Amgueddfa Blog

Over the past few months the museum has been working closely with colleagues at the beautiful Oriel y Parc gallery in St Davids to bring together an exhibition celebrating Wales ‘Year of the Sea’ called ‘Coast’.

The exhibition fuses artworks and natural science specimens specially selected by the Oriel y Parc team from Amgueddfa Cymru’s collections, and displays these alongside some of the recent museum activisim work of Amgueddfa Cymru’s 'Youth Forum Group' highlighting the issues of plastic pollution.

The multidisciplinary nature of the display explores how the sea has inspired artists for centuries, highlights the biodiversity of the Pembrokeshire coast, and how plastic now impacts on the environment and our everyday life.

Centre piece to the art works is Jan van de Cappelle’s masterpiece ‘A Calm’, surrounded by sea and coast inspired paintings from a selection of other artists including Cedric Morris and John Kyffin Williams. Amongst these works are specimens from the natural science collections capturing the richness of Pembrokeshire's wildlife, including the skeleton of a leatherback turtle found dead on Skomer Island in 1988.

The turtle had in the past been on display at the visitor centre on Skomer, but was removed a number of years back when the buildings on the Island underwent redevelopment. In need of some repairs and cleaning, the specimen became an excellent project for one of our conservation student placements at the museum, Owen Lazzari. The end result has enabled us to bring the specimen back to Pembrokeshire to form one of the centrepieces of the exhibition.

Other highlights from the natural science collections include one of our historic Blaschka glass models dating from the late 1800s, and a Goose barnacle covered builder's helmet found off the Welsh Coast.

Further information can be found on Oriel y Parc's website: https://www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales

 

It's that time of year when everyone is busy preserving the summer harvest to enjoy over the winter months, but as well as fruit for Jam and vegetables for pickles, how about colour!

It's often believed that people in the past had very little access to colour, only existing in a world dominated by shades of brown or grey. This could not be further from the truth, just armed with a little knowledge plants can yield a delightful range of colours such as red, yellow, blue and even lilac.

Until the mid-19th century textile dyes were derived from natural sources, mainly plants, but some from insects . So to help furnish our historic houses with examples of colour we are embarking on a project to reproduce the traditional dye process and see what we can create.

Volunteers, working alongside the preventive conservation team, have been busy rediscovering the dye garden at St.Fagans. While removing the weeds we were lucky enough to find a few dye plants surviving, there was a nice clump of Madder, a few Weld plants and Woad. These few survivors were a good start, Madder produces a red dye, Woad a blue and Weld a yellow.

The red is extracted from the root of the Madder plant, this was first washed, cut up and minced, then gently simmered in water to extract the colour. The Weld leaves and seeds were cut up and simmered in water to also extract the colour. We will have to be a bit more patient with the woad, as the best blue is extracted from the fresh young leaves of the first years growth.

Mordants have been used traditionally to help the dye fix to the wool and create a more intense colour. By the medieval period a naturally occurring mineral called alum was used to pre-treat the wool before dying.  We therefore decided to test a few options, so we dyed wool previously mordanted with alum, wool mordanted with Rhubarb leaves and wool not mordanted at all, just to see what impact there would be on the final colour

Once the dye baths were made, 50g batches of washed wool from our Llanwenog sheep were dipped and allowed to soak up the dye. The dye bath was heated to just below boiling and then allowed to cool. The fact that sheep were bred early on in our history to produce a greater proportion of white wool to grey or brown is an indicator that colour was just as important then as it is now.

Here are the results of our first batch.

We recently welcomed a group from Greening Our City, an environmental conservation project by Innovate Trust and National Resources Wales. They visited National Museum Cardiff to take part in activities linked to the Museum’s Urban Meadowa wildlife haven we created on the east side of the building.

In the morning session we used clay, soil and poppy seeds to make seed bombs. These can be thrown onto disturbed earth in a garden or even just placed in a plant pot, and will eventually produce beautiful red poppies. The flowers will not only look nice, but also provide a vital food source for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

We then ventured out onto the Urban Meadow to see what wildlife we could spot. At first, everything seemed quiet, but it wasn’t long before we started to find lots of different minibeasts. In a period of just 20 minutes we saw spiders, snails, bumblebees, wasps, grasshoppers, crane flies and two species of ladybird!

After a break for lunch, we gathered in the Clore Learning Space for our second workshop. Inspired by our morning session, we made models of insects and other invertebrates using colourful modelling clay. The group created spiders, snails, caterpillars, ladybirds and more.

We then split into two groups and used iPads to make stop-motion animations. Great patience is needed to make this kind of animation, as every second of finished film requires around ten still photographs.

