Amgueddfa Blog

Happy Day of Archaeology everyone!

Today, the 28th July 2017, is the annual online event in which archaeologists from across the country blog about archaeology. The idea is to showcase the diversity of the subject and highlight what individuals are doing on and around this day.

This year we’ve badgered people from across the museum to contribute posts on who they are and how they engage with archaeology through their various research and projects and on a daily basis.

We have been amazed by the positive response, not just from within History and Archaeology but from a whole range of disciplines. The topic of posts thus ranges from prehistoric Cardiff to botany to archaeological curation to snails! It really shows how broad and varied archaeology truly is, beyond the traditional view of woolly jumpers, beards, and whips (though it has been known!)

These posts are all hosted on the external site: and links to blogs from our staff are listed below and will be added to throughout the day.

We hope you enjoy!

Adam GwiltAn Archaeological Curator’s Day

Dr. Rhianydd Biebrach The Saving Treasures: Telling Stories Project

Dr. Ben RowsonSnails at Snail Cave, and elsewhere in Wales

Jonathon Howells - From Housing to History and Archaeology

Kristine Chapman - Rare Books from the National Museum Wales Library

Sarah Parsons - Photographing Archaeology


Blogs that will be posted later today:

Dr. Heather Pardoe – Harold Augustus Hyde’s Contribution to Welsh Archaeology

Sian Iles – Marvellous medieval tiles-public engagement at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

Dr. Elizabeth Walker – Contemplating and communicating the Palaeolithic landscapes of Wales:

Matt Knight – A Day in the Life of an Archaeology Intern

Wales is culturally diverse from three hundred years of industrial heritage and a history of people coming here for work in mining and quarrying, dock yards, heavy industry. Lately jobs in tourism, modern industry and students coming to study at our universities make us a melting pot of cultures. Indeed, my grand-father came to Swansea from the Faroe Islands (Danish) and my wife’s grand-father came from Holland, both to work on the docks around 1910. As economic migrants – they came here to earn more money and have a better life, they were not refugees.

They stayed, married Welsh girls and raised families. The street I grew up on, Prince of Wales Road in the Hafod, Swansea there lived people from Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Poland and England, and the bottom of the street was known as ‘Jews Row’ where Jews from all over the world lived. As children we just thought this was normal and every street in the UK was just like ours.

Unsurprisingly with this background, Swansea became a ‘City of Sanctuary’ in 2010, the second one in the UK after Sheffield.

Part of my job is in the Public History Team for Amgueddfa Cymru. This means we actively seek out different groups and individuals in the community and gather their stories and history. Through my job I have met people who have been displaced from their homeland for various reasons and are seeking safety and shelter.

So, when last May (2017), I attended ‘Asylum Seeker and Refugee Awareness’ training at the Waterfront Museum as part of our staff training, I thought I was fairly clued up about the subject.

The training was delivered by a lady working for Swansea City of Sanctuary and another lady who was an asylum seeker and she told us about her personal experiences.

It’s strange, we see stuff on the TV and news and read stories in the papers and get a picture in our heads about a situation but very often is only half a story. Learning factual numbers and hearing personal testimony made me realise how far off the mark I was, how little I knew.

For instance, we were asked to rank the top ten countries of the world in order of which ones take the most refugees. As a group we managed to name one or two correctly.

The top ten are: Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Chad.

Surprised? I was. The UK, Germany or France don’t make the top ten even though I was convinced they would as it seems to make headlines on a regular basis in our media. The biggest refugee camp in the world is in Kenya with around 200,000 people living in it!

We learned what the difference is between an asylum seeker and a refugee. Both are displaced persons – they have had to leave their country of origin for lots of different reasons; war, religious beliefs, persecution or sexual orientation.

An asylum seeker is a person who is fleeing persecution in their home country, has come to the UK and made themselves known to the authorities. They then exercise their legal right to apply for asylum. If they are granted asylum here then they have ‘refugee’ status.

I found out that many of these desperate people are brought to Europe and the UK by traffickers and quite often they have no idea which country they are in. Most are stripped of belongings and passports so have no way of proving who they are, their age and marital status etc. when questioned by the authorities.

After assessment and a screening interview, if the person becomes an asylum seeker they then have to wait until their case is further assessed to get refugee status or be rejected. At any time during this process people can be subject to detention, deportation or destitution. Destitution means having no recourse to public funds, having no money and nowhere to live.

Asylum seekers are dispersed all over the country and are given free accommodation in private lettings. They are not allowed to work. They receive a maximum of £36.95 a week - £5.28 a day for food, toiletries, everyday needs and travel. As asylum seekers have to regularly sign in at an immigration office which can be some distance from where they live, a day’s money can be used up in bus fares.

