Amgueddfa Blog

Looking across Swansea Bay on a chilly spring morning and seeing that the tide was out came with a sigh of relief as this meant we didn’t have to wait an hour or so to get started with our beachcomb.

I joined Swansea Museum on The Mumbles side of the Bay to take part in one of their community projects that aims to engage local communities with their pasts. On this occasion the museum teamed up with the Llanrhidian Women’s Institute and the Gurnos Men’s Community First group to take part in a beachcomb led by archaeologist Paul Huckfield, from the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust.

All wrapped up in extra layers we were ready to begin our trek across the swamp-like beach, luckily most of us received the wellies memo and they were definitely needed.

Paul wanted to create a sense of what the landscape would have been like during the Bronze Age and took us to areas on the beach where some of the landscape remained fairly similar and unchanged.

We’re standing on the actual ground surface as it would have been in the Bronze Age. You can see the peat levels just here show what would have been around in the Bronze Age; you can see that this is black in colour from the trees and bits of foliage. So you’re actually standing in the past at around 4,000 years ago.”

Travelling through time across the bay allowed us to think of what life would have been like 4,000 years ago, what is now a beach would have been a woodland and shrubbery area surrounded with fresh water pools.

Paul talks about some of the reason why the landscape changed and during what periods. You can watch the clip HERE:

Bringing us through time to the 19th and 20th century we were then led to some of the remaining shipwrecks found on Swansea Bay. On the Mumbles side of the bay alone we could spot around 14 shipwrecks and vessels. Vessel remains are still on the bay and these would have been used to protect the area from submarine attacks during the Second World War.

Paul said: “The whole beach is covered in metal uprights and wire to stop enemy gliders coming onto the beach.”

Another shipwreck was part of an oyster fleet. We learnt that the bay was a natural resource for oysters and they were a major food source, some dating back to Roman times, however this source was destroyed during the industrial period.

After having a look around the beach and learning how it has changed through time with different inhabitants we were then given clear bags and told to try and find our own items.

We found a variety of items during the beachcomb from ceramics, beer bottles from London, fossils and different types of slate and stone. The items found today along with others from previous beachcombs with Swansea Museum will be kept and made into a mosaic for public viewing in the future.

 

Swansea Museum are currently working on a project called ‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’, which is funded by the help of the ‘Saving Treasures; Telling Stories’ project and you can read about the last walk I attended with them HERE. Saving Treasures is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is acquiring archaeological objects for local and national collections and providing training for heritage professionals and volunteers.

By Rebecca Ling

I took part in a two week work placement at The National Museum Cardiff to work on a project called Saving Treasures; Telling Stories. I wasn’t too sure what to expect as a journalism student or how working at a museum could help enhance my journalistic skills, but I was ready to explore new ways of researching and writing stories and was pleasantly surprised with just how hands-on the placement was.

Saving Treasures; Telling Stories made me realise how I can help bring history to life through researching around archaeological finds and discovering that every item has a past and story to tell.

The first day was an introduction to the department and a chance for us to find out more about the project itself as well as the role of The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales to find out how that fits into the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project. I was fortunate enough to have a look around, almost a behind the scenes tour, to see some of the interesting finds that weren’t currently on display. I also got to get a close up view as to what was going on the conservation laboratory as I watched the conservators in action!

So where does journalism come into it all?

During my two weeks I conducted phone interviews with curators, archaeologists and metal detectorists before having to transcribe these and write up blogs and articles. We also had the opportunity to film on location at Pontypool Museum and talk to someone whose recent treasure find is now going to be displayed at the museum for the first time. I wrote press releases covering upcoming events and even was invited to attend an oral history interview training course to learn different interview techniques and skills.  

From camera work to interviewing there was never a dull moment and I found myself busy each day.

The placement has inspired me to be more creative with my journalistic skills and to think outside the box, I didn’t know from my first day how I would be able to bring archaeology to life and create current and relevant stories in the public interest.

Overall this experience has made me aware that archaeology evokes important questions that hadn’t crossed my mind before. Items and stories I have worked on during my time at Saving Treasures; Telling Stories make me wonder- Where did this come from? What importance does that piece of history hold? But more interestingly it makes you imagine what life was like during that time period, it's almost as if you are time travelling.

