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An update on situation following the fire at the National Library of Wales

The nation’s most significant documentary treasures were unaffected by the recent fire at the National Library of Wales, however a number of items were lost which is a matter of deep regret. Prompt action at the time by staff in enacting the Library’s Emergency Plan minimised the losses.

Six floors of the part of the building known as the ‘Third Library Building’ were damaged.  Five of the floors were used as offices and a server room was situated on the ground floor. Physical collections were only processed on four of the six floors.

The storage areas housing the collections, including some of the nation’s most important treasures, were not affected nor were the Library’s digital assets.

The Library has developed a team of professional conservators trained specifically to prevent and restore damage to the collections. Once the fire was under control and the Fire and Rescue Service allowed members of staff into the building, the areas at most risk and which held the most valuable materials were identified and the items were removed to safety. These included photographs, manuscripts, archival material, maps and books. These items suffered a very small degree of water damage and by the beginning of the following week they were totally restored by the Library’s team.

At the same time, staff covered shelves and furniture with plastic sheeting to minimise water damage.

Much of this work was completed before the arrival of expert conservators from Harwell’s of Oxford at 9.30 p.m. on the  evening of the fire. Harwell’s are experts in restoring archival resources following disasters such as this.

Emma Dadson of Harwell’s said:

‘The Library’s Emergency Plan performed really well. There was an excellent initial action to sheet the storage areas and evacuate the accessions cages. The staff were highly motivated, hard-working and enthusiastic and were well resourced in terms of equipment. There was a calm and authoritative leadership throughout.’

Some of the material was badly damaged by water and smoke. Harwell’s took 140 crates, carefully packed by Library staff, to their Centre in Oxford to be freeze-dried. Items were also transferred to the Library’s own Conservation Unit to be freeze-dried or to be dried and restored. Although the damage was serious, the materials will soon be restored to their original condition. The crates which are being treated internally contained some archival collections, working papers and cataloguing material. A full list of these items will not be released until the end of the summer when staff have completed their detailed work.

Avril Jones, Director of Collections Services at the Library said:

‘We are very disappointed that some 140 crates of items were smoke and water damaged and, as the list shows, some items were irrecoverable. To put it in context, however, 120 similar crates of books alone arrive at the Library every week, as well as consignments of other materials, and this underlines the degree to which the damage, however serious, was contained.

A small part of the top floor suffered serious fire damage but even in that area, the manuscripts and rare books were kept in oak chests and survived without any damage. The afternoon of Friday, 26 April, was a normal working day, and items were being processed on desks and trollies on the top floor. It is for this reason that there were, sadly, some losses.'

The Library has contacted the owners of the items which were destroyed or are beyond restoration. The items are listed below.

Sir Deian Hopkin, President of The National Library of Wales said:

‘I would like to pay tribute to the heroic work done by the Library staff in extremely demanding circumstances. We are all extremely saddened to learn that some items were lost, and we share the great disappointment of the owners of those items. However were are all relieved that, largely thanks to the efforts of the staff, the losses were few. I was also very pleased that the Library was able to re-open to the public so soon after the incident and that the organisation; continued to offer a first class service to our users and customers after such a terrible; event in our history’

A list of materials which were burnt and destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the National Library fire on 26 April 2013.

Alun Evans Football Papers books, ephemera and journals to be returned to donor following appraisal (12 archival boxes)

Accruals to the records of Capel Tabernacl (B), Carmarthen that were received in 2009-2010 and 2012 (3 boxes)

Glass negatives from the Dr Iestyn Morgan Watkin bequest (8 /boxes)

ACEN company archives (4 boxes)

Hywel T. Moseley papers (12 boxes)

Additions to the papers of the late Professor Dafydd Jenkins, Aberystwyth and books (3 boxes of books, 4 boxes of papers)

Additions to the Gwenffrwd Hughes papers received since about April 2011 (26 boxes)

Papers of the Reverend Brynmor P. Jones (2 boxes)

Ann Ffrancon Jenkins papers (1 bundle)

Additions to the Calvinistic Methodist Archives received in 2013 (2 items)

Undeb Cymru a'r Byd papers (1 article)

Architectural plans of a house in Cardiff (Penhill) (1 item)

'Hasidic holiday' photographs by Chloe Dewe Matthews

Materials from Penderyn Historical Society (3 CD)

Plas Iolyn papers (1 document)

Papers relating to Green Party Wales (2 boxes)

An enclosure map from the Capel Iwan/Cenarth area

Sixe bookes of politickes or civil doctrine

An English translation of a Latin text by Justus Lipsius made by William Jones in the original binding which has been burnt (1 /volume)

Further Information

Elin- Hâf, NLW Press Office 01970 632534 or