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Don't worry no violence was involved.  It was the turn of Llainfadyn this week, our quarrymen’s cottage from Gwynedd, to receive a clean and make over from our Historic Interior and Conservation Volunteer team.  It was a big task so thanks to everyone involved. This included stripping the beds and giving everything including the feather mattresses a good airing and beating to remove a winters worth of dust and dirt.  As long as the textiles are strong enough this is still a very effective method of removing grime without the aid of modern appliances.

We also held a competition between a modern broom and a traditional one made from hazel twigs (that all important witches’ accessory at Halloween).  To help protect the collections on display it's important we try and reduce the amount of dust and dirt being brought into the houses by our thousands of visitors each year.  Our first line of defence to achieve this is the cobbles outside, these help dislodge the grit and dirt from peoples' shoes before they even enter the building, but for these to work the cobbles need to be clean and not clogged up with dirt. So one of our first important tasks was to clean the stones outside.

So which broom won?  The traditional of course, with its long twiggy brush it was the best at dislodging the dirt from between the cobbles.   This job would certainly have been an everyday task for most households in the past.

Our second line of defence to keep the dust down is the rag rug, often found in cottages of this period.  These were made from scraps of material or worn out clothes and blankets, so as well as providing much needed comfort and colour they were great at trapping dirt.  They could then be picked up, taken outside and beaten with a carpet beater to remove the grime.  We are currently making one for Llainfadyn, unfortunately the odd hail storm meant that Jane and Emma had to find seats by the open fire to carry on their work. 

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my last blog about interviewing Mel and Rhona Rees, former landlords of the Vulcan pub. Our aim with the Vulcan project over the next few months is to capture the experiences and memories of the people who knew the Vulcan, with the interviews eventually being displayed in one of the redeveloped galleries.

Since the last interview, we’ve been out again hearing about a very different aspect of the Vulcan’s story and history, the pub’s closure and the campaign to save it. The Vulcan was due to close in June 2009 to make way for a multi-story car park and flats which resulted in the formation of the ‘Save the Vulcan Campaign’.

To capture the story, Dafydd Wiliam and I interviewed Rachel Cable, the ‘Save the Vulcan’ campaign manager. We met Rachel at the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay, where 7 years ago, around 50 campaigners presented a petition with over 5,000 signatures to save the pub to Assembly Members.

Among the famous names to back the 5,000-signature petition were James Dean Bradfield, of Manic Street Preachers, actor Rhys Ifans and sports presenter John Inverdale.

Rachel spoke about her first visit to the pub in Adamsdown and how she fell in love with its old fashioned décor and friendly punters and landlady. To Rachel and many others, this was a pub that needed to be saved. As part of the campaign they started a petition, made an application to CADW to get the Vulcan listed, designed and sold Save the Vulcan t-shirts and organised events at the pub such as literary nights and even a Star Treck party!

Rachel also spoke of the huge success of the Save the Vulcan blog and facebook page which helped attract support and also resulted in wider media attention. 

Due the determination and hard work of the campaigners an agreement was reached in 2009 for the Vulcan to remain open for a further three years. The campaign continued during these years, but unfortunately they were to lose the battle, and the last order was called on Friday 4th May, 2012.

You’ll have to wait until the new galleries open to watch the final interview, but until then keep an eye out for more blogs about recording the voices of the Vulcan!

If you or somebody you know have stories or objects related to the Vulcan, we’d love to hear from you – please leave a message in the comments box below.

The Vulcan Hotel is one of the museum's on-going building projects. Read more here.

Sorry about the awful pun in the title. But, yes, it's that time of year, the sun is out, spring's officially here and it's getting warmer. Fantastic you may say, but for our Conservators and Volunteers a new battle is about to begin!  As well as our lovely lambs and piglets, less desirable creatures are stirring. These are the insect pests, such as moths, carpet beetles and woodworm that if left unchecked would quite happily eat our museum and its collections!

This week the volunteer conservation team were introduced to the enemy, in the natural world these insects perform an essential task, but in the confines of our historic houses, or anyone's home in fact, they can cause untold damage especially to items made from wool, fur, feathers, leather, paper and wood.

