Amgueddfa Blog

Sadly, Dippy has now left National Museum Cardiff and continued on his tour to Rochdale. But he won't be forgotten! This video, made by Dippy volunteer Ben, says farewell to the super sauropod, and acknowledges the importance of the volunteers in making the exhibition such a success! 

Music credit : Cherry Blossom by Kevin MacLeod

If you missed it, check out our other volunteer-made Dippy video!


The current display Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London offers a great opportunity to see a selection of European Old Master paintings for the first time in Wales alongside Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s own collection.

Comparing European and Welsh castles and the history and legends that come with them plays a vital part in defining Welsh cultural identity. Yet the history of castles in Wales is, for some, contentious.

To find out why we need to go back to the thriteenth century. During this time, there were many disputes between Welsh princes and English kings. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (last Prince of Wales) was involved in many disputes with Edward I, who launched a vicious campaign on the Welsh. This resulted in Llywelyn losing his power, land, titles and ultimately his life.

Following this English victory, Edward began the most ambitious castle-building policy ever seen in Europe. His collection of fortresses became known as the infamous ‘iron ring’ and included those at Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy. They were intended to intimidate the Welsh and subdue uprisings. Along with these English-built fortresses came new towns that were intentionally populated with English settlers. Welsh people were forbidden to trade or sometimes even enter into the towns’ walls. Yet, while these castles remind us of English power over the Welsh, the strength of their construction underlines that Edward was conscious of the formidable and ever-present threat of Welsh resistance.

To acknowledge the histories of castles in Wales, we have included works from two Welsh artists, the ‘father of British landscape painting’, Richard Wilson, whose works offer an eighteenth-century perspective, and contemporary artist Peter Finnemore.

Wilson’s work reflects his travels to Italy and the influence of the hugely important French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain, whose work can also be seen in this exhibition. Wilson painted many Welsh landscapes and is recognised as changing the face of British landscape painting. While his work encouraged artists to come to Wales, many of his later Welsh compositions, such as Caernarfon Castle (Edward’s main seat in Wales) remind us more of the warmer climates of Italy. As such, they also point to his inspirations outside of Wales.

On the other hand, Finnemore’s photographic works, Lesson 56 – Wales and Ancient Ruler Worship (made especially for this display), look at castles in Wales from a more recent Welsh perspective. Finnemore’s work revolves around his Welsh-speaking grandmother’s school textbooks that were written from an English standpoint. Her childhood drawings in these books humorously undermine the didactic English text. Ancient Ruler Worship depicts Castell Carreg Cennen and looks back to World War II. It is taken from a still in Humphry Jennings’s propaganda film, Silent Village, that portrayed this castle as a site of Welsh resistance during an imagined Nazi invasion. The film demonstrated solidarity with Lidice, a mining village in the Czech Republic that was totally destroyed by the Nazis.

Whatever we may feel about their history, many of Edward’s Welsh castles are now designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Edward left a unique and internationally important legacy of medieval military architecture that can only be seen in Wales.

We have just launched our self-guided mindful tour here at St Fagans National Museum of History. The tour is through the gardens around St Fagans castle. Our new free fold-out map of the gardens encourages visitors to take in their surroundings and explore their different senses.

The idea of the tour came from my own experience of using mindfulness for my mental health. St Fagans castle gardens are beautiful all year round with animals and plants to see whatever the time of year. It is also a place where you can usually find a bit of quiet even during our busier times. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and focusing on individual senses. It’s surprising how much passes us by when we’re focused on our busy lives. Just stopping and concentrating on what you can smell or hear can help in times of stress.

Having the opportunity to walk around the gardens and take in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of nature has been very calming for me. My particular favourite is the Italian Garden in the summer with the running fountain. I feel incredibly lucky to work somewhere where I can do this and I wanted to share it with everyone who visits St Fagans.

Last summer I created a draft plan of a map to test with staff and community groups. Even though it was a very basic map at the time the feedback was very positive:

"Wir wedi mwynhau’r daith - diolch Joe! Braf cael cyfle i grwydro gerddi’r castell a mwynhau’r awyr iach. Diolch!"

“Lovely and peaceful, I like the sound of the water. The gardens were beautiful and very relaxing.”

"Wedi mwynhau gwylio’r colomennod ar ben y colomendy."

“Lots of quiet, secluded areas to sit down. I did find myself stopping to take note of my senses – smelling leaves, listening to the birds”

"Gall hwn fod un o highlights newydd SF"

“It felt like I had permission to take time and look and explore which was so nice.”

The feedback fed into the creation of the final version. It is designed by Frank Duffy who has done a great job of the illustrations and the look of the map. The map was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant who have supported a range of innovate events, displays and programmes at the Museum since 2014. One of the aims of the funding is to support the wellbeing of veterans and their families, so the concept of the mindfulness walk fitted in perfectly with the Covenant’s objectives. Members of the Armed Forces community had a first look at the new maps on 9th December 2019 with very positive feedback for how it could be used to help those living with mental ill health.

