Amgueddfa Blog: Museums, Exhibitions and Events

Pride 2022

Zoe Gealy, 6 May 2022

After remembering how to pull together such a big event after such a long break, National Waterfront Museum hosted PRIDE on the weekend 30th  April and Mini PRIDE on 1st May.  It was a huge team effort with staff from Community Engagement and Learning, Events and youth Engagement working in partnership with Swansea PRIDE, Swansea City Council and South Wales Police.  Not to mention our fabulous Front of House, Tech team, Cleaners (there was quite a bit of Glitter!!!), Marketing and Elior (sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone – we were all involved a bit).

PRIDE has been the largest ever event at the Waterfront in the past with well over 4000 people attending. We opted this year to focus on being the Community zone for PRIDE with a modest entertainment package, compared to the main stage out on Museum Green which also hosted food stands, merch stalls and drinks vans. 

Inside we had info stands, crafts and community sellers with partners ranging from YMCA Swansea to OXFAM Book swap, Swansea Vikings gay and inclusive rugby team (a popular stand!) Proud councils and Mid and West Wales Fire Service (also strangely popular!) Outside, the GRAFT garden saw a range of fun activities including Circus Skills with Circus Eruption, African drumming, an identity workshop and chalk drawing.  Inside hosted True colours inclusive choir, Mermaids walkabout, Zumba flashmob amongst other things. In the speakers corner we saw a packed out talk and demo lead by Welsh Ballroom, followed by Christopher Anstee’s book launch of his new memoir ‘Polish the Crown’ followed by a thought-provoking Q+A panel discussion, looking at growing up LGBTQ+ and the impact of section 28.

As always, we started the day showing our support as an organisation by joining the parade through town, fortunately the sun shone for us all and the crowds were supportive and very vocal.

The evening showcased The Welsh Ballroom do their thing with their fantastically choreographed, all inclusive, body positive catwalk, with the opportunity for the audience to join in at the end of the show. 

Sunday was all about the little people with another action-packed sparkly day of fun.  There were My Little Pony and Troll Walk Abouts, Crafts and Glitter galore, a packed out Drag Queen Story Hour, What is PRIDE? Q+A for Kids hosted by Good Vibes teens, and culminating in a very fun and very cute mini PRIDE parade through the main hall.

It was such a fantastic weekend, seeing so many familiar faces in REAL LIFE after SO long.  One community partner, on walking into the museum to set up and seeing all of the LGBTQ+ flags and umbrellas had a little cry and said ‘Thank you, I feel like I’ve come home, it’s so nice to feel like I can be me’.

Here’s to 2023…

Sheep Farming In The Past

Meredith Hood - PhD student Zooarchaeology, 22 March 2022

What is my project about? 

Hello! I’m Meredith, a PhD student working at Cardiff University and Amgueddfa Cymru. I am a zooarchaeologist, which means I study animal remains from archaeological sites to find out more about the relationship between humans and animals in the past. So, Lambcam seemed like a great opportunity to share a little bit about my project, and how we can learn about sheep farming in the past! 

For my project, I am studying the animal bones from the site of Llanbedrgoch on Anglesey.  This was an early medieval settlement, occupied from the 5th to 11th centuries AD. Archaeologists recovered over 50,000 pieces of animal bone from Llanbedrgoch, which will provide a really valuable insight into farming practices and diet at this time. You can read about my research in a little more detail here

Image: Volunteers washing animal remains from Llanbedrgoch.

Volunteers washing animal remains from Llanbedrgoch. ©Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum of Wales.

 

I am currently recording all the bones into a database and trying to identify what animals they came from. This can be tricky, particularly when the bones are very broken. Sheep bones can also be an extra challenge to identify as they look extremely similar to goat bones!  

Image: Recording animal bones in the bioarchaeology laboratory at Cardiff University.

Recording animal bones in the bioarchaeology laboratory at Cardiff University. (Photo: Meredith Hood)

How can we find about sheep farming in the past?  

