Amgueddfa Blog

Last week I wrote about some of the rare books in the Museum Library for the Day of Archaeology blog. One of those books was Mona Antiqua Restaurata: an Archaeological Discourse on the Antiquities, Natural and Historical, of the Isle of Anglesey, the Antient Seat of the British Druids.

 

Because the Eisteddfod begins in Anglesey this weekend, it seems fitting to take a closer look at the book. The author of Mona Antiqua Restaurata was the Reverend Henry Rowlands (1655–1723) of Llanidan on Anglesey. Rowlands never travelled far from home, but instead spent his time investigating the stone circles, cromlechs, and other prehistoric remains on Anglesey, leading him to conclude that Anglesey (or Mona) was the ancient centre of Druidic worship.

 

His work opens with a geographical account of the island, before giving an account of the history of the place, and its people. His findings were much stronger in terms of his field observations, than in his conclusions, many of which now, we know to be factual incorrect. However, his book did much to popularise interest in Druid culture, and may travellers followed in his footsteps to explore the artefacts of Anglesey for themselves, and his accurate drawings of the various ancient monuments still hold merit.

 

We have three copies of Mona Antiqua Restaurata in the Library at National Museum Cardiff. Two of the copies are versions of the first edition, published posthumously in Dublin in 1723, while the third copy is of the second, revised edition, issued in London in 1766. That version was edited by Dr Henry Owen (1716 - 1795).

 

Dr Owen, originally from Dolgellau and a member of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, had a special interest in Welsh antiquities, and made a number of revisions to the book, one of which was the slight changes in appearance of the Druid. He removed the sandals, making the Druid barefoot, and he also added a book to the hand that was holding the oak leaves.

 

A similar illustration was produced in Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British Druids by William Stukeley (1687 - 1765), which was first published in 1740, just 17 years later than Mona Antiqua Restaurata. Although the Library doesn’t hold a copy of the first edition, we do have a copy that was produced in 1838, which depicts his Druid in a very similar manner, although instead of holding oak leaves, he is standing under an oak tree, and he has the addition of a small axe at his belt.

 

Perhaps both authors based their images on an even earlier depiction, that of Aylett Sammes (c.1636 - 1679), whose Britannia Antiqua illustrata: or, the antiquities of ancient Britain was published in 1676. From the copy we hold in the Library, we can see that his Druid has the flowing beard and hooded robes of both Rowlands and Stukeley’s versions, and his stance and the way he is holding his staff are also similar. However, there doesn’t seem to be any references to the significance of oaks in the illustration by Sammes.

Walking up to the stunning building that is the National Museum of Wales on the first day of my placement in July, I readied myself for new experiences in the world of marine invertebrate research! I am a Cardiff University student studying zoology and have always been fascinated with the sea, from giant whales to microscopic plankton. However, the weird and wonderful world of marine invertebrates particularly sparked my interest after being offered the chance to study a family of mysterious bristle worms (polychaetes) called Magelonids; perhaps fittingly, commonly called shovelhead worms because of the presence of their flattened heads.

The intention of this year is to learn more about these burrowing animals so a better understanding of their behaviour, ecology and anatomy can be reached. Hopefully, with these aims, a relatively unknown organism can become more accessible and recognised to everyone.

There are many questions to explore, for example, some species of Magelonidae possess abdominal pouches, which the function of is unknown. Why would they need these conspicuous structures? Also, very little is known about how these worms reproduce. It is unknown as to whether they reproduce once (semelparity) or have multiple reproduction events (iteroparity). Furthermore, do they reproduce at the same time in a kind of mass-spawning event?

 I will tackle these kinds of questions by observations of live specimens in the museum lab with the aid of time-lapse photography for overnight observations. By examining the worms in a tank with conditions similar to in their natural environment, variables such as movement in tubes, responses to food, timings of different behaviours, and hopefully, with a bit of luck, reproduction or pouch function can be reviewed.

Additionally, I will use previous research in conjunction with museum specimens of the family to help me not only try to answer these uncertainties, but also to develop other skills, such as scientific drawing and taxonomy. By viewing specimens under the microscope, a camera lucida can be used to help draw an outline of the desired subject. This template can then be utilized to fill in details of the species, which is helpful to get a clear and simple view of the animal’s morphology.

