: General

Adult Learners Week 2023: its legacy at St Fagans National Museum of History and across Amgueddfa Cymru

Loveday Williams, 24 January 2024

Last year we celebrated Adult Learners Week in September, alongside other learning providers across Wales. 
We were excited to deliver activities across all 7 museums within the  Amgueddfa Cymru family, building on existing offers and piloting new sessions and activities.
At St Fagans we were able to develop a full programme of activities which took place throughout the week, including crafting taster sessions and workshops, mindful nature walks and opportunities for Welsh and English learners. 
The Amgueddfa Cymru programme was promoted via the new Adult and Community Learning section of our website, with the individual site offers also appearing on their main What’s On listings page. We were also able to promote our programme via the Adult Learners Week platform, supported by the Learning and Work Institute, as well as ensuring we ran a comprehensive social media campaign in the run up and throughout the week, across X (Twitter), Instagram and Facebook.
As part of this work, we also promoted our series of virtual craft tutorials and taster sessions and the self-led learner resources we offer. 
We worked closely with partners including Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd, Menter Caerdydd, Adult Learning Wales and Creative Lives to ensure our programme was tailored to the needs of the learners we hoped to attract and was enhanced by the richness that partnership working brings.
Over the course of the week, we saw a total of 160 people take part in the learning opportunities on offer at St Fagans and a total of 331 people across Amgueddfa Cymru as a whole. This marked our biggest ever Adult Learners Week, of which we are very proud. Take a look at some of the highlight here: https://youtu.be/lgKtmLHr1_Q 
We wanted to ensure we collected feedback from learners to help us develop and improve our adult learning offer across the organization. 
Here’s a sample of some of the learner feedback we received: 
“Wonderful, positive, creative environment.” 
“Learning a new skill is fun and fulfilling”.  
“Very social and therapeutic experience”  
“I really enjoyed the workshop. Very fun and positive experience. Facilitators were really friendly and found it really therapeutic and sociable.”  
“Very much enjoyed – great opportunity to learn a new skill. Great teacher. I feel very chilled now.” 
“Thoroughly enjoyable and interesting walk – saw things I’d never noticed previously.” 
“Yn agordrwsfydhudol.”  
“I really enjoyed the Mindful Nature Walk at St Fagans. I learnt a lot and would recommend it! It was great to have someone so knowledgeable leading the session.” 
“Friendly environment, not at all intimidating, so if you want to try something new go for it!” (willow weaving bird feeders) 
“Empowered! A great way to learn a new skill.” 
“Great fun! Just go do it, you will enjoy learning a new skill!”  
“Dw i’nmeddwl bod digwyddiadauyn y Cymraeg yndddaiawn.”  
“I have always wanted to make an autumn wreath and the course gave me the confidence. It was an inspirational course.” 
The tuition was fantastic. There was help when needed but given enough space and time to try and do it yourself.”  
“Very much enjoyed drawing again after 20 years. Must get back into it now!” 
“I thoroughly enjoyed the sketching session at St Fagans and the encouraging nature of the group.”  
“A motivating, supporting and encouraging session which was led excellently by Marion and Gareth and so well hosted by Loveday.” (Sketching workshop at St Fagans with Creative Lives).  
“It feels so wonderful to try something new and see the results so quickly.” (Enamelling taster session).  
Legacy programmes: 
As a result of the piloting opportunities Adult Learners Week provided, we have since been able to launch 3 new regular Adult Learning programmes at St Fagans and National Museum Cardiff. 
Our monthly Audio Described Tour programme (alternating monthly between the two museums and shortly to launch at the National Roman Legionary Museum in Caerleon, with a view to extend to other sites as and when capacity allows).
Our new monthly Sketching Group at St Fagans, in partnership with Creative Lives (and building on the success of the wonderful National Museum Cardiff Drawing Group). So far we’ve held 3 sessions. Our first attracted 6 people, our second 8 and our third 24! Feedback has been so positive and word is spreading far and wide. If you’d like to join us next month please do so. All the info can be found in the link above. 
New termly Bore i Ddysgwyr Cymraeg Welsh Learner Mornings in collaboration with Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd and Menter Caerdydd. Last term we welcomed 35 Welsh learners to the museum to take part in a session on Welsh Christmas traditions. We’re looking forward to welcoming an existing group of Welsh speakers and learners on 25th January for Dydd Santes Dwynwen where we’ll be exploring the Welsh Love Spoon collection and then the next Bore i Ddysgwyr Cymraeg. 
The 6 commitments enshrined in our 10-year strategy Amgueddfa2030 are embedded throughout our adult learning programme, specifically that of inspiring creativity and learning for life
We look forward to continuing to grow our adult learning offer and hope to welcome you in 2024 to one of our museums to take part in an activity or enjoy using one of our self-led learner resources! 

