Uncovering our Collections: Half a Million Records now Online

As we reveal half a million collection records for the first time, we look at some of the strangest and most fascinating objects from National Museum Wales Collections Online.

This article contains photos of human skeletal fragments.

The Biggest

We have some real whoppers in our collections - including a full-size Cardiff Tram and a sea rescue helicopter - but the biggest item in our collection is actually Oakdale Workmen's Institute.

Built in 1917, the Institute features a billiard room, dance hall and library - and is nowadays found in St Fagans National Museum of History.

Horace Watkins testing his monoplane in 1908

Many of the buildings in St Fagans are part of the national collection - meaning they have the same legal status as one of our masterpiece Monets or this coin hoard. The buildings are dismantled, moved, rebuilt - and cared for using traditional techniques, by the museum's legendary Historic Buildings Unit.

The Oldest

The oldest human remains ever discovered in Wales

These teeth belonged to an eight year-old Neanderthal boy - and at 230,000 years old, they are the oldest human remains in Wales.

They were discovered in a cave near Cefn Meiriadog in Denbighshire, along with a trove of other prehistoric finds, including stone tools and the remains of a bear, a lion, a leopard and a rhinocerous tooth.

These teeth are among some of the incredible objects on display at St Fagans National Museum of History

The Shiniest

People in Wales have been making, trading and wearing beautiful treasures from gold for thousands of years - like this Bronze Age hair ornament and this extremely blingy Medieval signet.

At around 4000 years old, this sun disc is one of the earliest and rarest examples of Welsh bling

One of the earliest examples of Welsh bling is this so-called 'sun disc', found near Cwmystwyth in Ceredigion.

Current research suggests that these 'sun discs' were part of ancient funeral practice, most likely sewn onto the clothes of the dead before their funerals. Only six have ever been found in the UK.

Most Controversial

At first glance, an ordinary Chapel tea service - used by congregations as they enjoyed a 'paned o de' after a service. A closer look reveals the words - 'Capel Celyn'. The chapel, its graveyard and surrounding village are now under water.

Capel Celyn, in the Tryweryn Valley, is now underwater

Flooded in 1965 by the Liverpool Corporation, the Tryweryn valley became a flashpoint for Welsh political activism - creating a new generation of campaigners who pushed for change in how Welsh communities were treated by government and corporations.

Curators from St Fagans collected these as an example of life in Capel Celyn - to serve as a poignant reminder of a displaced community, and to commemorate one of the most politically charged moments of the 20th century in Wales.

Honourable Mention: an Airplane made from a Dining Room Chair

Made from a dining room chair, piano wire and a 40 horsepower engine, the Robin Goch (Red Robin) was built in 1909 - and also features a fuel gauge made from an egg timer.

The Robin Goch (Red Robin) on display at the National Waterfront Museum

Its builder, Horace Watkins, was the son of a Cardiff printer - here he is pictured with an earlier, even more rickety version of his famous monoplane.

Horace Watkins testing his monoplane in 1908

Our collections are full of stories which reflect Wales' unique character and history. The Robin Goch is one of the treasures of the collection, and is an example of Welsh ingenuity at its best.

Half a Million Searchable Items

The launch of Collections Online uncovers half a million records, which are now searchable online for the first time.

“Collections Online represents a huge milestone in our work, to bring more of our collections online and to reach the widest possible audience.

It’s also just the beginning. It’s exciting to think how people in Wales and beyond will explore these objects, form connections, build stories around them, and add to our store of knowledge." – Chris Owen, Web Manager

Search Collections Online

Plans for the future

Our next project will be to work through these 500,000 records, adding information and images as we go.

We'll be measuring how people use the collections, to see which objects provoke debate or are popular with our visitors. That way, we can work out what items to photograph next, or which items to consider for display in our seven national museums.

Preparing and photographing the collections can take time, as some items are very fragile and sensitive to light. If you would like to support us as we bring the nation's collections online, please donate today - every donation counts.


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We are incredibly grateful to the People's Postcode Lottery for their support in making this collection available online.

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8 October 2018, 09:36