It has been an interesting and exciting first few weeks here and I am eager to carry on observations and delve deeper into gaining a better understanding of the marine world. Thus, opening up opportunities for us to perceive these secretive and fascinating animals in a different light entirely.

Happy Day of Archaeology everyone!

Today, the 28th July 2017, is the annual online event in which archaeologists from across the country blog about archaeology. The idea is to showcase the diversity of the subject and highlight what individuals are doing on and around this day.

This year we’ve badgered people from across the museum to contribute posts on who they are and how they engage with archaeology through their various research and projects and on a daily basis.

We have been amazed by the positive response, not just from within History and Archaeology but from a whole range of disciplines. The topic of posts thus ranges from prehistoric Cardiff to botany to archaeological curation to snails! It really shows how broad and varied archaeology truly is, beyond the traditional view of woolly jumpers, beards, and whips (though it has been known!)

These posts are all hosted on the external site: www.dayofarchaeology.com and links to blogs from our staff are listed below and will be added to throughout the day.

We hope you enjoy!

Adam GwiltAn Archaeological Curator’s Day / Diwrnod ym mywyd Curadur Archaeolegol

Dr. Rhianydd Biebrach The Saving Treasures: Telling Stories Project

Dr. Ben RowsonSnails at Snail Cave, and elsewhere in Wales

Jonathan Howells - From Housing to History and Archaeology

Kristine Chapman - Rare Books from the National Museum Wales Library

Sarah Parsons - Photographing Archaeology

Dr. Heather PardoeHarold Augustus Hyde’s Contribution to Welsh Archaeology

Dr. Elizabeth WalkerContemplating and communicating the Palaeolithic landscapes of Wales

Sian IlesMarvellous medieval tiles-public engagement at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

Matt KnightA Day in the Life of an Archaeology Intern / Diwrnod ym mywyd Archaeolegydd preswyl

 

With the school summer holidays once again upon us, it is time for the Learning Department at St Fagans National Museum of History to once again look back at the year that was and begin the preparations for September. There certainly won't be much time to put our feet up this summer!

This is a very exciting time for the team here. With the newly redeveloped main building now open, September will see us welcoming schools to the brand new Weston Centre for Learning. This will give us a dedicated reception desk for group visitors as well as two new learning studios, a lecture theatre and a fantastic sandwich room. We really can’t wait for September to arrive so we can begin to show off these spaces to schools!

With new spaces, come new opportunities. With space having been at a premium during the redevelopment process, it has been hard for us to increase our offer for schools. However, from September onwards, we will be running a range of new workshops for schools, as well as seeing the return of another, much loved session.

Discussions with teachers as part of our Formal Learning Forum have led us to increase the workshops that we offer that complement each other. This allows schools to book more than one workshops for groups, filling their visits with activities linked to the curriculum. For information of workshops available for Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2 groups, please visit the learning pages of the website. They can be found here: https://museum.wales/stfagans/learning/

As we are eager to show off the new Weston Centre for Learning, we are hosting an open evening for Primary School Teachers in September. The open evening will be an opportunity for teachers to explore the new spaces and familiarise themselves with the new spaces as well as meet the ever so friendly learning team! We will also showcase the workshops we run for schools so teachers can be sure of what they are booking. The open evening is taking place on September the 20th, and booking information can be found here: https://museum.wales/stfagans/learning/teachers/

We don’t want to wish the summer away, but we can’t wait to get started again in September. Hopefully we will see you then!

Wales is culturally diverse from three hundred years of industrial heritage and a history of people coming here for work in mining and quarrying, dock yards, heavy industry. Lately jobs in tourism, modern industry and students coming to study at our universities make us a melting pot of cultures. Indeed, my grand-father came to Swansea from the Faroe Islands (Danish) and my wife’s grand-father came from Holland, both to work on the docks around 1910. As economic migrants – they came here to earn more money and have a better life, they were not refugees.

They stayed, married Welsh girls and raised families. The street I grew up on, Prince of Wales Road in the Hafod, Swansea there lived people from Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Poland and England, and the bottom of the street was known as ‘Jews Row’ where Jews from all over the world lived. As children we just thought this was normal and every street in the UK was just like ours.

Unsurprisingly with this background, Swansea became a ‘City of Sanctuary’ in 2010, the second one in the UK after Sheffield.

Part of my job is in the Public History Team for Amgueddfa Cymru. This means we actively seek out different groups and individuals in the community and gather their stories and history. Through my job I have met people who have been displaced from their homeland for various reasons and are seeking safety and shelter.

So, when last May (2017), I attended ‘Asylum Seeker and Refugee Awareness’ training at the Waterfront Museum as part of our staff training, I thought I was fairly clued up about the subject.

The training was delivered by a lady working for Swansea City of Sanctuary and another lady who was an asylum seeker and she told us about her personal experiences.

It’s strange, we see stuff on the TV and news and read stories in the papers and get a picture in our heads about a situation but very often is only half a story. Learning factual numbers and hearing personal testimony made me realise how far off the mark I was, how little I knew.

For instance, we were asked to rank the top ten countries of the world in order of which ones take the most refugees. As a group we managed to name one or two correctly.

The top ten are: Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Chad.

Surprised? I was. The UK, Germany or France don’t make the top ten even though I was convinced they would as it seems to make headlines on a regular basis in our media. The biggest refugee camp in the world is in Kenya with around 200,000 people living in it!

We learned what the difference is between an asylum seeker and a refugee. Both are displaced persons – they have had to leave their country of origin for lots of different reasons; war, religious beliefs, persecution or sexual orientation.

An asylum seeker is a person who is fleeing persecution in their home country, has come to the UK and made themselves known to the authorities. They then exercise their legal right to apply for asylum. If they are granted asylum here then they have ‘refugee’ status.

I found out that many of these desperate people are brought to Europe and the UK by traffickers and quite often they have no idea which country they are in. Most are stripped of belongings and passports so have no way of proving who they are, their age and marital status etc. when questioned by the authorities.

After assessment and a screening interview, if the person becomes an asylum seeker they then have to wait until their case is further assessed to get refugee status or be rejected. At any time during this process people can be subject to detention, deportation or destitution. Destitution means having no recourse to public funds, having no money and nowhere to live.

Asylum seekers are dispersed all over the country and are given free accommodation in private lettings. They are not allowed to work. They receive a maximum of £36.95 a week - £5.28 a day for food, toiletries, everyday needs and travel. As asylum seekers have to regularly sign in at an immigration office which can be some distance from where they live, a day’s money can be used up in bus fares.

The application process can take years for a person to get a decision on refugee status and the onus is on the asylum seeker to prove persecution of an ongoing threat and not a one off occurrence.

For many this period in limbo can very difficult. The lady we spoke to told us to imagine you suddenly found yourself in somewhere like China and couldn’t speak the language or understand the culture. Finding your way around and doing simple tasks is almost impossible. For example, she told us her and her two young children were placed in a house in Swansea on a cold January day. The house was cold, it had central heating but she had never seen central heating controls before and didn’t know how to work it. This lady was a psychologist in her own country but her qualifications are useless in the UK. She told us that even with all these problems she felt safe here, which was all she wanted for her family.

After the process is completed and refugee status is granted, as refugees they have the right to work and apply for family reunification. From March 2017, cases can be reviewed after five years to see if the threat to the person is still ongoing or if it is possible to be returned to their country of origin.

If refugee status is not granted there are a number of avenues for appeal but ultimately if status is not granted then the person can be deported.

After listening to the trainer and hearing the stories of asylum seekers I was left with a helpless feeling inside me. Every story we heard made me think ‘what if that was me and my family?’ and how grateful we would be to find somewhere to feel safe. The biggest point I took away from the morning was: Refugees are just people like you and me who had jobs, housing, education and good standards of living, suddenly taken away from them through no fault of their own. They just need the chance to start over again without fear.

At the end of 2016 there were 2,997 asylum seekers in Wales, 0.09% of the population.