Amgueddfa Blog: Museums, Exhibitions and Events

National Wool Museum’s Exhibition of Hope… Exhibition Launch Date! 

We are very pleased to announce the Exhibition of Hope will open to the public at the National Wool Museum on the 2nd of October 2021 and will be on display until mid-January 2022. The opening will form part of the Museum Wales digital Celebration of Wool Event taking place between the 2nd and 3rd of October. Click here for more details about the event. Celebration of Wool | National Museum Wales 

The Exhibition will also be displayed at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea between July 2022 and October 2022. 

Thank you to all those who contributed to the creation of rainbow coloured squares. Contributions for the Exhibition of Hope closed at the end of March 2021. Since the initial call out for squares in April 2020 at the beginning of the nation’s Covid-19 lockdown, we have received nearly 2000 squares! Participants used any materials which were readily available to them at the time such as wool or acrylics to create their squares. From knitted squares to crocheted squares, the response has been fantastic!  

Crisis charity (South Wales), which supports homeless people, shared the Exhibition of Hope information on their Facebook pages and created physical packs including wool and instructions to send to services users to support them to take part. The Exhibition of Hope was featured in Adult Learners’ Week 2020 and two videos were released of National Wool Museum Craftsperson Non Mitchell giving a demonstration on how to create a felted and woven square. A collage of photographs documenting the Exhibition was submitted as part of the Connect to Kindness Art Project, a project which is run in partnership with the Connect to Kindness Campaign and Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services, which aims to capture community kindness and support during the pandemic.  

Nothing about this past year has been predictable and we have all had to adapt to huge changes. While we had originally planned to create one giant rainbow blanket from the squares, we have, on reflection, decided to create a number of smaller blankets instead. This is because we have received such an amazing number of squares and due to Covid-19 restrictions volunteers were unable to meet at the Wool Museum. National Wool Museum Volunteers and Museum Wales staff have therefore been joining the squares from home, creating wonderful unique blankets.   Following the Exhibition, we still plan on donating the blankets to charities to be used as they wish, whether that be for example, as blankets or as pieces of artwork. More blankets mean more flexibility for display, and we are working on some exciting display plans! 

Whilst our wonderful volunteers and staff have been busy creating the blankets, we have also been working on another aspect of the project. Over the past year we have received so many varied and beautiful squares from people up and down the country and it has been lovely to hear from many who have found that creating the squares has helped during the unprecedented and challenging times. We have therefore decided to capture some contributors’ experiences of taking part in the project. ‘Stories behind the Squares’ will be a brief interpretation video within the Exhibition and available online, documenting the thoughts and feelings of those taking part in the Exhibition. 

We are thankful to Ysgol Penboyr, the local school in the village of Dre-fach Felindre, where the National Wool Museum is located who have created a beautiful rainbow handprint artwork which will be displayed in the Exhibition too. 

Rainbows are often used as a symbol of peace and hope and as we know, they often appear when the sun shines following heavy rainfall. They serve to remind us that following dark times, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The Exhibition aims to reflect spirit, hope and community during these challenging times. It is designed to be an immersive experience, a symbolic hug of kindness of the love that has been placed into every stitch and is created as a tangible embodiment of hope. 

As part of the Exhibition, there will be an online page on the Museum Wales website. The page will include, amongst other things, the Exhibition of Hope ‘Stories of the Squares’ video as well as a brief walk ‘round of the exhibition itself. 

We look forward to welcoming you to the Exhibition very soon. In the meantime, here is a brief video about the Exhibition of Hope, documenting some of the photographs that have been taken since the Exhibition was launched. 

Keep an eye out on our social media pages to find out the latest information. 

Thank you to The Ashley Family Foundation and Community Foundation Wales for their support with this project. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitch Black: a recap and review

Pitch Black was a weekly festival that occurred over a month in association with the National Museum Wales. It was a showcase and celebration of Black artists and their work. I attended these sessions, and this blog post is a recap and personal review.

