As usual in this monthly blog post I’d like to share with you some of the objects that have recently been added to the industry and transport collections.
The first, is a collection of documents, photographs and objects relating to Smiths Potato Crisps Ltd. This company was formed by Frank Smith and Jim Viney just after the First World War. The Smiths Potato Crisps factory went into production at Fforestfach, Swansea in 1947, and the factory was officially opened in October 1948. The first ever flavoured crisps (cheese and onion) were produced here in the 1960s. The factory was later taken over by Walkers, and closed by them in 2006.
This baseball cap has the logo for 'Walter Energy, Western Coal' on it. Walter Energy (originally known as Walter Industries Inc.) was found in the U.S.A. in 1946. The company owned Aberpergwm Colliery from April 2011, but the company filed for bankruptcy in July 2015. Aberpergwm Colliery was closed by British Coal on 7 October 1985, but reopened in 1996, as of June 2016 it has been mothballed.
This plate, and also a pewter mug, were presented to men leaving Cwm Colliery in 1986. The union couldn't offer a presentation lamp after the strike, so these were produced instead. The plate has a presentation inscription on the front, and also historical details of Colliery painted on reverse.
Finally this month, this T-shirt was produced for sale during a tour by the protest singer Billy Bragg. The tour was in June 2009 and was to ‘Mark the Anniversary of the Miners' Strike, 1984-85', and travelled to a number of venues throughout Wales.
Curator: Industry & Transport
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Visual Audio Display Units (VADUs) still exist in the National Museum Cardiff galleries. We know, because with almost every finger touch on the touchscreen, it sends a little signal to the web server that includes a piece of information describing the last interaction (i.e. ‘please play the video’, ‘please display the menu list’). We record all those messages, firstly to make sure the kiosk is actually working day-to-day and secondly to find out which aspects are popular or not popular, knowledge that is useful to guide future kiosk development.
Patterns of Frequency
A single recorded kiosk command is not particularly exciting by itself but when there are greater numbers, patterns emerge. For instance, if we record each time a video is started on the kiosk we get a round number to how many people were interested in the subject matter of the video (information gathered before they had seen the video). If we also record when people stop playing the video we can start to distinguish patterns in their viewing behaviour. Judging by the average video length played the majority of the visitors saw less than 39% of the total video length, with the longest average being three minutes 17 seconds. Of course, there were also lots of visitors who watch the videos until the end; as you can tell by the 'happy-tail' patterns formed by visitors reaching the film credits at the end of the film (figure 2).
Overview of the Numbers
I signed-off my last blog with a promise of data relating to the Wi-Fi audio tour during the Chalkie Davies exhibition last year, which I’m including below. To placing the Wi-Fi statistics within the gallery space, I’ve also gathered data from the four large screen kiosks in the exhibition against the monthly visitor figures.
It is immediately clear that the four large kiosks were very popular - they contained a great deal of curated content which included a composite NME magazine, Chalkie Davies film, Youth Forum audio interviews, a comments section and What’s On calendar. I can imagine the relative attraction and easy access of the kiosks goes a long way to explain the comparatively lower figures of the Wi-Fi audio tour, but let us not be downbeat - the feedback received from the visitor survey about the Wi-Fi was positive.
93% of survey monkey results either felt they ‘learnt a lot about the exhibition’ or ‘it improved their experience as a visitor’ - it must be noted that the number of people who filled in the survey and used the Wi-Fi audio tour was extremely low compared to the overall gallery visitor figures (12 / 42,000), but the survey morsel is still very positive.
However, I would be cautious in suggesting an Wi-Fi audio tour for short-run exhibitions, mainly due to the diminished numbers compared to the insitu kiosks - the Wi-Fi audio tour could gain popularity following a less exhibition-specific avenue (e.g. providing audio descriptions for the top ten popular objects), which would allow the audio catalog to be built gradually and remain available all year around throughout the museum.
To conclude, we have been collecting kiosk statistics since 2011. The storage method may change, we could additionally store the data on Google servers via Google Analytics, but however the beeps are stored the way visitor interact with museum kiosks will continue to guide the future kiosk development.
Table showing all the touchscreen events for the Chalkie Davies exhibition with visitor figures for the gallery:
Our Geology galleries at National Museum Cardiff are still closed for essential maintenance. We are changing things around a bit – out with the old and in with the new: we are changing old display screens for new ones; old light bulbs for new ones; old fire beams new ones; old dust – well, for no dust at all. Yes, the dinosaurs are having their vertebrae tickled to release some of the dust of the centuries and keep them looking pretty.
Actually, if you have been to see the dinosaurs recently there is a good chance you have left some of yourself on them. Dust in our galleries is composed of tiny particles that come into the building through our ventilation system (although we have very good air filtration). Other dust particles are fibres from the clothes you wear. But the bulk of dust is, actually – well, there is no easy way of saying this: bits of YOU. Especially hair and skin.
Humans are living beings whose bodies renew themselves constantly. Our skin is our largest organ. New cells are formed constantly at the base layer of the epidermis (the outer part of the skin). These new cells move up through the layers of the epidermis and die as they are further away from blood vessels that supply nutrients. Eventually they reach the corneum, the outermost layer, and slough off.
We love having you in the museum (actually, next time you visit why don’t you bring a friend who hasn’t been for a while). But if you shed your skin while you are in the museum you are inevitably leaving a small part of your body in the building. Nice.
These particles are tiny and very light. They will happily settle on surfaces. Our dinosaurs (and, of course, all other displays) provide ideal surfaces for dust to settle. And no, dust bunnies do not evolve into dust rhinos – so there is no need to set up protective zones to save these cute little things.
