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Archibald H. Lee - National Museum Wales' first Secretary 1909-1953

Jennifer Evans, 9 November 2017

Archibald H. Lee was the first Secretary appointed to National Museum Wales in 1909 and held the post for 44 years. His professional life began in 1899 when he entered the service of the Cardiff Corporation as a junior clerk in the old Town-hall on St Mary Street. During this time he would have worked on the City’s case for the establishment of a National Museum, so it must have been gratifying for him to join the fledgling staff of the new Museum.

After a few quietly productive years, the outbreak of WWI saw a large number of staff leave the museum for military service and Lee was no exception. He commanded a company of the 5th Welch Regiment and was awarded the Military Cross after the Battle of Gaza.

After the war, Lee resumed his position as Secretary and the Library holds a great number of photographs showing him at the forefront of important events and gatherings. In 1927 the new building at Cathays Park was officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary and Lee lead the Royal party up the steps to officially knock on the door with the ceremonial staff.

He established a life time bond with the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society when he joined in 1909, going on to hold the posts of Honourable Secretary, Council Member, President [1931-2] and finally Honorary Member in 1954. Some highlights during these years were helping to organize and celebrate the Society’s Diamond Jubilee, contributing an article titled Museums in Cardiff for the Society Transactions [1932] and being awarded the Honorary Degree of M.A. by the University of Wales [1937].

During WWII, he was an active member of the 16th Glamorgan Home Guard ‘National Museum Wales Section’. The Museum suffered some damage through enemy air raids on Cardiff and extensive precautions were implemented to protect the collections. These involved the transfer of important specimens to the basement strong room, sandbagging of sculptural and bulky exhibits, the protecting of all glass cases and windows with gummed strips, and night time ‘fire-watch’ duties, all of which  Lee would most likely have been involved in.

In 1953 Lee retired as Secretary with a civic luncheon held in his honour and the award of an O.B. E [Officer of the British Empire].

He passed away in 1970, aged 87 years.


Jennifer Evans

Assistant Librarian


Cardiff Naturalists Society
1 January 2018, 15:36
I know the museum is already aware of the close relationship between the Cardiff Naturalists' Society and the museum, and I know that many of you (including Jennifer Evans the author of this blog post) are aware that we are celebrating our 150th Anniversary.

As part of that we are putting on-line a brief summary of information of each of our presidents (many of who'm sat on both the society and the museum councils)

I have recently uploaded a page about A. H. Lee which your readers may find has additional interesting information

One minor correction to your information above he was elected as an Honorary, not an Honourable Member as stated

He truly seems to have been a great person especially during WWI and i was amazed to find the information about his sand shoes on the IWM website

Andy Kendall (Publicity Officer and Former President CNS) and former NMW staff member (1980's)
Marc Haynes Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
15 November 2017, 15:01
Hi Lydia,

While there are some works by Casanovas on long-term loan to the Museum from the Derek Williams Trust, Twenty Blocks is not one of them and I'm not aware of its being in our permanent collection. A fellow member of the Museum's staff has sent you the details of a contact who might be able to help with your enquiry.

Thank you,

Digital Team
Lydia Kowalski
14 November 2017, 15:36
Hello: I am writing my dissertation on art and silence and wish to reference Claudi Casanovas' collection "Twenty Blocks." Do you know where this collection is currently housed? I nee to get permission to reference this with a photo, and the Gallerie Besson is closed. Thank you for your assistance.

Kentucky, USA
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