: Health, Wellbeing and Amgueddfa Cymru

New English Learner Resources for Amgueddfa Cymru

Loveday Williams, Senior Learning, Participation and Interpretation Officer, 10 May 2023

Amgueddfa Cymru Museum Wales have been working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers, supporting people to integrate into their new communities for many years. 

As part of this work, we have developed partnerships with key organisations such as Addysg Oedolion Cymru Adult Learning Cymru. They have been working with us over the past year, alongside their ESOL students, to develop new ESOL learner resources designed to support people learning English to explore our museums and galleries. 

The new resources cover the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the National Slate Museum in Llanberis and the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon. 

The resources have been created by ESOL tutors and tested by ESOL learners. They follow the ESOL curriculum and cover a range of different levels from Entry to Level 2. 

Now that the new resources have been tested, tweaked, and trialed they are ready to download from our website for any ESOL learner or group visiting one of the museums. (See the links above). 

We also have a suite of ESOL resources for St Fagans National Museum of History which were developed in a similar way as part of the HLF funded Creu Hanes Making History Project in 2014. 

We continue to work with our partners and community members to provide meaningful opportunities for people facing barriers to participation in the arts and cultural heritage. 

We learn so much from the people who visit our sites and engage in the learning opportunities we offer. 

Supporting those people who are newly arrived in Wales to settle and integrate into their new communities is a very important area of our work and we hope that these new learner resources help many people on that journey. 

Diolch yn fawr to Addysg Oedolion Cymru Adult Learning Wales and the ESOL tutors and learners who have contributed to the creation of these new learner resources. 

Museums Inspiring Memories – our first year!

Sharon Ford, Gareth Rees & Fi Fenton, 22 March 2023

In April 2022, we launched Museums Inspiring Memories , a three year partnership project between Amgueddfa Cymru and Alzheimer’s Society Cymru. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, it aims to explore how we can use our seven museums and collections to improve the health and wellbeing of people  affected by dementia.

Why this project is important

 People living with dementia and those supporting and caring can often experience reduced social contact, social isolation, low confidence, anxiety and other mental health concerns. In response, research has shown that museum-based interventions are an important way of promoting the engagement and well-being of people living with dementia.[1]

There are feelings and emotions I get from seeing things in museums, like the terraced houses here at St. Fagans. There is an overwhelming feeling you only get when you can physically touch or see real life things – like the memories of my grandparents that come back. Museums are so important for people with dementia. They are wonderful places and overwhelming at the same time.”

Person living with dementia

What has been done already?

Amgueddfa Cymru began it’s journey to become more dementia-friendly back in 2015. Between then and 2018, people affected by dementia were invited to take part in accessibility audits across three of our museums. Following this, our successful dementia -friendly underground tours at Big Pit were developed, both with and for people affected by dementia. Other pieces of work include a Young Onset Dementia Walking Group at St Fagans and an Intergenerational Group at Big Pit: National Coal Museum. 

This work reflects our commitment, made in Amgueddfa Cymru’s Strategy 2030, to support well-being through the creation of inspirational spaces and experiences, putting people at the heart of what we do so that our museums are inclusive and accessible places for everyone

Our Consultations

Between December 2022 and March 2023, the Museums Inspiring Memories team  have been inviting people living with dementia, carers (both unpaid and from the sector), colleagues from the heritage sector and from representative organisations to join us at gatherings both in our museums and at community venues across Wales. The team have also been out and about speaking with community groups and care home residents. So far, 183 people have joined us. 

These conversations have been a real opportunity to draw upon and capture the lived experiences of people affected by dementia and those within the heritage sector, finding out more about the barriers faced by people affected by dementia in engaging with museums, and looking at how we can develop our sites and staff to become more dementia supportive. 

Here are just a few quotes from those who joined us, when asked what they enjoyed about the consultation:

“Hearing the views of people living with dementia, their carers and those working with those with dementia, informative and thought-provoking" A member of a representative organisation

 Meeting other people and comparing their needs and problems with ourselves” A person affected by dementia

 “I have enjoyed meeting everyone and the enthusiastic staff leading the project. I feel extremely pleased to have been able to contribute. I look forward to hearing how the project develops” A Carer

“The range of the project is impressive with all the facilities of the Museums available but I found that it was one simple object that triggered memories and conversations at the event I attended in Blaenavon. This was an old postcard with some photographs of Porthcawl on the front. This immediately opened up so many memories of summer holidays, Sunday school outings, day trips. One of the group remembered the taste of the deep fried donuts! One simple postcard and we were back there…all talking about it, carers and people affected by dementia alike.

