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Yes, you have guessed it, it's time to roll out our annual #MuseumAdvent Calendar at National Museum Cardiff.

Each year throughout December we like to highlight our fantastic collections and spread some Christmassy cheer.

So why not find out what is behind each door of our advent calendar by following the @CardiffCurator Twitter account and see what wonderful suprises we have in store for you behind each one. We have delved deep into our collections to find some great Christmas objects. This year the theme of our advent calendar is lines from Christmas songs and poems. See if you can work out which song or poem each line comes from.

We have started off the calendar with:

Diwrnod 1 #AdfentAmgueddfa: ‘Aur, thus a myrr a gafodd ef, gan ddoethion ddaeth o bell’. Aur Cymru o gasgliadau @Museum_Cardiff

Day 1 of #MuseumAdvent - ‘Five gold rings!’, 5 nuggets of Welsh Gold from @Museum_Cardiff collections

Enjoy!

Our conservation volunteers are helping to get Christmas underway at St Fagans. The first historic building to get the festive treatment was Cilewent Farmhouse originally from Rhaeadr Powys. The display reflects life as it was in the 18th century with most of the furniture dating to 1750. Preparations for Christmas would involve decorating the home with evergreen foliage gathered from the surrounding countryside, such as laurel, ivy, holly and yew. A tradition that has its origins firmly rooted back in our pagan past and continues to this day with the Christmas tree.

The evergreens stand out among the dormant trees in the museum grounds so it didn't take long to gather up enough to prepare the garlands for Cilewent.  We also created a bracket out of 4 sticks of even length (80cm) and to this attached more evergreen foliage and red ribbons. Red berries were very popular, but these dry out and fall off quickly. A recommended technique to help preserve their colour was to store the berries in salt water after picking, we haven't tried this yet, but we'll probably give it a go next year as a flash of red would definitely enhance the overall effect.

The garlands were much bigger than we anticipated and they soon turned into rather unwieldy evergreen snakes, but between us we managed to walk them across the site and secure them to the beams of Cilewent.

If you would like to try this out at home be careful with the holly, it can scratch, not just yourself but furniture and wallpaper as well, so remember to place a barrier of card or fabric between holly and any vulnerable surfaces.

Well, one house done, 11 more to do and only 20 days to Christmas!

As usual in this monthly blog post I’d like to show you some of the objects that have recently been added to the industry and transport collections.

 

The first object this month is a passport issued to Cardiff shipowner Robert McNeil for travel on the continent. It is dated 16 September 1896. Robert McNeil was the founder of the Cardiff shipping company McNeil, Hind & Company.

 

One collection accessioned this month consists of three certificates and two photographs. The certificates were all issued to William Challenger of Hafodyrynys, who was a colliery manager. The certificates comprise a Second Class Certificate of Competency, and a First Class Certificate of Competency both issued under the Coal Mines Act, 1911. This Act had set up a Mining Qualifications Board to make sure that colliery managers, firemen, deputies and other staff responsible for mine safety were suitably qualified and to issue these certificates of competency. The third certificate was issued to William Challenger electing him a Member of The South Wales Institute of Engineers in 1944. Also in this collection, are two photographs (both illustrated here).

The first is a group photograph showing the Llanhilleth Colliery Rescue Brigade, 1923-24, with some wearing rescue apparatus. The photograph is mounted onto card with a handwritten title and list of names. William Challenger appears in the photograph (seated front left) and was the captain.

The second photographs is a group photograph showing "Monmouthshire Education Committee Mining Students' Tour in Lancashire, 1922'. Photograph includes William Challenger (seated second from right) who later became a colliery manager. The photograph is mounted on card with title and names of students printed on it.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, Amgueddfa Cymru holds by far the largest and most wide-ranging Welsh-interest share certificate collection held by any public museum. This month we have added to this collection a share certificate for the Anglo-Belgique Shipping Co. Ltd. This company was based in Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff, and was established in 1916 by Evan Owen of Llangrannog and E.L. Williams of Penarth to take advantage of high war time shipping rates. They acquired the steamer Kyleness which was renamed Cymric Prince. When Williams left the partnership, Evan was joined by his sons Alwyn and Aneurin. Boosted by the post First World War shipping boom, by 1922 they were operating three steamships prefixed Cymric- The difficult years of the late 1920s caused the company to mortgage its two remaining ships to Barclay’s Bank which foreclosed on the mortgages in 1933, whereupon the company was wound-up. The distinctive name suggests an intention to trade with Belgian ports.

 

Finally this month, we have acquired a Tata Steel Port Talbot fortnightly works newspaper. It is Issue 221, and dated 28 April 2016. It would have been given away free to employees at Port Talbot works, and visitors to the plant.

 

Find out more about the industry and transport collections here on the monthly blog post.

You can also learn more about the collections on our web pages here.

