Amgueddfa Cymru

Hafan

On the weekend of the 17th and 18th of September, Cardiff celebrated Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday with The City of the Unexpected - a weekend extravaganza of theatre, performance, participatory events and storytelling.

National Museum Cardiff was just one of the venues across the city which transformed itself in honour of Dahl’s weird and wonderful world. We created a ‘Museum of the Unexpected’, with twenty-five strange surprises scattered throughout the galleries. From upside-down paintings to a dinosaur tea party, visitors got the chance to see the displays as never before.

The sight of people exploring the exhibits in search of the next silly scenario was something to behold, and we got great feedback on social media with the #UnexpectedCity tag.

On Saturday, we played host to a huge theatrical performance in the Main Hall, complete with snowball fights, lots of dancing and an appearance by the elusive Mr Fox! Our family learning work placement trainees also ran one of their great music and art workshops, and there was even a chance for visitors to display their own work next to the masterpieces in our art galleries.

On Sunday, the museum hosted Roald Dahl readings by secret celebrities. Daniel Glyn read from ‘James and the Giant Peach’ in our Wriggle exhibition, while Johnny Ball attracted crowds to the Clore Discovery Centre for his rendition of ‘The BFG’. Those in the Reardon Smith Lecture theatre were treated to a double reading by Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell and actress/politician/children’s TV legend Floella Benjamin.

Check out the Storify story below to see more pictures and feedback from what was a magical weekend.

 

If all that has put you a Roald Dahl mood, why not visit Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, an exhibition on Dahl's most famous illustrator?

What’s it all about?

Archaeological collections in museums across Wales are being given a boost over the next few years by the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project.

Focussing on items discovered by metal detectorists, its key aims include collecting and collections development, training, and community engagement with local heritage and archaeology.

Saving Treasures

Hundreds of items discovered by metal detectorists are reported to PAS Cymru every year, allowing them to be recorded and made publicly accessible via https://finds.org.uk/.

In 2015 37 of these were declared treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/24/contents, many of which were acquired for local museums by Saving Treasures, on behalf of the people of Wales.

Over the next three years the project will build on this progress, hoping to foster strategic collecting by museums as well as responsible discovering and reporting by metal detectorists.

It will provide training to museum professionals and volunteers to equip them with the skills and knowledge to best collect, interpret and display their treasures.

Telling Stories

Saving Treasures is not just about museums. It’s also about people, especially those who live in the communities where the treasures have been discovered.

In order to reach out to non-traditional museum audiences the project is funding up to six Community Archaeology projects, which will be run by local museums working with community groups to help interpret their collections and bring them closer to their collective pasts.

The first Community Archaeology project, called the ‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’, is run by Swansea Museum and inspired by a fantastic collection of finds made by a local metal detectorist on Swansea Bay.

Each item has a tale to tell and together they are helping archaeologists build the story of human activity in the bay over thousands of years.

Saving Treasures is a partnership between Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, the Welsh Museums Federation (FED) and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru), and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Keep an eye out for the next blog in what will be a continuous series of updates throughout the life of the project, to find out more about the mysterious Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay…

Before starting my degree in English Literature and History at Cardiff University in September 2015, I was conscious that employers look for experience as well as qualifications, especially in senior management roles in the heritage sector. Knowing this, I wanted to get some volunteering under my belt to enable me to get a head start in museum work and the heritage sector after I graduate; the Events Volunteer Work Placement at St Fagan’s National History Museum seemed the perfect opportunity to do this.

Over the past year, our role as the placement team was to come up with a way of recruiting volunteers for specific events, and we trialled our scheme at the St Fagan’s Food Festival on the 10th and 11th September 2016, to much success. We were also given experience working on the front of house with other museum employees, which was a great insight into how museums are run, and how important visitor relations are. Another placement volunteer and I also designed a tote bag for use by the events volunteers; the museum staff were so impressed that they hinted at working with us on something similar in the future, an opportunity that would not have existed without the work placement.

Doing the work placement has been hugely beneficial to me; I now have experience in both behind the scenes and on the face of the museums events and day to day running, and I have learnt how many different aspects and people it takes to pull off a big event like the Food Festival. Every team member is valued, down to every last volunteer. It has also taught me transferable skills such as teamwork, time management, and customer service.

One major advantage of the work placement is that it has opened many doors for me; having now volunteered for the National Museum Wales, I have gained an excellent contact and reference within the volunteer department. I am planning on continuing volunteering with the museum once the work placement is finished, and that is made a lot easier by my past experience on the placement.

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

 

The first object this month is wooden plaque carved with a profile of Joseph Stalin. Stalin was leader of the Soviet Union from the mid 1920s right up until his death in 1953. The plaque was carved in situ on a pit prop at a west Glamorgan colliery in the 1930s. Later it was removed from the prop, presumably after it had been removed from underground. It was thankfully preserved by a worker who was a member of the Communist Party.

 

I have also included two images from the historic photography collections. The first is an underground view showing miners working on the coal seam at Penallta Colliery circa 1940. Metal props can be seen at the centre, with wooden props either side.

The second image shows a miner and pit pony at the pit prop dump at Blaencuffin Colliery in 1974.

 

The second object to enter the industry collections this month was an underground battery locomotive used at the Glamorgan Haematite Iron Ore Mine, or as it was locally known, Llanharry Iron Ore Mine. This was one of eight battery locomotives built in 1961 by Greenwood and Batley Ltd., of Leeds that was supplied to the mine.

This photograph is an aerial view showing the mine and tips. The image is taken from the Tempest Collection.

 

Finally this month, we have acquired a brass time check from Chislet Colliery North Pit, Kent. The 'D' on the check denotes the ride down the pit - A, B, C, and D. The donor was a Welsh man who went to work in Kent.

You can see more examples from the check collection here.

 

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

We met in the museum’s car park, not quite knowing what to expect.  Our 50+ Group had been asked if we fancied cataloguing more than a thousand books from the library at the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute as part of the re-interpretation of the building and all four of us had been intrigued by the request.

Sioned greeted us with a warm welcome and we were taken to the library in the ‘new’ building to meet Richard, the librarian.  And so began five extremely enjoyable Thursdays.

The books had been packed into boxes and our task was to fill the spreadsheets with name, author and publication date.  We noted the condition of the book and if it had come from another library or institute (eg. Nantymoel or Aberkenfig).

Delving into each box, not knowing what we might discover was like plunging into a box of chocolates.   Mining and engineering books were obviously very popular in Lewis Merthyr Library – were they borrowed by young men keen to further their careers?  There were many books on mathematics, science and architecture – all well-used according to the date stamps on page three.  And then there were novels by popular authors like Jane Austen, Daniel Defoe and Charles Dickens – read and enjoyed in a time before television and computers.  A few books, with risqué titles, were obviously well-thumbed and our work stopped as we contemplated why they appeared to be more popular than ‘Advanced Algebra’ or ‘Modern Mechanics’.

It was a fascinating insight into a random selection of books, some dating back to the 1870s, and we are so grateful to the Museum for including us in this work.  Richard was on hand to answer questions and solve mysteries – why did so many Welsh preachers write books about themselves?  Who bought them?  And who decided to write ‘The Life of the White Ant’ (and did anyone ever read it)?

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our five days ‘work’, have learnt new skills, met lovely people and, also, become better acquainted after visiting all of the eateries in the museum for lunch.  If there’s any more volunteering on offer – please put our names on this list.