Amgueddfa Blog

Hi Everyone! Uri Guide Dog here, the new doggie bloggist taking over from my big bro Arnie, who’s now retired. I’ve been getting to know National Museum Cardiff very well as it’s one of my mum’s favourite places EVER!

We went to the Museum’s audio tour about Victorian art recently. The paintings and sculptures were beautifully described by the human guides. I was listening intently, even if it did look like I was having a little snooze next to mum. That’s just my listening face.

Anyway I had the chance to meet up with a few colleagues, Guide Dogs Ruby and Alfie, who were also keeping their two-leggeds safe. But we were surprised to find other dogs at the Museum!

I should have known something was up as soon as I arrived… Outside, after a doggie relief moment, I bumped into a colourful dog just sitting on the grass! A beauty, too! I couldn’t believe my luck! But she didn't respond to my waggy tail or my friendly bow. Rude, I thought, but I took a sneaky selfie anyway. Then, inside, I was even more surprised to find a whole pack of multi-coloured pups! I met Oakly, Abi, Smileosaur, Percy and Doris.

Mum explained these are ‘Snowdogs’, and that just like me these are helping dogs too. Except they are made of fiberglass, not fur. They have been made as part of an appeal to help Tŷ Hafan, the children’s hospice in Wales. These sculptural dogs have been decorated by local artists, schools and community groups, and you can follow the Snowdogs: Tails in Wales trail to find them all around Cardiff and the Vale!

As we sat next to the dogs a little girl came up to say hello. She gave me a cuddle and said she was from Marlborough Primary School and had actually helped decorate Percy the pup! Everyone in her class had put a fingerprint on a red background to create a flower pattern on their dog. She was very proud of their work. I told her Percy is PAW-SOME. He really is.

Apparently the Snowdog was chosen because it features in a film, based on a character created by Raymond Briggs. The Snowdog helps a boy deal with the loss of his pet dog by taking him on a magical adventure.

The pack of Snowdogs are going to be sold at auction after the public exhibition and trail finishes. The money raised will help support lots of children and their families, proving that Guide Dogs are not the only dogs who change lives. Good job guys! 

 

The Museum's next Audio Description Tour takes place on 7th December

Halloween Traditions

Halloween is fast approaching and no doubt that many children across Wales will be deciding on what scary character they’d like to dress up as, sweets will be purchased for trick or treating and pumpkins carved. Some of these traditions we’ve adopted from our American friends, but in this blog I’d like to give a flavour of other ways that this time of year was marked in the Welsh calendar, some of which you’ll be able to see at our St Fagans Halloween event on 29 - 31 of October.

Harvest and Winter’s Eve marked the period in the calendar where the last of the major agricultural tasks had come to an end, particularly bringing in the harvest before the winter time and marked the end of the old Celtic year referred to as Nos Calan Gaeaf or ‘the eve of the winter kalend’ which signified the end of summer and the beginning of winter. To mark this a feast was often held to thank neighbours for their help with the harvest, music and food would be provided. Calan Gaeaf was also associated with the slaughter of farm animals for the winter. It was on Nos Calan Gaeaf or All-Hallows Eve that the strangest things were said to occur. Not only were spirits said to roam freely but it was believed that the ghosts of the dead were to be seen at midnight on every stile. In different parts of Wales these ghosts took on different characters but two of the most common were the ladi wen [white lady], and mainly in North Wales the tail-less black sow [hwch ddu gwta] and was associated with lighting bonfires after dark, as the fire died down they feared the appearance of the black sow and would chant verses such as:

Adref, adref am y cynta’, Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r ola’

Be sure you are the first at home, the tail-less black sow is sure to roam.

And also

Hwch Ddu Gwta a Ladi Wen heb ddim pen

Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r ola’

Hwch Ddu Gwta nos G’langaea

Lladron yn dwad tan weu sana.

The black sow and headless white lady,

Will try and catch the last to leave,

Thieves abound knitting stockings,

Beware the tail-less black sow on winter’s eve.

Superstitions

Much superstition was also attributed to this time of year especially in a fortune telling capacity. The main questions to be answered were who was to be married and who was to meet an untimely death. The types of fortune telling practices depended on the area. In Montgomeryshire they created a mash of nine ingredients which included potatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, parsnips, leeks, pepper and salt and mixed with milk and in the centre was placed a wedding ring. Each participant would try a bit of the mash and if they were lucky enough to find the ring it would indicate an imminent marriage! You will be able to see this custom demonstrated at the Abernodwydd Farmhouse during the Halloween nights at St Fagans next week.

Another fortune telling was peeling an apple without breaking the skin and thrown over the shoulder. The letter created would indicate the initial of your future spouse. In the Llandysul area three bowls would be filled. One with soil, one with water containing sediment and one with clean water. The participant would be blindfolded and would be asked to touch one of the bowls. The first prophesised death before marriage, the second a troubled marriage and the third a successful marriage. Games were also played such as apple bobbing or the more dangerous version was trying to grab a dangling apple with your teeth which also had a candle attached!