We have decided to go for a two pronged attack. The first is to re-introduce traditional deterrent methods.  Last year we worked with the gardening team collecting and drying a range of aromatic plants such as Tansy, Wormwood, Rue, Rosemary and Lavender traditionally used to deter insects.  From the selection grown in our gardens we have created the extremely potent St.Fagans blend.

Now we are devising ways to deploy our deterrent in sufficient quantities that might have an effect.  For this we found tights ideal for the task!  Yes, that's correct tights. These are especially useful for items of clothes hung up on display, they enable us to place the aromatic plants in the more inaccessible areas of a garment, such as down sleeves!

The second method of attack is of course good old fashioned housekeeping. Spring is the time to open up the house after a long winter and give everything a good clean, or in our case a good beating.

Since September 2015 I have been working with Kate Congdon, Lecturer of ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) at Cardiff and the Vale College. Together we have been working with ESOL students from the college to create learning resources to be used at St Fagans National History Museum as part of the colleges ESOL programme. The resources will provide ESOL students with the opportunity to practice their English abilities whilst learning about the history of Wales.

In September 2015, 200 ESOL students visited St Fagans. The students’ abilities ranged from beginners to those who were nearly fluent. Kate created a questionnaire for the students to choose their top 3 buildings at the Museum. The results of these were split into two groups to reflect the different learners’ levels, lower level and higher level.

Lower Level:

Higher Level:

In December 2015, a small group of students from the lower or entry level visited St Fagans again to act as a focus group for the project. They worked with Kate and I to choose the aspects of the buildings they found most interesting.

More recently, Kate, with information and images provided by the Museum, has designed and developed 2 draft resources for the students to trial, an entry level resource focusing on the St Fagans Castle and a higher level resource focusing on the Rhyd-y-Car Cottages. These were then proof read by myself and members of the curatorial staff team.

On the 17th March I travelled to Cardiff and the Vale College to help Kate trial the resources with her lower level class and one of the higher level groups. I was really impressed with how engaged students from both groups were with the resources. They not only enjoyed the opportunity to learn new words and phrases, but were also fascinated by the histories of the buildings and the people of Wales. From my perspective, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I picked up a few new teaching tips from the ESOL lecturers. I especially liked the use of a mini Welsh rugby ball which was passed around the class as a way for students to know it was their turn to answer questions. The feedback on the resources from the students was very positive and many of them enjoyed the opportunity to discover more about the country they have chosen to call their home.

Kate will be returning to St Fagans in April to meet with myself and Mared McAleavey, Principal Curator: Historic Interiors. We will be discussing the history of the remainder of the buildings that the students chose and the learning activities that can be designed. I am really looking forward to trialling the next set of resources with the students and I’ll be posting updates here in the future. In the mean time you can keep up to date with the work of the Learning, Participation and Interpretation Department by following us on Twitter @StFagans_Learn.

It’s been another busy lambing season down at Llwyn yr Eos – we really hope you’ve enjoyed watching all the action via #lambcam.  This year, as well as welcoming lots of excited visitors to the farm to see our mums and babies, there’s been a couple of new additions to the programme. We ran our first ever Lambing Experience Day Courses and were really pleased to get great feedback that included 'a once in a lifetime experience'! They're something we hope to build on in 2017 - so watch this space!. Our Learning Team also organised lambing tours for schools, with over 600 children visiting (some of whom were lucky enough to witness births happening!).

The lamb-o-meter clocked up 186 at close of play – there’s a few stragglers left to deliver, but we’re on course for a total of 204 births. For those of you who like some stats, here goes…

  • Lambing 204 from 114 ewes gives a lambing percentage of 178% (which is good).
  • The vast majority of those are happy, healthy and with their mothers.
  • But we’ve also lost a few along the way…
    • One set of twins were a late miscarriage.
    • One lamb too premature to survive.
    • 2 failed to thrive and died at a few days old.
    • 2 stillborn.
    • 1 accidentallly smothered by its mother.
  • So far we have ended up with two lambs being bottle fed:
    • One was born very poorly and had to be hand reared from the start.
    • The other was from a set of twins where the mother had mastitis and only had enough milk for one lamb.
    • Both of them are bouncing around happily now.
  • There’s also been a couple of bonuses – two ewes that we thought were carrying singles delivered twins!

So here’s a few of this year’s cutest pictures to keep you going till next year……