“I hope this project thrives as it will make a difference to people’s lives. I am pleased to support and promote it when I work across South Wales.”

Chris Hodson, Information Worker at Alzheimer’s Society Cymru

Next steps

Over the next few months we will be inviting people to join our Dementia Voice in Heritage Group. This will include people living with dementia, unpaid carers, care sector staff, heritage sector colleagues , who together will help to steer and shape the work of the project over the next two years as we develop and deliver a meaningful programme of activities, both at our museums and within communities.

Who to contact

The Museums Inspiring Memories Team at Amgueddfa Cymru are: 

Sharon Ford – Programme Manager

Gareth Rees – Dementia Voice Lead

Fi Fenton – Administrative Officer

If you would like to learn more about the work of this project, or find out what opportunities there are to being involved, please email Gareth on gareth.rees@museumwales.ac.uk or phone 029 2057 3418, or you can email our team MIMS@museumwales.ac.uk 



[1]  Zeilig, H, Dickens, L & Camic, P.M. “The psychological and social impacts of museum-based programmes for people with a mild-to-moderate dementia: a systematic review.” Int. J. of Ageing and Later Life, 2022 16 (2); 33-72

Unusual new fossils from ancient rocks in Wales

Lucy McCobb, 16 November 2022

Unusual new fossils from ancient rocks in Wales

What did you do during the Covid-19 lockdown?  Did you enjoy getting closer to nature and seeing new things in your local area during your daily walks?  Two of the Museum’s Honorary Research Fellows, Dr Joe Botting and Dr Lucy Muir, did just that and more, when they discovered a treasure trove of new fossils near their home in mid-Wales.  Unable to travel far or access Amgueddfa Cymru facilities to further their work on ancient life, these independent researchers crowdfunded to buy microscopes that would allow them to study their new finds in detail.  The fossils belong to a variety of different animal groups, some of them rarely fossilized because they have soft bodies with no hard shells, bones or teeth.  Joe and Lucy are working with other palaeontologists from around the world to study the fossils and decipher what they can tell us about life in Wales’ seas over 460 million years ago. 

In a paper just published in the journal Nature Communications - led by Dr Stephen Pates of Cambridge University and also involving Dr Joanna Wolfe of Harvard University, Joe, Lucy and colleagues describe two highly unusual fossils from the new site.  The fossils are tiny, entirely soft-bodied animals that resemble a bizarre creature called Opabinia, which lived in Canada over 40 million years earlier.  A similar animal called Utaurora was described from rocks of a comparable age in the USA.  Whether the Welsh fossils represent true cousins that belong in the same family as the North American creatures is uncertain, but they certainly reveal that strange ‘opabiniid’- like animals lived in the seas for much longer than previously thought and had a wider geographical range.

Where are the fossils from?

The fossils were discovered in a quarry on private land not far from Llandrindod Wells (the exact location is being kept secret to protect the site).  The rocks in which the fossils were found were laid down under the sea during the Ordovician period, over 460 million years ago, a time when what is now mid Wales was covered by an ocean, with a few volcanic islands here and there.

What kind of animals were they?

The Welsh fossils resemble strange animals known as ‘opabiniids’, until now only known from much older rocks from the Cambrian period.  They lived in the sea and were soft-bodied, with a long narrow trunk which had a row of flaps along each side, thought to have been used for swimming, and pairs of stumpy triangular legs on the underside. At one end of the trunk, there was a fan-like tail. 

Their most distinctive feature was at the other end - a long proboscis sticking out the front of the head, looking a bit like the hose of a vacuum cleaner.  In contrast to the Cambrian opabiniids, the proboscis of the Welsh species bears a row of small spines.  The proboscis is thought to have been flexible, perhaps used to pick up bits of food off the seabed and to move them to the mouth, which lay behind it on the underside of the head.  Both the legs and the proboscis were ‘annulated’, meaning they were made up of lots of ring-like segments.  However, these were not truly ‘jointed’ in the way that a crab or spider’s legs are jointed.  Opabiniids are thought to share a distant ancestor with these and other modern jointed-limbed animals known as ‘arthropods’, but weren’t direct ancestors of them.

The larger of the two fossils is 13 mm long, including a 3 mm long proboscis. The smaller one is just 3 mm, with its proboscis making up just under a third of its total length.  There are some differences between the two fossils that suggest that the smaller one may be an earlier growth stage of the larger species, or it may represent a different species entirely.  In any case, both Welsh individuals were much smaller than Opabinia, whose fossils are up to 7 cm long. 

