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Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

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"Our Cats" by Harrison Weir [1889]

Jennifer Evans, 15 August 2014

We recently participated in #MuseumCats Day on Twitter and this involved a quick search through our holdings for some interesting pictures of cats to Tweet and what a gem we have found! Please enjoy this selection of wonderful and [in some cases] bizarre illustrations of cats from the book "Our Cats and all about them" written and illustrated by Harrison Weir in 1889. 

My personal favourites are the surreal disembodied heads [see above], "Sylvie" [she of the magnificent moustaches] and the Russian cat who [in my opinion] has a most unsettling human expression.


Weir was a very interesting character; he was born in 1824 on May 5th [d.1906], and is known as "The Father of the Cat Fancy”. He organizied the first ever cat show in England, at The Crystal Palace, London in July 1871 where he and his brother served as judges. In 1887 he founded the National Cat Club and was its first President and Show Manager until his resignation in 1890. Our Cats was the first published pedigree cat book.

Weir was employed, for many years, as a draughtsman and engraver for the Illustrated London News as well as many other publications and in his lifetime he both wrote and illustrated other books such as The Poetry of Nature (1867), Every Day in the Country (1883) and Animal Studies, Old and New (1885). In 1845 he exhibited his first painting at the British Institution and during his career he was an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy.

He was a keen animal fancier, an experienced breeder of cats, carrier pigeons, and poultry and for thirty years often acted as a judge at the principal pigeon and poultry shows. In 1903 he wrote and illustrated the exhaustive book Our Poultry and All About Them.

More information on Harrison Weir via the following links: 

http://www.harrisonweir.com/ 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Weir 

http://www.nationalcatclub.co.uk/History.htm

This book was bequeathed to the Library back in May 1916 along with around 500 other books by the Welsh artist, champion of Wales’ cultural heritage and one of the founding fathers of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Thomas Henry Thomas.

Along with the books, Thomas also bequeathed his entire catalogue of prints, drawings and watercolours to the Museum.

More information on Thomas Henry Thomas here:

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/rhagor/article/2035/

The illustration above appeares in the Chapter "Performing cats". Other chapters include, "Cats as tormentors", "Dead cats", "Fishing cats" and "Lovers of cats" [would you believe... Cardinal Richelieu?].

This book is available to view electronically via the following Project Gutenberg link:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35450/35450-h/35450-h.htm#Page_37

Biographical information on Harrison Weir taken from Wikipedia.

All photographs in this post taken by the author.

 

Well now, here’s  a pretty thing…

A souvenir booklet celebrating the fifty year reign of Queen Victoria. It was published in 1887 by Eyre & Spottiswoode, who were the official printers to Her Majesty at that time.

Our volunteer [Alison] has been working her way through old pamphlet boxes and all manner of forgotten things and very kindly passes to me items that are interesting, unusual or just lovely to see, and this one falls into that last category.

It measures 11 x 13.5 cm, has 16 pages and, our accessions register states that it was donated to us in May 1935 by a Mr Charles Barnwell Esq.

The book also contains a poem written by Lord Tennyson especially for the occasion. Tennyson had been Poet Laureate since 1850 [after William Wordsworth's death] and held the position until his own death in 1892.

Interestingly, Eyre & Spottiswoode [established in 1845], went on to merge with Methuen Publishing in the 1970s.

All photographs in this post taken by the author.

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 29 July 2014

In July we have seen the usual range of new accessions entering the industry & transport collections. Amongst others we have received the following -  

A serrated measuring stick used at Dinorwig slate quarry for marking out/measuring a roofing slate for trimming. Roofing slates’ names and sizes were standardized in 1738 when General Hugh Warburton (joint owner of the Penrhyn Estate at the time) devised the famous ‘female nobility’ names for slates of different sizes (measured in inches) with names such as Empresses, Duchesses Mawr (Large), Viscountesses, and Ladis Llydan (Wide Ladies). The naming system soon became the industry standard, although the sizes varied slightly from time to time and area to area. In total there are twenty three serration on the measuring stick, measuring 26 inches in total. There are three serrations are two inches apart (at the top end of the measuring stick, closest to the nail), whilst the remaining twenty serrations are one inch apart.

This measuring stick is long, therefore could be used to mark and measure ‘Queens’ and large slates. The smallest slate that could be marked/measured with this stick are the ‘Narrow Ladies’ and above (16 inches in length and above).

