A summary of the ‘Conversations with Cataloguers in Wales’ event [Part 2]

After a comfort break the event continued and the second session of the day started with myself (Karen Pierce) and Ken Gibb talking about Discovering hidden gems: cataloguing the Cardiff Rare Books Collection.  Cardiff University (CU) acquired the collection in 2010 by purchasing it from Cardiff Public Library with financial assistance from the National Assembly for Wales.  The background to the collection, and how it came to be built up by the public library in the days when they were hoping to establish a National Library in Cardiff (they lost out to Aberystwyth) was explained.  When the public library put the collection up for sale this provoked a national campaign to attempt to keep the books in Cardiff, or in Wales in general.  There were many discussions and eventually the Heritage Minister intervened and the University was helped to acquire the collection.  Whilst negotiations were taking place a 10 % scoping report was commissioned, and this was undertaken by three cataloguers from CU.  As well as noting author, date and title, we looked at marginalia, provenance, physical condition, and subject matter.  A report was produced for CyMAL.  Subsequently, phase 2 of the project lead to creating a spreadsheet of all 14,000 items prior to the sale.  Once the books were purchased, they needed cataloguing.  Our cataloguing team didn’t have the necessary expertise, but we were able to get funding for a (3 year) Rare books cataloguer who joined us in the summer of 2011.  Ken (the person appointed!) undertook a 1% project to get an idea of how long it was going to take to catalogue the various subsections of books, and to establish the rules we would be using (DCRM(B), etc).  We believe that about 40% of the collection has provenance information, and our most exciting (provenance) find so far is the signature of John Dee (the Elizabethan astronomer and mathematician) in a copy of Thomas Aquinas.  Although still at an early stage in the project we have also found two volumes bound in 1597 for Pietro Duodo the Venetian ambassador to the King of France.  Additionally we have a copy of Dickens’ Christmas Carol bound in translucent vellum inlaid with mother of pearl; this rare style of binding was developed by the binder Cedric Chivers and won him a gold medal at the St. Louis Worlds Fair in 1907.  We also have a near complete collection of books published by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, including a uniquely embroidered copy of The Floure and the Leaf.

The next presentation was by Kristine Chapman & Louise Carey talking about Cataloguing art books at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales .  The National Museum Wales has seven sites, and have collections covering art, history, science and archaeology.  The library was set up in 1914, and moved to purpose built premises in the 1920s, but has outgrown its space, resulting in book collections also being kept in curatorial departments.  The art library contains a variety of material, from monographs on artists, to exhibition catalogues.  Although predominantly it is the Museum staff who use the library, it is also used by students and researchers too.  There is a trust system for loans as the library is unmanned, and slips are placed on the shelf where the item has been taken from.  The classification system used in the art library is the Metropolitan Museum of Art system which was first published in 1911.  The MMA itself switched to Library of Congress in 2002, and thus it is a system that isn’t being updated.  It is more in depth than Dewey for art, and is much better for exhibition catalogues; and for the Museum’s purposes it fits better with their spatial idiosyncrasies.  Unsurprisingly it is not that well known, so new staff are unfamiliar with its format, and inconsistancies can creep in; in addition, as it hasn’t been updated there are outdated geographical areas, and no keep up with technoligical advances.  Monographs are shelved by artist (or predominant artist where more than one featured), and exhibition catalogues by location and gallery.  Sometimes multiple copies of an item are shelved at different places depending on what the book focuses on, for instance an exhibition catalogue containing works of Gwen John (painter) and Lucie Rie (ceramic artist) is shelved in the ceramics collection, and under Gwen John monographs.  They are happy using the MMA system as it works well for the space their collection is in (which is pretty full!).

The final presentation for the morning was on a topic that most of us were probably unfamiliar with.  Miranda Morton’s talk, entitled Term Cymru: how do you say “Twitter” in Welsh? was about her work as a terminologist at the Welsh Government, where the two languages of Wales (Welsh and English) have to be treated equally.  As part of the translation service her work involves translating statutory guidelines and legislation into Welsh.  Within the European Union Welsh is not one of the 23 official languages, but is recognised as a co-official language – thus material from the EU isn’t published in Welsh, but if a query was posed in Welsh, a Welsh reply would be given.  As an example of how busy they are, the translation service provided 4,266 written translations in a 6 month period, with an average of 2,000 words per day per translator.  With tight deadlines and a number of translators, and material being required for different purposes, there can be problems with consistancy.  Additionally, there can be ambiguity over terminology,  specialist definitions for different sectors, and the use of colloquial terms in campaigns, which can all mean problems for the translators.  In 2004 a means to combat these problems was established with the setting up of Term Cymru.  A free resource, which is also available to the public, it is essentially a database of terminology with contextual explanations for some terms, and subject tags.    With 49,000 records to date it is due for some weeding and streamlining, but it is an extremely useful tool for standardising government terminology in Enlgish/Welsh.

After our stimulating morning we stopped for lunch, and many informal and interesting discussions took place in this break.

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Filed under Cataloguing, Conferences, Librarianship, Staff development, Uncategorized

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