Opening a digital window to the past

17 November 2017

Scanned digital image of the record for Aberystwyth University’s first student, James Bateman
Scanned digital image of the record for Aberystwyth University’s first student, James Bateman

Student records at Aberystwyth University dating back almost 150 years are being digitised and transcribed to make them more accessible.

The records are contained in ten leather-bound manuscript volumes and date back to 1872 when the University opened its doors for the first time.

To date, access to the fragile volumes has been restricted and the process of searching for information within them has been manual and painstaking.  

Funded by a significant donation from the Cardiff Branch of the Aberystwyth University Old Students’ Association (OSA) and matched by donations from the University’s alumni, the finished result will be a fully searchable electronic record of students who studied at Aberystwyth in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

The project is a collaboration between the OSA Cardiff Branch, Aberystwyth University Archives, and the National Library of Wales (NLW).

The project began in 2016, with each page of the ten volumes being individually digitised as a high resolution image by the NLW. 

The slow and steady process of transcribing this digitised content then began, in order to create a searchable record. 

Volunteers from the Cardiff branch of the OSA are using an online transcription tool developed by the NLW as part of the project to digitise and transcribe the Welsh Book of Remembrance, housed at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff. 

Work on the first volume (1872-1879) was completed in August, and the Cardiff OSA are already into their second volume.  Meanwhile, the Aberystwyth branch are working on another volume, and will be joining forces with current students and officers from Aberystwyth University Students’ Union.

Aberystwyth University Archivist, Julie Archer, commented: “It is hugely exciting to be able, with the assistance of our amazing volunteers from the OSA, to open up the wealth of information contained in the registers.  The volunteers are benefitting from learning new skills and researchers will benefit from hitherto untapped material.”

“It is fitting that the process of transcribing the second of the student record volumes begins in earnest as we prepare to celebrate the launch of this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign.”

Explore Your Archive is a joint campaign delivered by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association across the UK and Ireland. Launched 18-26 November this year, it aims to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together and tell amazing stories.

As part of the campaign, the Aberystwyth University Archives Twitter feed @AberUniArchiveswill release a fascinating photograph from the University Archives every day from 18-26 November.


Alice Earp
Communications and Public Affairs
Aberystwyth University
01970 622578 |

Julie Archer
Aberystwyth University
01970 628593 |