Amgueddfa Blog

Forums were established early in the Creu Hanes Making History project at St. Fagans to help us develop our participatory practice. One of these was the Informal Learning Forum, its focus was adult and community learning and involvement. Partners on this forum were largely involved in these areas of work and came together to support us to develop an adult learning programme at the Museum.

During the project the Forums played different roles, and some were more active than others. The Informal Learning Forum initially worked with us a lot and subsequently throughout the life of the project they helped to shape the scope of Adult Learning at the Museum.

In 2015 when I took on the role working with the forum we began to revisit their role and revitalise their involvement in not only the project but in Adult Learning throughout the Museum, in addition to contributing to the development of the Wellbeing programme.

Since then the forum, now known as the Adult Learning Forum, has gone from strength to strength. They have supported us through the project and with new and ongoing work. Many of the original partners are still with us after the completion of the project in 2018, and new partners have since joined, adding to the diversity and scope of the group.

Here’s a flavour of some of the work we’ve done together over the years and what the partners have to say about it:

“Llandaff 50+ felt extremely privileged to be asked to join the Adult Learners’ Forum and attend its quarterly meetings at St Fagans National History Museum.

Our charity’s aims are to help to ease the problems of loneliness and social isolation amongst older people and to encourage them to organise, and take part in, activities and social events.  So, the opportunity to not only work with St Fagans, but also other local charity groups and organisations was an opportunity not to be missed.  Contributing to discussions about facilities and opportunities for older people during the refurbishment of the Museum provoked many suggestions from our members about the problems of old age.

It’s so easy to become centred on your own organisation and not see what else is happening in the voluntary and charitable sectors.  Although we have the opportunity to give an update on our own activities in the Forum, it is always amazing to find out what else is happening.  And we also get the chance to meet new people from all over Cardiff and the Vale, people helping others to improve their lives.  Our Treasurer said ‘I didn’t realise there was so much going on, people are doing wonderful things’ after her first meeting.

And we hear of opportunities to volunteer, too.  We cherish the memories of cataloguing the books from the library at the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, and then seeing them back on the shelves, where they belong.  The books on engineering, that expanded the mind, children’s classics, that entertained at bedtime, and even a few that were a little risqué (and popular, too, judging by the stamps on the inside cover!).  And an enjoyable lunch, after each session, formed a friendship group that still remains.

The Forum has made Llandaff 50+ feel part of the Museum, and our organised visit and tour had a record attendance from members, all re-visiting with new friends, and enjoying the explanations of knowledgeable guides.  Many returned with family later in the year to tell of their learning.

We are also able to pass on information, learned at the Forum, to our members.  Many attended Adult Learners’ Week events and enjoyed learning new crafts, and remembering old ones.  New walks and leaflets are explained during 50+ meetings, and visits encouraged.  

We hope that the Forum will continue and enable our small, but very active charity, to work with such an important and much-loved Museum into the future, for mutual benefit.” (Volunteer, Llandaff 50+)        

Oakdale Reinterpretation Project

The forum members were integral to the reinterpretation of Oakdale Workman’s Institute in 2015-16. The impact of their contribution saw the building reopen with a more participatory and user-friendly interpretation. This included developing resources for Welsh learners, those living with dementia, and individuals with sensory conditions.  You can now also access all the rooms of the institute, some of which were only viewable from the doorway prior to the reinterpretation work.

“In March 2016, as a member of Cardiff U3A’s Local History group, I became part of a re- interpretation project of Oakdale Miners Institute or ‘stute as locals called it. The project, which involved me in research of the building, built during the First World War and which remained a key educational and social centre for Oakdale miners and community through its reading room, meetings, library, concerts, films and dances for many years. This project culminated in the re-opening of the building in its centenary year, celebrated with a party for local people from Oakdale and for me by writing an article in the national U3A quarterly magazine ‘Third Age Matters’.” (Valerie Maidment, member of the Cardiff U3A).

