Amgueddfa Blog

First came the sound, a loud slow regularly timed booming, the constant beat of a drum. Shortly after this rhythmic cacophony of the beat, a clatter and rattle is heard. A blended mixture of clinking and clanging, the sound of metal on metal and within this tumult of sounds the shout “Io Saturnalia” echo's out. Then from around the street corner an armoured figure in ancient dress appears, followed by another and another. Roman legionaries in single file, marching in full armour, rain dripping off their helmets and soaking into their cloaks as they march. Each carrying a lantern or banging a drum, echoing the proclamation “Io Saturnalia” as their hob nail sandals slam down hard onto the modern streets tarmac.

Anywhere else this sight might be considered unusual, not however for Caerleon, the small village on the banks of the Usk, outside Newport. Home to the National Roman Legionary Museum and former Fortress home to the Roman, second Augustan legion. There the sight of Roman legionaries or museum staff dressed as Roman soldiers is practically an everyday occurrence (so much so that people hardly stop for selfies anymore).   
In this instance the staff of the NRLM were recreating the celebrations for the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, in honour of the Roman god Saturn last December. 

Romans believed Saturn ruled the world during a golden time, they celebrated Saturnalia at the darkest and coldest time of the year in December in the hope that he would bring back the sun and usher in a new golden age for the coming spring harvest. Romans would hold large feasts, decorate their homes with greenery, place Janus tablet heads on garden trees, visit friends and family and even give presents. We have inherited many of our own Christmas traditions from this festival. Romans would also wear hats, Phrygian caps (or freeman hats) were worn and slaves were even given a day off. 
This year we’ll be celebrating Saturnalia in the museum on the 9th of December. With traditional Saturnalia celebrations such as a shrine to Saturn offering good fortunes to the Gods, off duty Roman legionaries eating and drinking in honour of the festival. Explaining the holiday and also showing off their armour.   

And of course the day will finish with our legionaries marching around the Fortress e.g modern day Caerleon to insure Saturn brings back the light and to usher in a good new year with the traditional Roman saying of “Io Saturnalia”." 

You can find out more about Saturnalia by watching this short film, made last year for the museum for a take over day.


When we were designing the exhibition  we discussed different ways visitors could share their connections with the art on show. We designed conversation prompts to get people thinking and post cards for people to give their feedback:

please talk
wall of cards


It's been really exciting to read people's responses and we'll be sharing some of our favourites over the coming months along with our thoughts. We'd really like to hear from you as well, tell us what you think, how do you connect with art?


Here's the first one:


I like this comment because it's so positive, starting with self awareness, other people, then the world. Seeing involvement with art and creativity as a journey is something I can indentify with. In a way we all have the same journey but with different twists and turns which is what makes life so interesting. When someone describes or makes something real you can laugh in recognition. Maybe art is about mutual recognition of beauty, horror and humour?



Takover Day at the National Roman Legion Museum 2017.

Pupils from Lodge Hill Primary reviewed and created a promotional video for our latest digital learning resource called the Roman School.

The aim of the day was to provide pupils with an opportunity to build on their confidence and to enhance their digital and presentation skills.

Pupils took part in a role play Roman classroom session. Then created their own film called – ‘What was school like in Roman times?’ which will be used to promote the resource to other schools on social media and the museum website. They learned how to create a story, write a script and select actors for each scene. Click here to view the video

The feedback and the suggestions gathered from the children are being worked into the final version of the Roman School resource. The resource supports our popular roleplay workshop called Grammaticus - Roman Classroom.

During the day the pupils also had a chance to find out more about Roman weapons. After completing the challenge each pupil was presented with a certificate by Eleri Thomas - Kids in Museums Trustee.


Earlier this month saw the takeover of our brand new Atrium space by Cardiff High students. Over 80 year 10 pupils from their Art, Music and Drama departments filled the space with their performances and artworks inspired by the museum’s collections. This was the culmination of 6 weeks of work by the students, although the planning goes back almost 6 months!

We were initially contacted by Eve Oliver from Cardiff High with an idea for a cross-curricular project in the summer. The idea was to bring together pupils studying the creative arts together to work on the same theme. After discussions with Elen Phillips, the Principal Curator Contemporary & Community History at St Fagans, the idea of working around the theme of ‘Protest’ was suggested. This was chosen because it would give the pupils an opportunity to explore their own beliefs and values as they responded to the museum’s collections.