A Welsh name for a Welsh wonder!

All species, living or extinct, have a scientific name made up of two parts, a genus name and a species name.  One of the new fossil animals has been given the scientific name Mieridduryn bonniae.  The species name is after Bonnie, niece of the owners of the land where the fossil was found and fossil fan, in recognition of the family’s support and enthusiasm for the work being carried out on the fossils.  It’s fairly common for new species to be named after people linked to their discovery or who have done a lot of work on related species. The genus name is more unusual and comes from the Welsh words for bramble, mieri and snout or proboscis, duryn.  It was inspired by the small thorn-like spines that stick out along the length of the animal’s proboscis.  It is very unusual for a scientific name to be based on the Welsh language, as traditionally most are derived from Latin or Greek words.  The name Mieridduryn will stand as a lasting tribute to the fossil’s country of origin.

It was decided that the second fossil wasn’t well enough preserved to be able to name it as either belonging to the same species as the first one, or to a different species. 

What can I do if I find an unusual-looking fossil?

As these fossils show, there are still lots of exciting new things to discover in Wales.  If you find something that looks interesting and you're not sure what it is, our Museum scientists would be happy to try to identify it for you, whether it's a fossil, rock, mineral, animal or plant.  Just send us a photo (with a coin or ruler included for scale) with details of where you found it.  You can contact us via our website or on Twitter @CardiffCurator.  We also have a number of spotters’ guides on our website, which will help you identify a lot of the more common things you’re likely to come across.


Opening of the National Museum October 1922

Kristine Chapman, 28 October 2022

On the 28th of October we will be celebrating 100 years since Amgueddfa Cymru first opened its doors to the public. Although the Museum's official centenary was in 2007, marking the founding by Royal Charter of 1907, the journey to opening was a much slower process characterised by delays and interrupted by the enormity of a world war.

After the granting of the Charter, architects were engaged to design the new building and the Foundation Stone was laid by George V on the 26th June 1912. The original intention was to complete the building in stages, so enough funds were raised to begin work on the south portion (which included the Main Hall) of the building.

Laying of the Foundation Stone 26th June 1912

When war broke out in 1914, work initially continued, as photographs from 1915 show, however before long the lack of building materials (particularly steel and lead) and labourers meant that work had to be halted. When it restarted again after the end of the war, the climate was very different. Britain experienced severe unemployment and poverty, plunging the country into a depression.

Construction of the Museum building in Cathays Park, 1915

It was against this background that, even with building work still in progress, the western portion of the Main Hall was opened to the public on the 28th October 1922. Four days earlier the hoardings around the building had been removed and although there was no formal ceremony at this point, the Museum Court of Governors attended a visit of inspection, followed by lunch at City Hall with the Lord Mayor the day before.

View of the exterior of the Museum from the south-west

During the fifteen years since its foundation the Museum had been steadily employing staff and building collections. No guidebooks were produced for the informal opening, the first guide to the collections wasn’t published until a year later, but reports and photographs published in the local papers give us an idea of what those first visitors to the Museum would have seen. 

View of the Main Hall looking towards the western staircase

The Main Hall housed large sculptures such as The Kiss by Auguste Rodin and St John the Baptist by William Goscombe John. From the Main Hall visitors could enter the Glanely Gallery (now known as the Clore Discovery Gallery) to view geology collections, particularly rocks and minerals found in Wales. While in the square gallery across the opposite side of the Hall were the Zoology collections, occupying a space they still hold now, although the displays have been updated since those early days! 

Stoat display from the Zoology Gallery

Upstairs in the Pyke Thompson Gallery (now known as Gallery 18) the focal points were watercolour drawings once belonging to James Pyke Thompson and a collection of Welsh ceramics donated in 1918 by Wilfred de Winton. Across the bridge in the square gallery, oil paintings from the Menelaus Bequest were displayed.

The Pyke Thompson Gallery in 1925

The Archaeology Department did not have a gallery of their own at the time of the 1922 opening, as it would form part of the building still undergoing construction. But, a year later objects from the Archaeology collections were displayed in the Main Hall and on the balconies, before moving to a more permanent space in the first-floor front gallery (which is now occupied by the Welsh Ceramics collection). By 1925 they had also installed the Welsh Bygones galleries, with reconstructions of a Welsh kitchen and a Welsh bedroom, in a gallery at the back of the Main Hall and the Botany collections occupied the south-east front gallery on the ground floor (the area which is now the Welsh Herbarium).

