Amgueddfa Blog

Update: Due to popular demand we are now opening our #MinecraftYourMuseum competition to six year olds! Please share and let the six year olds across the Nation know! 

Competition for 6-11 year olds. 

The Challenge: Use your imagination to build your dream museum in Minecraft. Decide how you would like the building to look and fill it with some of your favourite Museum objects. They could be anything from any of our seven museums, such as a Dinosaur, a Roman coin or a house from St Fagans!

Prizes: Win a VIP trip for you & your whole class to your chosen museum - when schools re-open!  A prize will be awarded to each year group (Yrs. 2-6).

Deadline: 30 June 2020

The now quiet space of National Museum Cardiff’s contemporary art galleries has most recently played host to the Museum’s first full-scale series of photographic exhibitions. The artwork displayed comprised part of the museum’s first ‘Photography Season’, presenting work by four photographers: August Sander (1876–1964), Bernd (1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (1934–2015), and Martin Parr (b. 1952). While Parr’s exhibition sat opposite the contemporary art galleries in the Museum’s designated photography gallery, Bernd and Hilla Becher: Industrial Visions was shown on the upper level of the contemporary spaces. The Bechers’ work was thematically linked to that presented downstairs, ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander (October 2019-March 2020).

A photograph of the ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander exhibition, showing a series of square black and white portrait photographs in a line on a blank white wall

For myself and two other fabulous volunteers, March marked the end of a three-month exhibition evaluation placement as part of the ARTIST ROOMS programme within Sander’s portrait photography exhibition space. I would like to briefly expand upon the role that I undertook in this two-part blog and highlight the value of the process of collecting and collating exhibition evaluation feedback.

It is valuable to give a few details of the photographer August Sander (1876–1964). Sander was a German-born photographer and in 1911 began the first series of portraits for his seminal work People of the 20th Century. ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander presented over eighty photographs – produced as part of this project – which classify individuals according to profession and social class. The portraits are placed on long-term loan to ARTIST ROOMS, a UK-wide programme jointly delivered by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. The ARTISTS ROOMS programme’s aim is to show the work of each of the 40 artists it represents in dedicated solo exhibitions across the UK. Through ARTIST ROOMS important works of art can be widely seen by visitors and, importantly, it also gives young people the opportunity to get involved in creative projects, learn more about art and artists, and develop new skills.

My role, as one of the three exhibition evaluation placements, was to allow visitors to ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander a chance to fill in an online survey on one of two iPads lent to the museum by ARTIST ROOMS for its duration. The survey asked the visitor a multitude of questions about their experience of the exhibition. It also asked some statistical questions, which could be omitted or simply passed back to us to reset.

A photograph of the ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander exhibition, showing the entire gallery with small photos on the walls and wooden benches in the middle

Additionally, we chatted to visitors in the exhibition space, including those who wanted to discuss the exhibition informally with us. As the weekends always tend to draw in a diverse and greater number of visitors, at least one of us tried to come on Saturdays for a few hours to do the surveys, as well as undertake at least one shift during the week, sometimes in a pair, occasionally all together and at other times singly.

The second part of the blog expands upon my reasons for wishing to undertake this placement and the importance of exhibition evaluation.

Last week, we launched an online questionnaire asking for your experiences and feelings of living in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic. From the responses we’ve received so far, it seems that a number of you are finding comfort and peace of mind through making – from quilts to facemasks, scrub bags to small embroideries. The connection between making and improved mental health is of course widely-known, with studies showing that craft and the visual arts can help to alleviate anxiety and stress in some people.

The textile collection at St Fagans includes several pieces which reveal the historic interplay between craft and mental health. These include needlework stitched by sailors on long voyages away from home, to more formal forms of occupational therapy made by convalescing patients. In all cases, we can only assume that the repetitive rhythm of the making process, and the focus required to complete the task, must have benefitted the makers in some way. I say ‘assume’ because the voices of these makers are usually missing from the narrative, which makes documenting current experiences of crafting through the pandemic even more important.