By Ieuan Donovan, Work Placement Student

I’m currently studying for an MSc in Wildlife and Conservation Management at the University of South Wales and as part of this course opted to undertake a Work Based Learning Project within the Estates Department at St Fagans. Throughout my time on the work placement I have been able to take part in a number of jobs from clearing deadwood and brash, to hedge laying and delivering firewood to the historical buildings around the site. The variety of roles I’ve been able to do has meant that I’ve had a good time working at the museum. I’ve also enjoyed being able to partake in practical jobs away from an office and away from assignments. Although a welcome break from desk based work it’s been a great way of incorporating theoretical knowledge with practical application and implementation of specific management plans. The work placement has also opened up an avenue for me to pursue my dissertation research project using the museum grounds.

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales at the RHS Flower Show, Cardiff 2017

We have had a presence at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show, Cardiff for over 10 years. This year our theme was Welsh Wood and Woodlands, encouraging visitors to learn all about the plant and animal life associated with Welsh woodlands from the ancient ‘coal forests’ of the Palaeozoic era, through the post-glacial forests, up to the present day. We put our unique Welsh collections on display, including living and preserved plants, botanical wax models, fossils, insects, taxidermy birds and mammals, as well as botanical illustrations. A superb collection of large timbers, rarely on show to the public, formed the centrepiece for the display. In the foreground, a vibrant green moss garden demonstrated the variety of mosses found in Welsh woodlands, while hung as a backdrop were 12 large botanical ‘stained glass’ windows of pressed woodland plants.

Geraint Parfitt the clog maker and David Davies the woodcarver from St Fagans National History Museum, demonstrated their crafts at the RHS Flower Show for the first time. Members of the public were fascinated to see Geraint practice his traditional craft, turning newly felled timber into clog soles while David showed his skill at making Welsh love spoons.

Crowds were attracted by our 3D printer where we showed how we can reproduce specimens from the collections the twenty-first century way. This enables us to make replicas of delicate or poisonous specimens from the collections more easily, that would not otherwise be touchable.

Families could test their knowledge of Welsh trees or work out the age of the trees from our collections by counting their rings under a microscope. Talented story tellers from Amgueddfa Cymru entertained children with woodland inspired stories.

We were delighted that the RHS honoured our exhibit by presenting a Commended award. We would also like to thank the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this event.

Have a look at the Twitter fall from RHS Cardiff 2017 – it follows the preparation and set-up of the Museum’s display to our visitors’ experience.

Last Friday we attended the Torfaen Treasure Day at Pontypool Museum, where the latest treasure finds from the Trevethin and Henllys area were presented.

The treasure included a decorative gold finger-ring from the late 16th or early 17th century, as well as Bronze Age artefacts, which date back 3,000 years. The Bronze Age hoard consists of five Bronze Age artefacts, including three socketed axes and two spearheads and these will be the first Bronze Age items to be displayed at Pontypool Museum.

Rt Hon. Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen, President of the Torfaen Museum Trust, welcomed in the event warming up the audience before presentations from Adam Gwilt and Rhianydd Biebrach from Amgueddfa Cymru and local MP Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds followed.

The newly declared treasure was presented to the museum by Adam Gwilt, the Principal Curator of Prehistory in the History & Archaeology Department. Adam talked about the history of the treasure and provided background information so the audience could gain a further understanding of the items. Since the items were acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures;Telling Stories Project Dr Rhianydd Biebrach, the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project Officer discussed the key messages and aims behind the project.

The Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project is currently working with the University of South Wales assisting student journalists for a two-week work placement where they can use their journalistic writing and interviewing skills to help tell the stories behind items. We thought it would be a good idea to send them up to Pontypool Museum before the event to talk to the curators at the museum and the finders of the treasure.

They spoke to Gareth Wileman, a metal detectorist in the Pontypool area who found the hoard back in November 2014, and asked him how he felt about his discovery being exhibited. While we would have loved to hear from Simon Harrison, the finder of the gold finger-ring, he wasn’t available at the time so a potential phone interview looks likely for the next batch of students.

The students are still currently working on this project and will provide us with written and video content of their interview - so keep your eyes peeled on our Twitter and Facebook account for more content and videos coming your way!

The hoard is being acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures;Telling Stories Project. This project, funded via the Collecting Cultures programme of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is acquiring archaeological objects discovered by members of the public for public museum collections across Wales. The project is also encouraging communities to engage with their pasts and portable archaeological heritage, by funding a programme of community archaeology projects led by staff in museums throughout Wales.