribbean slavery and our diet, especially the institution of afternoon tea.

The exhibition, which marks Black History Month, is the work of the charity Gateway Gardens Trust, which has organised a Heritage Lottery Funded series of visits to gardens in Wales established by slave traders, plantation owners or abolitionists. The exhibition at the Senedd marks the culmination of the project.

I should declare an interest. I was the historical consultant to the Bittersweet project and a book I’ve written that explores some of the issues raised by the project – and much else besides – will be published next year by the University of Wales Press: Slave Wales: the Welsh and Atlantic slavery.

Chris Evans

June 18, 2009

History Division News
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» Glamorgan Historians work with Welsh Museums

<image class="left" src="http://historydivision.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/6/18/museums.jpg" alt="Photographs, Museum Storehouse and Cardiff City Centre">

Two of Glamorgan's historians, Dr Jonathan Durrant and Dr Andy Croll, are working with Welsh museums as part of the Strategic Insight Programme (SIP). The programme enables staff in universities to build relationships with external partners.

Jonathan Durrant has been working with The National Museum of Wales at St Fagan's on the interpretation of space in its early modern buildings, particularly Hendre'r-ywydd Uchaf and the merchants' house from Haverfordwest which is currently being re-erected there. This secondment will lead to a workshop drawing together the expertise of historians, museum professionals, archaeologists, re-enactors and architects.

Andy Croll is working with museum experts who are setting up the 'Cardiff Story', a new museum dedicated to presenting the city's history. The museum is to be based in the Old Library in the Hayes - the former home of Cardiff Municipal Museum which closed its doors in 1922. Since that time, Cardiff has been without a civic museum dealing with the city's own history. The 'Cardiff Story' will fill that gap when it opens in the summer of 2010. Dr Croll has been joined on the museum's Academic Panel by two other Glamorgan historians - Professors Chris Evans and Gareth Williams.

History students will also benefit from the experience gained by Jonathan and Andy. Second-year students already visit St Fagan's while learning about different approaches to history. With these new collaboration, there are opportunities for student placements with the two museums and exciting courses in Public History can be developed that build on the insights gleaned in both Cardiff and St. Fagan's.