Amgueddfa Blog: General

Website discovery project

Amgueddfa Cymru & One Further, 23 May 2022

Hearing the voices of Amgueddfa Cymru’s digital users

We’re in the middle of an exciting series of projects that will reimagine how we serve our users digitally. We’re developing a fresh approach to our overall digital strategy, revisiting the systems that enable people to transact with us, and rethinking how we express ourselves online.

As part of this, we’re looking at the role our website plays. It’s served the museum for a long while and, although it has evolved over that time, we’ve reached a point where a more fundamental overhaul is required.

To kick off that process, we’re working with an agency called One Further. They’re helping us to develop a stronger understanding of how our website is serving our users and where there are opportunities to improve. Their outside perspective is useful because, working with it every day, our view of the website is likely to be somewhat distorted.

We’re also very aware that the new website must serve the people of Wales and provide a platform for engaging the communities that we work with (and those we want to work with more). For that, we need to hear directly from those people and communities.

That’s been a big part of the work that One Further has been doing for us. Here they explain some of the ways that we’re reaching out to hear the voices of our digital users.

The who and the why of a website visit

To capture responses at scale we’ve been using a variety of pop-up surveys across our website.

User intent surveys ask people about the context of their visit. Is it for personal or professional reasons? Is there a particular task they’re looking to complete?

Content engagement surveys ask people to rate the quality of a particular page and to suggest improvements.

Exit surveys appear when it looks like someone is about to leave the website. At this point we can ask them about the quality of their experience and what they might like to see improved.

Of course, these surveys can be obtrusive if not deployed sensitively. We make sure they only appear on the appropriate pages and don’t interrupt people who are in the middle of completing a transaction of some sort.

We make the majority of the questions multiple choice to keep completion rates high, and we don’t show people more than one survey during their session.

Website screenshot showing Welsh feedback pop-up

Optimising user journeys

We want to understand to what extent people are able to find information on the site quickly and easily. Is the layout intuitive? Are we using the right labels in the website navigation?

To test this, we use a tool called Treejack. It allows us to mock-up a website’s navigation and then set up tasks for people to attempt. These involve asking them to indicate where in the navigational structure they would expect to find certain information.

We then send a link out to people and wait for the results to roll in.

By asking people to complete typical user journeys on the site we can spot sticking points, dead ends, and obstacles.

If a significant percentage of people head off into the wrong section of the site then maybe we need to reconsider the ‘information architecture’. If people make it to the right section but then click on multiple options, maybe we’re not getting the labeling right. All of this is really useful feedback.

Treejack feedback example

Digging deeper with one-to-one usability testing

Those two methods allow us to get really useful feedback at scale. We then balance that with usability testing on a more personal scale.

This involves talking to people one-on-one over Zoom. We ask them to share their screens while we give them a selection of common tasks to carry out on the site. Having the person there in front of us allows us to ask follow up questions to dig deeper into the choices and assumptions that we see playing out. Although when someone gets stuck on something it can be difficult to suppress the urge to lend a hand!

To make sure we were speaking to a representative sample of people, we used a recruitment pop-up on the website and sent people to a screening questionnaire. We then scheduled the session at a time convenient for them.

Pre-covid we would often do these tests in either a dedicated usability testing centre, or on-site at our clients’ premises. We’ve actually found that testing remotely comes with various benefits, in particular:

  • The person taking part is able to use their own equipment, in their own environment, which makes them feel more at ease,
  • Without no requirement to travel, we’re able to test with people who might not otherwise have been available, and
  • If people cancel at short notice (or don’t turn up) it’s not such a big deal.

Make use of what we learn

Getting direct feedback from the museum’s audiences early in the process is incredibly useful for grounding us in how people perceive the website. That’s allowed us to have more informed conversations with people in various departments.

That feedback is also going to drive improvements to the website. In some cases there are some quick fixes to apply. Beyond that, we will be incorporating what we’ve learned into our broader recommendations for the future direction of the website.

A Queer Welsh Ballad

Mair Jones & Norena Shopland, 24 March 2022

In October 2021 following a talk on cross-dressing in history by Norena Shopland, a Welsh language ballad, Can Newydd, came to light in the Welsh Music Archive (WMA), National Library Wales. More can be read on that story in A Queer Bawdy Ballad. What is striking is the explicitly sexual nature of the ballad, depicting cross-dressing women having sexual relations with women.

