By Aled Betts, Acquisitions Librarian and Web Archivist, National Library of Wales
The National Library of Wales have been collecting Welsh language websites to archive for the UK Web Archive since the 2004. In 2018, we decided to collate these websites and include them in a dedicated Collection in order to make it more accessible to researchers.
Significantly, 2018 was an important milestone for the Welsh language as it was 25 years since the passing of the Welsh Language Act in 1993 which gives effect to the principle that in the conduct of public business in Wales, the English and Welsh languages should be treated ‘on the basis of equality’. It was also 10 years since the passing of Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 giving the Welsh language official status in Wales. In terms of Government and Public Bodies, the following principle that the Welsh language will not be treated less favourably than English was observed. As a result, the Welsh language is clearly visible and widespread on the web as many websites by law are now bilingual.
However, the aim of the Welsh Language Collection was not simply to list websites that were published through the medium of Welsh. The focus was more on those websites and organisations whose aim was to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language in all walks of life. The Collection also covers websites relating to Welsh language communities, online and physical, where Welsh is the medium of communication. It also looks at bodies that promote Welsh umbrella organisations as well as groups that campaign and lobby for the language. Furthermore, we have been collecting Welsh language websites since 2004, therefore we were able to showcase many of these websites and show how much they had changed over the last 17 years!
Here is just a small sample of the type of websites covered in the Welsh Language Collection.
Advocacy, campaigning and lobbying
Much of the work promoting the Welsh language across Wales is done by Mentrau Iaith (English: Language Initiatives). These are community-based organisations that operate to raise the profile of the Welsh language in a specific area. The percentage of Welsh speakers vary considerably. For instance, the highest percentages of Welsh speakers can be found in Gwynedd (64%) and the lowest is Blaenau Gwent (8%) therefore the challenges in each area differ. In order to capture this important work, we also archived their twitter feeds. These feeds are showing us how these initiatives are promoting the Welsh language in their respective areas. Furthermore, the Menter Iaith (English: Language initiative) umbrella body website is one the earliest sites we captured, a site we first archived in 2006.
Over the last 2 decades, we have seen bodies and organisations evolve, grow and some disappear. A statutory body set up under the Welsh Language Act 1993 was Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg (English: Welsh Language Board). The board was responsible for administering the Welsh Language Act and for seeing that public bodies in Wales kept to its terms. The Welsh Language Board was abolished in 2012 and following the passing of the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure, powers were transferred to the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Commissioner, a new body promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language. Fortunately, we have captured this transfer of power as we have been archiving the Welsh Language Board website since 2008 and the Welsh Language Commissioner since 2012, in both cases, open access has been granted.
Arts and Culture
The Welsh language has a lively and vibrant arts, music and literature scene. This is no more exemplified by the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (English: National Eisteddfod) and Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh language national voluntary youth organisation, who run the Urdd Eisteddfod, arguably Europe's largest youth festival. Both sites are archived since early 2000’s. The National Eisteddfod is held in different locations each year alternating between north and south Wales therefore naturally the content changes every year. The first National Eisteddfod we archived was Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Casnewydd a’r Cylch (English: National Eisteddfod of Wales Newport and surrounding area) in 2004 and our first Urdd National Eisteddfod was Eisteddfod yr Urdd Sir Ddinbych (English: Urdd Eisteddfod Denbighshire) in 2006! Again, open access granted, therefore available to view anywhere.
Alongside the all-important bodies, we archive a plethora of arts and culture websites, from record labels to folk groups, theatrical bodies, local eisteddfodau and Welsh language festivals. Same goes for the buoyant Welsh literature and publishing scene, close to a hundred websites listed within our ‘literature and publishing sub-section.
Education and Learning
An all-important sub-section is Education and learning. Here two types of websites dominate. One is education and learning through the medium of Welsh. Here, Welsh-medium education, including Mudiad Meithrin (English: Nursery Movement), formed in 1971, to nurture early-years Welsh speakers to Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (English: Welsh National College), formed in 2011, to develop Welsh-language courses and resources for Higher Education students are archived.
Secondly, the web has seen an explosion of language learning websites globally. This is also apparent in the Welsh language allowing those wishing to learn a second language to do so through the internet.
As of 2021, the collection has between 500 and 600 websites and is a growing collection. However, a significant collection, as many websites were collected since the early days of web archiving in 2004. The principle of equality had been an underlying theme in Welsh language discourse and legislation was passed to meet this demand. The Collection explores how promoting and supporting the Welsh language has changed over the past 20 years but also shows how legislation has helped shape this change.