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Two women working on the Crowd Cymru platform

18 June 2024

Hello! My name is Jen and I’m Digital Volunteering Project Officer for CrowdCymru.

This digital archives volunteer project launched back in 2022 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This first phase of the project ended in November 2023 and looking back, I am still awed at what we manage to achieve. You can access the five blog posts uploaded to the Archives and Records Council Wales website charting this period by entering “Crowd Cymru” in the search box in the top right of the homepage.

But here follows a brief synopsis of a wonderful 16 months!

This project was established to pilot a global crowdsourcing community for Wales via a collaboration between Gwent Archives, Glamorgan Archives, Cardiff University Special Collections & Archives and The National Library Wales. The aim was to build a crowdsourcing platform and community for archives in Wales, a cohesive national approach unprecedented in the UK, to harness the knowledge and time of global citizens to enrich existing basic metadata, amplify the visibility of these primary archive collections, and ignite new research.

The first few months were spent sourcing a pool of volunteers who were happy to work remotely from home and our number currently stands at eighty-seven. Once the group was established, guided by Paul McCann [Research Projects Manager, The National Library Wales] I organised online training sessions to get them familiar with the digital platform upon which all the work would be done.

In the meantime, Paul was also working with Gwent Archives, Glamorgan Archives, and Cardiff University Special Collections & Archives to get their archive collections uploaded to the platform.

The first collection the volunteers were asked to transcribe was a compilation of letters by the WWI war poet, Edward Thomas. This collection, held at Cardiff University, was not an easy start both in terms of sensitive content and difficultly in deciphering his hand-writing. However, it also proved to be one of the most popular with one volunteer using Thomas’s story and words as part of her work towards an MA in Fine Art. She used them as the subject of one in a series of handmade zines created as part of an exploration into archive and memory, and the way past lives are preserved and recorded. Another transcription collection followed, the war time diaries of Priscilla Scott-Ellis, Spanish Civil War and WWII volunteer nurse, whose handwriting was so much clearer but whose affiliation with Franco’s Fascism split the room!

The partners also provided photographic collections for the volunteers to describe and tag. Glamorgan Archives added the Cardiff Dockland Community Collection, portraits of individuals and groups including women and children, from the Cardiff dockland community, taken between 1900-1920. Gwent Archives added the Newport Rugby & Athletic Archive, charting the history of the club along with a very important collection of ephemera from an early 1980s lesbian and gay group.

We have been featured in numerous publications including Who Do You Think You Are Magazine and the Archive & Records Association Members Magazine [ARC] and also recorded a podcast for The Archives & Records Association. Listen to our episode. We were also featured in Archives Wales’s Into the Archives Report 2023 and The National Archives’ A Year in Archives 2023.

Managing and supporting a remote team of volunteers can be challenging since our group is quite literally scattered all over the world! Therefore, we have offered online group training sessions and social gatherings, a weekly newsletter and a Facebook group.

We now begin phase two of CrowdCymru with the ending of the National Lottery funding and the commencing of new funding from the National Library of Wales that will take us through to the end of May 2024. This comes as part of the library’s work on the Our Heritage, Our Stories project which is linking and searching community-generated digital content to develop the people’s national collection.

Therefore, our intrepid volunteers can continue to work on improving access to these collections and move us towards the next steps in our vision for a democratised, connected, and global outlook for hidden archives and new research in Wales.

They are currently working on a collection of early minutes books from the Llanwenarth branch of the Women’s Institute [housed at Gwent Archives] and are already clamouring for more! Transcribing what one volunteer coined “a lost world of inter-war life” has captured their imagination and appears to have provided a quiet respite from the uncertainty and turmoil of current times.

As mentioned above, all outputs from our first phase, including a project handbook, on the project page.

More collections are on the way, and I’ll post again soon to keep you updated.

In the meantime, if you would like to join our merry band of volunteers, or, if you are part of a community history group and would like me to come and talk to you, please get in touch.

Jennifer Evans
Digital Volunteering Project Officer / Swyddog Prosiect Gwirfoddoli Digidol
Twitter: CrowdCymru
Phone / Ffôn: 01495 742450
Email / Ebost:

This blog post titled Welcome to Crowd Cymru by Jennifer Evans is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Category: Article