You can watch the finished products below. In one, a spider, a ladybird and an ant meet up and take a selfie, while the other tells the dramatic tale of an invertebrate dance! I think you'll agree the group did a brilliant job directing their animations.

Once that was complete, there was just enough time for the group to complete our summer trail. This quiz takes visitors on a journey around the museum to answer questions based on our new exhibition, Poppies For Remembrance.

If you are a community group and would like to take part in similar activities, please get in touch on (029) 2057 3240.

If you would like to know more about our Urban Meadow, download the free learning resource from our Learning pages.

 

Hi, I’m Thea, a sixth form student from Shropshire who decided to create this short video as part of my work experience at the National Museum Cardiff.

I had heard about Who Decides? before I became involved in the exhibition, so I was very eager to find out more. After working with the public opinion cards, speaking to the people involved in the museum and doing some short interviews, I created an animation that I thought would best reflect the aims of exhibition and the feedback it had received.

I am passionate about art and against the idea that art and museums are ‘elitist’ or should be for the ‘privileged’ rather than the majority, so I wanted to focus on this issue in the video.

Working with the Wallich

The exhibition itself was incredibly eye opening for me; the museum had decided to work with the charity The Wallich to involve people with experience of homlessness in the process of designing and creating the exhibit and gives the public the chance to choose some of the artwork on display. I haven't seen an exhibition that has ever taken this kind of approach, so I found it intriguing to see how others reacted to the idea.

I hope this refreshing approach to curation will be an archetype for future exhibits and museums because it challenges what we usually connote with galleries and exhibits and hopefully encourages more people to visit exhibitions and museums.

Who Decides? is on show at National Museum Cardiff until 2 September 2018. You can also contribute to Who Decides? by voting for your favourite work to be ‘released’ from the store and placed on public display.

Part 2, Working with our community partners.

 

Powysland Museum is working with the National Museum’s Saving Treasures; Telling Stories on an Archaeological Jewellery project.

In this update we hear from some of their community partners.

Welshpool Camera Club

The club has around 40 members of all abilities, from pros, advanced, to amateurs, who all ‘club together’ to ensure members’ photographic skills are challenged regardless of technical ability. They look at mastering camera techniques through hands on experience and invite speakers to give presentations.

With many of the archaeological jewellery pieces in Powysland Museum’s project being small, with delicate decoration, it was obvious that the project needed the expertise of good photographers to capture the details and refinement of the pieces.

Powysland Museum was therefore delighted when the Camera Club agreed to be one of the project’s community engagement partners.

The club’s members have got up close and personal with some of the objects and have taken some great close-ups, which have fed into the museum’s work with the other community engagement partners.

Welshpool Young Carers

Welshpool Young Carers are a group of young people who look after and care for one or more members of their family on a full-time basis. Alex Sperr, the project’s community engagement officer, ran a workshop with the group, which produced a delightful and colourful display.

The workshop focussed on the art of the museum display. A display is often the only chance you have for capturing the attention of your intended audience.

It must grab audience members at first glance, hold them there to see what it offers and persuade them to further explore the museum and the artefacts on display.

A display can be used to tell part of an object’s history, and in this workshop we focussed on making jewellery and displays for the Saving Treasures exhibition at Powysland.

The group first visited the Saving Treasures jewellery exhibit, looking at the ways in which objects are displayed.

Exploring how to display rings in the exhibition, the group then made Plaster of Paris hands by using rubber gloves as moulds. Casts of the children’s hands were made using plaster bandage or modroc, and rings were made using recycled materials.

The children then set up their displays as they would like to see them in the exhibition, along with their names.

Buttington-Trewern School

Local poet and writer Pat Edwards has run the “Off the Page” young creative writers’ club at Powysland Museum and is also runs the annual Welshpool Poetry Festival. Her quirky and exciting mind was guaranteed to engage the children.

Pat visited the museum to work with all the junior classes. The children were shown the archaeological jewellery and were even allowed to touch and hold some of the sturdier artefacts – obviously while wearing white, cotton gloves!

This was a unique opportunity for the children to see the objects outside their usual display cases.

Pat Edwards then discussed the theme of jewellery with the children, helping them develop ideas and create stories, poems, posters and other written works involving one or more of the museum objects. Some of the results and photographs from the sessions are on display.

Together with Pat, the museum is planning to develop this creative experience by offering writing classes at the museum during the exhibition period, where visitors can seek inspiration from the objects and practical help from Pat to write and tell their own stories.

The Archaeological Jewellery exhibition runs at Powysland Museum until September, after which you can catch it at Radnorshire and Brecknock Museums.