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In the last two weeks our Geology galleries at National Museum Cardiff have been closed to the public due to major refurbishments. We are coming to the end now, we are just asking for your patience for a few more days before opening the permanent exhibition again.

We have already written about some of the work in the gallery: cleaning and repairing displays and changing lighting. In addition, we have replaced display screens and fire beams, and here’s why and how.

There are a number of videos in the galleries which used to be played from medieval cathode ray tubes – if you are as old as me you will remember the old TV screens which were always surprisingly front-heavy when you had to lift them. They are larger (deeper, which limits exhibition space), use more electricity and have a lower resolution than the new flat screens we just installed. If you are a regular visitor you will notice that the screens are not sticking out of the wall as much as they used to. And the resolution is sooo much better now! The videos are now much clearer for you, the visitor, while we, the museum, will save money on our electricity bills which we can then invest in improved collection care and exhibitions – everybody wins.

At the same time we used the gallery closure to work at height – underneath the ceiling, to be precise. Fire safety is more than a legal requirement for us; it is part of our work to care for the national collections. After all, if the museum burns down a large part of your heritage disappears forever. From time to time, even fire and smoke detection equipment needs servicing. This was undertaken this week by a specialist company. And this certainly caused a bit of a stir in the building.

As in your house, the smoke detection equipment is situated underneath the ceiling. It’s just that the ceiling in our Geology galleries is about 12m high. We can’t get there with ladders or scissor lifts, not to speak of all the displays that are in the way. The solution was to climb up the walls. So if any staff are still wondering what why there was a man dangling from the ceiling – it wasn’t a burglar, as in the 1996 film Mission: Impossible, but a rope access operator keeping the museum save from fire.

We are now in the process of completing the last few pieces of work and cleaning up in the next few days. The exhibition will be open to the public again on Tuesday 5th July.

Find out more about care of collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.

In 2017 St Fagans National History Museum will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute. The building was at the heart of Oakdale village community for 80 years until it closed in 1987 and then moved to St Fagans.

Exactly 100 years ago, on 3 July 1916, the work of building the Institute in Oakdale began when a ceremony was held to lay the first foundation stones. This type of ceremony is common when large public buildings are built to mark the beginning of the main construction phase. During the ceremony, a trowel is used to place the mortar where the foundation stone is laid and a trowel is then engraved to commemorate the ceremony.

Two foundation stones were laid at the ceremony for the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute in 1916, one on either side of the main entrance door. The stone on the left was laid by Harry Blount on behalf of the workmen of Oakdale Colliery and the stone on the right by Alfred S. Tallis representing the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, owners of the colliery.

Harry Blount was one of the original members of the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute Committee, formed in 1913. Their meeting place in the early years was in the ‘Huts’, the old barracks which once accommodated the workers of the Oakdale Colliery shafts. In the minutes of the Committee it notes that on 6 January 1914, Harry Blount proposed that they should ‘proceed with the new Institute at once’. At the same meeting Arthur Webb was appointed as the architect and within a month his sketch plan had been accepted by the Committee.

Alfred S Tallis, Managing Director of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, was involved with the Institute from the beginning with the promise of a financial loan for the building work. He was also the main promoter of the idea of a model village at Oakdale for the company’s workforce with modern housing built in a rural area, away from the colliery. The work of building the new village began in 1909 and the first street, Syr Dafydd Avenue, was completed in 1913 and designed by the Institute’s architect, Arthur Webb, Tallis’s brother-in-law.

The minutes of the Committee briefly mentions the arrangements for the ceremony held on Monday 3 July 1916; there was to be a cold lunch at the Oakdale Hotel with the full Committee attending and the Oakdale Colliery Band were to play around the village half an hour before to advertise the event. The ceremony itself was at 5 o’clock and Sir Charles Edwards, M.P. was asked to attend and to speak.

The two foundation stones can still be seen either side of the Institute’s main door at St Fagans and the commemorative trowels from the ceremony are displayed on the wall of the Institute Committee Room. Both trowels were donated to the Museum in the months before the Institute re-opened at St Fagans in 1995, by Harry Blount’s grandson and by Alfred Tallis’s grand-daughters.

In 2017, the year of the centenary of Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, the Museum is planning to bring the building alive once again, to reflect its original purpose as a place for the community. We’ll be updating you on the project as we go so look out for #Oakdale100 news in the coming weeks and months.