 

Mark Etheridge
Curator (Industry & Transport)
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

This week is Chemistry Week and our Preventive Conservation team got involved. Two local high schools (St Teilo’s Church in Wales High School and Cardiff High School) were invited to participate in a workshop with live demonstrations and hands-on activities.

We organized the workshop in a collection store and one of our analytical laboratories at National Museum Cardiff. Neither space is laid out for large numbers of people and it’s always a bit of a squash. But once we had squeezed the last of the year 12 and 13 students into each room and closed the doors, there was no escaping the exciting world of analytical chemistry.

The students learned about Wales’s largest and most important mineral collection, the challenges of caring for it, and some of the analytical tools that help us: X-Ray diffraction (XRD), gas detection tubes, infrared spectroscopy (IR) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). The latter two are covered by the curriculum and the students enjoyed the opportunity to prepare real samples, analyse them and interpret the results. To them, this made the subject a lot more real than just learning about them from books. It was also important that the analyses were undertaken not simply as a method per se, but in the context of answering genuine research questions at the museum.

What does chemistry have to do with the care of collections? We undertake our own research on objects and specimens in the collections, and we collaborate with researchers at universities. In addition, the act of preserving our common heritage often throws up problems, as objects degrade and conservators need to work out why, and how to stop the degradation.

Often we cannot do this on our own, in which case we work with partners to investigate, for example, the corrosivity potential of indoor pollutants and their effect on mineral specimens in storage at National Museum Cardiff. These partners include Cardiff University’s Schools of ChemistryEngineering and History, Archaeology and Religion (Conservation Department).

One of these collaborations sparked yesterday’s schools engagement project, which was kindly supported and funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry (South East Wales Section). The Royal Society of Chemistry provided an entire bench full of portable analytical equipment for the day, which the society's Education Coordinator, Liam Thomas, set up in the Mineral Store. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the project, additional support came from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Find out more about care of collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.

 

If you’re a regular visitor to our blog pages, you may have read about our work to improve the visitor experience for those who are blind or visually impaired. We’ve had training with Cardiff Institute for the Blind, worked with our Youth Forum to make our art galleries more accessible and even discovered a specially created exhibition from the 80s.

We were proud to host RNIB Cymru’s launch event introducing a series of Welsh-language Roald Dahl Talking Books. The RNIB’s Talking Books (neu Llyfrau Llafar yn Gymraeg) scheme offers a library of over 25,000 free audiobooks that helps create a lifeline to the outside world for people who are blind or partially sighted. The service’s 6,000 customers will now be able to listen to Dahl’s stories in Welsh for the first time.

At the launch, there were inspiring talks from RNIB staff, S4C announcer/Talking Books narrator Huw Charles and a long-time Talking Books subscriber who shared just how big a difference the service can make to people’s lives.

We were then treated to readings from The BFG and Jiraff, a'r Pelican a Fi by Melangell Dolma, a Welsh-language Talking Books narrator, who demonstrated how expressive and engaging Talking Books can be.

Following the event in the Main Hall, we ran brief audio description tours of our illustration exhibition, Quentin Blake: Inside Stories. The tours were designed to offer a taster of our audio description gallery tours, which are now on offer to the public. As the day was a celebration of Roald Dahl, we focused on Blake’s illustrations from two Roald Dahl stories.

First we explored artworks from The Twits, describing how Blake captures the mean and disgusting title characters using scratchy lines and drab watercolours.

To add a tactile element, we passed around several tools that Quentin Blake might use, including watercolour paint brushes, metallic dip pens and feather quills. The brave among the group were also given the opportunity to sample the scent of Mr Twit’s beard, a striking blend of sardines and Stilton cheese.

Finally we moved on to illustrations from Matilda, focusing in particular on Matilda’s tyrannical head teacher, Miss Trunchbull. The story is one of Roald Dahl’s most popular books and was a fitting end to the morning of Dahl-themed fun. The tour was then repeated for our Welsh-speaking visitors.

We were also lucky enough to welcome RNIB Connect Radio, who did a segment on the launch, including interviews with visitors and members of staff. The comments from CIB member and good friend (along with our number one canine visitor) Sian Healy showed how the tour made Quentin Blake’s work more accessible to people with visual impairments.

“Through the description that the guide gave us of what was in the picture,” she said. “I could piece it together and know what I was seeing. I got the feel of the whole energy of the painting. And that’s what Quentin Blake can give, that energy”.

Sian also said some very kind things about her role in helping us develop these tours, proving that, although we still have a lot to learn, we’re certainly on the right track.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being involved, getting to know the staff here, getting to know more about the Museum …It’s been lovely to have this sort of response from the Museum who have really embraced the idea of making the Museum accessible with these tours.”

Our audio description tours run once every other month. For more information and future dates, please call (029) 2057 3240.