The project began with a visit to St Fagans on October the 4th for 85 pupils. Elen gave a presentation to the pupils around ‘Protest’ using objects from the collection as inspiration. These included objects around the suffragette movement, anti-racism protest and the miner’s strikes of the 1980s. It was an opportunity for the pupils to hear the histories of these objects but also an opportunity to see them in the flesh, and you could see how inspiring this was for them.

After the visit to the museum, the pupils returned to their school to unpick these themes in more depth. Over the next 6 weeks the pupils enjoyed masterclasses with Timothy Howe from the Sherman Theatre, Anita Reynolds from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the artist Anna Barratt.

The culmination of this part of the project came on November the 16th. Cardiff High returned to St Fagans National Museum of History to display and perform the work that they had done. We used the new atrium space at the museum which was filled with artworks and performances. We invited the parents of the pupils to watch, and including some museum staff, there must have been around 50 in the audience.

The drama students performed extracts from the play The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price while the music students performed the classic call to arms Yma o Hyd by Dafydd Iwan. The backdrop to the performances were a mass of protest banners and placards created by the art students. The performance culminated in a sing-along of Yma o Hyd by the entire cast as well as the audience. It was truly a powerful performance which brought the atrium to life!

The project has been a great success with the pupils debating and questioning their understanding of ‘Protest’, using contemporary references to deepen their understanding of the past and gaining insights into the beliefs of others. For the museum, it was a fantastic way of engaging with a local secondary school, using a model that we are keen to use again. We have already begun discussion on what other themes we could explore next year!

Diolch yn fawr Cardiff High!

Hello Bulb Buddies,

Thank you for the comments and observations you sent in with last weeks weather readings. I've included some of these below. Many of you have commented that the temperature has dropped and that you have had higher rain fall. Some of you have even had snow! For this reason I want to talk to you about how Meteorologists (weather scientists) measure snow. 

It is a lot trickier to measure the amount of snow that falls than it is to measure the amount of rain. This is because snow misbehaves! Snow is often blown by the wind into drifts, which causes some areas of deep snow and less snow in the areas around it. Because the snow fall is uneven the measurements from these places will be wrong! This is why we have to measure snow on flat surfaces, in the open and away from areas where drifts happen! Snow also likes to play games with Meteorologists who want to measure it, it melts into water and re-freezes into ice! This means that the snow measured on the ground isn’t always the same as the amount of snow that has fallen. Another problem is that new snow settles on old snow, so it is difficult to tell how much snow has fallen in one day from the snow that fell the day before! 

Meteorologists have to take all these tricks the snow plays, and work around them to discover how much snow has fallen. They look at snow fall (the amount of snow that falls in one day) and snow depth (how deep the total snow level is, old snow and new snow). One way that Meteorologists measure snow fall is to use a piece of ply wood. They place the wood in an open location away from areas where snow drifts occur, and measure the snow on the board at 6hr intervals, clearing the snow from the board each time they measure it. This means they are only measuring the snow from that day, which will tell them how much snow has fallen on that day in that area! 

Snow fall can also be measured in its melted state, as water. This means that you can use your rain gauge to measure the water equivalent of snow fall! If you only get a bit of snow then it should melt in your rain gauge anyway. But if you get a lot of snow, take your rain gauge inside to the warm and wait for the snow to melt into water. Then measure the water in the same way as you have done each week and report this as rain fall in your weather logs. 

If you have snow and enough time for an extra experiment – why not have a go at measuring snow depth? To do this all you need is a ruler (also known as a snow stick!). Place the snow stick into the snow until it touches the surface underneath, and read the depth of the snow.You need to take these measurements from flat surfaces (benches work well) in open areas and away from snow drifts! You need to take at least three separate measurements to work out the average snow depth in your area. You work out the average measurement by adding the different readings together and dividing them by the number of measurements. So, if I measured the snow depth of three surfaces at 7cm, 9cm and 6cm, I would add these together (7+9+6 =22) and divide that by three, because there are three readings (22÷3=7.33). So 7.33 would be my average reading for snow depth on that date. 

Weather stations such as the MET Office have come up with new ways of measuring snow depth, using new technologies. The picture on the right shows one of the MET Offices snow stations. These use laser sensors to measure how deep the snow is on the flat surface placed below it. This means that Meteorologists can collect readings from all over the country at the push of a button – which is far more reliable and a lot easier than sending people out into the cold with snow sticks! The map on the right shows how many snow stations the MET office has and where these are, is there one close to you? 