Education is a cornerstone of life with aspects of this coming not only from schools but also museums and other institutes which play a very important role. Heritage is a part of the education in which museums teach and Pitch Black aimed to showcase this in a more unusual and interactive way.

How ‘great’ is Britain?

Our education system fails us all. Schools do not clearly explain the atrocities that led to the UK we know today – one built off the back of slavery and colonisation. Built in prejudice which stems from colonialism perpetuates myths of Britain’s ‘greatness’, to the expense of hearing the histories and experiences of Black and non-Black people of colour. Many white people experience some degree of discomfort when Black people challenge this status quo, are these two experiences connected?

Pitch Black, in my opinion, was a platform to allow Black artists to express themselves and force the audience to question certain aspects of our collective past. It is meant to make us see the Black narratives and experiences in what we perceive as mostly white history.  Most people want to ignore and hide away from the past, but this festival is taking place to showcase to everyone that Black artists are taking a stand and will not be silenced.

A range of beautifully dynamic and thought-provoking pieces were completed over the four weeks of the Pitch Black showcase, ranging from a cine-poem to dance and visual arts pieces. Each piece had a distinctive voice and message that the artists was trying to purvey, and this came across clearly and very visibly. The artists Q and As also allowed the audience to be further involved with the process and history of the performances.

The Black art and artefacts tours that investigated the museum’s collections, highlighting previously neglected stories, was also highly eye opening as it showed just how two dimensional complex museum collections have been curated and viewed. Even though I feel I had quite a good education about Black History, the slave trade and issues of colonialism. I had very little knowledge of to the deeper meanings behind the paintings and artefacts that were explained and described in the tours. Education in the United Kingdom does not prepare you for the harrowing sides of British history and culture. From David Hockney to Henri Gaudier- Brzeska the art world has many Black influences which are never discussed and are basically hidden from public consumption. Is this simply the United Kingdom’s way of systematically ignoring the country's past? Education is key and through art, education is what the viewer receives.

This education needs to be delivered in the right way - representing the viewpoints of those it affects the most. Not watered down, not worrying about people's reactions, but true, raw and honest. The artists, their families and ancestors had to go through so much to be where they are today and yet many of the workshops and pieces still had one central message: Hope.

Pitch Black showcased that while colonialism and slavery are essentially white heritage – a legacy of what Britain and other colonial forces did, the heritage and legacy of Black communities is resilience;  the will to keep fighting, to celebrate their strength and beauty and retain Hope. Pitch Black did not dwell on the negatives. Yes, these artists could have focused on this aspect of their journeys, but the beauty was more prevalent. Of course, discrimination and racism was presented to the viewers but also ideas of home and family, which all came across as a beacon of positivity.

The platform of Pitch Black has allowed Black artists to showcase their stories and work. Having many voices from many differing backgrounds allows for a richer life experience. Every aspect of everyone’s lives can benefit from a multicultural input and art, heritage and culture are no different. The UK is a melting pot for different nationalities and races, this comes with difficult historical legacies and everyday challenges that we need to work together to acknowledge, challenge and overcome.  We need to recognise how uneducated many of us really are on Black history and experiences, we need to challenge our own prejudices and deepen our insight and capacity for empathy – art and in particular the Pitch Black showcase can provide new experiences and insights, help us to broaden our horizons.

As for the individual pieces I took something different away from each one. June Campbell – Davies’ piece made me very emotional. The story that was told was so honest and heartbreaking. It was very contemporary, and the message was subtle but so much history was packed into the short performance. With the camera panning to some of the portraits surrounding the room I got a real sense that this performance in this room was reclaiming space that had for too long been denied to Black people and their stories. This piece being called ‘Sometimes we are Invisible’ was a very apt name as when the performance was over the materials and chairs which were used were all that was left. The complete removal of June from the scene made the set even more atmospheric. There was also a voice over to the piece which had snippets about Britain from the past. The whole performance was a little unnerving as you never knew what exactly was going to happen next. It was so well presented and really resonated with me and made me think of so much, not just whilst watching but also after. This piece really left you asking questions and rethinking everything.

