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National Slate Museum gets set to celebrate its 40th birthday!

Forty years ago the National Slate Museum opened its doors for the very first time – and to celebrate the event the Museum has a busy programme of events and activities running throughout the year!

The original Victorian workshops - now home of the National Slate Museum - closed in August 1969 along with Dinorwig Slate Quarry and hundreds of men lost their jobs. But the site re-opened on 25 May 1972 as the North Wales Quarrying Museum, as Dr Dafydd Roberts, Keeper of the Museum, explained:

“Since that day in 1972 the Museum, which is one of the seven museums of Amgueddfa Cymru, has been visited by over 2.6 million people, all of which have walked through the magnificent archway in order to experience and learn more about the history of the great slate industry in this area.’

“We want our 40th birthday to reflect and celebrate all the activity that this historic place has seen over the last few decades, from its opening days in the seventies to visits from Royalty (HRH Prince Charles) its major redevelopment of £2 million at the end of the nineties to free admission in the new millennium.”

Celebrations will begin on 25 May with the opening of FAB FORTY - an exhibition all about what’s happened during the last four decades at the Museum charting its establishment and the role of museums in our communities today. The exhibition also features work by local schools who have been working on a mixed media project entitled MY MUSEUM, which has involved interviewing members of staff and focusing and filming their favourite parts of the Museum. There will of course be a slice of cake for every visitor too!

On 26 May there will be more celebrations with lots of family activities, including slate decorating, graffiti workshops, entertainment and walks and talks all over the site, as well as lots more cake!

The Museum will be celebrating throughout the year and will hold its first annual lecture event on 27 October when museum Keeper Dr Dafydd Roberts looks at the history of the slate museums in the area in "Quarrying the Past - Celebrating the 40th anniversary of our slate museums".

Said Julie Williams, Marketing Officer: “We’re really looking forward to the birthday events but we are hoping to keep the celebration feeling throughout the year too. We’d also be delighted iIf anyone has any photos or souvenirs or memories from those early days – or even want to send in some of the their recent photographs so that we can add them to our collection.”

If you want to contribute please contact the Museum on (029) 20573700 or at slate@museumwales.ac.uk or you can join the Museum on Facebook or Twitter @amgueddfalechi

Ends

Notes to Editors

Admission is Free. Entry to all Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales sites is free, thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales operates seven museums across Wales: the National Slate Museum, Llanberis / National Museum Cardiff / St Fagans: National History Museum / the National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon / Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon / the National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre / the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.

Slate was first quarried extensively at Dinorwig in the 1780s and by the 1890s it employed over 3,000 men and boys as quarrymen, apprentices, carpenters, fitters, foremen and managers. Its growth led to a network of closely knit series of villages – Llanberis, Deiniolen, Dinorwig, Cwm y Glo, Llanrug, Bethel, Y Felinheli and Waunfawr among them – all of whom depended on the quarry for their sustenance – and who in turn provided the skilled labour force to turn rock into roofing slate.

Dinorwig was one of the two largest slate quarries in the world – and, along with its neighbour at Penrhyn, Bethesda, could produce more roofing slates in a year than all other combined slate mines and quarries world-wide. The slate industry, like many other large industries, had always had its difficulties. Dinorwig quarry had had its share of strikes in 1885 with the Dinorwig lockout, echoed in 1900 in Bethesda by the Penrhyn Lockout – which became one of the longest running industrial disputes in history. By the 1960s the slate industry in general faced an even more uncertain future. Things hadn’t been going well for a number of years and there seem to be many reasons why Dinorwig quarry closed in 1969. There was less demand for slate in the UK during the 20th century, Welsh slate was expensive compared to roofing tiles and slate from overseas and the quarry owners of Dinorwig and Penrhyn were competing against one another for a share of a fairly small market.

The charge for admission in 1972 was 10p for adults and 5p for pensioners and children. Over the years the Museum has changed its name – from the north Wales Quarrying Museum to the Welsh Slate Museum and then to the National Slate Museum today.

Date: 9 May 2012
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