A History of The Museums Branding

Niamh Rodda, 29 September 2023

If you can believe it, we keep a copy of every museum publication we produce. Yes, every flyer and brochure and after a while it starts to pile up! While in the process of ordering and categorising this mountain of coffee table litter and ephemera into a cohesive collection, it’s been fascinating to see the way that Amgueddfa Cymru’s branding has changed and evolved over the years. The logos and designs tell us not just about how the museum represents itself but also they tell us something about the time they were written in. So, let’s take a look at the museums branding and design over the decades.
In a museum brochure from 1968, the simplicity of the design is striking with its bold text and the solid red graphic of columns and pediment, which is the globally used symbol for museums (but more on that later). Yet for a modern eye it still looks old fashioned; there are no photos or even a colour gradient and it is printed onto plain white paper. The inside contains only small black text of museum department events, in a list, with little formatting. for example:
Zoology: In the Gallery near the Restaurant: Demonstration of Taxidermy of birds and mammals. 10am -12 noon

In 1969 we get a new look for monthly Programmes. This style sticks for the next decade. A bright solid colour fills the background, and the words “Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru National Museum of Wales” are in a large clear bold text. The front of each issue has a large single black and white image that takes up the centre of the cover. This is however the only image the programmes contain, but maybe as a result the images picked usually look dramatic and intriguing. There is something reminiscent of album cover art about them. In the December 1969 issue the cover features a picture of a lunar landing module and the moon from space. Inside are details of a 3-day exhibition where the museum had genuine moon rock on display.

In the 1980’s we get a new look again, which we can see in the museum’s monthly programmes. But if it wasn’t for the date, you might assume it to be older than it is. The writing is in a traditional serif font and each issue has the same image a marble fresco of a woman holding a picture of the Welsh dragon with Ionic columns in the background. It is the Seal of the National Museum of Wales. It is an architectural feature of the Cardiff site that you can see today above the entrance of gallery 1. 

It is an image that is meant to invoke a certain ideal of “The Museum” that it is grand, historic, noble, and “cultured”. The monthly programmes certainly work hard to solidify this visual brand, having the large logo/seal prominent on every issue that leans into the imagery we already associate with museums. As with the earlier 1968 programme both are invoking the image of the Museum as a grand marble Greco-Romanesque styled structure. This seal is then used in slightly different forms on all publications for the next decade and a half.

The icon for museums as a row of pillars with a triangle pediment on top is widely used. It is the image you will see on brown road signs or tourist maps to mark the location of a museum and certainly the National Museum Cardiff and the Roman Legion Museum do have that classic museum look complete with towering columns. It is an image that may well reflect what museums used to be like, opulent buildings that looked at foreign artefacts like Greek statues. But it is an image that now many museums are working hard to move away from.  Ultimately as an icon it doesn’t really capture or express the totality of what Amgueddfa Cymru is all about, a diverse and varied family of museums that celebrate Welsh life.

Then in 1995 there is a major rebrand. We have moved away from the traditional imagery of museums and galleries and instead have a range of icons that highlight the different parts of the museum’s collections including a spinning wheel, anchor, and steam powered machinery to name a few. It excellently highlights the diversity of what we have to offer. The graphics almost look like a website banner with clickable icons displaying the range of choices. The publications go through various changes over the following years with a greater focus on full colour photos, and a variety of graphics and fonts. The publications are exciting and colourful, but is there a downside? Some might see this iteration of publications as overly crowded and busy. Furthermore, there is no signal unifying image for Amgueddfa Cymru as an integrated organisation.

