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History made as first national broadcast archive in the UK opens in Wales

16 Mar 2023 6 minute read
Clips from the history of Welsh radio and television are now available at the Wales Broadcast Archive Centre

Today is a historic day in Wales as half a million clips from the history of Welsh television and radio are made available to the public as part of the Wales Broadcast Archive.

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,” said 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.”

Immersed in history at the Wales Broadcast Archive Centre

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 in Cardiff 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 added: “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.”

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Archif Darlledu – Llfyrgell Genedlaethol Cymru

Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales added: “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.”

The National Library Wales Broadcast Archive Centre is a free permanent exhibition and will be open to the public from March 27, 2023.

Find out more HERE and search the archive HERE


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Another Richard
Another Richard
6 months ago

It’s excellent news that this material is to be preserved and that it will be publicly available. It’s a pity, though, that it won’t be readily accessible to most of us. On checking the database I found 31,374 items with the key word “Wales”, but only 18 that are available online to all. When every home computer has access to YouTube and iPlayer, why should it be necessary to travel to one of just a dozen or so centres in order to see or hear a clip from the NLW collection? And how will access there be rationed? What if… Read more »

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