Try the tour out for yourself by picking up a copy at St Fagans. The map is available at the front desk or you can download a PDF version here.

Ming is an Ocean Quahog with the scientific name of Arctica islandica

At 507 years of age Ming the clam broke the Guinness World Record as the oldest animal in the world. Collected off the coast of Iceland in 2006, initial counts of the annual rings of the shell put the age at around 405 years old, which was still a record breaker. However, in 2013 scientists re-examined the shell using more precise techniques and the count rose to 507 years old.


This is the actual shell that was used in the aging study

This is what remains of the actual shell that was used in the aging study. At 507 years the Ocean Quahog is the oldest non-colonial animal in the world. We say ‘non-colonial’ because some animals such as corals can live to over 4,000 years but they are made of lots of animals (called polyps) stuck together as a collective form. Of the animals that exist alone the Ocean Quahog is the oldest and the Greenland Shark comes in second at around 400 years old.

Some examples of how long animals live

Our Insight gallery showcases research on the Natural World and displays a tiny percentage of our vast collections 

If you’d like to see Ming face-to-face (well, shell-to-face!) and find out how scientists discovered Ming’s age then come to Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd – National Museum Cardiff and visit our Insight gallery. As well as learning about Ming you can find out about Freshwater snails, prehistoric mammals and lots more....

Come and see Ming in our Insight gallery

cover image showing blogger standing next to dippy and superimposed text which says Dippy About Nature

A guest post by Izzy McLeod

I've been a lifelong fan of dinosaurs, as a toddler I'd request a whole dinosaur book be read to me every night before bed.  So I was pretty sad when The Natural History Museum in London said goodbye to Dippy the Diplodocus in exchange for a whale (whales are cool, but they're not quite dinosaurs). But soon the news that Dippy was on tour was out and he was coming to Cardiff just as I was also returning, I had to go and see him, and a few weeks ago I did!

So I was already at National Museum Cardiff, Dippy was there, life was good. But then I found the Dippy About Nature exhibition which mixed dinosaurs with climate activism. It was like two of my favourite worlds had collided in the best way. So I am here to introduce you to that exhibition and why it was so amazing!

two photos die by side. On the left is a picture looking down on Dippy from the balcony above its tail. On the right is a photo of a green banner advertising the exhibition

With prehistoric displays made of recycled clothing, it was like someone had taken interests out of my brain and slapped them together into an excellent exhibition. Plus there was information on how to ditch fast fashion and cut carbon emissions.

I'm well aware this exhibition was not made for me, but it really felt like it was. I don't think I've seen anything more me in my life. Dinosaurs and activism? Yes please!

There were several displays of different aspects of the era of dinosaurs, all made from recycled clothing and depicting scenes like the K-T mass extinction, and watery scenes with facts about ocean pollution from the fashion industry and it just worked so well!

Three photographs fro the Dippy About Nature exhibition. All three are dioramas made from recycled clothing. On the left is a tree, in the middle a meteorite impact and on the right baby dinosaurs hatching from eggs.

Two photos of the Dippy About Nature exhibiton. Once show the blogger looking at a diorama of trees and a waterfall, and the other a close up of the

A photo fro the Dippy Abuot Nature Exhibition. It shows a quiz game in which visitors push down a wooden door to reveal answers.

There was also more of a kids' section with drawing activities and an interactive learning section.

Asking questions like:

What percentage of global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry?

How can we change our fashion habits?

What changes can we make in our diet to reduce carbon emissions?

How much rubbish to we produce in the UK each year?

What else can we do?

With pictures of dinosaurs recycling! I am a fan.

Three pictures of the Dippy About Nature exhibition. On the left and right are protest banners made by the youth forum, and in the middle are framed posters designed by Extinction Rebellion

A photo of a display i the Dippy About nature exhibition. It shows a a model skeleton of a stegosaurus made from pieces of white clothing stuck to a large brown board.

Though this exhibition is small, it makes an impact, and I think it does a really good job of getting involved and interacting with fashion and climate activism whilst also keeping it involved and relevant to the rest of the museum (plus it was kid friendly).

I'm also happy to say that now this exhibition has ended, the activism continues in the museum, as National Museum Cardiff have now set aside a space in the museum specifically for activism, which I think is an amazing idea. It's a part of the Kick the Dust project and if you're a youth then you can get involved with the museum's Youth Forum and have a say about what they put on there (which I may well join!).

This was quite a quick rave review, but yes, this is activist exhibitions done right, in my opinion. Have you been to the exhibition? Let me know what you think! Any other activist exhibitions you recommend?

Find more of Izzy's writing at The Quirky Environmentalist.