One of the most poignant pieces in the collection is a tablecloth made at Whitchurch Hospital, embroidered with the signatures of a group of soldier-patients and staff in 1917. During the First World War, the Cardiff City Mental Hospital (as Whitchurch was then called) was ceded to the military and became known as the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital (1915-19). Civilian psychiatric patients were moved to other institutions, while injured soldiers returning from the frontline occupied their beds. From 1917 until 1919, the hospital specialized in both orthopaedic and mental health conditions.   

The signatures embroidered on the tablecloth include two important figures in the history of psychiatric care in Wales – Dr Edwin Goodall and Matron Florence Raynes. Goodall, an eminent psychiatrist who trained at Guy’s Hospital in London, was appointed the first Medical Superintendent of Whitchurch in 1906, two years before the hospital opened. He was awarded a CBE in 1919 for his pioneering treatment of shell-shock. Florence Raynes was also a trailblazer in her own right, being the first woman to have overall responsibility for the hospital's entire nursing staff. 

The exact reasons for creating the tablecloth are unknown. Was it made as a form of occupational or diversional therapy for the soldiers? Could it have been an exhibition piece or a fund-raiser? Or perhaps initiated as a memento for a patient, nurse or doctor? Despite several attempts in recent years to unravel its history, the tablecloth remains a mystery. 

In general, the feelings and intentions of makers are frustratingly absent from our records, and we know very little about the emotions of the people who crafted the historic objects in our care. How did they feel about making in times of crisis, ill-health or confinement? What did the creative process give them? If you're finding solace in your sewing machine or knitting needles during these difficult days, please consider sharing your lockdown crafting experience with us through the questionnaire. We want to hear your story to ensure that the wellbeing benefits of making in the present do not go untold. 


Bury a time capsule – for children of all ages from very young up to 100+

Part 1 – introduction and what you’ll need to get started

A great way to leave something for future people to find is to make a time capsule. Fill it with everyday items from ‘now’ and bury it in your garden or you could put it in the corner of the attic where no-one goes! 

After the ‘lockdown’ you could always make a time capsule with your classmates in school and bury it on the school grounds.

I’ve made quite a few time capsules over the years. I used to make them with my son when he was growing up and we buried them all over the place! We hoped that they would last a hundred years or more so that somebody would find them and see our things.

I have made two capsules with schools in Swansea too. One we buried at Waun Wen School, and one we buried in the grounds of Penlan Community Centre. Chris Coleman, who was the Wales football manager at the time came to help Waun Wen School bury their time capsule in the school garden. He grew up in Waun Wen. 

Penlan children buried their capsule in the Community Centre garden.

We used big plastic boxes for the capsule because there were a lot of children who wanted to add something.

What you’ll need

When you make your capsule you can use any empty container that you might have in the house. I like to use empty coffee jars or any jar that has a screw lid (I tend to raid our re-cycling box).

I couldn’t find an empty coffee jar this time but luckily we had an empty marmalade jar. 

Different containers to use as capsules

Remember, the container you use will be very interesting to future people too!


Part 2

What goes into your Time Capsule

I searched around my house for things to put in. 

Examples of content to put into the capsule

The items should not be expensive, just little things you don’t mind burying. I chose:

  • an ASDA receipt so people can see how much things cost
  • a toy car
  • a plastic dinosaur
  • an elastic band
  • a safety pin
  • a keyring with my blood type on it
  • a puzzle from a Christmas cracker
  • my Welsh learner’s badge
  • a pencil
  • three coins, a two pence, a five pence and a one penny
  • an old sim card from a mobile phone
  • a badge I got on a birthday card which says ‘aged to perfection’
  • a Marie Curie badge of daffodils


Part 3

Write a little note to go in the jar. It can say things about you like your name and age and todays date. Also write a little explanation of why you are burying the capsule. If you can add a picture of you then good, but you can always draw a picture of yourself too. 

You could write your thoughts of the Covid 19 lockdown, what you miss the most or who you miss most.

You could write a letter to your future self and dig the capsule up yourself in twenty year’s time!

Make sure your container is clean and dry before putting your things in. Screw the lid on tight.