Sheep remains can tell us lots of information about how sheep were farmed and used in the past. For example, we can estimate the age at which a sheep died by looking at how worn their teeth are, or whether their bones have fused. Sheep that were kept for a long time as adults may have been used for their wool or milk. 

Image: A modern sheep mandible/jawbone (top) compared to an early medieval fragment of a sheep jawbone from Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey (bottom).

A modern sheep mandible/jawbone (top) compared to an early medieval fragment of a sheep jawbone from Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey (bottom) (Photo: Meredith Hood)

Image: Two sheep humeri (upper arm) bones. The bone on the left is from a juvenile, and the bone on the right is from an adult.

Two sheep humeri (upper arm) bones. The bone on the left is from a juvenile, and the bone on the right is from an adult. (Photo: Meredith Hood) 

We can also look for things such as butchery or burning marks on bones which might tell us that lamb or mutton was eaten. Certain body parts, like the pelvis, can tell us the sex of the sheep, which can suggest whether breeding might have taken place on a site. 

Image: Part of a sheep metatarsal showing black burning marks.

Part of a sheep metatarsal showing black burning marks. (Photo: Meredith Hood)

What do we know about sheep farming in early medieval Wales?  

Unfortunately, animal bones from early medieval Wales haven’t survived very well in the soil. But from archaeological sites where they have survived, it appears that sheep were predominantly being kept for their secondary products like wool and milk.  

Historical texts can also give us some clues. Law texts surviving from the 13th century which have been attributed to Hywel Dda (a 10th century king) describe, for example, how much sheep were worth (‘One Penny is the worth of a lamb whilst it shall be sucking’1) and that ‘fat’ sheep should be given to the king as render payments.   

The large number of bones from Llanbedrgoch is really exciting and should provide us with more information about early medieval Welsh sheep farming, so watch this space! 

Image: Illustration of sheep from the Laws of Hywel Dda, mid-thirteenth century.

Illustration of sheep from the Laws of Hywel Dda, mid-thirteenth century. From: Peniarth MS 28 f. 25 v. (Image: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales, Public Domain)

[1] Owen, A. (1841). Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales. London, p.715

Welcome to Lambcam 2022

Bernice Parker, 11 March 2022

We have over 250 breeding ewes in the flock and we expect over 350 lambs – so this a very busy time of year for the team that care for our sheep. There are experienced staff on hand throughout the day and night once things get going in the lambing shed.

So, what does a normal birth look like? Lambing is an unpredictable business, so it can vary wildly – but here are some of the things you might see:

Labour:

  • Water bag (intact or burst) and mucus hanging out of the back of the sheep before birth.
  • Pair of feet protruding from the ewe’s back end.
  • In early labour, the ewe will be restlessly getting up and down and pawing at the ground.
  • As labour progresses, she will usually get down to push and stay down. Her contractions will get stronger with lots of physical effort visible.
  • She may have her head thrown back, eyes wide and top lip curled back. This all normal and means that birth is hopefully imminent.
  • Normal labour can take anything from 30 minutes to many hours. The farm team try to keep the shed quiet and calm and allow the sheep to lamb naturally where possible. They will only intervene to protect the welfare of the ewe and her lambs.

Birth:

  • If the ewe has lambed naturally – both her and the lamb may lie still for a bit after the lamb is born. It’s been hard work for both of them, and all the lamb needs to be doing at this point is breathing. Ideally without the bag (amniotic sac) over its head.
  • As part of the birth, the bag will normally break and be pulled back off the lamb’s nostrils. Sometimes the farmers may nip in to help this process.
  • Lambs will be born covered in mucus, bits of the bag and sometimes smears of blood. This is all normal – the ewe will lick it clean, which will help stimulate the lamb to breathe and warm it up.
  • Sometimes they come out with a yellow or greenish coating. This is called meconium (first poo) where the lamb has opened its bowels before/during birth.