Gabin Kongolo had his work focused on in week two. His cine poem entitled ‘Ndáko’ which means ‘Home’ in Lingala focused on the journey of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Wales. Even though the start was more down beaten as the piece went on it became more and more hopeful. The issues were shared it in such a personal way. Also, the mix of Lingala and English tied the piece to the artist's roots, and I felt like this gave a better insight to the culture and made the piece even more hard hitting. Even the music throughout mirrors the happiness of the family. What I loved about this piece is the joy you can see on the families faces and the stories that Kongolo told in the artists Q and A, they were so lovely, and I am sure made the whole audience think of home.

‘The ocean is always looking for a way into your boat’ by Omikemi puts you on edge from the minute it starts. The sounds of waves and percussion made you worried for the characters involved. This spoken poem highlights the idea of loss and the struggles in life, but also how you are able to dream beyond this and find yourself and others. I personally felt that the whole piece was quite organic and natural. I went away from watching the video feeling slightly saddened but understanding that the artist was looking for an improved future. I love the root of this piece as it is an interesting starting point, looking from a care background but I feel that this adds to the effect of the piece on the viewer but also with links to the LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities there are many accessible aspects for many different groups of people.

For the final week Yvonne Connikie was in the spotlight with her piece entitled ‘A time for new dreams’ which focused on the Windrush generation in South Wales. The inclusion of actors of multiple ages and genders gave this piece a unique twist as it tried to give some insight to a whole community and made the piece interesting to watch. From the little child to the elder individuals I felt many different emotions as you reacted differently to every person included in the piece. The idea of dreams is so open, and it really allows the viewers to see the people better and dreams are so personal and sharing them feels almost like you are now holding a secret with these people. The changing of season and backgrounds which can be seen in the video gave you a real sense of time. Dreams are not granted overnight but rather dreams are the future. I think the biggest take away with Connikie’s work for me was the sense of peace.

Overall, Pitch Black was an eye-opening experience for me. It perfectly highlighted the duality of being Black in Wales and was a highly accessible way of learning more about Black lives and art. For more information on the showcase please go to: https://museum.wales/whatson/digital/11289/Lates-PITCH-BLACK/ 

This blog was written by one of our Amgueddfa Cymru Producers. Youthled projects across the museum are part of the Hands on Heritage initiative, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund's Kick the Dust Grant.

To see more of Pitch Black and other projects we run, follow us on Instagram @bloedd_ac https://www.instagram.com/bloedd_ac/ and check out our website to find out more about how young people can get involved Young people | National Museum Wales 

Thanks to The Fund and all our National Lottery Players - keeping our fingers crossed for you! 

Each Thursday evening in May, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales are hosting Lates: PITCH BLACK, an online festival of art, film, and music that aims to celebrate Blackness.

In this blog, June Campbell-Davies tells us more about what to expect from her commissioned performance piece, titled 'Sometimes We're Invisible' that will be featured in the first evening of Lates: PITCH BLACK on 6 May 2021.

For more information on Lates: PITCH BLACK and to purchase a ticket from just £6 per event, click here.

 

The source of my piece came from an experimental work I created a few years ago around exploring the presence of black Victorians, its was a solo I performed using the Movement style that lends itself to Japanese Butoh, where the movements are extremely controlled [slow motion] or intensified [changes in dynamics], allowing the performer to internalize, transform momentarily through this luminal process. And so from the start, I decided that whatever movement material I created, I would use this form of movement Style throughout the piece. Which is a challenge for dancer and audiences alike to stay connected and absorbed.

The Space in Gallery 4 is an open area giving space & light I envisaged my work centered between the organ and the large oil painting.  So when in March 2021 I was able to begin rehearsals in the Museum, I wasn’t sure how I was going to present my solo-My movements alone couldn’t sum up what I had unearthed, I turned my focus to selecting photos for the projector in the hope that what I couldn’t convey in movement the images would help to cement the subject matter.