Then in the 2000’s a new rebrand ditched the icons and opted for words. The words “National Museum Wales” and “Amugueddfa Cymu” were placed at an angle to each other in a modern sans serif font for all publications. This echoes the priorities and vision of the museum in this era. Balancing the English and Welsh language at angles so that neither takes priority over the other. It is effective straightforward and unambiguous. However the thirty three characters at 45 degree angles do not work well on a small scale and can become cluttered and difficult to read. As more and more we switched to phones as our primary reading devices there was a greater need to have a clean simple design.

Since last year we have had a brand-new redesign. The Amgueddfa Cymru logo is written in a bold capitalized font, created for the Museum it emulates the look of an industrial brand like that which you would find on metal or bricks to show the maker; it reflects the industrial past of some of our national museums.  For social media, where space is limited, we have a simple “AC” icon on a red background. Clean and simple bold texts work well for online platforms and this process of simplifying graphics has happened across many brands over the past decade as reading from phone screens has become the norm. Amgueddfa Cymru’s new design uses only the Welsh language title, further simplifying the design and highlighting the museum’s commitment to telling the story of Wales, from its earliest times, through its industrial transformation to the modern day. The font highlights the special characters that don’t exist in English, such as the “DD” which is has been linked together in “Amgueddfa” further showing our pride in the Welsh language.

Ultimately there will be pros and cons to any logo or icon. Often it is about what is right for the time, and what is best for the medium the icons will be on. Do you have a favourite?

Celebrating St. Fagans Heritage Welsh Apples

Luciana Skidmore, 8 September 2023

This year we celebrate our heritage Welsh apples by exhibiting samples of fruits that are sustainably grown in our orchards located in Kennixton farm, Llwyn-yr-eos farm, Llainfadyn and the Castle Orchard. You will find our Apple Exhibition at the Kennixton barn, next to the Kennixton farmhouse in St. Fagans.

Every year our apples are harvested to produce apple juice. The crop of 2022 was our most fruitful to date generating 400 bottles that were pressed by the Morris family in Crickhowell. You will find the St. Fagans apple juice available for sale at the St. Fagans Museum shop and Gwalia store.

For centuries apples have been grown in most parts of Wales, holding a cultural pride of place as a fruit of choice. They have been grown in cottage gardens, small orchards, smallholdings and farms.  The skills of pruning, grafting and tending the trees were passed from generation to generation.

After the second World War fruit growing suffered a decline.  Even the formerly widespread production of cider in the south-eastern area came to an end. Nowadays apples are imported from distant regions of the world and are available in supermarkets throughout the whole year. 

It is our mission to preserve our heritage Welsh apple trees for future generations. In the orchards of St. Fagans, you will find Welsh apple varieties such as ‘Monmouthshire Beauty’, ‘Gabalfa’, ‘Channel Beauty’, ‘St. Cecilia’, ‘Baker’s Delicious’, ‘Croen Mochyn’, ‘Trwyn Mochyn’, ‘Bardsey Island’, ‘Morgan Sweet’, ‘Gwell na Mil’, ‘Diamond’, ‘Machen’, ‘Llwyd Hanner Goch’, ‘Pen Caled’ and ‘Pig y Glomen’.

If you are coming to the St. Fagans Food Festival this year, please visit our Apple Exhibition at the Kennixton Barn.

Spring in St Fagans gardens

Elin Barker - Trainee Garden Conservator, 5 March 2023

As spring draws nearer, each day tells a new story in the garden. The snowdrops gracefully bow out and make way for the colourful crocuses, primroses and daffodils. The hellebores have arrived too, with their glorious cup shaped flowers and intricate petal patterns. They provide a much-needed burst of colour and glow - even on the greyest of spring days.  

As is usual at this time of year, the gardeners of St Fagans have been hard at work planning new borders and preparing the grounds for the new season. This year, however, the looming threat of climate change and the pressing issues of water scarcity have pushed the team to explore innovative ways of designing water-efficient gardens that can flourish in even the driest conditions.  