The application process can take years for a person to get a decision on refugee status and the onus is on the asylum seeker to prove persecution of an ongoing threat and not a one off occurrence.

For many this period in limbo can very difficult. The lady we spoke to told us to imagine you suddenly found yourself in somewhere like China and couldn’t speak the language or understand the culture. Finding your way around and doing simple tasks is almost impossible. For example, she told us her and her two young children were placed in a house in Swansea on a cold January day. The house was cold, it had central heating but she had never seen central heating controls before and didn’t know how to work it. This lady was a psychologist in her own country but her qualifications are useless in the UK. She told us that even with all these problems she felt safe here, which was all she wanted for her family.

After the process is completed and refugee status is granted, as refugees they have the right to work and apply for family reunification. From March 2017, cases can be reviewed after five years to see if the threat to the person is still ongoing or if it is possible to be returned to their country of origin.

If refugee status is not granted there are a number of avenues for appeal but ultimately if status is not granted then the person can be deported.

After listening to the trainer and hearing the stories of asylum seekers I was left with a helpless feeling inside me. Every story we heard made me think ‘what if that was me and my family?’ and how grateful we would be to find somewhere to feel safe. The biggest point I took away from the morning was: Refugees are just people like you and me who had jobs, housing, education and good standards of living, suddenly taken away from them through no fault of their own. They just need the chance to start over again without fear.

At the end of 2016 there were 2,997 asylum seekers in Wales, 0.09% of the population.

There are times in life when a problem and its solution come together seamlessly.

The problem – one which every museum faces: cryptic causes of deterioration of stored objects.

The solution: investigation using the latest chemical analyses.

One step better: to combine this analysis with the mission of museums – inspiring people – and undertake the investigative work with full public engagement.

Like most museums, National Museum Cardiff has the task of slowing down corrosion to preserve collections. Think of your family silver tarnishing and you know what I am talking about. Multiply this by hundreds of thousands of metal objects in our collection and you understand the herculean task we face when we come to work every day.

Like most museums, we do not have much equipment to undertake complex chemical analyses. So when we want to investigate the magnitude of potential sources of corrosive airborne substances in our collection stores, we often work in partnership with academic institutions.

SEAHA is an initiative between three universities with industry and heritage partners to improve our understanding of heritage science. Heritage science is multi disciplinary and includes experts with chemistry, imaging, IT, engineering, architecture and other backgrounds. One of SEAHA’s amazing facilities is a fully equipped mobile laboratory. We submitted an application last year for the mobile lab to come to Cardiff which, amazingly (there is much demand for this vehicle), was approved. Last week, staff and postgraduate students from University College London, one of SEAHA’s academic partners, visited National Museum Cardiff.

The Mobile Heritage Lab was at the museum for two days. During this time, we assessed environments and pollutants in collection stores and in public galleries. We undertook this work with full involvement of our museum visitors. The mobile lab was parked next to the museum entrance where we encouraged our visitors to explore the on-board analytical equipment. UCL staff and students were at hand to explain how science helps us preserve heritage collections, for example how UV fluorescence is used to explore paintings.

We received a visit by A-level students from Fitzalan High School in Cardiff in the morning. The students were especially interested in chemistry. After a quick introduction, we gave the students an ultra-fine particle counter to produce a pollutant map of the public galleries at the museum. The students used this equipment to measure ultra-fine dust inside and outside the museum. We are still analysing these data, but the early results indicate that the museum’s air filtration system is doing a good job at keeping dust out of the building. This is important because the gases associated with ultra-fine particles (for example, SO2) can damage paper and other organic materials.

We also measured concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in collection stores and found that levels were higher inside drawers in the Entomology collection than in the store itself; this is important in the context of entomological pin corrosion. We managed to confirm that work we undertook recently to reduce the levels of VOC in the museum’s Mineralogy store had been effective and successful. In addition, we used a thermal imaging camera to check whether relatively high temperatures in a display case are caused by heating pipes in the wall behind the case, or by in-case lighting.

The Mobile Heritage Lab’s visit provided us with an opportunity to answer some important questions about the way we care for the museum’s collections. At the same time, we managed to teach students the practical applications of investigative science and analytical chemistry. Lastly, we spoke to many museum visitors about the role played by science in the preservation of heritage collections. We are extremely grateful for the fruitful partnership with SEAHA and hope to collaborate on additional projects in the near future. For example, there are some interesting questions surrounding the deposition of different types of dust which we discussed over a beer on Thursday evening. Watch this space as multi-disciplinary heritage science is becoming ever more important for answering questions of collection care and preservation. Museums are best placed to working in partnerships on important scientific questions while achieving public impact by explaining to a wider audience how science works.