I knew then that I didn’t want to appear already dressed in Victorian dress, but was drawn to the African print fabric I wanted to start there and explore that journey, entering and exiting the space. Connecting to the rope on the floor spread out into 5 or 6 branches signifying family lineage or tribe. Once that was established I felt something was need even before that, maybe representing a kind of sculptural, spiritual mythical

Entity, Which came out of the silver representing crossing water, refined metals.  The West African deity Yemoja in Yoruba culture, originates from Nigerian folkloric religion and is associated with water, purity, fertility the giver of life and death, which has traveled with those from captivity to the Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba & Southern states of American. Their belief system clashing & mixing with Christianity. Silver being a kind of refining metal symbolically connects with me in terms of what Africans & my Ancestors had to go through over 400 years of Slavery.

But it's never clear cut the stain runs deep for those of us who are of mixed heritage, my father's family tree reveals that his grandparents and great grandparents on his father's side were Scottish and French plantation owners of Grenada. Those that remained in Grenada after the abolition of slavery were disinherited if they married outside their race, and so Religion played an important part in trying to convert enslaved people to Christianity and trying to keep the races apart. The wealth generated, helped to build  Churches and Cathedrals, the Stately homes and mansions in Britain all through cultivating & processing Sugar Cane.

So later in the choreography the book I hold up is woven in red and reads ‘ Objects of Desire’ and symbolically serves as a bible, pushing down and suffocating all involved in this form of human trafficking, chained and packed close like sardines. Branded separated given new names. forced to give up their religious practices and take up Christianity. 

So the piece begins by shedding off one layer revealing another and putting on garments in a kind of ritualistic journey. So as the rehearsal process developed I began to collect items that may be useful to experiment with.  At first, I only had a notebook, music system, a blanket to sit on the floor to warm up, improvising with short movement sequences.  

In the next sessions I brought in more props like rope and used it to outline the space, to create a right angle. Another piece of rope was placed on the floor to use as an umbilical cord. And decided that this rope was where I would explore ‘the Struggle’ giving birth, the enslavement, the suffering, the torture. All in the name of sugar

The following session, I needed to find another stimulus to help generate more material,  there were a few chairs in the space and so I used these just to play with improvisation, it was not my plan to have the chairs in the piece but eventually they became symbolic elements and helped to define the space, and restrict the performance area, helping me to drive the narrative forward. The chairs became landmarks, continents, and seats of power as I moved around them. I explored my solo dance within the triangle [Trans- Atlantic] sometimes with the dress and other times without, I couldn’t decide yet until near the filming date. By then sections seemed to organically drop into place. The dressing and undressing became part of the ritual and transformation.

During the early periods of rehearsals, I used pre-recorded music to help create atmosphere & develop short choreographic moments. I knew for the actual performance I wanted a soundscape that had voice, text & natural elements. So I contacted my daughter.

The Soundscape was created by  Ffion Campbell-Davies, a Welsh multidisciplinary artist based in London.  Our conversations were through email for this project, both of us busy with other jobs we didn’t really need to communicate at long lengths because we share similar interests and we have worked together on several projects so there is an understanding and respect for each other's practice. Ffion also gave me choreographic notes and directions which was crucial at this stage. The Soundscape really helped to bring the entire piece to life adding another layer and giving the body of work context, alongside projected images. Text punctuated like bullet points from Professor Sir Hilary Beckles's speech on Reparations stung the air like deadly darts.

Now in Victorian dress, I leave the Space, An imprint from the past. The wheels of fate keep turning & turning. I exit.

Lates: PITCH BLACK is presented in partnership with Artes Mundi.

