Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


It’s a strange sensation, being guided across a street blindfolded. Time slows. Distance is distorted, directions skewed. You become acutely aware of changes in the surface under your feet; shadows; things unseen brushing past your arm or cheek.

Being the guide is less disorientating but can be just as strange. Knowing that you have complete responsibility for getting someone safely to their destination is unnerving. The street suddenly becomes your enemy. Cracks and kerbs, streetlamps, benches, bins become anxiety-inducing obstacles – and don’t get me started on the cars!

The training was delivered by our friends at Cardiff Institute for the Blind, who have been helping us pilot our audio description tours for blind and visually impaired visitors. We wanted to practice our guiding skills, but also to experience what it’s like to be guided without vision in an unfamiliar environment.

Our trainers, Michelle and Sian also gave us helpful insight into the day-to-day challenges of living with a visual impairment and the array of tools and technologies that are available to help. We were given a selection of simi-specs, which simulate the symptoms of common eye conditions, and asked to do everyday tasks like read, write and count out coins from a purse.

Sian gave us a valuable account of her experience living with a visual impairment, and the role of the lovely Arnie, not just a guide dog but a lifelong companion and friend.

Everyone agreed that the training was a positive experience on many levels, and although we realise that what we experiences is not directly comparable to the experience of people with sight loss, it felt that we all came away understanding a bit more. And after guiding our colleagues across a city centre street in the rain, the prospect of guiding people around the Museum safely is far less scary!

Our audio description tours run once every other month. For more information and future dates, please call 029 2057 3240.

The time has come to announce the winners of our creative writing competition...

The challenge was to write a short story inspired by our exhibition Treasures: Adventure in Archaeology. Our writers were inspired by the ancient Egyptian Mummy on display, as well as the beautiful Dolgellau Chalice. You have until the 30th of October to see them for yourselves - so hurry! Grab your tickets here.

Here are our three winning entries: click on the title to download them and get reading. Congratulations to our winners and runners up!

First Prize:

The Falcon's Curse, Eleanor Thorne

Second Prize:

The Chalice of Dolgellau, Theo Singh

Third Prize:

A Mummy at Night, Amy Wintle

Thanks to everyone who sent in a story, or who called by our art and craft activities - we've loved looking at each and every one of your creative works.

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.