One such creative solution we’ve developed is the "silver border," which will be a unique garden area that will showcase plants with silvery or grey foliage that have evolved to naturally thrive in drought-prone environments. This light leaf colouration effectively reflects the intense sunlight, shielding the plant from its harmful effects. Some of these resilient plants also feature a fine layer of hairs on their leaves or stems, which trap moisture around the plant tissues, helping them survive drier climates. The silver border will not only serve as a practical water conservation method but will also add a visually striking and unique element to the garden. 

Another recent project of ours is the wildlife shrub border, which can be found on route to the Italian Garden. The concept behind this shrub border is to provide a thriving habitat for a wide range of wildlife. Once established, the border will help to serve as shelter and protection for birds, insects and mammals. We’ve chosen shrubs, such as Sambucus nigra, Holodiscus discolor and Viburnum opulus that have nectar rich flowers which will support pollinators. Additionally, as the shrubs mature, they will provide a valuable source of food for wildlife in the form of seeds and berries. 

You may notice that the Dutch garden near the Castle undergoes a drastic transformation each spring as the ornamental grasses and perennials are cut back hard before the new growth begins. During the winter season, we opt to leave the seed pods and stems intact as they provide a great habitat for wildlife and serve as essential elements of the garden's structure; offering a range of captivating textures and seasonal colours. We have been working hard to remove all the old growth and stems from the previous year, which will encourage healthy new growth from the base of the plants. This year we decided to reuse the waste grass clippings as a mulch on the pumpkin bed, this will help suppress the weeds and conserve moisture in the ground. 

As we move forward, it is imperative to consider how we can practice gardening in harmony with nature. Gardening involves striving to achieve a balance that results in creating spaces that are not only visually appealing but also encompass complex, sustainable systems beneath the surface. 

Touring with Cranogwen

Norena Shopland, 21 February 2023

When trying to visualise people’s lives, particularly those from the past, it’s often the small things that bring lives to life such as a ticket to a lecture or a brooch - and two items in Amgueddfa Cymru’s collection certainly do that. 

They both relate to Cranogwen, the bardic name for Sarah Jane Rees (1839–1916) a master mariner, poet, writer, editor and temperance worker who, for most of her life lived in the small town of Llangrannog, Cardiganshire. She was born there and throughout her life travelled from there to become one of the most well-known women in Wales in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. And it was here that her two partners lived, first Fanny Rees “Phania” (1853-1874) who died aged just 21 and later Jane Thomas (1850-?) who, in most of the census returns is described as a ‘domestic worker’, ‘general servant’ or ‘charwoman’. 

Cranogwen was often away, involved in myriad projects and giving lecturers but her first tour started in 1866, a year after controversially winning an Eisteddfod poetry prize when it was revealed a woman had beaten the men. Consequently, when she started touring her name was already known as a Y Gwladgarwr journalist noted:

The reader will remember that it was the young girl lion who took the prize at the Aberystwyth Eisteddfod for the song for the Wedding Ring. After hearing that, and also understanding that our leading poets, such as Islwyn and Ceiriog were competing, I was a bit surprised that there was some ‘dirt in the cheese’ somewhere. [i]

Cranogwen’s tour centred on her lecture ‘The Youth and the Culture of their Minds’ although this did expand later to include two other lecturers, ‘Anhebgorion Cymeriad da’ (Essentials of a Good Character) and ‘Elements of Happiness’, all concerned with improvements in people’s characters. As she spoke in Welsh, they were predominantly covered by the Welsh language press with the English language media paying very little attention. 

Cranogwen started off in the Aberystwyth area so hopefully Jane did travel with her to provide some support but as the talks grew in popularity Cranogwen travelled further afield and just two months later at Swansea’s Brynhyfryd Chapel nearly one thousand people turned out to see her - a daunting prospect for anyone so hopefully Jane was there as well to give support.

Word was spreading quickly and, as a journalist at Baner ac Amserau Cymru noted, ‘There is no need in the world to go to the trouble of giving a description of the lecture today, because it is already quite well known throughout Wales.[ii]

Everywhere she went praise was showered upon her, causing one journalist to wonder if she could live up to the hype: ‘since we had heard such praise for her, we expected her to be good. But we never imagined that she was as talented as she is, and so masterful at her work.’ [iii]

Night after night she spoke to rave reviews and her one-hour lecture expanded into two and even longer when local dignitaries sought to appear on stage alongside her, adding their pennyworth. Local poets flocked to her, often writing englyns, many of which were published in the papers, and women were following her example and taking to the stage. 