Frightening objects in the collection

Also during our Halloween nights several more sinister objects from our collection will be on display. One of these is a charm doll from Belgium from the Lovett collection, collected by Edward Lovett (1852-1933) who had a fascination for charms – lucky or otherwise. It’s a doll made of wax and could be used to hurt people by having pins and sharp object inserted into it. By melting the wax doll slowly in a chimney, it could even bring about someone’s painful lingering death.

A Witchcraft bottle with a charm inside will also be on display. It’s never been opened and it’s thought that bottles such as this were placed inside walls and buildings to guard against evil spirits.

Ghost Stories from the Oral History Archive

Many thousands of people have been recorded by the staff at St Fagans over the years and among these recordings are ghostly stories and experiences remembered by interviewees or told to them by past generations. Some of these have been put on People’s Collection Wales. Click on the links below and listen to a selection. The lady in the second clip remembers talk of the Hwch Ddu Gwta or Tail-less Black Sow as mentioned above. Below is also an image of The Conjuror, Evan Griffiths talked about in the third clip.   

McClaren Colliery Ghost 

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/606763

Hwch Ddu Gwta   

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/606778

Y Crinjar/ The Conjuror

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/606781

 

 

We have been working hard over the last few years to make our museums more welcoming for visitors with visual impairments, but most of our efforts to date have been aimed at adults. That is until a few weeks ago, when we held our first ever fun day for families supporting a loved one with a visual impairment. The dinosaur-themed event, organised in association with the Children and Young People Services team at Guide Dogs Cymru, proved a roaring success.

Photograph showing families listening to a story about a baby dinosaur

Everyone listening to the noisy dinosaur story.

We began the day with our popular Sounds of the Dinosaurs workshop. This gave everyone a chance to hold some real dinosaur fossils and get a basic introduction to the topic. Once the scene was set, everyone took part in our noisy dinosaur story, Albie the Adventurer. Using recorders, shakers and trumpets, the children had lots of fun recreating the sounds of the prehistoric forest.

Photograph showing a museum staff member leading a sensory tour of the dinosaur babies exhibition.

Museum staff leading the sensory tour of the Dinosaur Babies exhibition

Once we finished the story (and our ears stopped ringing), we paused for tea and cake before venturing out into the galleries. Heading straight to the Dinosaur Babies exhibition, we were joined by museum staff who gave a special sensory guided tour. As the exhibition is full of touchable dinosaur bones and eggs (both replica and real), it made for the perfect tour. Visitors even got to compare an Apatosaurus leg bone with a cow's, and listen to the scary roars of the animatronic dinosaur!   

Photograph of children and museum staff playing in the dinosaur dig pit in the dinosaur babies exhibition

Everyone loved the dig pit!

After the tour, we visited the activity area at the back of the exhibition. There, the children made dinosaur artworks, completed a jigsaw and even dressed up as a T. rex! Finally, everyone got the chance to become a palaeontologist and explore the dig pit. One young visitor even proclaimed, "I wish we could all live in the museum so we could play every day!"

We're still learning about events like this, but thanks to everyone at Guide Dogs Cymru, the day ran very smoothly. We're hoping to do more family days in the future, so if anyone has any ideas, or would like to take part, please get in touch! If you’re unfamiliar with our work to make our museums more accessible, find more information on the blog. There are posts on staff training, work with our youth forum, and of course our friends Arnie and Uri, the blogging guide dogs.


The programme of learning activities for Dinosaur Babies is generously supported by Western Power Distribution.

 

Local shops in the St.Fagans area are probably wondering why their stock of swedes have been running so low lately!  Before the pumpkin, made popular by the American love of the festival, we had the humble swede. Although smaller, with its gnarled appearance and hairy roots, it did the job well and was traditionally carved and used as a lantern just like a pumpkin today.

The flesh of a swede is harder than a pumpkin so a bit more effort had to be put into removing it. After a little experimentation, the kitchen utensil of choice turned out to be the apple corer.   A scary face could then be easily carved with a knife.

What to do with all that swede! Traditionally it would have been thrown into the cooking pot, but an alternative recipe comes from Poland.  A swede tastes like radish when eaten raw. Sliced very thinly, seasoned with salt and pepper then mixed with chopped spring onion, parsley and a drop of olive oil, it makes a very light and refreshing salad. A phrase I've never applied to a swede before!

A big thank you to our conservation volunteers who worked so hard to recreate our traditional Jack O’ Lanterns. 31 were made in all, so if you're coming along to our spooktacular Halloween festival this year, keep an eye out for them, they are likely to jump out and scare you at any time.

Happy Halloween everyone

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: https://museum.wales/spring-bulbs/

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: https://twitter.com/professor_plant

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

Professor Plant & Baby Bulb