Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

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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.

My name is Arnie. I am an eight and a half year old Labrador retriever cross and I am a dog with a job. I am a guide to my human, the one called ‘Mum’.

We have been partners for seven years and she has very poor vision. Although she can see colour and shape, she has no depth vision and lives in a blurry world. My role is to keep her safe, stopping her from bumping into things and causing chaos.

This has been particularly important on our trips to one of our favourite places, National Museum Cardiff. Mum loves art and history, and we have been invited to help develop their audio tours for visually impaired people like Mum.

My role during these tours hasn’t just been to keep Mum safe but also to protect the priceless antiquities, beautiful paintings and fragile exhibits from the awkward accident-prone one!

During these audio tours the museum guides describe in detail, to visually impaired visitors, their surroundings and interesting objects around them.

They also had sighted guides to help guide visually impaired people round the museum safely. Sighted guides are humans that do what I do: indicate steps, avoid objects and keep the visually impaired person safe. I think this makes a lot of sense because if they are anything like Mum they may need a little supervising.

One of the tours took us through the Evolution of Wales galleries. Our guide explained that each time the floor surface changed, it represented a movement forward in time in the story of the Earth. I took my time and stopped and tapped Mum's knee with my nose, so she knew to lift her feet and be aware of the changes in the surfaces.

I worked hard to ignore the giant bones, hanging in shapes of strange creatures, all over the place. I am sure they would have been very tasty, but I was in harness and at work!

The only part I was greatly concerned by was the terrible giant hairy creature that made a noise and moved, I tried to walk straight past and guide Mum safely out, but everyone stopped and stood to listen to one of the human guides talk about woolly mammoths and changing landscapes….? I had my eye firmly fixed on a quick exit!

Arnie Guide Dog

PS If other Guide Dogs want to take their owners on a pawsome Museum adventure, you can book a place on their audio description tours by phoning (029) 2057 3240. Woofing great!

Over the last few months Kate Congdon from Cardiff and the Vale College has been working on resources for ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) students. In a previous blog I discussed how these had developed and been trialled at the college. On Thursday 8th September we had around 300 students and 9 tutors come to St Fagans to try out the resources here on site. The resources that were trialled were for: Bryn Eryr Iron Age Roundhouses, Rhyd y Car, Gwalia Stores, St Teilo’s Church, and the Melin Bompren Corn Mill.

Shadowing some of the groups I was able to see how the students worked with the resources. All of the students were engaged with the resources and were keen to ask questions if they were unsure of the answer. By asking questions the resources were not only testing their reading ability but encouraging them to practice their spoken English. A big thank you goes to the front of house members of staff who were excellent at answering the questions in a simple and easy to understand manner.

As well as the printed versions of the resources we also trialled an iBook version of the Rhyd y Car resource which I adapted from Kate’s Rhyd y Car resource. The students that trialled this enjoyed the opportunity to use a different medium. The students appreciated that the iBook provided immediate feedback on the questions and used the iBook together with the printed version to check their answers. The only downside of the iBooks is that it is not compatible with android tablets which the college have. Therefore an alternative android version should be created to make the electronic resource more accessible.

The feedback from the students will be used to improve the resources and a finalised version will be completed in the coming months. Once they are completed we can then upload them to our website for future ESOL groups to use.

Yr Oriel yn Siarad

Wrth i mi sefyll a myfyrio yng nghanol yr arddangosfa, tybiais i mi weld ffigwr yn sefyll tu ôl i’r cownter pren……yna wrth edrych ar y bolltiau a’r crysau gwlanen ar y silffoedd…bron â chlywn i leisiau dynion…gydag acenion amrywiol…teimlais fy hun fel pe bawn yn llithro’n llythrennol i’r gorffennol….mae’n wir mae distaw oedd y presennol…ond deuai bwrlwm siop brysur o’r gorffennol yn fyw i’m meddwl i……yn sydyn dychmygais gyda gwên ddrygionus bod siwtcês David Lewis yn neidio allan o’r casyn gwydr ac yn mynnu dweud ei stori am ei anturieithau cyffrous…….

Yn wir roedd fel petai congl arall o’r amgueddfa yn galw am y cyfle i fynegi ei hun a dweud ei stori mewn modd bywiog a dramatig.

Dyma stori siop draper Emlyn Davies!

Pwy oedd Emlyn Davies?

Dyn lleol o Gastell Newydd Emlyn a symudodd i Ddowlais, Merthyr Tydfil i weithio fel cynorthwy-ydd yn siop J.S.Davies Drapers. Ym 1898 agorodd ei siop ddefnydd ei hun.

Gwerthu gwlanen fyddai yn bennaf, a prynai’r mwyafrif o’i stoc o Felin Cambrian yn Drefach Felindre (sydd nawr yn gartref i’r Amgueddfa Wlân). Byddai David Lewis, perchennog y felin, yn teithio i’r cymoedd i gasglu archebion am wlanen, a’r defnydd yn cael ei gludo ar y tren i Ddowlais o stesion Henllan. Byddai’r gwlanen yn cael ei droi’n grysau a dillad isaf i weithwyr y pyllau glo a’r gweithfeydd haearn lleol.

Creu Sesiwn i Blant

Ychydig o fisoedd nôl, fe ddechreuais i weithio ar y syniad o greu sesiwn a gweithdy i blant ysgol yn yr amgueddfa wlân wedi selio ar yr hanes uchod, ac atgyfodi’r siop a chafodd ei ail greu yn yr amgueddfa yn 2013.

Mae’n hanfodol, i ddechre, i unrhyw hwylusydd neu actor mewn amgueddfa pan yn ceisio bywiogi darn o hanes i wneud ei waith ymchwil ei hun. Rhaid darllen y ffeithiau wrth gwrs, gwrando ar unrhyw dystiolaeth sydd ar gael yn yr archif, a chael gweld gwrthrychau priodol o’r casgliad - ond hefyd yn ychwanegol i hyn oll mae’n rhaid ymgolli eich hun yn llwyr yng nghefndir a chyfnod yr hanes yn gyffredinol.

Mae’n bwysig i ffurfio perthynas dda gyda’r curaduron, ac unrhyw arbennigwyr arall sydd yn gweithio I’r sefydliad, a thrwy’r unigolion hynny cael mynediad i lu o adnoddau defnyddiol arall i sicrhau bod y sesiwn neu weithdy yn un a sail hanesyddol gywir iddo.

Gweithio Gydag Atgofion

Y stop gyntaf i mi wrth droedio nol i orffennol y siop oedd i gysylltu a Mark Lucas, Curadur y Diwydiant Gwlân, a fi’n gyfrifol am gasglu’r hanes at ei gilydd.

Fe rhoddodd bentwr o ffeil i mi i ddechrau, yn cynnwys copi o fywgraffiad bywyd a hanes teulu Emlyn Davies a ysgrifennwyd gan ei wŷr Alan Owen: Emlyn Davies: The Life & Times Of a Dowlais Draper in the first Half Of The Twentieth Century.

Un o’r profiadau mwyaf cyffrous i mi yn y broses yma o adfywio hanes yw i gael cyfarfod mewn person a phobol sydd ynghlwm yn uniongyrchol â’r hanes. Diddorol oedd nodi bod Mark Lucas mewn cysylltiad rheolaidd a Alan Owen, a bod cyfle i mi gyfarfod ag ef i holi cwestiunau - mwy am hyn yn y blog nesa!