Newborn lambs:

  • Newborn lambs often twitch/shiver and thrash about. This is normal, and a good way to get the ewe’s attention. It’s also preparation for getting up and walking within minutes of being born. If you are a prey animal rather than a predator you need to be born ready to run (or hidden away in a den/nest).
  • Lambs will also twitch/sneeze repeatedly as they clear the birth fluids from their noses and throats. Sometimes the farmers stick a bit of straw up the lamb’s nostrils to make it sneeze and help this process. They will also pat the lamb, or ‘cycle’ one of its front legs to stimulate the coughing/breathing reflex.
  • If this doesn’t work - sometimes the farmers will swing a lamb by its back legs. This uses centrifugal force to help clear the lamb’s throat and get it to start breathing.
  • Newborn lambs get a squirt of disinfectant spray on their navels. This helps to stop them getting infections from the shed floor through the newly severed umbilicus.

Moving from the lambing shed to the nursery area:

  • After they have given birth, all ewes and their lambs will be moved out of the lambing shed.  
  • The farmers carry lambs by their legs:
    • Because they have much stronger legs, and are much lighter than human babies.
    • It avoids covering the lamb with human scent when they need to bond with their mothers.
    • The kindest way to move a ewe that has just given birth is to get her to follow her lambs. Sheep’s instinct is to run away from humans – not follow them. But they will usually follow their new lambs when the farmers hold them like this.
    • Each new family ges off to a bonding pen to get to know each other and be safe from the action in the lambing shed.
  • Ewes that are less keen to follow their lambs (or ones that just run off after giving birth) are usually yearlings lambing for the first time.
  • The yearlings are also much wilder, as they are less used to being handled with the flock. You might see the farmers use a different technique to move these sheep and their lambs:
    • They will remove the lambs first, so they don’t get trampled.
    • Then catch the ewe – which can still run fast even thugh she has just given birth!
    • They will walk these sheep out with their legs astride the ewe’s shoulders. This the best way to control the sheep and stop it doing a complete runner. (They are NOT sitting on them).
    • The whole family will be reunited in a bonding pen – where everything usually settles down quite quickly as the ewes come around to the idea of motherhood.

You can find out lots more about our sheep at lambing time in these blogs from previous years:

Lambcam 2021 - FAQs:   | National Museum Wales

A guide to lamb presentation - aka ‘what’s going on in there?’ | National Museum Wales

Trawsnewid is here!

Oska von Ruhland, 10 March 2022

The exhibition is free to visit at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea, from 12 March through to 17 July 2022.

Trawsnewid, meaning 'Transformation', explores and celebrates Wales' history of queerness and social change. Objects on display have been taken from the Amgueddfa Cymru LGBTQ+ collection held at St Fagans National Museum of History to be compiled in a brand-new narrative, alongside new queer Welsh artworks. Visitors can walk through this often forgotten aspect of our past and see how the movement for social change continues into the present. With objects on display taking queer history as far back as the late 1700s, and even as recent as during the current Covid-19 pandemic, there is a wide breadth of communities, identities and movements represented in the exhibition.

The objects that are highlighted in this exhibition were selected by the participants of the Trawsnewid project. The participants are young people who host and attend various workshops that explore history of Wales' LGBTQ+ people and culture and have come together to develop the theme of this exhibition, focusing mainly on queer art and creations. Over several weeks the participants have gone through the collection and selected which pieces stand out the most as important markers of queer Welsh history.

Integrated in the display is a collection of new artworks made by some of the volunteers. Each piece has been inspired by some aspect of Wales' queer history, be it a piece from the LGBTQ+ Collection, or by the communities around them. A variety of artistic mediums come together to bring this often forgotten history right into the contemporary modern day.

Also showing at the exhibition is the Queer Cabaret – a series of short films created by Trawsnewid participants exploring their experiences and connection to Wales and queer identity. The entire cabaret is available to watch on YouTube, but at the exhibition you will be able to enjoy it while immersed in the culture and history curated by everyone on the Trawsnewid Project and the LGBTQ+ collection.

