Amgueddfa Blog

Heather Pardoe from the Botany Section, Natural Sciences, has been working with the Museum Shop to provide a beautiful selection of Christmas themed botanical images for you to view.

The Museum holds a collection of over 7000 superb botanical prints and drawings.  Principle Curator, Heather Pardoe, has handpicked a seasonal range of exquisite botanical illustrations in order to reflect the  range of illustrations in the collection. 

This provides a ‘bird’s eye view’ of some of the illustrations that Botany holds behind the scenes; many are rarely on public display.

We have been working towards providing a series of collections for you to enjoy - we are currently focusing upon a spring collection. Watch this space for more news!

If you would like to see more of this beautiful Christmas collection, please follow the link below which will take you to the Print section of the online shop.  This will also provide you with the opportunity to purchase a reproduction of one of these beautiful images, as well as a wide range of other images from the Museum collections.

Online Shop

Don’t forget to follow the Shop blog and Natural Sciences blog for regular updates!

First came the sound, a loud slow regularly timed booming, the constant beat of a drum. Shortly after this rhythmic cacophony of the beat, a clatter and rattle is heard. A blended mixture of clinking and clanging, the sound of metal on metal and within this tumult of sounds the shout “Io Saturnalia” echo's out. Then from around the street corner an armoured figure in ancient dress appears, followed by another and another. Roman legionaries in single file, marching in full armour, rain dripping off their helmets and soaking into their cloaks as they march. Each carrying a lantern or banging a drum, echoing the proclamation “Io Saturnalia” as their hob nail sandals slam down hard onto the modern streets tarmac.

Anywhere else this sight might be considered unusual, not however for Caerleon, the small village on the banks of the Usk, outside Newport. Home to the National Roman Legionary Museum and former Fortress home to the Roman, second Augustan legion. There the sight of Roman legionaries or museum staff dressed as Roman soldiers is practically an everyday occurrence (so much so that people hardly stop for selfies anymore).   
In this instance the staff of the NRLM were recreating the celebrations for the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, in honour of the Roman god Saturn last December. 

Romans believed Saturn ruled the world during a golden time, they celebrated Saturnalia at the darkest and coldest time of the year in December in the hope that he would bring back the sun and usher in a new golden age for the coming spring harvest. Romans would hold large feasts, decorate their homes with greenery, place Janus tablet heads on garden trees, visit friends and family and even give presents. We have inherited many of our own Christmas traditions from this festival. Romans would also wear hats, Phrygian caps (or freeman hats) were worn and slaves were even given a day off. 
This year we’ll be celebrating Saturnalia in the museum on the 9th of December. With traditional Saturnalia celebrations such as a shrine to Saturn offering good fortunes to the Gods, off duty Roman legionaries eating and drinking in honour of the festival. Explaining the holiday and also showing off their armour.   

And of course the day will finish with our legionaries marching around the Fortress e.g modern day Caerleon to insure Saturn brings back the light and to usher in a good new year with the traditional Roman saying of “Io Saturnalia”." 

You can find out more about Saturnalia by watching this short film, made last year for the museum for a take over day.


When we were designing the exhibition  we discussed different ways visitors could share their connections with the art on show. We designed conversation prompts to get people thinking and post cards for people to give their feedback:

please talk
wall of cards


It's been really exciting to read people's responses and we'll be sharing some of our favourites over the coming months along with our thoughts. We'd really like to hear from you as well, tell us what you think, how do you connect with art?


Here's the first one:


I like this comment because it's so positive, starting with self awareness, other people, then the world. Seeing involvement with art and creativity as a journey is something I can indentify with. In a way we all have the same journey but with different twists and turns which is what makes life so interesting. When someone describes or makes something real you can laugh in recognition. Maybe art is about mutual recognition of beauty, horror and humour?



Takover Day at the National Roman Legion Museum 2017.

Pupils from Lodge Hill Primary reviewed and created a promotional video for our latest digital learning resource called the Roman School.

The aim of the day was to provide pupils with an opportunity to build on their confidence and to enhance their digital and presentation skills.

Pupils took part in a role play Roman classroom session. Then created their own film called – ‘What was school like in Roman times?’ which will be used to promote the resource to other schools on social media and the museum website. They learned how to create a story, write a script and select actors for each scene. Click here to view the video

The feedback and the suggestions gathered from the children are being worked into the final version of the Roman School resource. The resource supports our popular roleplay workshop called Grammaticus - Roman Classroom.

During the day the pupils also had a chance to find out more about Roman weapons. After completing the challenge each pupil was presented with a certificate by Eleri Thomas - Kids in Museums Trustee.


Earlier this month saw the takeover of our brand new Atrium space by Cardiff High students. Over 80 year 10 pupils from their Art, Music and Drama departments filled the space with their performances and artworks inspired by the museum’s collections. This was the culmination of 6 weeks of work by the students, although the planning goes back almost 6 months!

We were initially contacted by Eve Oliver from Cardiff High with an idea for a cross-curricular project in the summer. The idea was to bring together pupils studying the creative arts together to work on the same theme. After discussions with Elen Phillips, the Principal Curator Contemporary & Community History at St Fagans, the idea of working around the theme of ‘Protest’ was suggested. This was chosen because it would give the pupils an opportunity to explore their own beliefs and values as they responded to the museum’s collections.

The project began with a visit to St Fagans on October the 4th for 85 pupils. Elen gave a presentation to the pupils around ‘Protest’ using objects from the collection as inspiration. These included objects around the suffragette movement, anti-racism protest and the miner’s strikes of the 1980s. It was an opportunity for the pupils to hear the histories of these objects but also an opportunity to see them in the flesh, and you could see how inspiring this was for them.

After the visit to the museum, the pupils returned to their school to unpick these themes in more depth. Over the next 6 weeks the pupils enjoyed masterclasses with Timothy Howe from the Sherman Theatre, Anita Reynolds from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the artist Anna Barratt.

The culmination of this part of the project came on November the 16th. Cardiff High returned to St Fagans National Museum of History to display and perform the work that they had done. We used the new atrium space at the museum which was filled with artworks and performances. We invited the parents of the pupils to watch, and including some museum staff, there must have been around 50 in the audience.

The drama students performed extracts from the play The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price while the music students performed the classic call to arms Yma o Hyd by Dafydd Iwan. The backdrop to the performances were a mass of protest banners and placards created by the art students. The performance culminated in a sing-along of Yma o Hyd by the entire cast as well as the audience. It was truly a powerful performance which brought the atrium to life!

The project has been a great success with the pupils debating and questioning their understanding of ‘Protest’, using contemporary references to deepen their understanding of the past and gaining insights into the beliefs of others. For the museum, it was a fantastic way of engaging with a local secondary school, using a model that we are keen to use again. We have already begun discussion on what other themes we could explore next year!

Diolch yn fawr Cardiff High!