Trialling Adult Learning at St Fagans

Forum members have been central to trialling courses and taster sessions at St Fagans over the past few years. We worked with local community partners Action Ely Caerau (ACE) to recruit volunteers to pilot our first accredited course in sewing skills in 2016. All participants were local to the area and faced barriers to participating in traditional learning opportunities. The course was integrally linked to the Museum, as the participants were making costumes for Museum staff to wear when delivering the Iron Age school session. The garments were based on a traditional pattern, and participants were guided through the techniques required to make them by the experienced tutor and expert historic garment seamstress Sally Pointer. None of the participants had previously sewn and they all left at the end of the 10-week course having not only achieved a qualification, but improved their confidence and interest in further learning.

“We’ve really enjoyed working with the National Museum of Wales at St Fagans, and they’ve become a hugely valued partner in the CAER Hidden Hillfort Project.  An example of the impact this partnership has made is found in our collaboratively organised sewing course.  Accredited by Agroed Cymru and run in partnership with Adult Learning Wales, the project built on the strengths of both organisations, with ACE recruiting participants from our local communities (and hosting the training at the local community hub) and the National Museum creating a welcoming environment, facilitating the training and arranging participant visits to St Fagans.  13 participants, all of whom faced barriers to learning and none of whom had sewed before, completed the course.  Outcomes included increased self-confidence and renewed interest in learning.  The replica Iron Age costumes they made are still used by the museum, so they’ve left their mark!  We love this kind of project and are enthusiastic participants in the Adult Learning Forum to ensure we can continue working with partners like the National Museum on precisely this kind of project well into the future.” Dave Horton, ACE Development Manager.

Adult Learners Week:

A key member of the Forum, the Learning and Work Institute, run the Adult Learners Week campaign across Wales every year. They have provided support when it comes to developing and delivering our programmes over the years and we have been regular contributors since 2015. We have tested activities and craft workshops, explored the potential of joint delivery and hosting courses, and ensured we’ve been able to provide opportunities to the participants of our partner organisations, as well as offering opportunities on a larger scale e.g. by holding an information fair in 2019. This year, for Adult Learners Week we have been proud to take part in this digital event, creating a programme of opportunities focused on making, crafting and creating.

Here’s a quote from a key partner Hafal, whose participants have trialled and taken part in workshops during previous Adult Learners Weeks and at different times throughout the year.

“I run a gardening project for groups of people at Hafal, the Mental Health Charity based inside St Fagans museum.       

Being part of the Adult Learners Forum has given me the fantastic chance to take groups to a variety of workshops held in the museum. The Decorative Copper workshop was a great success as was the Love spoon carving, and we worked for quite a few weeks on helping to thatch the Roundhouse building.

Finding out from other members of the forum about what they have going on in the community has also offered opportunities for us to attend different activities. One of these was the archaeological dig at the Ely Hillfort, where we were shown around the site being worked on and then got to see some of the artefacts that had been uncovered there.

This led to a workshop in the museum with the lead archaeologist, looking in more depth at what was found on the site and what it could tell us of the way people were living at that time, which was extremely interesting to the whole group.

There are many learning opportunities discussed at the forums, and I am able to inform my groups so that they can take up them opportunities if wanted.

Loveday is extremely knowledgeable and approachable, and very good at linking people together for mutual benefit. It has been a privilege to be part of the forum.” (Lesley, Recovery Practitioner, Hafal).

Hosting courses at St Fagans

Since the opening of the new facilities at St Fagans in 2017 we have worked hard with partners to establish opportunities for other organisations to bring their learning opportunities to the Museum. We have worked with Cardiff Met’s Widening Access Department who in 2019 bought a series of courses to the Museum e.g. Creative Writing and Complimentary Therapy. These courses used the Museum and its collection to draw inspiration and influence the content of the courses. This delivery partnership enables learners to experience a unique Welsh perspective on their learning experience.

Here’s what the Widening Access team at Cardiff Met have to say about the partnership:

“It has been our great pleasure to work collaboratively with St Fagans, enabling us to enrich courses by sharing the wonderful resources and expertise available at the Museum.  Tutors from the University are able to work with the staff at St Fagans to incorporate Welsh culture into their courses and the exhibits bring this to life for students.