The Archaeology Gallery in 1925

The layout of the Museum remained this way until the construction of the East Wing in the 1930s prompted a large-scale rearrangement of the galleries. Further alterations were made throughout the rest of the 20th century as the West Wing was constructed in the 1960s and then the Centre Block galleries were added in the early 1990s.  If you are interested in learning more about the history of Amgueddfa Cymru, keep an eye out for more blogs and articles appearing on our website over the coming months.

Patchwork of Memories – Remembrance and grief during Covid 19

Loveday Williams, 13 July 2022

In 2020 Amgueddfa Cymru and Cruse Bereavement Support Cymru came together to support people across the country through their grief and create a lasting memorial full of memories to those lost during the time of Covid-19. It involved creating a square patch containing a memory of a loved one, in which ever way people chose, in whatever words or images they liked. Each patch created demonstrated a visual display of lasting memories of someone they loved who had died, created in unprecedented times.  50+ patches were sent to the Museum and have been carefully sewn together to form a Patchwork of Memories.

For the last two year we have all lived very different lives, with change to our normal the only constant. Losing a loved one is always hard but usually we have the comfort of others and collective mourning at funerals to help us say goodbye and share our memories.  However, a death in the last two years has meant many of us being cut off from our support networks and our rituals or remembrance being altered.  

Rhiannon Thomas, previous Learning Manager at St Fagans said about this project “Helping people with grief is something that I am personally passionate about. Having worked with Cruse Bereavement Support previously to support families I felt the Museum was able to help families dealing with loss in a different way.  Amgueddfa Cymru and Cruse Bereavement Support Wales came together to create a project based around creativity and memory, the aim being to make a lasting memorial to those who have died during the pandemic.” 

Creating something is not a new response to grief, there are several Embroidery samplers in Amgueddfa Cymru’s collections made in memory of loved ones or marking their passing.   This sampler by M.E. Powell was created in 1906 in memory of her mother.   Creativity during difficult times of our lives can help all of us to express deep held emotions that we do not always have the ability to put into words. 

Bereavement Support Days

Alongside the Patchwork of Memories initiative, the Cruse / Museum Partnership also provide a safe inspirational space for the increasing numbers of children and young people awaiting bereavement support and help meet the diverse needs of bereaved children, young people and families who benefit from coming together to rationalise, explore and understand that they are not alone in their grief. 

A series of quarterly Bereavement Support Days are held in partnership with St Fagans, for children, young people and their families experiencing grief and loss. There is specialist support from Cruse staff and volunteers along with art and craft activities provided by Head for Arts and immersive Virtual Reality experiences provided by PlayFrame, which are light-hearted, allowing people attending the chance to make and create things that can be taken home with them and or captured and stored into a virtual memory box. The activities available are designed to stimulate rather that prompt.

Here is the film created by PlayFrame on Ekeko, the virtual memory space they have been creating alongside this project, installing objects, memories and stories donated by participants into a virtual memory box for people to enter and explore:


And a link the virtual reality memory space itself: https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/6371190072951353/

Alison Thomas, Cruse CYP Wales Lead said “Cruse Bereavement Support Wales provides in person support to children and young people within a variety of settings, so we see first-hand how difficult it can be for grieving children and young people. Their collective support on these days allows families the time and space to verbalise and begin to understand their loss and associated emotions. The focus of the Bereavement Support days is around children and young people, however, the benefits resonate through the whole family including the adults in attendance, some of whom require bereavement support on the day, most of whom stay for the duration and share a cuppa and chat with other bereaved parents and guardians. Following the session, the whole family can have a look around the Museum and spend time together in a safe and nurturing setting.”

Here are some of the written (in their own handwriting) evaluation feedback quotes from children, young people and parents / guardians who have attended the Bereavement Days:

'I feel calmer, less worried.  It was good being able to speak to people my age who understood what I'm going through.'

'I was very included in all the activities and was always involved in conversation.  There was a calm atmosphere making it easier to speak to people there.'

'I was very welcomed and was immediately approached by a friendly face.  It was very inviting and was easy to speak to people there.'


'Love ? happy'

'Thank you Diolch, Diolch ?'

A mother of one of the young people said 'I feel much better than I did.'

Another mother said 'All was lovely, made to feel welcome, everything we did was good and the girls enjoyed themselves.'

The two memory quilts will be competed by the end of August 2022, following which we will hold a final project event with Cruse Bereavement Support Wales on 25th September at St Fagans National Museum of History, where we will display the two quilts and invite both the contributors who sent squares and the participants from the Bereavement Support Days to attend, along with the public, to see the quilts and share their experiences of taking part in the process.

We look forward to seeing you there.