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Since 1904, when Henry Jenner’s Handbook of Cornish Language was published, there has been a huge variety of material printed in Kernewek. Some of these had large print runs and are widely known, but some have only one or two surviving copies that can only be found in someone’s attic! Kist Kov (memory box) is a project that is seeking to preserve these Cornish Language texts in a digital archive.

We spoke to Kensa Broadhurst to find out more about what they’re working on.

Tell us a bit more about Kist Kov – what are the goals of the project?

This project is aimed at archiving and cataloguing paper resources and ephemera from the 20th century which will result in a fuller record of preserved materials. The project will make available this extended history of the Cornish language to schools, colleges and universities, adult learners, and other interested individuals as a means of extending knowledge and use of the language via materials and resources originating from the early days of the language revival. This will enable teachers particularly to make chosen materials available in the original format encouraging the use of a wider vocabulary of spoken Cornish as well as the recognition of a range of registers and of the language itself as an evolving, living and vibrant means of communication in the 21st century. Working closely with Kresen Kernow will ensure that all materials archived and catalogued by the project will be stored in a commonly accessible place and will thus enable researchers, advanced learners and the general public to deepen their knowledge of the language and its history.

How did you become involved in the project?

I am studying for a PhD on the status of the Cornish language between 1777 and 1904 (the death of Dolly Pentreath and the publication of Henry Jenner’s Handbook of the Cornish Language), and so am looking for evidence the language was being used during that period in the various archives and libraries in Cornwall. The Kist Kov project, although it is focussing on the twentieth century, was a good fit alongside my own research.

What made you decide to focus on post revival texts?

Unlike my own research focus, we know they exist! We also knew of various papers which belonged to people who have now passed away which are sitting in other people’s attics and outhouses. The aim is to digitze them before they are either thrown away or become too damaged to use. It allows us to chart the development and use of Cornish after the revival in all its forms.

What’s the most exciting text you’ve discovered so far?

The other day we were scanning some leaflets for children called Len ha lyw. The teacher part of me was very excited to see their potential for all learners.

Will we be able to view the collection?

Yes, we aim to have a website which will host the database of what is available, and show some examples of what we have digitised. There will also be a couple of talks about the project.

How can people get involved?

We are at Kresen Kernow on most Tuesday and Friday afternoons until the end of March scanning documents and creating the database, please email: kistkov@outlook.com for dates.

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