Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Our new exciting, family-friendly exhibition Wriggle has now opened and delves into the wonderful world of worms. As part of this exhibition we have put together a display of some very historic worm models made of glass. These are from a part of our collections called the ‘Blaschka glass model collection’. The models were made by the German glass-worker and naturalist Leopold Blaschka, along with his son, Rudolf, in the latter half of the 1800s’. This period was a time of great scientific discovery and new museums were opening to the public with their galleries displaying fossils, plants and animals from across the globe.

However many types of animal and plant specimens are very difficult to preserve and display, particularly soft-bodied animals, such as jellyfish, marine worms and sea anemones. The best method is to preserve in some sort of preserving fluid such as ethanol or formaldehyde but colours quickly faded and their shapes became distorted. Leopold Blaschka devised a solution to this problem by using his glass working skills to accurately model these animals out of glass. Together with his son, he went on to establish a successful business supplying glass models, mostly of marine animals, to museums worldwide during the latter half of the 19th century.

Initially the Blaschkas relied on illustrations in books as sources of reference for the glass animals, and many of the models are three dimensional representations of animals that they never saw in reality. However, in later years they increasingly based the models on their own observations of real animals, either during field trips or from live specimens in specially built aquariums in their house. This development in their naturalist skills is seen in the models as over time they became increasingly scientifically accurate.  

Amgueddfa Cymru has an extensive collection of these historic glass models representing a wide range of sea creatures such as sea slugs, sea cucumbers, marine worms, cephalopods and sea anemones. A selection of these models is on permanent display in the Marine galleries both as part of a stand-alone case, and as part of the surrounding displays. However for the Wriggle exhibition we have also put together a display case of all our worm related Blaschka glass models. Some of these models have not been on display for many years, and required delicate conservation work to enable their handling and display in the exhibition. A good example is the life series of three enlarged models of the marine worm Proceraea cornuta. All three of the models had been previously damaged in some way and careful conservation work was required to anable their safe display.

Also on display are models of commonly found species from our seashores such as the lugworm Arenicola marina and the ragworm Perinereis cultrifera.

The models of the leech Pontobdella (Hirudo) vittata and the Peacock worm Sabella pavonina are also notable in that they are still mounted on the packing card the Blaschkas’ would have originally shipped the models out on.

However personal favourites are the models of two tube living worms - the sand mason worm Lanice conchilega and the exquisite sphagetti worm Pista cretacea. Both have dense tentacle crowns which becomes an astonishing piece of craftsmanship and taxonomic accuracy when fashioned in glass!

Further information on the museums Blaschka glass model collectin can also be found online at .

In the summer of 1951, a large-scale quilting exhibition was staged at St Fagans as part of Wales’ contribution to the Festival of Britain. Billed as ‘the largest, most comprehensive and the most interesting of its kind ever staged in the Principality’, the exhibition organised jointly with the Monmouthshire Rural Community Council showcased the work of 60 contemporary quilters, alongside historic examples from the Museum’s collection and private owners. The Banqueting Hall – a vast pavilion-like structure in the grounds of St Fagans Castle – provided a dramatic setting for the display, the likes of which had not been seen at the newly-established Museum before.

Call for entries

Although the exhibition ran for little over three weeks (16 July – 18 August), it was the culmination of months of planning, led by Mr D. L. Jones of the Welsh Rural Industries Committee. In keeping with the Museum’s founding principle of inspiring a new generation of makers, the show included daily demonstrations and prizes for the best contemporary work on display. In February of that year, a final call for entries was published in the Western Mail:

Although we have received a record entry for the National Quilting Exhibition… it is not too late to receive further entries… Substantial prizes and certificates of merit will be awarded to successful candidates, and it will undoubtedly provide an excellent opportunity for Welsh quilters to show our oversees visitors that they still possess the skill of their forebears in this one remaining traditional needlecraft.


The work submitted for the exhibition included large and small quilts, cot covers, bonnets, dressing gowns and dressing jackets. In total, 65 original, hand-quilted pieces were chosen for display by the selectors. The judging panel included Mavis FitzRandolph who, under the auspices of the Rural Industries Bureau, had been instrumental in setting-up quilting classes in the industrial heartlands of south-east Wales during the 1920-30s Depression. The aim of the scheme was to revive and improve the standard of Welsh quilting, therefore enabling young women in economically deprived communities to earn a living making by hand. Many of those who won prizes at the 1951 exhibition were taught to quilt under this scheme, including Irene Morgan of Porthcawl - one of the best quilters of her generation. Originally from Aberdare, Irene began to quilt in the late 1920s and subsequently became a nightclass teacher in the Bridgend area, until the onset of glaucoma stopped her from stitching in the 1960s. Her prize winning certificates from the 1951 exhibition were donated to the Museum following her death in 2000.

The future - Gweithdy

Emulating the spirit of the 1951 exhibition, exciting plans are afoot here at St Fagans. A new gallery called Gweithdy is currently being built in the Museum's grounds which will be a celebration of making by hand in Wales through the centuries. As well as having objects on display including several quilts and other textile crafts the new gallery will be designed very much like a workshop, with spaces for people to have-a-go at making, and to enroll on craft courses. Needless to say, we are all hugely excited about this development – a new chapter in our history as a Museum which, we hope, will inspire the makers of the future.





