Amgueddfa Blog: Fforwm Ieuenctid

This week’s Youth Forum again made me think about museums and what they can do, and how they should be, in a different way.

While looking at art from the First World War had at times been a sensory overload, this time we were trying to understand what it would be like to come to a museum without one specific sense fully intact. How to make museum exhibits more accessible for the partially sighted?

Having always gone to museums with my sight in (near enough) tip top condition, I and probably others tended to presume it was a pretty necessary requirement. If I had trouble seeing the paintings/sculptures/artefacts, then I don’t think I’d want to go. Because if seeing is believing, and I couldn’t see what I was supposed to be learning about, then surely I wouldn’t learn very much and would end up feeling quite left out, even though this obviously shouldn’t be the case.

And it doesn’t have to be! The paintings and sculptures that we looked up were a bit of a mix, ones that more well-known and some that were completely new. Among the ideas that we came up with, for example, involved the painting Bad News, by James Tissot, incorporating the playing of military marching music alongside the painting to evoke the solemnity and sorrow of leaving your family to go off and fight in another corner of the world.

Similarly, for Entrance to Cardiff Docks by Lionel Walden, lighting effects could imitate the lights of the port and the surrounding buildings, with sound effects of ships coming into port, water slapping against the quay, sailors shouting to each other. We could have smells to add to the experience (although maybe not the fish!). Instead of rough sailors accompanying Manet’s San Maggiore by Twilight, it would be the gentle, joyful peel of Italian church bells.

In front of a painting of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, Thomas Apperly and Edward Hamilton by Pompeo Batoni there could be a table with the objects and chairs laid out exactly as they are in the picture, as if the subjects had just finished the sitting and left only a few moments ago. David Nash’s intriguing sculpture Multi-Cut Column could have smaller imitations made of it, that people could actually pass around and touch, something rarely allowed in any exhibit. 

I realise there would be some technical issues in making sure it wasn’t distracting or taking away from the other exhibits, and that maybe not all these ideas will actually become a finished product, but I hope that at least some of them do work out. Because who wouldn’t want to experience this? It might be a bit like theatre, the art being brought to life, stepping into the painting. While I’m definitely thankful I’m not visually impaired in any way, I’m also thankful I took the time to try and understand the experience of those who are. 
 

  • Our next Audio Description Tour will take place on 8 December and will be of our Natural History collections.

Wrth wneud gwaith gyda’r Fforwm Ieuenctid, darganfyddais fod yna glytwaith i orchuddio cist o ddroriau (‘patchwork chest of drawers cover’) yng nghasgliad Sain Ffagan a gafodd ei greu gan fy hen hen ewythr, Richard Evans o Lanbrynmair, yn ystod ei amser yn gwasanaethu fel milwr yn India. Mae wedi ei greu o ddefnydd gwlanog trwchus coch a du ac felly tybiwyd ei fod wedi ei bwytho o ddillad milwr, ac yn ôl yr hyn sydd wedi ei arysgrifio ar ei gefn, roedd yn ‘Rhodd i fy Mam Sarah Evans 1883.’ Fe wnaeth y rhoddwr (Miss Ceridwen E Lloyd), sef nith i Richard Evans, ysgrifennu llythyr gyda’r gwrthrych a ymunodd â’r casgliad yn 1962, yn nodi “roedd ganddo fwy o amynedd na llawer ohonom heddiw.” 

Roedd yr amynedd angenrheidiol i wneud gwniadwaith yn un o’r rhesymau pam ddaeth y grefft yn rhan o fywyd i rai mewn gwersylloedd milwrol. Yn ogystal â bod yn sgil ymarferol er mwyn gallu trwsio eu lifrau, roedd milwyr yn cael eu hannog i ddechrau gwnïo fel ffordd o ymlacio. Cefnogwyd y syniad gan fudiadau dirwest yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg wrth iddynt weld gwnïo fel ffordd o gadw’r milwyr rhag demtasiynau yfed a gamblo, yn enwedig yng ngwres India. Roedd y grefft hefyd yn cael ei hybu fel rhan o therapi milwr mewn ysbyty er mwyn lleddfu diflastod. Mae yna enghraifft o waith tebyg yn y casgliad yn Sain Ffagan – gemwaith a gafodd ei greu gan y Corporal Walter Stinson pan roedd yn glaf yn Ysbyty VAD Sain Ffagan yn 1917-18.

Roedd gogwydd fwy emosiynol ar y math yma o waith hefyd. Weithiau, crewyd cwiltiau allan o lifrau cyd-filwyr a fu farw ar faes y gad i ddangos ffyddlondeb a gwladgarwch. Roedd gan y grefft bwrpas tu hwnt i’r cyfnod o ryfela hefyd, gan fod dysgu i wnïo yn gallu cael ei gysylltu ag ennill arian ar ôl gadael y fyddin. Yn y casgliad, mae yna ddarlun gwlân a oedd wedi ei brynu gan hen dad-cu y rhoddwr gan gyn-filwr oedd wedi colli ei goes wrth ymladd.