Jar filled with content ready to be buried

Then if you have some tape (doesn’t matter if you don’t) put an extra seal around the lid to keep any water out. 

Capsule and tape

Part 4

Send us pictures of your time capsule!

We would love to see what you put in your time capsule

Share your pictures with us via the Amgueddfa Cymru Twitter account!

Part 5

You are now ready to bury the capsule. Remember to make a ‘treasure’ map of where you buried it.

This is in case you want to do more than one and you’ll have a way of knowing where they all are.

Example of a map showing where capsule has been buried


Before the invention of the railway locomotive, the speed and pulling power of horses represented the maximum that land transport could achieve. Steam-hauled railways introduced entirely new concepts of speed; vastly more goods and people could be transported further, faster and more cheaply.

Steam-hauled railways revolutionised many aspects of peoples’ lives. Within less than a single lifetime, steam-hauled railways went from remarkable novelties to being mainstays of everyday life.

The railway revolution began in Merthyr Tydfil on 21 February 1804 with the first recorded steam-hauled journey on rails. The key personalities were the talented Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick and Samuel Homfray, owner of the Penydarren Iron Works.

The forges and rolling mills at Penydarren Iron Works, with the blast furnaces in the left background. In front of the buildings at the right is a horse pulling three loads of bar iron at the start of the journey to Abercynon where it would be transferred onto a boat on the Glamorganshire Canal for transport to Cardiff and loading onto a ship. It was just such a consignment of iron that Trevithick’s locomotive successfully transported. Etching by John George Wood for his book “The Principal Rivers of Wales”, 1812.

Trevithick had developed a compact high pressure stationary steam engine that could be built more cheaply and produce more power that pre-existing designs of similar size. Homfray formed a partnership with Trevithick to manufacture the stationary engines. In 1801 and in 1803 Trevithick had built and demonstrated experimental steam-powered road vehicles but had failed to arouse public enthusiasm. In south Wales he encountered a dense network of tramroads serving the ironworks, quarries and mines – all horse drawn and all built with iron rails. He hoped there might be an additional market for his high pressure steam engines if he could demonstrate their usefulness on railways. Homfray, seeking to widen demand for the engines he was beginning to build and market, agreed to fund the construction of a railway locomotive.

The pioneering locomotive was designed and built at Penydarren Iron Works over the winter of 1803-04.

The locomotive successfully pulled five wagons loaded with ten tons of iron and 70 men who had hitched a ride on the wagons for the 9¾ mile journey. Over the following weeks the locomotive made a number of further journeys the length of the tramroad.

The locomotive was widely reported at home and abroad.

Frequent breakages of the brittle cast iron track by the unsprung locomotive resulted in it being converted into a stationary engine within a few months. Two further Trevithick-designed locomotives were built in England in 1805 and 1808 but he found no commercial backers.

“The Miners’ Express”, Saundersfoot Railway, 1900s. This primitive service harked back to early 19th century practices and may capture something of the atmosphere of the Penydarren locomotive’s trial run in 1804 when 70 men hitched a ride on the five wagons. This Saundersfoot Railway service was introduced in 1900 to enable coal miners from Kilgetty to travel to Bonville’s Court Colliery. The ironic name was created by the postcard publisher.

Despite Trevithick’s failure to commercially develop his locomotives, a seed had been planted. Engineers in the North East of England, notably Timothy Hackworth and George Stephenson, built a succession of viable locomotives in the 1810s that reliably hauled coal wagons from collieries to shipping places. These developments enabled the Stockton & Darlington Railway to use steam locomotives from its opening in 1825, and lead to the first long distance steam-hauled railway opening between Liverpool and Manchester in 1830.

In 25 years steam-haulage had progressed from experimental to reliable. Within a few decades more, railways employing steam locomotives were in use on every continent.

The conjectural reconstruction of the Penydarren locomotive on display in the  Networks gallery at the National Waterfront Museum at Swansea.      

A conjectural reconstruction of Richard Trevithick’s pioneering Penydarren locomotive is displayed in the National Waterfront Museum at Swansea, where it is periodically demonstrated in-steam.

You may also be interested in this short film about Richard Trevithicks Steam Locomotive: