Alexander Roberts

Alexander Roberts

Last updated on 4 November 2021

Alexander Roberts is the Digital Humanities and Research Data Manager at Swansea University


Over the last 3 years, Swansea University Library has been on a digital preservation journey to increase access and engagement with two important world-class physical collections currently held in the Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin, and the Huntington Library, California.

Digital Dylan

The first collection, held in the Harry Ransom Centre (HRC), is devoted to the output of the famous Swansea-born Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, well known for iconic works, such as "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," Under Milk Wood, and a portion of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. This unique archive comprises manuscripts of his poetry, stories, radio broadcasts, plays, and film scripts, as well as correspondence, drawings, photographs, and some career and personal papers. As Wales’s most famous poet, Dylan Thomas is also internationally recognised for his contribution to English literature and the development of the poetic art form. In collaboration with the Dylan Thomas Trust, Swansea University and the HRC have recognised the global significance of this material and funded the digitisation of over 6,000 objects from the collection which can now be accessed online via the HRC OCLC ContentDM platform at



Dylan Thomas


By collaborating on the creation of digital preservation facsimiles of the objects held within the Dylan Thomas collection Swansea University has enabled wider access to these important research materials, not least for residents of Swansea, Thomas’s hometown, but for the rest of the world. Researchers, students, and members of the public now no longer need to spend considerable sums on travel costs, and accommodation to study this material and can instead focus on the material rather than the journey there. The burden of the travel costs associated with visiting collections such as this has historically been a barrier to wider engagement and likewise meant that only those able to attract significant funding have been able to complete the journey. The digitisation of this collection has now brought about a democratisation of access.

Elizabeth Montagu


Elizabeth Montagu


The second collection, housed at the Huntington Library, is concerned with the extraordinary output of Elizabeth Montagu, author, and Bluestocking salonnière (1718-1800), who was the leading woman of letters and artistic patron of her day in England. Her correspondence is considered 'among the most important surviving collections from the eighteenth century' (ODNB). Around 4,000 letters written by Montagu are held in libraries worldwide. Montagu corresponded extensively with leaders of British Enlightenment coteries, such as Edmund Burke, Gilbert West, David Garrick and Horace Walpole, as well as the Bluestocking inner circle – Elizabeth Carter, Sarah Scott, Hannah More, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Frances Burney, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Vesey, and Frances Boscawen.

The goal of the Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online project (EMCO) project, a collaboration between Swansea University, Oxford Brookes University and the Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online (EMCO) Charity (no. 1174697), is to offer digital unification of Montagu’s extant correspondence, totalling c. 4,000 letters, which is currently held in at least 23 libraries, archives, and private collections worldwide, including the Huntington Library, the John Rylands Library, and Aberdeen University Library. The EMCO scholarly digital edition website, offers access to transcriptions, constructed using cutting-edge automatic handwriting recognition algorithms in collaboration with the Transkribus project, as well as original manuscripts, accurate and exhaustive notes, and the most recently discovered letters.

Swansea University collaborated with the Huntington Library to digitise and create digital preservation facsimiles of the c.3700 individual letters from Montagu herself, plus those from the other side of the correspondence comprising the bulk of the Elizabeth Robinson Montagu Papers collection at the library. This process generated over 47,000 high resolution (600 dpi, Adobe RGB (1998) ICC colour profile) images with each letter having multiple pages, plus notes from researchers added over the years. These facsimiles can be accessed on the Huntington Library OCLC ContentDM platform at




The EMCO website includes the facsimile images alongside Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) based transcriptions of the letters themselves and scholarly notes and annotations. This website is hosted and developed by the Digital Humanities Team at Swansea University and makes use of the amazing new TEI publisher XML presentation platform developed by e-editiones to provide a searchable and rich user experience. It also utilizes the Cantaloupe International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIIF) server platform coupled with the Minio fast caching server to deliver derivative images ‘on-the-fly’ based on the digital masters to visitors.

Just as with the Dylan Thomas collection at the HRC, the Montagu Papers have previously only been accessible in their complete form to visitors willing and able to make the journey to California. This is now no longer the case as access to this important collection has also now been democratized.

On the back of significant investment in digital preservation from Swansea University and its project partners two important historical collections are now accessible and open to anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone.

Dylan Thomas - Digital Collection: 

Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Images:

Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online - Digital Scholarly Edition:

International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIIF) Specification:

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