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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Bill To Make History – Legislation To Protect Wales’ Past To Become Law






The first Wales-only legislation to improve the protection and management of Wales’ unique historic environment has today been passed by the National Assembly for Wales.

When it becomes law, the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill will introduce new measures to protect Wales’ historic environment.

It will make it more difficult for individuals who damage protected monuments to escape prosecution by pleading ignorance of a monument’s status or location.

It will also introduce new powers to take urgent action to stop unauthorised work to historic sites and to prevent historic buildings from falling into disrepair.

For example, it will allow the development of a system of preservation notices and will give local authorities new ways to recover their costs when they have to take direct action.

Once the Bill is law, Wales will also become the first country in the UK to put historic environment records on a statutory footing – a measure that stakeholder groups having been calling for across the UK.

These records allow advice on decisions by planning authorities and land managers to be based on sound information. This stands in sharp contrast to the crisis that, many argue, is confronting archaeological services across England as local authorities are forced to make wide-ranging cuts.

The records will also provide access to the new list of historic place names in Wales – another first for Wales.

Welcoming the passing of the landmark Bill by the National Assembly, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, said:

“Wales’ rich historic environment extends beyond our well-known ancient monuments and historic buildings. It also includes historic parks and gardens and our country’s great legacy of historic place names, both of which will, for the first time, be placed on statutory registers.

“Our heritage tells the fascinating story of our past; it brings social and cultural benefits; and it makes a significant contribution to our economy through tourism. It is something that people really care about. We often see anger and concern when people are made aware of the deliberate neglect of a listed building or the careless destruction of a scheduled monument.

“The Bill has been the result of extensive conversations with heritage professionals, voluntary organisations and the public. This gave us a clear idea of the challenges and the need for effective and flexible mechanisms for how we manage change.

“I am proud that in passing this Bill we are giving greater protection to our historic environment, raising awareness of its significance and supporting its sustainable management. Our outstanding historic sites and buildings need this protection so that they can continue to fascinate and inspire people for generations to come.”

The Bill will also simplify some of the systems in place for the management of scheduled monuments and listed buildings by allowing owners to enter into voluntary heritage partnership agreements with consenting authorities.

It will also:
  • Create an independent panel to provide the Welsh Ministers with expert advice on policy and strategy;
  • Introduce formal consultation with owners of buildings or monuments before a decision to protect them is made; 
  • Extend the definition of what can be protected as an ancient monument to include some battlefield sites and prehistoric settlements. 
Justin Albert, National Trust Director for Wales said:

“We are an exceptionally proud custodian of some of Wales’s most iconic historic environments. Protecting our national treasures on a statutory basis is to be welcomed and secures them as places of wonder and enjoyment for everyone for generations to come.

“The whole heritage sector has participated in developing this legislation which we feel can bring great benefits in delivering a growing and vibrant tourist industry and jobs, skills and resources for all of us in Wales.

“Sustaining and enhancing our historic environment will undoubtedly show the world what a proud, caring and forward-thinking country we are - a country that people will be eager to visit and share with us.”

Alongside the Bill, new policy, advice and guidance will be published following consultation.

It complements goals set out in the recently passed Environment (Wales) Bill, the Planning (Wales) Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

The Bill will become an Act when it receives Royal Assent in March 2016.



Additional information

Over 30,000 jobs are supported by our historic environment and it adds around £840 million to the nation’s economy, accounting for one-fifth of total tourism expenditure in Wales.

No case underlines more clearly how precious and vulnerable the historic environment is than the serious damage done to a well-preserved section of the 1,200 year old Offa’s Dyke in 2013. Cases such as this demonstrate how well-known monuments that have survived centuries can be lost almost overnight.

There were 119 cases of damage to scheduled monuments recorded between 2006–2012, with only on successful prosecution.

More information on the Bill can be found at:
http://gov.wales/topics/cultureandsport/historic-environment/the-historic-env-wales-bill/?skip=1&lang=en


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Monday, 8 February 2016

Gigapixel Photography - An Introductory Guide To The Photography, The Creation Of Panoramas And Interactive Virtual Tours






The Royal Commission has been trialing the use of Gigapixel photography to present and virtually interact with sites and landscapes across Wales. Our biggest project to date has been ‘Digital Dissent’, the creation of a 'virtual museum' of Nonconformity in Wales. Here Gigapixel photography was used to create panoramic images that form the basis for virtual interactive tours of four chapels. This workshop provides an introductory guide to Gigapixel - what it is, how to get started, the processes involved and the lessons we’ve learnt.

http://www.welshchapels.org/media/tours/Bethania%20Tour/Bethania%20Tour.html

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Digital Past 2016: Gigapixel Photography






A Gigapixel image is one comprising of billions of pixels, enabling you to view detail without the degradation you would see in a normal photograph. Current technology for creating such high-resolution images involves stitching together and rendering a mosaic of digital photographs to create one image - the world’s largest photo to date, that of Mont Blanc, was shot in 2015 and comprises of 70,0000 images and 365 billion pixels, if printed the photo would be 98 metres long and 23 metres high.

The use of Gigapixel photography in heritage is growing and can be undertaken using a standard digital camera and workstation. High-resolution images can be created for landscapes and individual sites as well as documents (e.g. manuscripts and maps). There is also great potential in using these images to create interactive virtual tours.

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Friday, 5 February 2016

Digital Past 2016: Cynefin Is An Innovative Project To Digitise All The Tithe Maps Of Wales






Cynefin is an innovative project to digitise all the tithe maps of Wales. It is funded mainly by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and is run by Archives Wales. Most of the work is done at the National Library of Wales (NLW) using their near complete collection of tithe maps, and involves a considerable conservation effort.

