Jonathan Brooks-Jones glimpses a preview of The People’s Collection to be launched at the National Eisteddfod
A truly groundbreaking website, The People’s Collection Wales, that will provide greater access to historical artefacts than ever before is set to put Wales at the forefront of web content advancement. Around three million artefacts are currently held by Welsh museums, though many are in storage. The People’s Collection will enable visitors to view whichever one they want, whenever they like.
One of the principle aims of the website, previewed at National Museum Wales’ Cathays Park headquarters yesterday, is the inclusion of ordinary people’s stories and historical accounts. The popularity of ‘blogging’ has persuaded curators that their views and experiences are just as important as those of the experts. The People’s Collection will contain a balanced mixture of professional and amateur contributions.
Funded by the Welsh Government, the site has been created over the past two years and has benefited from the involvement of National Museum Wales, the Welsh Museums Archives and Libraries association (CyMAL), and the National Library of Wales. Also involved are Visit Wales, National Grid for Learning, the Ramblers Association, and many more.
The People’s Collection currently has around 25,000 digitised artefacts online. By the time Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones launches the site at this year’s Ebbw Vale Eisteddfod it will have 30,000 and the number will increase as the project grows. It will combine historical research with a wide range of cultural artefacts to give a detailed impression of Wales’ rich history.
One of the things that makes this website so groundbreaking and different to existing historical websites, is that it pools information from a wide variety of sources and houses them on one user-friendly website. It will contain artefacts on Wales’ history, sporting and musical heritage, language and literature, collected from many disparate locations. Its creators have also been working with the Shaw trust to ensure the site is fully accessible to disabled users.
The ‘Lab’ section will contain a number of digital reconstructions of ancient sites, such as Roman forts that have long been ruins. Now we will have a chance to see in digital form what they would have looked like. The content will be fully interactive, presented not just in a combination of text, video and audio files. The digitised artefacts can also be viewed from any angle, an advantage this ‘virtual museum’ has over the earthbound variety.
One of the most remarkable features will be the online bank of pre-mapped routes for walkers, known as ‘e-trails’. Users with GPS technology in their mobile phone will be able to have information sent to them on the history of a location or building, whilst they are out in the field and out of touch with their computer.
The site will be a valuable tool for teachers and students with a section dedicated to learning, featuring tasks for visitors to complete by using the materials provided on the site.
It will also be of tremendous use to the tourism industry. Anyone thinking of visiting Wales will be able to look up everything they need to know about a prospective holiday destination, including history and heritage, main attractions, even accommodation. Visitors will be able to ‘fly’ over a map of Wales to discover places to interest them.
For those who are interested in genealogy, there is a place to upload the completed parts of a family tree.
Free registration will enable users to upload artefacts from their own private collections, such as pictures, videos, sounds and text. Users will also be able to store their favourite items in a ‘scrapbook’. They will even be able to create a trip which they can then share with others.
Emulating Wikipedia, users will be able to moderate the content themselves by reporting abuses of the site and pointing out inaccuracies and suggesting corrections to an editorial board which will moderate the content.
The site can be searched either by collections, places, events or themes. Contributors will be able to use analytics to see what has happened to their story, how its been received, how popular it is, and what direction others have taken it.