St Teilo's Church - the book
We had a very positive meeting with the book's designer before Christmas at St Fagans. She's come up with some lovely ideas, it makes a big difference when you've seen something and you then have a set of images and visual themes you can relate to. The design manages to convey a sense of the crafts, skills and techniques behind the whole project, which is something I really want the book to convey.
We're still looking for exactly the right image for the cover though. We decided, although it might seem a bit unimaginative, to use a picture of the exterior of the Church. For all the amazing images we've got of the interiors, especially of course the wall paintings, I really believe that the audience for this book will be looking for a book with a picture of the church on it - sounds obvious I suppose! The book covers many things including art, archaeology and architecture, but in the end it's primarily about the story of St Teilo's Church. So that's the message the cover will convey. Plus, the building itself is now so recognisable, its shape is almost iconic.
I think one of the features that draw people to the Church is the contrast between the simple, white, almost humble-looking exterior and the riot of colour and images inside.
As soon as I've got images of the sample spreads I'll publish them here - it would be very interesting to know what people think of them!
St Teilo's Church - the book
I'm working on a book about the fantastic St Teilo's Church at St Fagans. Been really looking forward to this one, it's a lovely story and there's a wealth of fab images - unlike usually, when I have to scrabble around for some decent stuff. I thought we'd be much further on than we are mind, I really expected to be up to my ears in proofs by now. I sort of know why we're further behind than I'd planned, just can't quite explain. Or I could, but it still probably wouldn't make much sense. Plus, designers work in different ways, and this one likes to take a lot of time 'up front' working on the design concept, then when that's agreed we crack on with the proofreading fairly quickly. I suppose I'm more comfortable with spending the bulk of the time at the proofreading stage, especially with a fairly text-heavy book like this one. Still, we always manage to end up with a book on time. I should be designing the marketing plan by now, but I'm still getting the images together and finishing the copy - things like indexes, the glossary, that kind of thing. And I haven't written any of the image captions yet, which I decided would be quite long, narrative style, so that we don't have to cram absolutely everything into the main copy.
Having to work within a financial year is odd too - not at all the way publishing works. I could get really quite anxious about this if I let myself. I just have to concentrate on how good the book's going to look, and having a high-profile launch, with a popular speaker, where everybody buys a copy of the book, which will get great reviews...
In our favour is the fact that the Church is already incredibly popular and has had a lot of good press. The whole re-erection project at St Fagans has built up a swell of good will, and the Church has its own loyal following - a sort of fan-base! All that's keeping me going at the moment, but I know things are going to get pretty intense over the next couple of months.
'Jeffrey', our recreated medieval Archer
Lots more things installed now. It's seems tidier and it's possible to see much better how the exhibition is going to look. We have some of the audio visual aspects being tested and lights are sparkling in the empty cases. You can see the Bryn Celli Ddu stone already in place and covered in bubble wrap to protect it from all the work going on around it. Our recreated medieval Archer, who we affectionately call 'Jeffrey', was first created for our Re:Creations exhibition in 2002. The level of detail on his hands where he holds the string to his bow is amazing - it looks real. He is currently covered in bubble wrap to protect him from all the activity around him. He does look a bit like a mummy - but that's a whole different exhibition!
There are a lot more stones you can see in place covered to protect them and their plinths are nearly complete.
We're waiting for more mounts and the insides of cases to allow us to start installing our objects. As soon as they arrive the gallery will become a hive of activity with curators and conservators checking and installing large and small, delicate and robust, beautiful and functional objects that together will tell some of the story of the early people of Wales.
Moving the Bryn Celli Ddu stone
Moving the Bryn Celli Ddu stone from upper archaeology into its new home in the Origins exhibition.
Having moved most of the Early Christian Monuments to new homes already, we looked into the final stone – the Bryn Celli Ddu stone. This stone is from the Bryn Celli Ddu tomb (Anglesey) which is one of the best preserved passage tombs in Wales (for more information see this Rhagor article). We thought it was quite small, and shouldn't be too big a problem - we were wrong! It went right down to the floor, and was encased in a concrete block. We needed help. We called on Nigel Brake from Penybryn Engineering who had already helped us with the ECMs and has helped us many times with other specialised lifting, moving and metal work around the National Museum Cardiff.
Over the course of 10 days, we made a plan to remove the stone upwards out of its casing and onto a pallet for moving to the new gallery. In order to do that we needed to remove some ceiling tiles to create enough space above the stone. The lifting gear was brought in, curators and conservators watched anxiously as the stone was secured to the lifting gear and then removed from the concrete support. It was lifted clear and then carefully laid on a pallet. Jackie Chadwick, Archaeology Illustrator, took the opportunity to photograph and draw the stone in detail as it hadn't been seen in its entirety since 1979. Interestingly we made our own archaeological discovery: as the stone was removed we found evidence of a very different attitude to conservation – cigarette butts in the base of the stone meaning it most have been ok to smoke in the galleries then – unlike today!
Finally it was time to install the Bryn Celli Ddu stone in it's new support in the Origins Gallery. You'll be able to see it in all its glory when the exhibition opens in December.
Origins and Early Christian Monuments
Our Early Christian Monuments (ECMs) are stones that can tell us about individuals, their beliefs, burial practices, languages, art and technology from the past. Some of them are huge and very heavy which makes them difficult to move and install. We were helped by Nigel Brake from Penybryn Engineering and Chris Perry from our Industry Department. You can also see Dr. Mark Redknap (Medievalist) from our Archaeology Department helping with the ECMs and ensuring their safety as they are being installed. It's nice to see people are willing to get stuck in and help!
An 'A' frame is used to raise and lower the ECMs. This is the frame from which the winch is hung to support the ECM and lift it up. The ECMs have got inscriptions on them from Early Medieval times that we can't scratch or damage so great care must be taken over moving them. Special steel supports have been made for the larger stones allowing them to be held firmly in place.
New gallery installation - Origins: in Search of Early Wales
Before the contractors arrive on site our temporary exhibitions gallery looks almost empty. We used to use this gallery to hold large exhibitions at National Museum Cardiff and are now redisplaying and reinterpreting our Archaeology collections here in a new exhibition called 'Origins; in Search of Early Wales'.
We've installed some Early Christian monuments (ECMs) already and some are lying on pallets waiting for more action to take place. Dysons are the contractors responsible for creating the new exhibition space prior to us installing all the objects to bring it to life. They are due on site shortly to begin the construction in earnest.
The cases are from a previous Archaeology exhibition we did in partnership with the British Museum and others called 'Buried Treasure' about archaeological treasures from our collections and how they were found. We've had them refurbished and recycled for this exhibition to complement new ones we've bought especially for the new Origins gallery. The heavy steel bases and supports for the ECMs look good enough to be in the display themselves, but there are other plans for the finished look. The floor is protected in areas so the installation of the steel bases and ECMs does not scratch it. The ECMs weigh up to 2 tonnes each so moving them is a serious business involving heavy lifting gear, engineers, curators and conservators.