Amgueddfa Blog: Library

Elizabeth Harriet Edwards, known to family and friends as Hetty, was Librarian at the National Museum of Wales from 1931 until her retirement in 1970. She is our longest serving Librarian, racking up a whopping 39 years’ service.

The National Museum’s Annual Report for 1969/70 records the Museum Council thanking her for her work;

‘Miss E H Edwards has served as Librarian for 39 years. During this period the Library has become one of the most important special libraries in Wales, now containing more than 80,000 books.  She has served as Chairman of the Welsh Branch of the Library Association, and is President-elect of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society.’

We knew very little about her. There are just occasional remarks as above in the Museum’s Annual Reports and small pieces of information about lectures she’d given and broadcasts she’d made. I was tasked with discovering more about Hetty; from where did she hail, what sort of person was she and when did she die?

Rummaging through the Museum’s records and other sources of information I discovered that Hetty had lived in 22 Plas y Delyn, Lisvane and was made a Fellow of the Library Association in 1930. She must have had a keen interest in Natural History as she was a member of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society for many years, including standing as vice president during 1973/4.

My search then took me to a donation record at the National Library of Wales. According to the NLW catalogue, The Gwenfron Moss Papers had been donated by Gwenfron Moss and Hettie Edwards, Cardiff, in July 1984. Although the spelling was different, surely this was our Hetty Edwards? Further examination of the records brought me to an entry in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography for Gwenfron Moss;

‘She [Gwenfron Moss] decided to leave Coed-poeth and to live with her adopted sister, Miss Hetty Edwards.’

This was my ‘Eureka!’ moment. Hetty and Gwenfron were sisters! Now I had information about where Gwenfron came from and possibly Hetty, the date when Gwenfron died and the fact that Hetty died a fortnight later. The entry also mentioned that Gwenfron had been a deacon at the Welsh Congregational Church in Minnie Street in Cardiff. This snippet of information gave me an idea of where to look next. Would they be able to help me in my search for Hetty?

From 6 to 10 February there will be a week long colouring-fest happening on social media.

Led by the New York Academy of Medicine Library, who first launched the campaign last year, libraries, archives, and museums around the world are sharing free colouring sheets based on materials in their collections. Users are invited to download and print the sheets and share their filled-in images on social media, using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections (because the campaign launched in America most institutions are using the American spelling of colour!). Last year, more than 210 libraries and cultural institutions participated.

So for this year we have put together a small colouring book based on a few of our favourite rare books from the Willoughby Gardner collection on early natural history.

Download the book here [PDF] –  and let us see your creative skills!

Post images of your coloured pages on social media with the hashtags #lliwioeincasgliadau or #colorourcollections and tag us in @Amgueddfa_Lib

And don’t forget to check out which other institutions around the world are taking part using the #colorourcollections hashtag or visiting the website of the New York Academy of Medicine

Happy colouring!!

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 (e.g. 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.

The re-interpretation of Oakdale Workmen’s Institute is supported by the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme.

Explore Your Archive is a joint campaign delivered by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association across the UK and Ireland. It aims to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together, and tell amazing stories.

Last year staff from Amgueddfa Cymru held an Explore Your Archive event for the first time. It was held in the Oakdale Institute at St. Fagans: National History Museum. We showcased a selection of documents and photographs relating to Wales and the First World War to coincide with the launch of our First World War online catalogue. You can search the catalogue here.

It was a popular event with adults and a number of school parties excited to see original historic archive material, and discuss their history with the staff who look after these collections. The success of last year’s event means that we are organising another one this year. ‘Discovering Wales: History on Your Doorstep’ will be held over two days on 20-21 November in the main hall of National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park. This year the theme will be travel and tourism and we will have a selection of archive material from our collections including photographs, film, postcards, letters and notebooks for you to look at and discuss with members of the team who curate, manage and conserve the archive collections. This year we will also have a series of events for children. Children will be able create their own postcard for display in the Main Hall, or can put on their Sherlock hats and help us to identify unknown names and places from the photographic collections! There will also be an Explore Your Archive trail around the museum.

We hope to see you there. You can find out more about the event here.

We recently participated in #MuseumCats Day on Twitter and this involved a quick search through our holdings for some interesting pictures of cats to Tweet and what a gem we have found! Please enjoy this selection of wonderful and [in some cases] bizarre illustrations of cats from the book "Our Cats and all about them" written and illustrated by Harrison Weir in 1889. 

My personal favourites are the surreal disembodied heads [see above], "Sylvie" [she of the magnificent moustaches] and the Russian cat who [in my opinion] has a most unsettling human expression.


Weir was a very interesting character; he was born in 1824 on May 5th [d.1906], and is known as "The Father of the Cat Fancy”. He organizied the first ever cat show in England, at The Crystal Palace, London in July 1871 where he and his brother served as judges. In 1887 he founded the National Cat Club and was its first President and Show Manager until his resignation in 1890. Our Cats was the first published pedigree cat book.

Weir was employed, for many years, as a draughtsman and engraver for the Illustrated London News as well as many other publications and in his lifetime he both wrote and illustrated other books such as The Poetry of Nature (1867), Every Day in the Country (1883) and Animal Studies, Old and New (1885). In 1845 he exhibited his first painting at the British Institution and during his career he was an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy.

He was a keen animal fancier, an experienced breeder of cats, carrier pigeons, and poultry and for thirty years often acted as a judge at the principal pigeon and poultry shows. In 1903 he wrote and illustrated the exhaustive book Our Poultry and All About Them.

More information on Harrison Weir via the following links: 

http://www.harrisonweir.com/ 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Weir 

http://www.nationalcatclub.co.uk/History.htm

This book was bequeathed to the Library back in May 1916 along with around 500 other books by the Welsh artist, champion of Wales’ cultural heritage and one of the founding fathers of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Thomas Henry Thomas.

Along with the books, Thomas also bequeathed his entire catalogue of prints, drawings and watercolours to the Museum.

More information on Thomas Henry Thomas here:

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/rhagor/article/2035/

The illustration above appeares in the Chapter "Performing cats". Other chapters include, "Cats as tormentors", "Dead cats", "Fishing cats" and "Lovers of cats" [would you believe... Cardinal Richelieu?].

This book is available to view electronically via the following Project Gutenberg link:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35450/35450-h/35450-h.htm#Page_37

Biographical information on Harrison Weir taken from Wikipedia.

All photographs in this post taken by the author.