By sharing resources, publicity and expertise the students benefit by a greater offer than without the partnership work.  We are also able to reach a wider community and are able to consult via the learning forum so that we have a better understanding of what the community would like to learn.

Finally it is great to be able to hold the courses in such fantastic buildings and have the support of all the staff who are always professional, friendly and most importantly provide a warm welcome.” (Jan Jones, Head of Widening Access, Cardiff Met).

We also work closely with Welsh for Adults, based within the School of Welsh at Cardiff University. We have hosted Sadwrn Siarad, a day of welsh language activities, in the summer for several years, but in 2019 we were able to offer them classroom space to bring Welsh evening courses to St Fagans. This was piloted in January 2019 when the first Entry 1 course started. Following its success two further courses started the following September, whilst the learners engaged on the first course progressed to Entry 2.

Here’s what the Welsh for Adults team at the School of Welsh have to say about the partnership:

“Mae Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd yn falch iawn o gael y cyfle i gyd-weithio â Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru. Ffurfiwyd y bartneriaeth drwy Fforwm Addysg Oedolion sy’n cael ei arwain gan Loveday Williams o’r Amgueddfa ac mae’r cyd-weithio rhyngom wedi mynd o nerth i nerth ers hynny. Yn Ionawr 2019, cynhaliwyd cwrs dysgu Cymraeg lefel Mynediad ar gyfer dechreuwyr yn yr Amgueddfa. Mae’r gwaith wedi dwyn ffrwyth ers hynny gan i ni ddarparu tri chwrs ym mis Medi 2019, cwrs dilyniant a dau gwrs lefel Mynediad i ddechreuwyr. Er i ni orfod oedi’r dysgu wyneb yn wyneb ym mis Mawrth eleni, mae’r holl gyrsiau wedi parhau’n rhithiol ac yn parhau ar-lein am 2020-2021. Felly er nad oes modd i ni gynnal dosbarthiadau yn Sain Ffagan ar hyn o bryd, mae’r Fforwm Addysg Oedolion yn ein galluogi ni i barhau i gyd-weithio a chynllunio at y cyfnod nesaf.” (Mari Rowlands, Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd)

“Learn Welsh Cardiff is delighted to have the opportunity to work with St Fagans National Museum of History. The partnership was formed through the Adult Learning Forum led by Loveday Williams from the Museum and the partnership has gone from strength to strength ever since. In January 2019, we held an Entry level Welsh course for beginners at the Museum. The work came to fruition when we provided three courses in September 2019, a progression course and two Entry level courses for beginners. Despite pausing all face-to-face learning back in March, all courses have continued virtually and will remain online for 2020-2021. So although we can't hold classes at St Fagans at the moment, the Adult Education Forum allows us to continue to work together and plan for the next period.” (Mari Rowlands, Learn Welsh Cardiff)

We look forward to continuing to work with all our partners, and establishing new ones in the future as we assess what our “new normal” will look like and how we can continue to operate and grow our adult learning offer.

At the National Waterfront Museum our aim is to bring the story of Wales, its people and the industries that have shaped our nation to life for school pupils through hands-on, unique experiences. For the past 15 years we have been part of an innovative collaboration with experienced theatre company, Theatr na nÓg, Swansea Museum and Technocamps. It is a partnership like no other in Wales, if not the UK. It combines live theatre, local and national museum collections with Technocamps’ expertise.   

This year marks 80 years since the sinking of the Arandora Star, whose tragic, little-known story will be vividly brought to life for school pupils across Wales through Theatr na nÓg’s radio play. Sadly 805 people lost their lives, including Welsh Italians who were onboard, on their way to internment camps in Canada. This year’s play will focus on Lina, a young girl living in Swansea facing an uncertain future after Italy joins the War in 1940. Her father is taken from their little Swansea café and transported on the Arandora Star.