This caused concern. 

Women, particularly ‘young girls’ (she was 27 at the time) should not be lecturing, said the men, who complained of the impropriety of women speaking in public. ‘The inhabitants of South Wales,’ ranted the Cardiff Times, ‘are running wild with the young ladies who are lecturing about the country [and] in the opinion of many eminent men this is going too far. 

At the Association of the Calvinistic Methodists held at Carnarvon the Rev. Henry Rees, and eminent minister, whose name is known through the Principality, spoke against female preachers, and stated that it would be far more becoming in those who are fond of preaching to attend to those duties which belong to their sex. We are glad that a gentleman of Mr Rees’s standing has set his face against this new mania.[iv]

‘Are these women not at home?’ Seren Cymru joined in, ‘are we ready to see our parishes being dotted, if not flooded, and women lecturing.[v]

Most journalists ignored them and continued their rave reviews of Cranogwen. 

The talks usually began at 7pm and tickets cost 6d (about £2 today) and audiences were huge with many writers noting how listeners would sit quietly entranced for two hours often nodding in agreement and rewarding Cranogwen with thunderous applause. In almost all her talks it was noted that the profits went to pay off chapel debts. 

Throughout 1867 Cranogwen continued to tour and the Amgueddfa Cymru ticket is dated to 2 January but no newspaper report has been found for Brynmenyn, Bridgend – but then there were so many talks not all were covered and the tour was a year old by this time. 

In 1869–1870 Cranogwen toured the United States giving the same sort of lectures – and we would need to examine the immigration records to see if Jane went with her. 

When she returned, Cranogwen continued her good works, and in the early twentieth century she, like many eminent women, become involved in the temperance movement. Drunkenness, particularly among women was endemic as they tried to escape harsh lives and a number of unions were set up to try and tackle this including the Rhondda Women’s Union, set up in April 1901. It was so successful that a decision was made to expand it, and Cranogwen was instrumental in changing it to Undeb Dirwestol Merched y De (U.D.M.D.) (South Wales Women’s Temperance Union) where she was the Organisational Secretary, with her address still listed at Llangrannog. Once again, Cranogwen was touring extensively with the Union.

As they arrived at each town, Union members would process through the streets carrying banners before settling at a chapel where prayers and hymns, and readings from the Bible, were read out followed by speeches by leading members of the Union. In addition, guest speakers featured well-known Welsh women who would draw in audiences, followed by tea and cake and socialising, and the three-hour events were attended by hundreds of people. There would be collections, and sales of pamphlets and badges. The example in the Amgueddfa Cymru collection is technically a brooch and it is not clear if the badges Cranogwen received money for, were these brooches. 


By December 1901, new U.D.M.D. branches were growing throughout south Wales and by the time of Cranogwen’s death in 1916 there were 140 branches throughout South Wales. 

Cranogwen was indefatigable, and one can only wonder at her energy. As well as all her good works one of her strengths was the encouragement of so many young women to become writers and orators, even if the men disapproved. 

Cranogwen died in 1916 at Wood Street Cilfynydd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, her niece’s house. ‘No other Welsh woman enjoyed popularity in so many public spheres’[vii] noted the Cambrian Daily Leader. Unfortunately, it is not yet known when Jane died, hopefully the forthcoming biography by Jane Aaron will tell us more, but just five years earlier they were still living together in Llangrannog and the town was to remain Cranogwen’s permanent address for most of her life. No matter how much she travelled, it seems she always went home to Jane. 

Memorial to Sarah Jane Rees, Llangrannog (WikiCommons)

[i] Y Gwladgarwr, 5th May 1866

[ii] Baner ac Amserau Cymru, 14 April 1866

[iii] Baner ac Amserau Cymru, 14 April 1866

[iv] Cardiff Times, 5 October 1866

[v] Seren Cymru, 4 January 1867

[vii] Cambrian Daily Leader, 28 June 1916