Cymraeg

By Ieuan Donovan, Work Placement Student

I’m currently studying for an MSc in Wildlife and Conservation Management at the University of South Wales and as part of this course opted to undertake a Work Based Learning Project within the Estates Department at St Fagans. Throughout my time on the work placement I have been able to take part in a number of jobs from clearing deadwood and brash, to hedge laying and delivering firewood to the historical buildings around the site. The variety of roles I’ve been able to do has meant that I’ve had a good time working at the museum. I’ve also enjoyed being able to partake in practical jobs away from an office and away from assignments. Although a welcome break from desk based work it’s been a great way of incorporating theoretical knowledge with practical application and implementation of specific management plans. The work placement has also opened up an avenue for me to pursue my dissertation research project using the museum grounds.

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales at the RHS Flower Show, Cardiff 2017

We have had a presence at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show, Cardiff for over 10 years. This year our theme was Welsh Wood and Woodlands, encouraging visitors to learn all about the plant and animal life associated with Welsh woodlands from the ancient ‘coal forests’ of the Palaeozoic era, through the post-glacial forests, up to the present day. We put our unique Welsh collections on display, including living and preserved plants, botanical wax models, fossils, insects, taxidermy birds and mammals, as well as botanical illustrations. A superb collection of large timbers, rarely on show to the public, formed the centrepiece for the display. In the foreground, a vibrant green moss garden demonstrated the variety of mosses found in Welsh woodlands, while hung as a backdrop were 12 large botanical ‘stained glass’ windows of pressed woodland plants.

Geraint Parfitt the clog maker and David Davies the woodcarver from Amgueddfa Cymru’s St. Fagans National History Museum, demonstrated their crafts at the RHS Flower Show for the first time. Members of the public were fascinated to see Geraint practice his traditional craft, turning newly felled timber into clog soles while David showed his skill at making Welsh love spoons.

Crowds were attracted by our 3D printer where we showed how we can reproduce specimens from the collections the twenty-first century way. This enables us to make replicas of delicate or poisonous specimens from the collections more easily, that would not otherwise be touchable.

Families could test their knowledge of Welsh trees or work out the age of the trees from our collections by counting their rings under a microscope. Talented story tellers from Amgueddfa Cymru entertained children with woodland inspired stories.

We were delighted that the RHS honoured our exhibit by presenting a “Commended” award.  We would also like to thank the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this event.

Follow the museum’s experience of RHS Cardiff 2017 from preparation to farewell

Last Friday we attended the Torfaen Treasure Day at Pontypool museum, where the latest treasure finds from the Trevethin and Henllys area were presented.

The treasure included a decorative gold finger-ring from the late 16th or early 17th century, as well as Bronze Age artefacts, which date back 3,000 years. The Bronze Age hoard consists of five Bronze Age artefacts, including three socketed axes and two spearheads and these will be the first Bronze Age items to be displayed at Pontypool Museum.

Adam Gwilt is about to present treasure finds. This treasure find is a hoard of Bronze Age artefacts.
Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator (Prehistory) at Amgueddfa Cymru, presenting the Trevethin Hoard.

Rt. Hon Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen, President of the Torfaen Museum Trust welcomed in the event warming up the audience before presentations from Adam Gwilt and Rhianydd Biebrach from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and local MP, Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds followed.

The newly declared treasure was presented to the museum by Adam Gwilt, the Principal Curator of Prehistory in the Archaeology & Numismatics department at the National Museum Cardiff. Adam talked about the history of the treasure and provided background information so the audience could gain a further understanding of the items. Since the items were acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures;Telling Stories Project Dr. Rhianydd Biebrach, the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project Officer discussed the key messages and aims behind the project.

Rhianydd Biebrach, who is the project officer of the Saving Treasures Telling Stories project at the National Museum Wales, is giving a presentation about the project.
Rhianydd Biebrach, project officer for Saving Treasures Telling Stories at Amgueddfa Cymru, giving a presentation about the project.

The Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project is currently working with the University of South Wales assisting student journalists for a two week work placement where they can use their journalistic writing and interviewing skills to help tell the stories behind items. We thought it would be a good idea to send them up to Pontypool museum before the event to talk to the curators at the museum and the finders of the treasure.

They spoke to Gareth Wileman, a metal detectorist in the Pontypool area who found the hoard back in November 2014, and asked him how he felt about his discovery being exhibited. While we wold have loved to hear from Simon Harrison, the finder of the gold finger-ring, he wasn’t available at the time so a potential phone interview looks likely for the next batch of students.

The students are still currently working on this project and will provide us with written and video content of their interview- So keep your eyes peeled on our Twitter and Facebook account for more content and videos coming your way!

The hoard is being acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures;Telling Stories Project. This project, funded via the Collecting Cultures programme of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is acquiring archaeological objects discovered by members of the public for public museum collections across Wales. The project is also encouraging communities to engage with their pasts and portable archaeological heritage, by funding a programme of community archaeology projects led by staff in museums throughout Wales.