Archifdy Ceredigion Archives (ACA) and Archives and Special Collections, Bangor University (BU) have exact copies in their collections but in February 2022 a third copy was located at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales (ACNMW) however this version is simply entitled Can and has a few differences. Mair Jones who did the first translation of Can Newydd, also did the translation for Can.

The lyrics of both versions were written by a rather eccentric part-time criminal, one-eyed balladeer Abel Jones, ‘the last of the “great” balladists’ but who was often known by his bardic name Bardd Crwst after his birthplace, Llanrwst. Jones was a balladeer who travelled and performed at fairs across Wales, selling his ballads as ‘new songs’ (can newydd) on specific topics, such as the death of the Emperor of Russia, industrial accidents and disaster, tithe war and murders - though not always historically accurate, because his main aim was to sell his ballads. Sometimes he sold them with his son, and usually it was to people like the agricultural working-class community. He was the most well-known and popular balladeer of his time, though he died in Llanrwst Workhouse.

Dating the ballad is difficult although dates of between 1865-1872 have been suggested (see A Queer Bawdy Ballad for more details) and there is nothing in Can to suggest whether it comes before or after Can Newydd. However, all three versions of Can Newydd are signed Bardd Crwst while the ACNMW version is signed Abel Jones, (Bardd Crwst) and there may be a reason for this.

Jones wrote a number of humorous ballads, often using the tune Robin yn Swil (Robin is Shy), the same as for Can Newydd, a tune ‘more suitable for the tavern than for singing at respectable concerts and eisteddfodau.’ One of his ballads is listed as a poem about ‘courtship’, another was about Dic Sion Dafydd, and another about a drunken woman, while his other ‘courtship’ poems were advice not to marry or a man’s complaints about his wife.

One mention of Can Newydd in a newspaper of 1915, when discussing Bardd Crwst’s works, as ‘Song about two Young Women who went to knock at Ffermdy (Farmhouse) Tu Ucha’r Glyn, near Harlech’, has an added note by the compiler, ‘I didn’t give the title of the last one in full’ which seems to show that this would have been too disrespectful even for the newspaper, including leaving out the cross-dressing aspect.

The risqué nature, not only of the lyrics, but of the tune it was associated with may have caused Jones to remove his full name from the Can Newydd version. No tune is associated with the ACNMW version so there may be the possibility that Can came first and Jones made it saucier in the second version but decided to omit his full name. Can also uses some English words, such as ‘beauty,’ ‘Kate Pugh,’ ‘Visles’ and ‘Cirnoleens [sp],’ while Can Newydd uses Welsh spellings such as ‘biwty,’ ‘Cit Pugh’ and ‘busle,’ and has removed the spelling error of ‘crinoline’.

Another difference is the location where the event takes place. The introduction to Can is "A song about two young women who dressed themselves in men’s clothes and went to knock at Ffarmdy (Farmhouse) at two other young girls, and entered their House, to bed like two men and two dear lovers" whereas in Can Newydd it is "The tale of two young women from this region who dressed themselves in men’s clothes, and went courting to a country house to seduce two young women, who were strangers to them".

The farmhouse has disappeared and is replaced by ‘Plas uchaf and Glyn’. Plas Uchaf (Upper Hall) is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Corwen, Denbighshire, and Plas Glyn, possibly short for Plas Glynllifon 56 miles (90km) from Corwen. It seems Jones has moved the location from an obscure working-class farmhouse to named gentrified houses, although no cross-dressing reference has been found in connection with these two properties. It is however, a trope used even today, to place sensational stories among the wealthy who are fewer in number and have more time on their hands, than working-class people and Jones may not have wanted to offend his main audience.

Whatever the purpose of the ballad, it was decided to revive it for a presentation at an LGBTQ+ History Month 2022 by Aberration recorded by Cerys Hafana with backing vocals by the community.

By sharing this queer-related ballad today as a part of our Welsh history, it is reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community, creatively reimagined and helps to build our Welsh queer community today.

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.

