The Treasure Trove that lies beneath the National Library of Wales
Today’s blog was written by Hawys, one of our first year students in the BA Archaeology and Heritage Studies. The students in the Introduction to Fieldwork module took a fieldtrip to discover the treasures of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
To my shame as a Welsh girl born and bred, this was my first visit to the National Library of Wales, although I had heard fantastic things from my family and friends, particularly from my father, who has spent hours harassing the poor clerks there for information when researching our family tree. Of course, as is always the case when you hear about something by word of mouth, what I was told didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the true nature of the National Library, and the depths of its information and influence, particularly in relation to Welsh culture and history.
Our tour began in the library’s educational centre, where were given a short summary of the library’s history, development and continuing endeavours to provide an informational hub for Wales.
We were then taken on an in-depth tour of the Library, its main facilities and luckily, we were even given the opportunity to tour the myriads of corridors and hidden depths beneath this impressive building. This is where the fun really began!
Above ground, it became clear that the once simplistic building, with picturesque courtyards dotted around the interior (a design used originally to provide light to facilitate the need for as many reading rooms as possible) has become increasingly complex. As the needs and uses of the library’s facilities expanded, a succession of corridors, booths, staircases and extensions have been built into the interior of the site, making a veritable maze of wonders for anyone with an interest in eclecticism.
As we followed our guide up staircases, down lifts and along corridors, it was self-evident that every last scrap of space is being used as storage, for the billions of collections of photographs, reports, articles, books, paintings, sculptures, the list goes on…and on and on.
The most exciting part of the tour was when our eyes met the piles of treasures kept below ground in sealed vaults. This area is designed to control humidity and temperature to a precise degree, and is rigged with alarm systems that create an automatic lock down to ensure fire safety and the protection of the rest of the building. It was a little like walking into Fort Knox.
As we moved around this area of the library we came across a beautiful sight. I felt like a member of the allied MIAA platoon that unearthed the treasures the Nazi’s hideaway in mines during WWII, as my eyes fell on the glint of gold in the distance. This area was being used to house artefacts, paintings and drawings – and Indiana Jones himself could not have wished for more of a feast for the eyes. Innumerable boxes and crates, screaming to be opened, filled to the brim with unknown mysteries and delights.
By the time our tour drew to a close, I found myself wondering, given free reign how many other fabulous sights and sounds are there to be found in this cave of wonders.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and my advice to anyone? Take a day to go and see this wonderful building and the treasures therein. Don your explorer’s hat and delve into the depths of this fantastic site!