 

This is the second post on the Cymru Yfory exhibition, the first can be read here.

The range and imagination of the stands on display at this 1969 exhibition were vast, they included ideas and plans for the Cardiff of the future, for the valleys, for the Severn Estuary and for housing and schools. Some were realistic but most were fantastical and frivolous – especially exhibits illustrating clothing, furniture and domestic habits of the future. A major contributor was General Industrial Plastics Limited, manufacturers and designers of plastic products who made the magnificent inflated ceiling display, pieces of air filled furniture and the plastic carrier bag provided with the official catalogue. Cardiff College of Art, National Coal Board, City of Cardiff, General Post Office and British Rail also contributed stands.  

As part of the fun atmosphere, a spoof contributor named Kumro Kemicals Corporation was created. The catalogue states they were established in 1999 [bear in mind this event took place in 1969!] and that their products were “the result of the most intensive research programme ever undertaken by any corporation in the Western Hemisphere…” As part of their contribution, Kumro produced sealed envelopes bearing the following message, DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 1999 - and the Library still holds one of these that remains unopened!

When publishing images, copyright issues need to be considered and a number of these photographs are stamped on the reverse with either Hylton Warner & Co Ltd or Giovanni Gemin [Whitchurch Road, Cardiff]. Internet searches brought up a little information on Hylton Warner but nothing current and no information at all was found concerning Giovanni Gemin. Therefore, a notice was placed on the Photo Archive News website requesting communication from anyone who might be familiar with these two photographers. After some time, we were contacted by the son of Giovanni Gemin. Award winning author, Giancarlo Gemin was kind enough to grant permission to publish the photographs and also tell us the following about his father:

He was an industrial and commercial photographer based in Cardiff from 1961. He worked regularly for BBC Wales, and was one of the official photographers at the investiture of the Prince of Wales. He was awarded the Chartered Institute of Incorporated Photographers (AIIP) and an Associate of Master Photographers (AMPA).

As well as items of ephemera such as the official catalogue, carrier bag, stickers etc. we are fortunate to hold two volumes of comments books. These are a fascinating record of visitors’ thoughts and the majority are very positive but, not everyone appreciated looking to the future instead of a classical past and to end this post, here are just a few that have made us smile:

BW, Rhwibina - Awful

RM, Rhondda - Not as good as the British Museum

MB, Cheltenham - Baffled!

MD, Durham - I prefer the face of OLD WALES proud and noble not false and plastic

CS, Cardiff - Needs dusting

SL, Cardiff - Rubbish, waste of good museum space!

TO, County Cork – TRASH

An insight into our display at the 2017 RHS Cardiff Flower Show

Visitors come into our marquee to see a display about wood & Welsh woodlands. There is an array of wood samples, wax models, taxidermy, insects, as well as live and pressed plants. Visitors know they are seeing a display by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, but do they realise that if they look a little deeper, in the same way that one of our scientists does down a microscope, it is showing them the daily work of the Museum too?

The Flower Show to us is similar to one of our temporary exhibitions, but lasting three days, instead of six to nine months and we get ready for it in much the same way. Items for display are chosen and located, sometimes not a simple task when you look after 1 million or so botanical specimens. The correct sized cases need to be found to stop people from touching the historic specimens (which in the past may have been treated with chemicals to guard against pests). Delicate wax models, which have been made to show museum visitors plants all year round, need to be protected from the elements. Tiny preserved insects have to be extracted from the systematically ordered entomology collections, and remounted with miniscule pins in display drawers.

In the display, woodland mosses form an intricate garden. This gives us the opportunity to help visitors distinguish between different moss plants of the woodland floor. It also reflects how we carry out our scientific research, we do DNA/molecular work on dried plants from the herbarium, and conversely we sometimes need fresh material.

Acrylic panels hang at each end of the marquee, showing Welsh woodland tree silhouettes with their leaves, dried. These are not only artistic representations of the trees, they also show the technique we use in the Museum for attaching delicate pressed plants onto card for storage in the herbarium. Thin strips of adhesive material are placed strategically along the plant to hold it safely on the card. This allows our botanists to easily remove the straps if they want to study the plant under a microscope, away from the card. The plants used in these panels have been collected specifically for the Show and have been pressed in the same way we would for long-term storage in the herbarium. They would also last for hundreds of years if kept out of the light.

Prints of a few of the hundreds of botanical illustrations in our collection adorn the marquee walls. These prints have been framed and mounted using standard museum techniques. They are not only intricate artworks, but are scientifically accurate representations of the plants they show.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to show you our unique collection of specimens with a Welsh woodland theme. The RHS Cardiff Flower Show, with funding from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, have enabled the Natural Science Department to work with our colleagues from other departments. Other museum sites have also helped us this year bringing you clog-making, wood carving and garden conservators from St Fagans National Museum of History.

Why not keep up to date with what's happening in the Amgueddfa Cymru marquee over the weekend by following the @CardiffCurator Twittter account. Hope to see you there