I’m finding it hard to believe that the St Fagans Food Festival will be soon upon us – where has the year gone? Last year, we asked you to tweet your favourite family recipes to us. We had an amazing response, thanks again to all who took part, enabling us to create a lovely exhibition at Oakdale Workmen’s Institute over the Festival weekend.

As part of this year’s Festival, we’re launching a digital version of Welsh Fare, a collection of traditional recipes collected by Minwel Tibbott. When she started at the Museum in 1969, the study of traditional foods was a very new research field. She realised very early on that the information would not be found in books and she travelled all over Wales in order to interview, record and film the older generation of women. They recalled the dishes prepared by their mothers, and their memories harked back to the end of the 1880s.

With the digital version, not only can you read the recipes, but also hear the women explain the processes and see them prepare the dishes. We’re also keen to add to this collection, and as the Great British Bake Off fever grabs us once again, we’re asking you to share with us your favourite family recipes. We’d also like to add to our images of people feasting - people enjoying your showstoppers, a family celebration or a gathering of friends.

Tweet recipes, images and information to @archifSFarchive or post them on the St Fagans Facebook page using the hashtag #Ryseitiau #FoodFestival. Another option is to bring them along to Oakdale Workmen’s Institute during the Food Festival and we’ll scan them. All the recipes and photos, as well as last year’s collection will be uploaded on to the People’s Collection Wales.

For the latest on this project, follow tweets by @archifSFarchive and @SF_Ystafelloedd and the hashtags #Ryseitiau #Food Festival #WelshFare #AmserBwyd.

Since the last post the local families coming to the Museum from Ely and Caerau have been enjoying taking part in a variety of exciting sessions, including:

  • Experiencing what it was like to go to school in Victoria Wales.
  • Learning to handle a newt found during pond dipping in the Tannery ponds.
  • Making clay coil pots to take home

So far 102 people have taken part in this programme of activities at St Fagans and the feedback from everyone has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I enjoyed the experience of going to a Victoria school because I learnt new things and how they learnt back then.”

“I had a good time holding a newt and looking at all the pond bugs.”

“Brill, we had lots of fun, will be coming back!”

“I liked pottery because you can get messy and it is crafty.”

“Calming session.”

The children are learning a lot, so are the parents, and so are we. We’re finding out just how much families love to learn together and the families are discovering all that the Museum has to offer them. Many of these families had not visited St Fagans until coming along to one of these sessions, and now they are thinking of coming back again. This is why we value our partnership with ACE Action Ely Caerau so much, as they are able to help us to meet and work with these lovely groups to show them just how relevant the Museum on their door step can be to their lives.

With one more week to go we are looking forward to welcoming more families to Bryn Eryr, the Iron Aged farmstead, to help us with an authentic Iron Age smelt, and a very enthusiastic group who will be coming in to take part in a traditional weaving workshop.

Keep following this blog for more updates.

If you are interested in taking part in fun family activities and events at St Fagans over the summer there are lots of opportunities to get involved, just check our What’s On for more information.

This week we welcomed the lovely Croeso Club from Caerphilly to St Fagans. They are an informal community group set up by a local resident, Sandra Hardacre, almost ten years ago. The group aims to support community members to learn new skills, be sociable with others and go on new adventures.

Over the last 6 weeks they have been working with Groundwork Cymru to help to pilot a new project called Go Green 4 Health, which is all about inspiring, supporting and encouraging individuals to use the outdoors to be more active. Each session focuses on a different aspect of using the outdoors for activity, such as ‘the benefits to being outdoors’, ‘overcoming barriers’ and ‘’staying safe’.

For their last walk the group members had asked if they could come to St Fagans, so Flik Walls, project coorindator, got in touch with us at the Museum and we set it up.

We planned a 30 minute walk, taking in some of the key buildings at St Fagans such as Nant Wallter Cottage, Rhyd-y-Car Terrace Houses and the Oakdale Workmen's Institute, of which some of the ladies had very fond memories.

We also made sure there was plenty of time to stop for a coffee and piece of cake on our way around. This was a perfect chance for the ladies to talk about their experiences of being part of the Go Green 4 Health project and share their thoughts and feedback with myself, the Groundwork Team and the project evaluator Katy Marrin. It was also a lovely opportunity for the group to share poems some of them had written about their journey together. Here's a lovely poem written by Lyn:

Go Green 4 Health Poem

Two lovely people came to coax us all to walk,

To ramble and enjoy ourselves and also have a talk.


We played walking bingo, I’m sure it was a fix,

Next we all said poems that was a real mix.


A lovely trip to Trelewis Park, fresh air and loads of rests,

Caerphilly Castle we went next, soaked through right to our vests.


And what about walking football that we were meant to play,

They said there was some cheating, ‘we were robbed’ I heard them say.


The last walk sadly to St Fagan’s, a fab day out for all,

So now the Croeso Club love walking, they’ve really had a ball.


We are really looking forward to developing a link with Groundwork Cymru so we can continue to work together on similar projects in the future. Follow this blog for updates and to find out how it's all going.