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter.

Bob blwyddyn mae ysgolion sy’n gwneud cyfraniad mawr yn cael eu dewis fel enillwyr Project Bylbiau’r Gwanwyn i Ysgolion – un o bob gwlad sy’n cymryd rhan. Ymddiriedolaeth Edina sy’n trefnu gwobrau yr Alban a Lloegr (a Gogledd Iwerddon o’r flwyddyn nesaf ymlaen), gydag Amgueddfa Cymru’n trefnu gwobrau’r ysgol fuddugol yng Nghymru.

Yr enillwyr eleni oedd Ysgol Gynradd Tonyrefail, a’u gwobr oedd trip i Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru, gyda bws a gweithdai addysgiadol am ddim. Roedd yn bleser cyfarfod â’r grŵp ac fe gawson ni amser wrth ein bodd yn astudio natur yn Sain Ffagan.

Dyma fi’n croesawu’r grŵp oddi ar y bws ac yn eu harwain drwy’r Amgueddfa i Sgubor Hendre Wen. Anaml mae’r sgubor ar agor i’r cyhoedd, a dim ond yn ddiweddar mae wedi dechrau cael ei defnyddio fel gofod addysgiadol i ysgolion. Dyma oedd ein pencadlys ni am y diwrnod, ac roedd y plant yn edrych ymlaen i glywed am yr ystlumod a’r adar sydd wedi ymgartrefu yn y sgubor!

Dechreuais drwy ddiolch i’r grŵp am eu gwaith caled ar y project, a gofyn sut oedden nhw’n cadw trefn ar y gwaith yn y dosbarth? Wedyn, dyma fi’n rhoi cyflwyniad byr o ganlyniadau’r project i ddangos sut mae eu gwaith wedi cyfrannu at astudiaeth hirdymor o effaith newid hinsawdd ar ddyddiadau blodeuo bylbiau’r gwanwyn. Un adborth diddorol oedd syniad clyfar y dosbarth i ddefnyddio rotor i ddangos tro pwy oedd hi i gasglu data bob wythnos, a gwneud yn siŵr bod pawb yn cael cyfle i gymryd rhan.

Dyma ni wedyn yn rhannu’n ddau grŵp. Aeth Grŵp A gyda Hywel i’r Tanerdy i astudio’r bywyd gwyllt sy’n byw yn y pyllau – roedd y pyllau’n arfer cael eu defnyddio i drin lledr, ond bellach mae nhw wedi llenwi â dŵr. Wrth chwilio dyma nhw’n canfod amryw greaduriaid sydd wedi ymgartrefu yn y pyllau, a thrafod eu cylch bywyd a’u cynefin. Cafodd y grŵp hefyd gyfle i ddal Madfall Ddŵr Balfog, oedd yn brofiad newydd sbon i’r mwyafrif!

Dilynodd Grŵp B fi i’r guddfan adar, lle buon ni’n braslunio’r coed ac yn defnyddio binocwlars a thaflenni adnabod adar i adnabod trigolion y goedwig. Roedden ni’n lwcus iawn i gael gweld amrywiaeth o adar, gan gynnwys cnocell fraith fwyaf! Daeth wiwerod a llygod coed i ddweud helo hefyd, oedd bron mor gyffrous â gweld yr adar. Dyma ni’n trafod y rhywogaethau adar gwahanol, eu lliwiau, eu cylch bywyd a’u cynefin. Dyma ni hefyd yn trafod sut mae bywyd gwyllt yn elwa o’r lle bwydo a beth allwn ni ei wneud yn ein gerddi neu ar dir yr ysgol i helpu bywyd gwyllt.

Ar ôl i’r grwpiau gyfnewid, fel bod pawb yn cael cyfle i archwilio’r goedwig a’r pyllau, dyma ni’n cael cinio yn y sgubor ac atebodd Hywel lawer o gwestiynau am yr Ystlumod Hirglust Brown, y rhywogaeth dan warchodaeth sy’n clwydo yn nhrawstiau’r sgubor.

Ar ôl cinio dyma ni’n cael trafodaeth ehangach ar gynefin a meddwl am y trychfilod gwahanol sydd i’w gweld yn ein gerddi. Roedd y drafodaeth yn help mawr gyd thasg nesaf y plant – creu gwesty trychfilod i fynd adref gyda nhw. Dyma ni’n ailgylchu potiau planhigion, gwellt yfed a gwellt naturiol wrth adeiladu, a thrafod ble fyddai orau i osod y gwestai i ddenu gwahanol drychfilod. Dewisodd rhai o’r grŵp osod eu gwestai mewn llefydd heulog, uchel er mwyn denu gwenyn unigol, a dewisodd eraill lefydd cysgodol ar y llawr er mwyn denu pryfed sy’n hoff o amodau oerach.

