The Investiture of the Prince of the Wales at Caernarfon Castle made 1969 a particularly exciting year in Wales. And an exhibition held at National Museum Cardiff reflected the patriotic fervour of the investiture with the wonder and excitement of the first humans on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission with Cymru Yfory – Wales Tomorrow. It was held in the Main Hall and was the museum’s official contribution towards the celebrations of Investiture Year.

As the forward in the catalogue put it:

"If a National Museum chooses to open its doors to contributions from the designer’s studio, the market place, the planner’s office or the research laboratory, no precedent is necessary. The Victoria & Albert Museum did these things excitedly in 1946 in the exhibition, Britain can make it . We saw then, after many drab years, a splash of enterprise and colour and an unexpected promise for the future.

For its main contribution to the year of the Investiture and of Croeso ’69 [a year long campaign to promote Welsh tourism and business built around the Investiture], the NMW has chosen deliberately to look beyond its ordinary boundaries and also to look into the future.

It has invited contributions from organisations of all sorts and the brief has been simple: that the ideas presented should be imaginative and for the future. They are not promises; they may not even be pleasant, but at least they refer to aspects of a possible future…"

Stands and ceiling display [with the General Post Office stand to the left]

Stands and ceiling display [with the General Post Office stand to the left]

 

The exhibition represented a major break with the traditions of the Museum; it was showing that it had an interest not only in the past, but in the life of the community in the present and the future. The whole of the Main Hall was used – isolated from the rest of the Museum by hanging drapes and a magnificent inflated plastic ceiling. For the first time professional designers were commissioned to design and plan the exhibition; Alan Taylor (Senior Designer, BBC Wales TV) and John Wright (Principal of Newport College of Art) co-ordinated the design of exhibits contributed by over twenty organisations. The results were spectacular, an immediate surprise to every visitor who had known the Main Hall as a dignified setting for classical sculpture.

The range and imagination of the stands on display at this 1969 exhibition were vast; they included ideas and plans for the Cardiff of the future, for the valleys, for the Severn Estuary and for housing and schools. Some were realistic but most were fantastical and frivolous – especially exhibits illustrating clothing, furniture and domestic habits of the future. A major contributor was General Industrial Plastics Limited, manufacturers and designers of plastic products who made the magnificent inflated ceiling display, pieces of air filled furniture and the plastic carrier bag provided with the official catalogue. Cardiff College of Art, the National Coal Board, the City of Cardiff, the General Post Office and British Rail also contributed stands.

As part of the fun atmosphere, a spoof contributor named Kumro Kemicals Corporation was created. The catalogue states they were established in 1999 (bear in mind this event took place in 1969!) and that their products were “the result of the most intensive research programme ever undertaken by any corporation in the Western Hemisphere…” As part of their contribution, Kumro produced sealed envelopes bearing the following message, DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 1999 – and the Library still holds one of these that remains unopened!

When publishing images, copyright issues need to be considered and a number of these photographs are stamped on the reverse with either Hylton Warner & Co Ltd or Giovanni Gemin (Whitchurch Road, Cardiff). Internet searches brought up a little information on Hylton Warner but nothing current and no information at all was found concerning Giovanni Gemin. Therefore, a notice was placed on the Photo Archive News website requesting communication from anyone who might be familiar with these two photographers. After some time, we were contacted by the son of Giovanni Gemin. Award-winning author Giancarlo Gemin was kind enough to grant permission to publish the photographs and also tell us the following about his father:

"He was an industrial and commercial photographer based in Cardiff from 1961. He worked regularly for BBC Wales, and was one of the official photographers at the investiture of the Prince of Wales. He was awarded the Chartered Institute of Incorporated Photographers (AIIP) and an Associate of Master Photographers (AMPA)".

Models standing beneath the clear plastic ceiling installation

Models standing beneath the clear plastic ceiling installation

 

As well as items of ephemera such as the official catalogue, carrier bag, stickers etc. we are fortunate to hold two volumes of comments books. These are a fascinating record of visitors’ thoughts and the majority are very positive but, not everyone appreciated looking to the future instead of a classical past and to end this post, here are just a few that have made us smile:

BW, Rhwibina – "Awful"

RM, Rhondda – "Not as good as the British Museum"

MB, Cheltenham – "Baffled!"

MD, Durham – "I prefer the face of OLD WALES proud and noble not false and plastic"

CS, Cardiff – "Needs dusting"

L, Cardiff – "Rubbish, waste of good museum space!"

TO, County Cork – "TRASH"

 
Inflatable ceiling display in process of construction

Inflatable ceiling display in process of construction

 

We also recently made contact with Drake Educational Associates who purchased Hylton Warner along with copyright of all their photographs a number of years ago. We thank them also for allowing us to use the images in this article.

Comments(1)

L
13 June 2019, 15:58
Is this available in english?

Leave a comment