 

This brass toasting fork depicts a miner and is inscribed 'BIG PIT BLAENAVON'. The fork would have been sold in the Big Pit Mining Museum shop in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Big Pit is now one of the eight museum sites that form Amguedffa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

 

An empty bottle of Penderyn 'Madeira' single malt Welsh whisky in its original packing. The company was launched in 2000 as the Welsh Whisky Company, but later became Penderyn Distillery. The Penderyn Distillery is situated in the village of Penderyn, which lies just within the southern boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Penderyn Single Malt Whisky was launched by the Prince of Wales on 1st March 2004 at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff. The whiskey is initially matured in bourbon barrels, and then further matured in special Madeira barriques.

 

This £10 share certificate was issued by the Neath & Brecon Railway. The railway was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1862 as the Dulais Valley Mineral Railway to transport coal to Neath. It was promoted and constructed by the contractor John Dickson who was issued with this share certificate. After being authorised to extend the railway to Brecon, it changed its name to the Neath and Brecon Railway.

 

Finally we have received two DVD’s. One created by staff and student at Pontypridd High School on the Albion Colliery disaster in 1894. The other is titled ‘Memories of Old Clydach’ and is a collection of photographs, documents and memories from local people who lived in the area during the 1940s and 50s.  There is a section on Clydach Merthyr Colliery and Players tinplate works.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW 

 

For this year’s Art Carbootique at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, 'Made in Roath' were lucky enough to be able to work with Annette and Jules, the natural science conservators at the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales in Cathays Park.

The National Museum of Wales has a vast collection of approximately 2000 taxidermy specimens most of which are not on display, and some of which present interesting curatorial challenges because of their history and the stories they tell. Having long been fascinated by the stuffed animal collection on display in the Natural History gallery at the museum, we felt really privileged to be invited behind the scenes and view the specimens in storage.

This was an amazing experience; the conservator’s stores are wonderful -  heartbreaking and fascinating in equal measure. We decided that our mission would be to make a ‘museum’ in our caravan of a selection of these unseen animals, allowing them to temporarily escape the museum archive and be seen by the public. In this context, the specimen is not just being viewed as a singular object but as part of a wider culture, referencing human practices such as hunting, shipping and collecting happening in the Victorian period, but which are still practiced today. Furthermore, a consideration of the specimen’s history within the museum itself, with its changing site,  politics and attitudes, exposes how wider socio-political forces have shaped the specimen’s display, reception and curation at the local level of the museum. Jules and Annette were really helpful and accommodating when we told them what we wanted to do, they went up to Nantgarw to the stores there and selected some more specimens to add to the collection, many of which had not been displayed for many years.

We installed the work, with a lot of help from Jules, and drove over to Chapter – there is something very surreal about towing a caravan full of stuffed animals through central Cardiff on a rainy Sunday Morning, but it was worth it. The response from the public was great, both adults and children have such a fascination for taxidermy, the exhibition was a big success, we’d also photographed the animals and made masks to give to visitors, so the animals had another opportunity to ‘escape’. Although the emphasis was on fun, we had expected to get some criticism with people possibly disapproving of the museums stuffed animals, but apart from some healthy and thought provoking discussion about the way human beings treat animals, it was a hugely enjoyable day. Thanks to AC-NMW, especially Annette and Jules, for making it happen.

The 'Made in Roath' Team!

Find out more about the work of 'Made in Roath' at http://madeinroath.com/ 

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A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 1 July 2014

Amongst the new accessions we received in June was a 14” Sony ‘Trinitron’ colour teletext television set with remote control. This was manufactured by Sony at Pencoed, Bridgend, in 1995. If you look back to the December blog you will see another television set we acquired recently.

 

This slate sample originates from Maenofferen slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is a sample slate sent out to potential customers to show the colour and quality of the slate produced in the quarry. There are a number of slate veins in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area, all of which have their own name, such as New or Deep Vein, the Old Vein, Back or Middle Vein, and North Vein. This particular sample is from the middle vein of Maenofferen Quarry.

 

We have been donated a lovely collection of 91 photographs, the majority of which show the redevelopment work carried out by the National Coal Board at Glyncorrwg Colliery during the 1950s. I have illustrated three views here. The first photograph shows the colliery as it looked on 11 September 1951 before the reconstruction work started. The view is looking north up the valley.

The following two photographs show the reconstruction work. The first showing a circuit gantry on 1 November 1955 and the second shows the reconstruction work progressing on the headgear, and was taken on 6 Feb 1957.

 

 

On the 17th May 1965 an explosion caused by firedamp occurred at the Cambrian Colliery, Clydach Vale killing 31 miners. The colliery had been winding down to closure, and many of the workforce had been transferred, otherwise the fatalities might have been even greater. This image is of the front cover of the brochure commemorating a memorial service held on 17 May 2014. It shows the headgear preserved within a memorial garden. 

 

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW