Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Today we have launched our ESOL (English as Second or Other Language) resources on the museum website. The resources were created by Kate Congdon of Cardiff and the Vale College as part of the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) redevelopment of St Fagans National History Museum. In my last blog I discussed how we had trialled the resources with around 300 students from Cardiff and the Vale College. As a result of the trial we had very positive feedback and some minor adjustments were able to be made. There are 6 different levels of resources starting with Lower Beginners up to Upper Intermediate. The 6 different levels focus on different buildings across the museum.

There's always a sense of achievement when finishing a project but on this ocassion there is also a feeling of sadness that I have finished working with Cardiff and the Vale college. Working with Kate and the ESOL students from the college has been a pleasure. I want to say a massive thanks to Kate and all the students that took part and I hope we can work together again on future projects.

The resources are freely available to anyone wishing to use them on a visit to St Fagans. The resources are currently PDF worksheets but in the coming months my aim will be to convert these resources into digitial worksheets such as on iBooks.

Hello Bulb Buddies,

There isn't long to go until planting day on 20th October! Are you ready? Here are some helpful resources to prepare you for planting your bulbs and for looking after them over the coming months! These are also on the Spring Bulbs for Schools website:

These resources will help you on planting day:

  • A Letter from Professor Plant (introduction to the project)
  • Adopt your Bulb (an overview of the care your Bulbs will need)
  • Planting your Bulbs (guidelines for ensuring a fair experiment)

And these activities are fun to complete:

  • Bulb Adoption Certificate
  • Make Bulb Labels

It's important that you read these as they contain important information! For example, do you know how deep you need to plant your bulbs? Or how to label your pot so that you know where the Daffodil and Crocus are planted?

Remember to take photos of your planting day to enter the Planting Day Photo Competition!

Keep an eye on Professor Plant's Twitter page to see photos from other schools:

Best of luck Bulb Buddies! Let us know how you get on!

Professor Plant & Baby Bulb

This week’s Youth Forum again made me think about museums and what they can do, and how they should be, in a different way.

While looking at art from the First World War had at times been a sensory overload, this time we were trying to understand what it would be like to come to a museum without one specific sense fully intact. How to make museum exhibits more accessible for the partially sighted?

Having always gone to museums with my sight in (near enough) tip top condition, I and probably others tended to presume it was a pretty necessary requirement. If I had trouble seeing the paintings/sculptures/artefacts, then I don’t think I’d want to go. Because if seeing is believing, and I couldn’t see what I was supposed to be learning about, then surely I wouldn’t learn very much and would end up feeling quite left out, even though this obviously shouldn’t be the case.

And it doesn’t have to be! The paintings and sculptures that we looked up were a bit of a mix, ones that more well-known and some that were completely new. Among the ideas that we came up with, for example, involved the painting Bad News, by James Tissot, incorporating the playing of military marching music alongside the painting to evoke the solemnity and sorrow of leaving your family to go off and fight in another corner of the world.

Similarly, for Entrance to Cardiff Docks by Lionel Walden, lighting effects could imitate the lights of the port and the surrounding buildings, with sound effects of ships coming into port, water slapping against the quay, sailors shouting to each other. We could have smells to add to the experience (although maybe not the fish!). Instead of rough sailors accompanying Manet’s San Maggiore by Twilight, it would be the gentle, joyful peel of Italian church bells.

In front of a painting of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, Thomas Apperly and Edward Hamilton by Pompeo Batoni there could be a table with the objects and chairs laid out exactly as they are in the picture, as if the subjects had just finished the sitting and left only a few moments ago. David Nash’s intriguing sculpture Multi-Cut Column could have smaller imitations made of it, that people could actually pass around and touch, something rarely allowed in any exhibit. 

I realise there would be some technical issues in making sure it wasn’t distracting or taking away from the other exhibits, and that maybe not all these ideas will actually become a finished product, but I hope that at least some of them do work out. Because who wouldn’t want to experience this? It might be a bit like theatre, the art being brought to life, stepping into the painting. While I’m definitely thankful I’m not visually impaired in any way, I’m also thankful I took the time to try and understand the experience of those who are. 

  • Our next Audio Description Tour will take place on the 8th of December will be of our Natural History Collections.

On the weekend of the 17th and 18th of September, Cardiff celebrated Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday with The City of the Unexpected - a weekend extravaganza of theatre, performance, participatory events and storytelling.

National Museum Cardiff was just one of the venues across the city which transformed itself in honour of Dahl’s weird and wonderful world. We created a ‘Museum of the Unexpected’, with twenty-five strange surprises scattered throughout the galleries. From upside-down paintings to a dinosaur tea party, visitors got the chance to see the displays as never before.

photograph of an art gallery with one painting hung upside down

Just one of the 25 surprises to be discovered in our galleries

The sight of people exploring the exhibits in search of the next silly scenario was something to behold, and we got great feedback on social media with the #UnexpectedCity tag.

On Saturday, we played host to a huge theatrical performance in the Main Hall, complete with snowball fights, lots of dancing and an appearance by the elusive Mr Fox! Our family learning work placement trainees also ran one of their great music and art workshops, and there was even a chance for visitors to display their own work next to the masterpieces in our art galleries.

photograph of visitor artworks in frame in art gallery

Visitor artworks hanging in our art gallery

On Sunday, the museum hosted Roald Dahl readings by secret celebrities. Daniel Glyn read from ‘James and the Giant Peach’ in our Wriggle exhibition, while Johnny Ball attracted crowds to the Clore Discovery Centre for his rendition of ‘The BFG’. Those in the Reardon Smith Lecture theatre were treated to a double reading by Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell and actress/politician/children’s TV legend Floella Benjamin.

Check out the Storify story below to see more pictures and feedback from what was a magical weekend.


If all that has put you a Roald Dahl mood, why not visit Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, an exhibition on Dahl's most famous illustrator?

We met in the museum’s car park, not quite knowing what to expect.  Our 50+ Group had been asked if we fancied cataloguing more than a thousand books from the library at the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute as part of the re-interpretation of the building and all four of us had been intrigued by the request.

Sioned greeted us with a warm welcome and we were taken to the library in the ‘new’ building to meet Richard, the librarian.  And so began five extremely enjoyable Thursdays.

The books had been packed into boxes and our task was to fill the spreadsheets with name, author and publication date.  We noted the condition of the book and if it had come from another library or institute (eg. Nantymoel or Aberkenfig).

Delving into each box, not knowing what we might discover was like plunging into a box of chocolates.   Mining and engineering books were obviously very popular in Lewis Merthyr Library – were they borrowed by young men keen to further their careers?  There were many books on mathematics, science and architecture – all well-used according to the date stamps on page three.  And then there were novels by popular authors like Jane Austen, Daniel Defoe and Charles Dickens – read and enjoyed in a time before television and computers.  A few books, with risqué titles, were obviously well-thumbed and our work stopped as we contemplated why they appeared to be more popular than ‘Advanced Algebra’ or ‘Modern Mechanics’.

It was a fascinating insight into a random selection of books, some dating back to the 1870s, and we are so grateful to the Museum for including us in this work.  Richard was on hand to answer questions and solve mysteries – why did so many Welsh preachers write books about themselves?  Who bought them?  And who decided to write ‘The Life of the White Ant’ (and did anyone ever read it)?

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our five days ‘work’, have learnt new skills, met lovely people and, also, become better acquainted after visiting all of the eateries in the museum for lunch.  If there’s any more volunteering on offer – please put our names on this list.