Normally at this time of year we would be busy getting the final detail of our workshops together, ready to welcome thousands of school children through the Museum doors but 2020 has been very different for us all. With Covid-19 and the lockdowns that followed, delivering our normal workshops seemed impossible. However, this has challenged us to be more creative and has pushed our small team to develop a digital workshop comprised of short films and teachers’ resource to complement the radio play, The Arandora Star, focusing on the story of technology and innovation during the Second World War. 

So in our online workshops, learners will meet Captain Edward Morgan of the Royal Navy who will guide them through some information about the sinking of the Arandora Star and discuss some innovative communication technology that was used during the Second World War. Alongside this we have developed a teacher's resource with activities and suggestions for further work, all of which supports the new Curriculum for Wales 2022.  

Just prior to lockdown we were able to run the first LGBTQ+ tours at the National Museum Cardiff which were created in partnership with Pride Cymru. As the doors unlock and visitors can start to return to the museum and also to mark and celebrate Pride Cymru 2020, I would like to share with you my favourite set of objects from the tours.

LGBTQ+ Tours
© Dan Vo @DanNouveau

An Encounter with May and Mary

Sleeve clasp made by May Morris (1862-1938)

When I first saw the exquisite silver sleeve clasps with a centrally suspended chrysoprase teardrop gemstone flanked by two apple-green orbs, I was utterly charmed. What rooted me to the spot and caused goosebumps to tickle my skin though was the name of the owner and the donor: Miss May Morris, given by Miss M. F. V. Lobb.

Echoing in my mind was a talk, The Great Wings of Silence, that I’d seen Dr Sean Curran deliver at an LGBT+ History Month event at the V&A museum on their relationship. Curran also wrote about May Morris (1862-1938) and Mary Frances Vivian Lobb (1879-1939) saying, “people like Mary Lobb and May Morris are part of a still barely visible queer heritage that can contribute to legitimising contemporary queer identities”.

I felt what I was seeing was evidence of their relationship. Though, as it turns out, there are two great collections that hold jewellery made by May and gifted by Mary, National Museum Cardiff and my ‘home collection’ of the V&A. Somewhat ironic! 

 

The Welsh Connection

The link between May and the V&A, I think, is easy to deduce: William Morris had significant influence in the early years of the V&A and after he died May, a respected artist in her own right, carried on his work teaching about good design principles and maintained a strong relationship with the museum. 

While the Morris family were proud of their Welsh ancestry, the question of how May’s jewellery ended up specifically at National Museum Cardiff involves a curious path that takes in sites from all across Wales, and certainly affirms the significant relationship between May and Mary.

May was a skilled jewellery maker and embroiderer and took charge of the embroidery department of her father’s renowned company Morris & Co. when she was 23. By the time Mary came into her life, May was living alone in the Morris family summer residence, Kelmscott Manor in the Cotswold.

Mary was from a Cornish farming family and during the First World War and as an early recruit to the Women’s Land Army she was involved in demonstrations showing how women could support the war efforts, even making the news with a headline “Cornish Woman Drives Steam Roller”!

At some point after the war, Mary joined May at Kelmscott Manor and the couple became a familiar sight, even attending local events together. Then, perhaps as it is for some now, not everyone was sure what to make of the relationship: Mary has been variously described as Morris’s close companion, housekeeper, cook, and even bodyguard!

When May died in 1938 she bequeathed her personal effects and £12,000 to Mary, an amount larger than any she left to anyone else. She also secured the tenure of Kelmscott for the rest of Mary’s life, however, Mary tragically died five months later in 1939. In those short months, Mary arranged the donation of May’s jewellery as well as her own scrapbooks to the National Library of Wales.

The scrapbooks were not given much consideration and were broken up and scattered across various sections of the library. It was researcher Simon Evans who began slowly reassembling the collection, and as he did so started to realise the significance and how it helps paint a clearer picture of the relationship between May and Mary.

Rediscovered items include watercolour landscapes painted by May, which suggests the pair traveled extensively together across Wales with journeys including Cardigan, Gwynedd, Swansea, Talyllyn and Cader Idris (one of my favourite images of the couple is a photograph from the William Morris Gallery that shows them camping in the Welsh countryside).