Mae llu o resymau felly i esbonio pam ddaeth gwniadwaith yn grefft fwy poblogaidd i filwyr. Daeth buddion y grefft i ddisgyblaeth a gwellhad milwyr â’r grefft oedd wedi ei hystyried yn un fenywaidd ar hyd y blynyddoedd yn rhan o hunaniaeth milwyr yn ystod y cyfnod hwn – ac ysbrydoli fy hen hen ewythr, yn bictiwr o wrywdod milwr gyda’i getyn a’i fwstash (trydydd o’r chwith yn y rhes gefn) i greu clytwaith fel anrheg i’w fam.

I actually visited the Mametz Wood exhibition twice. The first time was the official opening, but as I didn’t see anyone that I knew, I spent most of the time hovering at the back during the speeches and the opera recital (which sounded beautiful, but as I know nothing about opera it went over my head a bit), while feeling spectacularly under-dressed next to all the soldiers in their shiny, smart uniforms.

I enjoyed the exhibition itself very much. The work we had done in youth forum had provided helpful context which meant I could appreciate what I was seeing a whole lot more; the Christopher Williams painting was of course a highlight, as was the World War One stretcher and a pistol owned by Siegfried Sassoon, who had fought at the battle.

It was also great to see the work of the very talented Margaret Williams, who I hadn’t heard of before I joined the youth forum, showcased alongside her male counterparts. However, due to the fact that it was an opening, it was very crowded, and being too British to ask people to move slightly aside I missed some of the exhibits. 

I decided to go back a few days later, and this turned out to be a very good idea. This time, there were old music hall and war songs playing quietly in the background. Combined with the ghostly sketches of soldiers, surrounded by their old possessions, it really made you feel as though you had stepped back in time, which surely is a sign a museum has done its job.

It also seems to enhance the sense of the futility of it all. I was surrounded by images and descriptions communicating the brutality, violence and bloodshed, the enormous sacrifice, and in the end, this was all that was left. A pipe, some faded documents, the stretcher rather than the people it had carried, a few old songs, and a collective national sense of loss. It was hard not to feel emotional. All this suffering may have created beautiful art, but the suffering itself hadn’t been worth it at all. 

There was also a video screen showing an actor reading a section of In Parenthesis, originally by David Jones, now adapted for a new opera. Whether it was because of the skill of the actor (whose name escapes me) or all the things I’d just seen and felt, I found I didn’t need to put the headphones on to understand what he was trying to say. 

So, to conclude. War’s Hell: The Battle of Mametz Wood in Art is well worth a visit. And next time I get invited to an exhibition opening, go with a friend and make more of an effort than just jeans and a jumper.  

Exhibition review by Museum's Youth Forum.

As youth forum members we were able to help input our opinions into the design of the temporary exhibition and have been able to see it develop from a drawing on paper to a physical form. Today we have examined the exhibition and have evaluated the information and items displayed.

Amgueddfa Cymru has been tasked with commemorating the WW1 centenary. Personally, we believe that the exhibition is very interesting as it gives an insight into the medicinal history starting from Ancient Greece right up to the 21st century. We enjoyed the exhibition overall. The video grabbed our attention the most and we were able to see a visual aspect of medicinal practice with a humorous touch.

The exhibition has a number of different displays which hold valuable information about medicine and the different tools used to carry out medical procedures such as amputations. It contains a silent video in both Welsh and English that shows a few medical procedures from the Roman times. There are some replicas of medical items in the display case that have been used such as a Face Mask used in World War One to disguise facial wounds. 

There is also a small game on an iPad that tests your knowledge of the information in the exhibition. This together with the video has proved to be a success with the general public. Some reviews say that they liked “the doctor video” and a young person enjoyed it when the doctor was “cutting the leg off”.

 

By Joel Powell, Emma Jones and Hannah Sweetapple.

Guest blog by St Fagans Youth Forum members - Amy Gifford, Kate Gregory & Beth Ivey-Williams - live from Bryn Eryr!

Hello everyone. We’re the St Fagans Youth Forum and today (12 March) we’re helping to build an Iron Age bread oven at Bryn Eryr. Ian, the Museum’s Interpreter, has been busy researching traditional building methods and the history of bread ovens through time. In this blog, we’ll take you through part one of the process. So if you fancy building your own pizza oven for your garden at home, follow our guide below.

Step 1

Use wooden stakes to mix local ‘clom’ (clay), water and sand to a thick dough. Patience and perseverance essential! Some would say it’s quite therapeutic; a weird kind of stress buster!

Tip from Amy: “Go with your gut instinct. You’ll know when the dough is at the right consistency.”

Step 2

Mix dry sand with water. Use the mixture to build a dome (former) in the centre of the oven base. Ian pre-made the base out of clay and a flat stone. When building the dome, even out the sides for a rounded finish. Don’t use too much water.

Tip from Beth: “You’ll have to get your hands dirty, but it’s just like building a sand castle.”

Step 3

Build-up your dome to a rounded arch.

Tip from Kate: “Keep warm as you work. Your hands will get very cold as you sculpt the wet material.”

Step 4

Smooth off all the sand and cover your dome with strips of damp newspaper. This is a bit like papier mâché.

Step 5

Cover the dome with the clay mixture you prepared earlier in step 1. Let it set for two days.

Step 6

To be continued!