The Exhibition of Hope at the National Wool Museum

Alyson Cole - Volunteer Ambassador, 1 December 2021

The National Wool Museum Exhibition of Hope was launched in April 2020. This was of course during the beginning of the national lockdown and I think it is safe to presume that no one could have predicted how successful it would be!

With support from the Ashley Family Foundation and Community Foundation Wales, the aim was to collect enough 20cm or 8inch rainbow coloured squares in order to weave together a substantial rainbow blanket to be displayed in the National Wool Museum, and then eventually at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

The idea of the rainbow colours was of course in accordance with the rainbow image, which during the national lockdown had became an important emblem.  The rainbow symbolised light at the end of the tunnel after a dark and uncertain time. The blanket would therefore hopefully become a symbol of peace, hope, community and spirit.

The project surpassed all expectations and collected in the range of 2,000 rainbow square pieces from all over the country. These squares were knitted, felted, woven or crocheted not only from wool, but from cotton, silk and other wonderful fibres that people had to hand.

 

 

Due to the overwhelming response and the restrictions placed on volunteers in meeting and creating one single blanket, a decision was made to make many blankets instead. As a result, museum staff and volunteers began joining the squares from home!

With now many blankets in the making, the project took off to a new level and purpose! Not only were these blankets going to become works of art, they would also be donated to charities, such as the homeless charity 'Crisis'. The project grew further when the South Wales branch of the 'Crisis' Charity shared the exhibition on their Facebook pages and even going as far as providing people with physical packs of wool and instructions.

The project further snowballed when it was featured in Adult Learners Week 2020, when two videos were released of National Wool Museum Craftsperson Non Mitchell showing how to create a felted and woven square.  Finally, maybe the biggest influence was when the Connect to Kindness Art Project, working alongside the Connect to Kindness Campaign and Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services showcased the project in a collage of photos.

When I visited the exhibition recently, what I found fascinating is how, from humble beginnings, the project took on a life of its own and became more than simply helping create a blanket. Along with being beautiful pieces of art that could be enjoyed on their own merit, the blankets would now also help people in a physical and practical way!

In my opinion, what was lovely was how the exhibition has captured the array of positive feelings it had stirred in the volunteers and museum staff who took part in the project. I’m sure this was a somewhat unexpected or underestimated result of the project!

It was clear from the messages and notes received with the blanket squares, that it had brought many a sense of joy, achievement, comfort and a feeling of purpose. The blanket had brought people a sense of belonging and highlighted the feeling of community and what can be achieved when people "pull together" 

This is perhaps the most interesting factor of the project for me - the stories of those creating the squares. I am delighted that the exhibition is reflecting this by showing "stories of the squares" in a video to go along with the exhibition, which will also be available online.

I had the pleasure of watching the video when I visited the exhibition in Drefach Felindre, and it was amazing to hear of the different stories of those behind the squares. There were stories of the project uniting family and friends along with chapels and schools. The exhibition includes an image of rainbow hands by the children of Ysgol Penyboyr.

The effort which some had gone to was also amazing. A big shout out to Elwyna who knitted 350 squares!  One lady had even naturally dyed her wool in different rainbow colours.

One of the stories I found touching was of a lady who had recently lost her mother and who had left her a stash of yarn, mostly from America. Her mother had taught her to crochet and she felt the project was an amazing way to honour her mother's memory.

Crocheting also helped her deal with the grief during this time as she found it therapeutic and relaxing. Others also spoke of the art of crocheting and making the squares as being a therapeutic and relaxing process.

Another heart warming story was of how someone struggled with her memory and was overjoyed to discover that she remembered how to crochet.

These stories and indeed the whole exhibition being so visually bright and beautiful was very uplifting in what is still a fairly uncertain time.  The words of one volunteer perfectly summed up the meaning of the project for me - although we couldn’t "be together, we could work together".

The exhibition can be seen in the National Wool Museum of Wales until mid January 2022. A walk around the exhibition will also be available online. The Exhibition will move to Swansea’s Waterfront Museum in July 2022 - October 2022.