Renowned Welsh poet, Gwyneth Lewis, was the inaugural National Poet of Wales in 2005. She has won the Forward Poetry award twice and in 2012 won the Crown at the National Eisteddfod. In 2005 we commissioned Gwyneth to write a poem to celebrate the opening of National Waterfront Museum Swansea on the subject of Wales’s industrial past.

Her poem has been printed in a limited edition by the Gregynog Press. The Gregynog Press was established in 1922 by the sisters Gwendoline and Margaret ­Davies. Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and Margaret Davies (1884-1963) were the granddaughters of David Davies who made his fortune during the industrialisation of Victorian Wales.  The sisters were keen art collectors and philanthropists whose generous bequests to Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales helped form our outstanding collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.

Printed on archival paper, the print is available as a mounted or mounted and framed print. The edition is limited to 475.

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.

Print of a painting of a portrait of 'Frank Smith. Founder and Managing Director Smith's Potato Crisps', 1944.

Smiths Potato Crisps Ltd. staff, 1948

The S.P.C. Smith's Quartely Magazine. House Journal of Smiths Potato Crisps Limited. January 1961. Vol. XXX No. 118.

Smith's Potato Crisp Limited blue and red tie with logo 'SMITHS' on front. Blue enamel 'Smith's Twister' metal pin badge attached to front.

 

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.

'Walter Energy, Western Coal' baseball cap.

 

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.

Plate presented to men leaving Cwm Colliery in 1986.

 

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.

 

Mark Etheridge
Curator: Industry & Transport
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

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. 

Gallery Statistics (diagram)
Figure 1, a cartoon of kiosk development process - an attempt to show the separation from the web server, while maintaining rudimental communication from the gallery space (satellite to mothership).

Each message is sent as an AJAX call (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) from the kiosk, which is usually a standalone bundle of files running through a web browser (HTML, CSS & Javascript files). The main bulk of the kiosk development is carried out through our in-house web CMS (called Amgueddfa CMS) on a computer that mirrors the public web server, it’s only before the launch that all the necessary files are copied over to the computer in the exhibition space (wrapped up as an ‘App’), where it remains like a satellite away from its mothership (the web server). Beep beep, beep beep.

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).  

Figure 3 shows all video stop points for five videos presented as scatter plots against the video length in minutes.
Figure 2 shows all video stop points for five videos presented as scatter plots against the video length in minutes. Judging by the average video length played, which is shown in green - 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, the there were also lots of visitors who watch the videos until the end (as you can see by the 'happy-tail' patterns formed as they reach the film credits at the end of the video), but on the whole I wouldn't recommending placing feature length films on kiosks.

Figure 3 shows the raw data stored on a database table on the web server.
Figure 2 shows the raw data stored within a database table on the web server.

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.

Future Beeps

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:

Large touch screen x 4

 
 

Language

7 May

2015

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

7 Sept

2015

Video (film plays)

 

1717

1085

1735

2833

352

7722

Chalkie Interview

EN

1280

1044

1362

1953

338

5977

Chalkie Interview

CY

124

123

164

237

38

686

NME magazine

EN

1209

961

1205

1841

355

5571

NME magazine

CY

60

56

72

148

17

353

NME Next Page

 

1974

2119

2099

2324

530

9046

NME Previous Page

 

1303

1025

1098

1666

463

5555

NME Zoom Photograph

 

985

681

909

1317

430

4322

Music Memories

EN

1409

1076

1464

2311

378

6638

Music Memories

CY

71

60

95

138

17

381

Music Audio (track plays)

 

1766

1583

1806

2410

486

8051

Comments

EN

881

702

840

1383

230

4036

Comments

CY

71

54

78

105

11

319

Comments submitted

 

124

131

168

260

30

713

What's On

EN

783

684

847

1335

241

3890

What's On

CY

55

50

63

126

12

306

Totals

 

12509

10409

12907

18721

3465

63,566

 

Wi-Fi Audio Tour

Using their own mobile devices

 
 

Language

7 May

2015

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

7 Sept

2015

Audio (plays)

EN

316

212

262

394

124

1308

Audio (plays)

CY

10

3

4

4

1

22

Totals

 

326

215

266

398

125

1,330

 

Number Gallery Visitors

 

7 May

2015

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

7 Sept

2015

 

Totals

 

9108

7107

10688

14130

1961

42,994