 

The Queer Perspective

Sandwiched in the scrapbooks is also a cryptic note in a letter from May to Mary, "after posting letter, I just grasped the thread at the end of yours, and having grasped (how slow of me!) I will be most careful.” 

To contextualise, Evans also describes a postcard (at Kelmscott Manor), written on a trip in Wales, in which Mary asked someone back at the Manor to send Morris’s shawl which is in "our" bedroom, which seems to put to bed the rumour May and Mary shared a room. Further, writer and curator Jan Marsh concludes in her book Jane and May Morris by saying the relationship between May and Mary was, in contemporary terms, a lesbian one.

LGBTQ+ Tours
© Dan Vo @DanNouveau

Through the jewelry gifted to the National Museum Cardiff we have a small glimpse of two lives intertwined, an intimate relationship between May and Mary that was full of love, care, and concern for each other. Theirs is one story among many on the free volunteer-led LGBTQ+ tours, which will return in the future when it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, labels for 18 objects have now been written that help highlight works with an LGBTQ+ connection for visitors. Connected to the May and Mary is a stunning hair ornament, which resembles a tiara, formed by floral shapes studded with pearls, opals, and garnets with silver leaves, all meeting symmetrically in the middle of the head. 

There are landscapes and a self-portrait by Swansea born painter Cedric Morris and several portraits by the renowned Gwen John who hails from Haverfordwest, as well as a bust of her by lover Rodin. Other highlights include works by Francis Bacon, John Minton, Christopher Wood, and 'Brunette' - a ceramic bust of Hollywood star Greta Garbo by Susie Cooper.

It is also now possible to explore the museum’s queer collection online by searching for ‘LGBTQ’ in the Collections Online. This will allow you to see works like The Wounded Amazon by Conwy sculptor John Gibson, a painting of Fisher Boys by Methyr Tydfil born artist Penry Williams (Gibson and Williams lived together in Rome and are understood to be lovers), and a ceramic plate that features perhaps the most famous lesbian couple in history, the Ladies of Llangollen, who lived together at Plâs Newydd. 

It is a joy and a privilege to be able to share the rich history of Welsh queer culture in such a historic place. I'm pleased to say the tours and the related research are merely just getting started! There are so many more stories to be found and told, many that will take us down interesting intersectional paths too. So do stay tuned for more from the National Museum Cardiff and Pride Cymru volunteers. 

For now I wish you a happy Pride. However you’re celebrating it, I hope it’s with as much sparkle as May and Mary’s glamorous bling! 

LGBTQ+ tour leaders


Dan Vo is a freelance museum consultant who founded the V&A LGBTQ+ Tours and developed the Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd National Museum Cardiff LGBTQ+ Tours. He is currently the project manager and lead researcher of the Queer Heritage and Collections Nework, a subject specialist network supported by the Art Fund formed of a partnership between the National Trust, English Heritage, Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (University of Leicester).

Many industrial processes are inspired by nature, and can be seen as a mechanised extension of a traditional hand process using tools from the natural world. The Teasel Gig is one such invention. Here's a little about this extraordinary machine which is a mixture of the natural and man made.

Teasels were traditionally used to ‘comb’ the surface of damp woollen cloth by hand to

Teasel Gig

make it soft and fluffy. This process is called ‘raising the nap’.

The Teasel Gig machine was invented to make this process faster and more efficient. The teasel gig contains 3000 prickly teasels in an iron frame and is powered by electricity. The cloth is passed over the teasels, giving it a more even, fluffy finish.

The Teasel Gig is a curious mix of the natural and man-made. It combined the hand processes of the past with precision engineering – the future of the textile industry

Teasel Gig with Teasels at The National Wool Museum, Drefach Felindre

A ‘Teasel Man’ travelled from mill to mill renewing the teasels in the gigs. It was a very skilled job as the teasel heads had to be carefully arranged to ensure the cloth was finished evenly. Most of the teasels came from specialist gardens in Somerset

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales would like to congratulate the 4,463 pupils from across the UK who achieved Super Scientist recognition for their participation in the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation 2019-2020.