This weekend our Curators open online doors to our fascinating meteorite and space rock collections. Join them on Saturday and Sunday for free behind the scenes tours, streamed on our National Museums Wales website, as part of our Amazing Astronomy Weekend. Then on Sunday, our museum curators will be joined by expert astronomers to take your questions in a live, bookable event. See Amazing Astronomy for full details.

Here, Andrew Haycock, Curator Mineralogy & Petrology, Natural Sciences shares a little of his thoughts on one of our space treasures, a rock from Mars. 

There are 77 meteorites in the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales collection, which have been found in localities the World over. Some of these are permanently on display in our Evolution of Wales Gallery. They include a 260kg iron meteorite, which fell in Namibia, Africa; and a slice of a stony meteorite which fell in Beddgelert in 1949. This meteorite is one of only two known meteorites from Wales.

The vast majority of meteorites in the collection are held in climate-controlled storage, so they do not decay, but are often used for our Space-themed outreach events and teaching. Every specimen, however small or big, visually stunning or insignificant looking, has an interesting story to tell. One such unremarkable looking specimen is a stony shergottite meteorite collected in Libya in 1998.

The Mars meteorite is a shergottie (NMW 2010.17G.R.26). The surface of Mars may be red but the rocks that we have are grey, it is only the surface dust of the planet that gives the distinct orange colour.

Around 95% of meteorite finds are classified as ‘stony’, mainly made-up of minerals commonly found on Earth, and most (99.8%) are about 4,560 million years old, and originated in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. That is impressively old, but a casual observer may be forgiven to think that this shergottite meteorite was ‘just another stony meteorite’, but it is actually rather special, it is a part of Mars.

Of the 65,000 or so meteorites, which have been collected, examined and named, just 292 are considered to originate from Mars. They can be classified as 3 different rock types, all igneous in origin (formed from magma or lava). They are much younger than the meteorites from the Asteroid belt, and were formed by volcanic activity on Mars between 165 and 1,340 million years ago.  Only one known meteorite, found in the Allen Hills of Antarctica, is thought to be around 4,500 million years old, and was part of the initial Martian crust when the planet formed.

Mars has been in the news a lot recently (February 2021), with the landing of the NASA Perseverance rover. The rover’s main job is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.

Launch of Mars Perserverance rover, 30 July 2020

Prior to the landing of the Perseverance Rover, four other rovers have successfully been sent to Mars sending valuable data back to scientists on Earth; Sojourner (1997), Spirit and Opportunity (2004); and Curiosity (2012). The first space craft to successfully land on the planet was part of the Viking 1 and Viking 2 missions (Obiter and Lander) which reached Mars in 1976.

So, how do scientists know that these meteorites are from Mars?  By studying the composition of meteorites similar to this one, and comparing it to data sent back by spacecraft on Mars. The meteorites were found to have elemental and isotopic compositions very similar to some Martian rocks. The Shergottite group of Martian meteorites are very similar to basalt rocks found on Earth, but the oxygen isotopes are different to those of Earth rocks.

Conclusive evidence for a Martian origin was provided in 1983, when tiny bubbles of gas trapped in inside the glassy fragments of a shergottite meteorite from Antarctica were analysed. The trapped gasses matched perfectly with the signature of the Martian atmosphere as reported by NASA’s Viking 1 and 2 landers in 1976.

No astronauts have been to Mars, and no material from Mars has been sent back to Earth. So how did a rock from Mars get to Earth? The only known mechanism to eject a rock from Mars is a massive meteorite impact event. The impact would have smashed into Mars with enough force to eject debris out into Space, away from the gravitational pull of the planet, which is much less than that of Earth. At some point the meteorites were deflected from their orbit and pulled into the Earth’s gravitational field. Some of this debris then fell to Earth as meteorites.

The 3-million-year-old crater Mojave, is 58.5 km in diameter and the youngest crater of its size on the planet, has been identified as a potential source of most Mars meteorites.

Unlike the Moon, when it comes to Mars, scientists don't have rocks collected by astronauts to study. But they do have the next best thing, and they are Martian meteorites.