Dim ond ei gwneud hi’n ôl i’r bws mewn pryd wnaethon ni wrth i ni edrych am bryfed ar hyd y llwybrau. Fe ges i a Hywel diwrnod gwych ac o’r wên ar eu hwynebau a’r adborth ffafriol, cafodd Ysgol Tonyrefail amser wrth eu bodd hefyd. Diolch eto Gyfeillion y Gwanwyn!


Adborth Ysgol Gynradd Tonyrefail:

‘Dwi’n credu taw dyma un o’n hoff dripiau achos dwi heb weld y rhan fwyaf o beth welais i heddiw ac mae mor ddiddorol.’

‘Fe ges i amser da a mwynhau gwylio adar a chwilio’r pwll. Roeddwn i’n hoffi gwylio adar achos ei fod yn ddiddorol ac roeddwn i’n gallu gysgu am rywogaethau do’n i ddim yn gwybod amdanyn nhw o’r blaen.’

‘Fe wnes i fwynhau heddiw yn bennaf achos chwilio’r pyllau a’r gwylio adar.’

‘Fe ges i hwyl heddiw. Roeddwn i’n hoffi’r gwylio adar achos fe welais i rai adar am y tro cynta.’

‘Nes i fwynhau dal y fadfall ddŵr achos ei fod yn teimlo fel dal putty byw, ac fe wnes i hoffi gwylio’r adar achos eu bod nhw’n edrych yn bert iawn.’

‘Roeddwn i’n mwynhau achos dyma’r tro cyntaf i fi ddal madfall ddŵr. Roeddwn i’n falch bod fy ngwesty trychfilod wedi troi allan yn grêt.’

‘Fe ges i hwyl yn cwrdd â pawb a roen i’n dwlu gwneud gwesty trychfilod achos ei fod yn hwyl. Roedd heddiw yn hwyl.’

‘Roeddwn i’n hoffi gwneud y gwesty trychfilod achos dwi’n hoffi gwneud pethau.’

Regular visitors might recognise Arnie the guide dog. He helped us to develop National Museum Cardiff's audio description tours, visited our Quentin Blake exhibition and even blogged about his Museum adventures! Arnie has recently retired from guiding duties and has handed his harness over to Uri, an enthusiastic young pup just out of training.

Ever the cultured canine, Arnie wanted to make sure Uri gets to sample the best of the National Museum but for a young pup the first visit can be scary. He has written so has written a few words to help Uri - and other guide dogs - take their first steps into the Museum.

Arnie's advice

"The National Museum Cardiff is a very old, impressive building that towers into the sky. It looks similar to other buildings in the area, but you'll know it because it has a big set of steps in front and a giant ball on top called the dome. The road outside is usually busy with traffic so your humans will need your help to cross. On either side of the front steps is some grass. You can 'spend' here but make sure you indicate to your humans that there's a step down to the grass. They might be safer letting you on a long lead and staying on the pavement.

You may feel overwhelmed as you stand at the bottom of the steps looking up at the building. I still get queasy. The stone ceiling looks like it's being held up by stilts (Mum calls them 'Grecian columns'), but I've been assured they're safe. The steps up to the Museum are in two flights, with brass rails zig-zagging across. You will need to guide your owner to the next rail between each flight. If you're feeling adventurous you might want to use the magic glass box that lifts you into the air instead. This is to the left of the steps, through a gate. Once inside, look out for the large silver button to the left - this opens the door.

Once you reach the top of the stairs you will need to guide your owner through the massive brass doorway. Then you will come to a set of glass doors that open automatically. They are much safer for us guide dogs than the old revolving type - less danger of getting squished! Be careful as you enter the Main Hall - your paws may slip on the marble-effect floor. You will hear lots of noises echoing and reverberating because the ceiling is so high. Guide your owner to the reception desk, which is straight ahead across the hall.

And then the best bit. You will soon be hit by a whiff of cakes and biscuits from the coffee shop to your left. Drooling is inevitable, but stay calm. This is the first of many temptations you will encounter. The Museum is full of animals you can't chase, bones you can't eat, and rocks you can't spend a penny on. Enjoy!"  

We wish Arnie the very best in his retirement and look forward to welcoming Uri and other guide dogs to the Museum. Our next Audio Description tour is on the 10th August. Cultured canines and Guide Dogs in training welcome!