A big congratulations to you all! Thank you for working so hard planting, observing, measuring and recording, you really are Super Scientists!

Many thanks to The Edina Trust for funding this project.

Super Scientists 2020

Enillwyr / Winners

Cymru / Wales: Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tonyrefail

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: Holy Cross Girls' Primary School

Lloegr / England: St Michael's CE Aided Primary School

Yr Alban / Scotland: Gavinburn Primary School

 

Yn Ail / Runners up

Cymru / Wales: Bryncoch CiW Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: Greenhaw Primary School

Lloegr / England: King's Meadow Academy

Yr Alban / Scotland: Penpont Primary School

 

Clod Uchel / Highly Commended

Cymru / Wales:

St Paul's CiW Primary

St. Julian's Primary

St. Robert's Catholic Primary

Ysgol Gymraeg Caerffili

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland:

Steelstown Primary School

Lloegr / England:

Arkholme C of E Primary School

Bursar Primary Academy

Clifton Primary School

Ossett Flushdyke Junior and Infant School

St Austins Catholic Primary School

Stoneferry Primary School

Woodfield Primary

Yr Alban / Scotland:

Dalbeattie Primary School

St Fergus' Primary School

St John Ogilvie Primary School

 

Cydnabyddiaeth arbennig / Special Recognition

Cymru / Wales:

Blaendulais Primary School

Bro Pedr

Broad Haven

Carreghofa C P School

Darran Park Primary

Evenlode Primary

Ferryside V.C.P School

Gaer Primary School

Henllys C/W Primary

Litchard Primary School

Llanedeyrn Primary School

Llanharan Primary School

Pil Primary School

Sofrydd Primary School

St Athan Primary

St Joseph's Cathedral Primary School

Tonyrefail Community School

Ysgol Deganwy

Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant

Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos

Ysgol San Sior

Lloegr / England:

Canon Peter Hall Primary School

Fieldhead Primary Academy

Fleet Wood Lane Primary School

Hudson Road Primary School

Oldfleet Primary School

Stanford in the Vale Primary School

Yr Alban / Scotland:

Carnbroe Primary School

Earlston Primary School

Greenburn School

Lawefield Primary School

Sanquhar Primary School

St Mungo Primary

Whatriggs Primary School

 

Gwyddonwyr Gwych / Super Scientists

Cymru / Wales:

Dyffryn Cledlyn

Aberdare Park Primary School

Albert Primary School

Blaengwrach Primary

Garth primary School

Georgetown Primary

Hendredenny Park Primary

High Cross Primary School

Llangan Primary School

Maesgwyn Special School

NPTC Newtown College

St. Michael's RC Primary

Ty Isaf Infants School

White Rose Primary School

Y Berllan Deg

Ysgol Craig yr Wylfa

Ysgol Ysbyty Ifan

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland:

Auchencairn Primary School

John Paul II Primary School

Newbuildings Primary School

Saint Patrick's Primary School

St Anne's Primary School

St Paul's Primary and Nursery School

Lloegr / England:

Adelaide Primary School

Bardney CofE Primary School

Castleford Park Junior Academy

Chorley St James CE Primary

Dunstall Hill Primary School

Garstang St Thomas C.E. Primary

Gonerby Hill Foot C E Primary School

North Road Primary School

Sandal Magna Community Academy

St Helen's C of E Primary School

St Michael's Church of England Aided Primary School

St Peter's Catholic Primary School

Yr Alban / Scotland:

Cummertrees Primary School

Drummore Primary School

Gelston Primary School

Glenluce Primary School

Gordon Primary School

Laurieknowe Primary School

Locharbriggs Primary School

Loreburn Primary School

New Abbey Primary School

Newmains Primary School

Our Lady of Peace Primary School

Saint Anthony's Primary School

Sheuchan Primary School

Wormit Primary School

St Peter's Primary School