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Project Title: The National Library of Wales and National Identity, c.1840-1916

Date: 2013-2017

Researcher: Dr Calista Williams

University partner: The History Department, Open University, Milton Keynes

Supervisors: Prof. Paul Lawrence (Head of History, The Open University), Prof. Lorna Hughes (University of Wales Chair in Digital Collections at National Library of Wales)

Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council

Project Outline:

This project evaluated the National Library of Wales from conception to realisation. It adds to the limited existing work on the library by positioning it within the political and cultural environment from which it emerged, posing new questions about its relationship with Welsh national identity. The thesis investigates the early calls for a National Library and explores why the campaign made significant progress from the 1890s. It analyses the library building fund’s subscription drive and questions whether the campaign was a result of a mass movement or orchestrated by a group of elites. The latter half of the thesis analyses the library’s buying policy and compares this vison with how the library’s services were utilised by three user groups: reading room users, tutorial class attendees and Ruhleben camp internees. The thesis concludes with an assessment of the library’s development and role as a key element of Welsh nation-building at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Over the course of the project, Calista Williams presented her research at various conferences including the Reading Communities Conference (Senate House: London, 2016); the North American Association for the Study of Welsh Culture and History Conference (Harvard, 2016); The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing Conference (Montreal, 2015), as well as public talks at the Drwm in the National Library of Wales. In 2015 Calista was awarded the James Ollè Award from the Library and Information History Group.

Newspaper Articles:

Welsh Women’s History Month
‘Distinguished careers unfold as university and library enriched the lives of women’. An article exploring the impact of equal access to higher education and library resources on women in early twentieth-century Wales (Western Mail – 2017)

Welsh History Month – The History of Wales in 100 Pictures
Three articles on the theme of ‘Learning’ which focused on the National Library, St. Fagan’s National Museum and St. David’s Day celebrations in schools (Western Mail – 2014)

Calista is now working as a Humanities Teacher in the Education and Lifelong Learning Department at Aberystwyth University. She is also a Volunteer Mentor at the National Library of Wales which involves supporting volunteers with research-related tasks.