LGBT+ History Month 2022

Mark Etheridge, 1 February 2022

February each year is LGBT+ History Month, with events throughout the month that help to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ people, their history and lived experiences. Each year there is usually a theme, and this year it is ‘Politics in Art’

Amgueddfa Cymru has a number of events planned for LGBT+ History Month 2022: 

On display at St Fagans National Museum of History throughout February 2022 will be the original design drawn by Jonathan Blake for the Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners badge from 1985. This will be displayed in the Wales is… gallery at St Fagans alongside an original LGSM badge. Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners were a group that raised money for striking south Wales miners during the 1984-85 strike. By the end of 1984 there were eleven branches of LGSM across the UK. Each of these branches ‘twinned’ with a particular community – with the London branch twinning with communities in the Neath, Dulais and Upper Swansea valleys. This story, and LGSM’s visit to Onllwyn, became immortalised in the 2014 film Pride. Last year Mark Ashton, who was one of the founders in 1984 of LGSM, was one of the faces of LGBT+ History Month 2021, so it is great that again this year we are able to celebrate the amazing achievements of Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners.

 As part of Amgueddfa Cymru’s ‘Museum Talks’ series, curator Mark Etheridge will give a talk on the LGBTQ+ Collection at St Fagans and the importance of representation in museum collections. You can book here -  Museum Talks: LGBTQ+ Collections at St. Fagans | English | National Museum Wales

We have an exciting project being developed for LGBT+ History Month. Funded by Arts Wales, composer Gareth Churchill’s piece LGBTQ+ History Wales Songbook will be performed at Oakdale Institute at St Fagans during LGBT+ History Month. This will be a musical performance piece for voice and piano/keyboard that will celebrate and give musical voice to the St Fagans LGBTQ+ history collection. Initially it will be a closed performance that will be filmed and broadcast online. This will be broadcast as a finale to LGBT+ History Month, and will be advertised on the museum’s social media channels.

Of course, LGBTQ+ history should not just be celebrated during one month each year. So throughout 2022 look out for further displays and events across Amgueddfa Cymru’s museum sites. These are just a few things we have planned:

At St Fagans some LGBTQ+ related objects are now on display in the Wales is… and Life is… galleries. As well as the LGSM items mentioned, these include a teapot and toy paddle relating to the Ladies of Llangollen (probably the most famous lesbian couple in history) and a songsheet for the song We’ll Gather Lilacs that was written by Ivor Novello.

From mid-March some LGBTQ+ objects from the LGBTQ+ collection will be on display at the National Waterfront Museum as part of the exhibition Trawsnewid. This is part of a project for LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 that explores queer and gender non-conforming figures in Welsh history and supports participants to create work inspired by their own experiences.

Making our Museums Greener

Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, 28 October 2021

With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global temperatures rising, tackling climate change is more important than ever.

 

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place in Glasgow this week, uniting the world to tackle climate change, we’re taking a look at what we’re doing to make our museums greener.

 

In September 2019 we joined others in declaring a global climate and ecological emergency. Over the next 10 years and beyond, we’ll be reducing our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

 

Our training

We’ve developed a training course on carbon literacy, accredited by the Carbon Literacy Project. Over 100 staff are now certified carbon literate, and we’re looking forward to rolling out the training to the rest of our staff over the next year.

We’ve also received Bronze Level Carbon Literate Organisation status for our training and we’re taking part in the first Carbon Literacy Action Day on the 1 November. As part of the training, staff made pledges to reduce their carbon footprint and you can find out more in this short video:

 

Our staff

To help us become carbon neutral, we’re in the process of recruiting a Sustainable Development Co-ordinator. They will shape our response to the climate crisis by developing our carbon management action plan, as well as our carbon reduction and green land management projects. We’re looking forward to sharing more with you soon!

 

Our ways of working

All our museums are currently undergoing a Carbon Audit, carried out by an Environmental Consultancy, GEP Environmental. The audit will tell us what our current carbon footprint is and identify new opportunities to reduce our carbon across our work. It will also help support the delivery of the Welsh Government’s ambition of achieving a carbon neutral public sector by 2030.

Our exhibitions and outreach
Climate change and sustainability will be incorporated into our public programming for exhibitions and learning. The upcoming Mining for Mobiles exhibition will look at the environmental impact of everyday objects such as mobile phones.

Our events
We’re always looking at ways that we can make our activities more sustainable. We’ll be again hosting our sustainability event Olion to empower others to take action.

 

Our engagement

Through our 700 volunteers and 100 young creatives (Amgueddfa Cymru Producers) we’re promoting carbon literacy through partnership working with young people. By working with communities we hope to create a greener Wales and make sure that everything we do is better for the environment.

 

Gold silhouettes with speech bubble saying Carbon Literate Organisation Bronze