My project at the National Library of Wales/ Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru is to create a web presence for an artist’s archival collection and concentrates specifically on the challenges of using and displaying works of art in a library collection and of digitally mapping the life and work of an artist. The Sir Kyffin Williams bequest at the National Library of Wales consists of approximately 2,000 items. An online presence has been commissioned to allow digital access to the work.
Williams (1918- 2006) is widely regarded as one of the preeminent Welsh artists of the twentieth century. His work has retained popular appeal since his death and is often said to have a particularly Welsh feeling or mood. My work began by considering theories of landscape and whether national identity can be conveyed in painting. My research has led me to ask how art historical investigation can influence the development of digital tools for exploring a collection online, and vice-versa: how digital tools can facilitate new areas of art historical inquiry. For example, how the application of GIS information onto landscape paintings can allow an understanding of space and place in Kyffin Williams’s paintings and working towards a ‘distant reading’ (to use Franco Moretti’s, term) of the collection.
By working on both the geography as well as the history of Williams’s art, the digital collection could be given an extra access point with works able to be explored and investigated spatially as well as temporally.
In preparing for this resource I hope to demonstrate how digitally ‘mapping’ the life and work of Kyffin Williams can be a valid contribution to the art historical understanding of this artist and to address some of the challenges of creating an illuminating and engaging online presence for a collection within a library rather than gallery context.
Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS) is a European Convergence programme led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. Benefiting from European Social Funds (ESF), KESS supports collaborative research projects with external partners based in the Convergence area of Wales (west Wales and the Valleys).
The development of the project and general thoughts on art history and the digital humanities can be followed at Landscape-Libraries-Digital-Paint.