I have been associated with the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth since my first appointment there in 1999, and worked on a series of research projects there.
The ‘Visual Culture of Wales’ project was set up by the art historian Peter Lord at the Centre in 1996. The intention of the project was to publish a three-volume history of the visual culture of Wales from the early medieval period up until the 1950s. One of the conditions of the Arts Council Lottery Grant, which formed a significant part of the funding, was that a new media element was incorporated into the published outcomes. I was appointed to the Centre in 1999 to assist with the creation of a series of CD-ROMs, working with producer Will Howard as part of a small team.
Each of the CD-ROMs contained the whole text of the book with all of the images, as well as further original writing about aspects of the material with many further illustrations, audio, music and interviews. The first two CD-ROMs covering the modern period also included comprehensive artist biographies, with information about artists that was unique to the publications. The books and CD-ROMs were both published in Welsh and English editions.
The ‘Imaging the Bible in Wales’ project brought together work on the ‘Visual Culture of Wales’ with Biblical Studies, examining ways in which Biblical themes, subjects and characters have been expressed by visual artists in a variety of media. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project was based at the University of Wales, Lampeter, from 2005–8.
Experience of working on the Visual Culture of Wales series proved that there was still much more work to be done and discoveries to be made in the field. Concentrating on just one theme and within a certain timespan – biblical images during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – produced a wealth of new and varied material, some of it of great quality and imagination.
Much of the material researched and recorded for the project was from places of worship in Wales. As both photographer and researcher for the project, several thousands of my photographs are now available on the online project database. The database was produced to my design with the specialist Nigel Callaghan. Working with Chris Gibson, I also wrote and produced a DVD-ROM Imaging the Bible in Wales based on the research undertaken with the Project Research Fellow John Morgan-Guy. This was published with the large multi-author volume Biblical Art from Wales (2010), which was edited by John Morgan-Guy with the project’s principal investigator, Martin O'Kane.
The ‘Stained Glass in Wales’ project ran from 2009 until 2011 at the Centre, and initially drew on the biblical stained glass of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, recorded while I was working on the ‘Imaging the Bible in Wales’ project between 2005 and 2008. This was expanded to include medieval stained glass and the work of more contemporary makers that was not necessarily biblical. After the end of the funding for this project, I have continued to monitor the online catalogue on a voluntary basis, occasionally add further photography as time permits. Despite having no funding to do so, I continued to research stained glass in Wales as well as writing and producing my book, Stained Glass from Welsh Churches, was published in June 2014.
After this, and the other side of my three-year scholarship to undertake a doctoral project at the Centre, in November 2014 I began work part-time on the AHRC-funded ‘Cult of Saints in Wales’ project, in association with colleagues who were transcribing, editing and translating medieval Welsh prose, poetry and genealogies concerned with saints. As well as arranging project events and exhibitions, I have also begun to prepare material for our ‘Seintiadur’ our online portal for information about saints in Wales. the first of our online materials will be published later this year, by which time the ‘Cult of Saints in Wales’ will have officially come to an end, while its sister, ‘Vitae Sanctorum Cambriae: The Latin Lives of the Welsh Saints’, comes into existence. This three-year project, a collaboration with the University of Cambridge, will allow me to further develop the Seintiadur with my colleague David Parsons, and will continue a similar programme of public outreach events.