 

Have you seen the footage of a meteorite fire ball passing through our atmosphere on 28 February? Our team have been working to help scientists find where it made landfall in Gloucester: on a suburban driveway! Since 2019, Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales has been part of the SCAMP (System of Asteroid and Meteorite Paths) UK network, part of UK Fireball Alliance which spots, tracks and helps to locate meteorite falls. Jana Horak our Head of Mineralogy & Petrology explains how and invites you to join her and some of her curatorial colleagues for a behind the scenes, online tour of our meteorite collection during our Amazing Astrology weekend 20-21 March.

Every year curators in the Museum examine, numerous samples of possible meteorites, found by the public. Scientists estimate that around 44,000 kilograms of rock fall from space and land on Earth every day, this may sound a lot, but this equates to a cube just 2.3 meters across. Within the UK alone, it is estimated that 10-20 meteorites a year reach the ground, although the last one to be found was in Cambridgeshire in 1991. In Wales, just two meteorites have been collected to date, as both fell close (or through!) human habitation, both in North Wales. Look at our Mineralogy of Wales pages for more information.

But if we don’t see a meteorite fall, how do we know where to look for them? In arid regions, such as the Sahara Desert, the dark outer layer of a meteorite contrasts with the paler stony desert surface, making the meteorite relatively easy to spot. In Wales, however, our temperate climate produces a well-developed soil and vegetation cover, so a falling stone is easily lost.

The SCAMP camera on the Museum Roof in Cardiff, which records fireball activity, It recorded the Gloucester fireball (28th February 2021) and has contributed to helping to find samples.

When a space rock hurtles towards Earth, pulled by Earth’s gravity, the glow of the fireball or ‘shooting star’ alerts us to this intruder. If we can record the direction (or path) of the fireball, we may be able to pin-point where the meteorite falls. Since 2019, Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales has been part of the SCAMP (System of Asteroid and Meteorite Paths) UK network, part of UK Fireball Alliance (https://www.ukfall.org.uk/) which does just that. A special camera on the roof at National Museum Cardiff, records the motion of any passing fireball. From this data the rate and direction of travel can be determined, and by combining information from other UK cameras, can calculate the location where the meteorite hits the ground.

Since we have had the camera installed, we have recorded several fireballs, but only two are calculated to have resulted in a meteorite fall. The first, near Salisbury in November 2020, was considered too small to attempt to recover, but the recent larger one near Gloucester (28th February 2021) will be a test of the system, as it is estimated to include a piece about the size of an orange.  Should you encounter a recently fallen meteorite it is best to wrap it in some clean aluminium foil or place it in a bag without handling it. It is really important not to test it with a magnet as this may destroy valuable information. You can make contact with us here at the Museum to confirm anything you find.

A sample of the Chelyabinsk meteorite which fell in the Russian Federation in February 2013.

So how might you know if you have found a meteorite, if you don’t see it fall? Although the internal texture of meteorites may vary, the most characteristic feature of them is a fusion crust. This is the dark outer layer, a few millimetres thick, produced by friction melting as the rock as it sped through the atmosphere. When hot and travelling fast, the melt layer is stripped away, reducing the size of the rock, and smoothing its outline. As it slows down, cools and stops glowing the melt layer cools and solidifies, to produce a typically dark and smooth outer surface, which may be crossed by a series of small cracks. The Chelyabinsk meteorite which fell in western Siberia, in February 2013, has a very fresh and well-developed fusion crust .

The most common specimens we see which might be confused with a meteorite are; hematite, particularly where it has a smooth bulbous form, marcasite nodules from the Chalk of the southern England, and samples of slag, a product of Wales’ industrial past. Slag commonly has rounded gas bubble cavities on the surface, something that is uncommon or absent from meteorite fusion crusts.

If you think you have found a meteorite contact the Department of Natural Sciences 

Amazing Astronomy, 20 - 21 March 2021

Full information about our AMAZING ASTRONOMY weekend here