If you have snow and measure the snow fall with your rain gauge or the snow depth with a snow stick, then please tell me in the ‘comments’ section when you are logging your weekly records! I would be very interested to know what the snow depth is compared to the snow fall collected in your rain gauge! 

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies, 

Professor Plant


Comments from week three:


Ellel St John's CE Primary School: We had record amounts of rainfall on Wednesday 22nd November that resulted in major flooding. Our village (Galgate) was on the local and national news.

Professor Plant: I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such bad flooding Bulb Buddies! I did hear about this on the news, and other schools have commented to say that they were affected too. Thank you for informing me of how extreme the weather has been in your area.


Arkholme CE Primary School: This week it has flooded the garden and also the playground. As you can see, there has been quite a lot of rainfall and it has been quite chilly. Lancaster had the most rainfall recorded in one day ever.

Professor Plant: Hi Bulb Buddies, I heard about flooding in your area on the news. I hope the school grounds have drained now and that you are able to play outside again. Keep me updated!

Henllys CIW Primary: On Wednesday actual rainfall 22mm.

Professor Plant: Thank you for the detailed weather report Bulb Buddies.


Canonbie Primary School: It has been a busy week as in rehearsal mode for our school show. It has rained more this week. It has been icy and cold.

Professor Plant: Your comment is very Christmassy! I hope your school show goes well Bulb Buddies.


Auchenlodment Primary School: There was torrential rain on Monday night and we even had snow on Friday. It's beginning to look like Christmas!

Professor Plant: I hope you enjoyed the snow Bulb Buddies.


Carnbroe Primary School: We were off on Monday. We have had lots of different weather this week. It has been very wet, frosty and on Friday it snowed. We checked our plants and although they were a bit wet they were still fine.

Professor Plant: Your bulbs are very hardy and will be fine with some cold weather. Well done for checking on them, and thank you for sharing your observations of the week’s weather!


YGG Tonyrefail: Wet week professor plant!!

Professor Plant: Your rain fall readings testify to that as well Bulb Buddies. Keep up the good work.


Ysgol Bro Pedr: Very wet week.

Professor Plant: You’re not the only ones to report an increase in rain fall Ysgol Bro Pedr, I’m interested to see if this continues into next week!


Inverkip Primary School: Will our plants grow well with this temperature and rainfall? We think our plants will grow well because they are getting used to a new temperature and are not getting too much rainfall.

Professor Plant: Hi Bulb Buddies, your plants are very sturdy and are nice and snug in the earth. Your temperature and rainfall from this week will be perfect for them, it’s only extreme weather conditions or sudden changes in weather that would prove difficult for them!


St Paul's CE Primary School: Rainy and windy days, with heavy rain 23.11.17 overnight (22.11.17). Frosty on each of the mornings.

Professor Plant: Thank you for your weather observations Bulb Buddies. I can see that your readings show a much wetter week than in week two.


Peterston super Ely Primary School: The children were amazed by Tuesday's rainfall result!

Professor Plant: That is quite a high reading! I’m glad to hear that they are enjoying the project.


Bacup Thorn Primary School: The weather is really cold this week. Friday has been the coldest. We might get snow this weekend.

Professor Plant: Hi Bacup Thorn Primary, gosh it has been a cold week for you. I hope you are wrapping up warm to take your weather readings!


Ysgol Casmael: First frost today

Professor Plant: Do you think you will have snow before Christmas Bulb Buddies?


Ysgol Iau Hen Golwyn: There has not been a lot of rain this week and the temperature has been going down each day and then on the last day it went up one as well.

Professor Plant: Hi Bulb Buddies, it sounds as though you got of lightly in terms of rainfall compared to a lot of other schools! Thank you for your weather observations.


Darran Park Primary: We have had lots of rain with quite high temperatures except for Friday where the temperature was a lot colder with no rain

Professor Plant: Thank you for your observations Bulb Buddies.


Ysgol Y Traeth: Wedi bwrw glaw llawer ac wedi bod yn wyntog ofnadwy.

Athro’r Ardd: Diolch am rannu eich sylwadau tywydd Cyfeillion.


Ysgol Beulah: Mae'n llawer oerach heddiw na oedd e llawer mwy or wythnos.

Athro’r Ardd: Helo, dywedodd ysgolion eraill mai dydd Gwener oedd eu diwrnod oeraf nhw hefyd. Diolch am rannu eich sylwadau tywydd.