The digitisation is carried out using a special technique whereby the large maps are mounted on a magnetic curved wall and photographed in high resolution. This brings excellent results in terms of image quality, 800 maps have already been digitised out of an estimated total of 1200.

The map images produced are all online on the cynefin.wales website, alongside images of all the tithe apportionment documents. To obtain full value from this resource the website includes functions to crowdsource the transcription of the maps and documents, with the aim of making all the data searchable.

 
This complete collection of digitised tithe maps provides a great opportunity to look at Wales in the 1840s in a more holistic way than was previously practical. It is not just noticing some railways on a map, you can see exactly the pattern of railway development. You can visually see that the Taff Merthyr railway was already built, and the others, going east-west, were in progress. There were some other very old railways in Llanelli, Swansea and other industrial areas, which have since disappeared. There was also a canal network and roads controlled by tollgates. This can all now be examined fluently using the digital tithe map of Wales.

The wealth of information already transcribed has huge potential for research and connections to other archival material. The nature of society is revealed, the way it was assumed most people didn’t own the land where they lived. These landowners, few in number, were the people who mattered, for example they were virtually the only people allowed to vote. It was the time of the Chartist and Rebecca risings.

The project focuses on usability and feedback from users, and has strong volunteering and marketing aspects, which aim for attractive and sustainable solution bringing long-term benefits.

The project includes partners in archives across Wales and will be providing output to People's Collection.

The final website at NLW is a geographic interface, which will be flexible enough to display other parts of the Library's collection, transforming access and research opportunities.


Registration for Digital Past 2016 closes this Friday, 5 February. Please visit the Digital Past 2016 website and book though Eventbrite.


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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Digital Past 2016: The Digital Mapping of Edinburgh's Literary Heritage: James Loxley (University of Edinburgh)






Edinburgh is a singularly literary place – indeed, it was the first city to be designated a UNESCO World City of Literature, a network that now includes Prague, Heidelberg, Dublin and Melbourne (and Norwich. Don’t forget Norwich.). It has a lengthy heritage as the birthplace and residence of writers including Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark and J. K. Rowling. Visitors to the city can wander through ‘Makars’ Court’, and drop into the Writers’ Museum.

More than this, Edinburgh is a city which has frequently been used as the setting for compelling and popular works, from Scott’s Heart of Midlothian down to Irvine Welsh’s novels and short stories or Ian Rankin’s Rebus books. It is a city that is built out of writing as well as of stone.

The Palimpsest project is a collaboration between literary scholars, computer scientists specialising in text-mining, and information visualisation specialists. It set out to find a new way of accessing and interacting with this rich heritage. Using text-mining and geolocation on large collections of digitised works, and focusing on place names as markers of a book’s engagement with place, the project team created a database of 46,000 extracts from more than 500 works which variously use Edinburgh as their setting. Meanwhile, the team also created innovative visualisation tools, which offered users the opportunity to interact with the data in different ways. Although the project was academic in inception, with a number of technical challenges to overcome, the resources have been intended for much wider use.

At this year’s Digital Past conference, James Loxley will describe the challenges faced by the project, and the insights gained from the building and use of the online resources it created. He will also focus on future developments, as they look to add functionality to the resources and respond to user feedback.



Registration for Digital Past 2016 closes this Friday, 5 February. Please visit the Digital Past 2016 website and book though Eventbrite.

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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Castell Coch Celebrates 125 Years In Pictures





View of Castell Coch photographed in 1952.

2016 marks Castell Coch’s 125th anniversary year and to celebrate, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service (Cadw) has released an archived suite of images of the site as it reopens (Feb 2016) following the winter break.

Released in partnership with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the collection of images spans multiple decades, from the site’s 1891 re-build up to the present day.

Partly taken from the Royal Commission’s archive (the National Monuments Record of Wales) this specially selected collection contains some of the oldest and most intriguing photographs ever taken of Castell Coch – from black-and-white interior shots taken in the 1940s, to a grainy Victorian photograph of the castle during construction, and even historic snaps of the site from above.

In addition, iconic shots from the site’s more recent past – including a shot of its latest ‘Frozen’ makeover in December 2015 – are featured, offering a modern perspective to the much-photographed monument.

Together, the photographs show how both the landscape around the castle and the progression of photographic technology has changed over the course of 125 years.

Boasting a long and rich history, Castell Coch was built upon the ruins of a medieval fortress once known as ‘castrum rubeum’ or ‘the red castle’ – a site which lay in ruins for centuries before its revival at the hands of the Third Marquess of Bute and his architect, William Burges.

Since its completion in 1891, Castell Coch has transformed from a decadent holiday home into a romanticised historic monument, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport said: “The collection of images celebrating Castell Coch’s 125th anniversary reveals a series of unfamiliar, historic and unique images of Castell Coch through the decades in a bid to celebrate a site which is greatly admired for its extraordinary Gothic design and historic appeal.

“The collection offers a history of the castle in photographs, bringing the site’s story across the decades to life to online audiences and potential visitors. This is a great way of celebrating the site’s 125 year milestone and I’m pleased that the Welsh Government and the Royal Commission has been able to present this collection for the public to enjoy.”

Interior view of the south-east tower of Castell Coch, showing the ceiling.

View of the magnificent banqueting hall, scene of many dinner parties over the decades.


For more information about Castell Coch’s admission fees and opening hours visit www.gov.wales/cadw, find Cadw on Facebook or follow @CadwWales on Twitter.

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