Dust will form a layer on objects, which, contrary to popular opinion by people who dislike cleaning, is not protective. On the contrary: dust attracts moisture from the air and then becomes very reactive, which can lead to corrosion and other forms of damage to our objects. This is not only unsightly but can result in expensive conservation treatments or even irreparable damage.
We’re in the business of heritage preservation for the long-term. We want to help keep all of the important national collections for generations to come. This includes removing your dead skin cells from the dinosaur skeletons while we have the space to work in the gallery.
And no, we would not get rid of our vacuum cleaner because it is only collecting dust.
Our Geology galleries are going to re-open on Tuesday 5th July.
Find out more about care of collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.
Back in June 1941, rationing of clothes and shoes, as well as furnishing materials was introduced. Designers came together to create designs for clothing following the Board of Trade’s strict rules, that made the most of the material, using the least amount of time and labour as possible.
These clothes were mass produced and sent to tailor’s shops across the country, to be bought with coupons. David Thomas’ shop in Cross Inn, near New Quay, was one of these. The shop has since been re-erected at St Fagans National History Museum.
The incredible thing about this shop is that when David Thomas retired, in 1967, he shut up shop and all the unsold stock was left inside. His daughters cared for some of the more delicate fabrics and the rest stayed on the shelves, so that in 1988, when the shop was donated to the Museum, it was like a time capsule. Clothes rationing didn’t end until 1951, so there was still some stock left when the shop closed.
But it wasn’t just these ‘utility’ clothes that were for sale of course. There were also hats, shoes, coats and ready-made dresses for sale in the front of the shop, and a workshop at the back for the craft of tailoring a perfectly fitting suit.
David Thomas opened his shop in the 1920s, converting a feed store. It was usual for tailors to train for 7 years or more, by being an apprentice first and then a journeyman before becoming a fully-fledged tailor on mastering the craft. But it was also possible to attend a school, and after being an apprentice in Bow Street, David Thomas went to London to the Tailor and Cutter’s Academy and got his diploma after learning the skills of stitching, cutting and measuring. The tools he used in his craft are in the workshop at the back of the shop today, along with a few additions of Dan Davies’ tools, another tailor from Rhydlewis.
Cross Inn is a small village, but before mass produced clothes, tailors were an essential part of the village, like the cobbler or the blacksmith. It was hub of the community, and David Thomas would be working cross-legged on the bench in the window, chatting to the customers at the front of the shop. He also liked radios, mending them in his spare time, and the radio would provide the topic of conversation for the day. He would travel out to local farms, after the customers were fitted in the shop, and one of these customers was Miss Jones from the Melin Bompren, the flour mill also now at the Museum.
Our audio-visual archive includes tapes of interviews, such as the one in the clip here which is an interview with Nesta Edwards, David Thomas’ daughter. These tapes help us in the Learning department to create school workshops and events during the holidays. This clip is in Welsh, but see transcript below. So the next time you come to the Museum, pop in to the Tailor’s shop and look for the workshop and the radio, imagine the tailor sat cross-legged on the bench chatting away, and know that the shop is almost just as it was the day he walked out for the last time.
What sort of things did they want, mostly would you think?
Well, aprons were very popular at that time, socks, there was a lot of farm work, and lighter socks, dresses. He did sell ready-made suits as well.
Yes, yes. Raincoats.
A lot of things were still in the shop of course, ready-made dresses and children’s clothing?
That’s right. Yes, and hats of all kinds and caps, and spats. Spats is what they wore, people who…
What kind of people still wore spats?
They wore spats, people who worked in the bank and solicitors.
So there were people from the farms and people from the bank?
Well, yes there were all kinds of people, you know, it was like, it was a hub for conservations. My father liked to talk. He worked 9 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock at night.
Yes. Often. And if there was a funeral, he’d work all night.
Next week our dinosaurs will go to sleep for two weeks. The Geology exhibition will close for “essential maintenance” – you will have seen similar signs in other places. In our case “essential maintenance” does not mean that the dinosaurs’ toilet is blocked (now we do have coprolites on display but they are well and truly fossilised). But if you thought all the light bulbs were blown and we have to fit new ones you wouldn’t be far off. Except that we never did have any black holes in our galleries – no need to bring miners’ lamps which are absolutely reserved for Big Pit.
What we are going to do does indeed involve changing light bulbs. We need light in order to see, and without light we would not be able to appreciate most objects in museums. Light, however, can damage many types of objects. You may have noticed at home that old photographs fade, as do organic inks and pigments on prints and paintings. Leave a newspaper out on the window sill for a few days and it will have yellowed.
In the museum, where we preserve objects for posterity, the damage done by light can be a major problem. Any such damage is irreversible and cannot be repaired by our best conservators. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is particularly damaging. How long do you think museum objects should last? As part of our collections care, we plan lighting in galleries carefully to leave colours bright and vivid for as long as possible.
The new lighting systems we are fitting this month at National Museum Cardiff will be more energy efficient. In addition, the new lights will be of better quality which means you will see objects more vibrantly yet safely, without causing unnecessary fading. Because the new lights also produce less heat they will make it easier and cheaper to air condition our galleries.
Changing the lights is not all we are going to do – there are a myriad of additional jobs to be done while we have the opportunity. All this takes a little time – between the 20th June and 3rd July. It won’t really be the dinosaurs changing their own lights, of course – there will be technicians, curators and conservators busily climbing ladders and scaffolding.
We do all we can to preserve our national collections and to improve our sustainability. So please bear with us when you see the signs and come back to see the Geology galleries in a new light in early July.
Find out more about care of collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.