Collectors & Collections
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.
At last, I'm able to concentrate for half an hour or so on writing this blog, something that I haven't been able to do for just over six months. The main reason that I have some time now, is that I have stopped working two days a week in our new gallery, Oriel 1, so I can play catch-up with curatorial work such as transcribing oral history recordings and working with partners towards future exhibitions.
The exhibitions we've been working towards include ones on archery, a medical display, the Urdd, Pop, and the Italians in Wales.
I have also been involved in co-ordinating the St Fagans activities and events that are planned for 2009, when the theme will be 'Music', and towards the exhibiting the next Community Dresser, when Cwm Carn Boxing Club will show people what they've got.
Since the last blog, I have attended several conferences in Stockholm, London, Birmingham, Bolton and Llandrindod, have learnt a lot and shared experiences about contemporary collecting issues. The final draft of the museum's Contemporary Collecting Plan has been submitted to my fellow curators, and will be discussed at a meeting at the end of this month.
I still haven't accessioned any objects yet though, which is slightly frustrating. In part, we are still awaiting the outcome of the above meeting, but I am now confident that I have a clear-ish picture in my mind of what to collect. I suppose that I'll just have to be patient - after all, contemporary material will still be around in a few months time...or will it?
I will try to write this on a more regular basis, but you will know, that if I don't, I'm so busy collecting, that I don't have time to write. See Ya.
All the leaves are brown...
I had an interesting comment last time from pbhj, on the 'intriguing' BSL exhibition I mentioned. He asks 'Apart from being minority languages what are the comparison points (between BSL and Welsh)?' Well pbhj, the idea of the exhibition came from the BSL community, and they drew comparisons bewteen the way Welsh has been treated and the way BSL has been treated. For example, Welsh schoolchildren in the 19th century had to wear a Welsh Not and were punished for speaking Welsh. Similarly, BSL speakers were told to sit on their hands so that they couldn't sign. Another comparison was that there is only one BSL school in Wales, so BSL pupils elsewhere have their education through their second language, similar to many Welsh pupils until comparatively recently.
On a lighter note, they wished to draw comparisons between deaf comedians telling jokes about hearing people to Welsh comedians telling jokes about English people, or jokes that only work bilingually. Other aspects came up, and not all to do with the similarities between Welsh and BSL, but that gives a flavour of it.
I don't understand the second part of your comment - are you accusing someone? Firstly, I don't think you can 'over-promote' something, and secondly, Welsh translation is aimed primarily at providing non-Welsh speakers with an understanding of the language. Why is this damaging? And why is it to the detriment of other services? Yes there are BSL/Welsh translators - not many, but they do exist.
Sabrina Rochemont also commented, and asked 'Are there particular areas of interest that you would like our feedback on?' Well, I would like to hear people's opinions on what is 'Contemporary Collecting'. What objects should we target for future preservation, and why. In this world of mass produced things, should we be collecting televisions, computers, mobile phones? If every museum decided to do this, we'd explode at the seams! Another aspect is the community one - asking communities to curate what's important to them, and recording their experiences etc.
Right, to finish, a quick run-through of what I've been up to in the last month - we've had the preliminary meetings to discuss strategies for the 2009 Pop Exhibition; I attended a meeting in Welshpool where we discussed forming a Contemporary Collecting policy for all museums throughout Wales so that we work together; I attended a second Digital Story workshop which we intend to base our community workshops on; I collected the objects from Johnstown for the second community dresser (information about the first is in 'Rhagor' on this website); I visited a couple of museums in Swansea; and I started my MA Museum Studies course.
Whew! By the time I write next month, I will have been to Sweden for their SAMDOK conference, which is the leading contemporary collecting conference in the world. See ya then.
Since the last instalment, we've been struggling with a few technical glitches in Oriel 1 which are constantly random. The timed system doesn't come on at the allocated time, some pictures have disappeared off one of the touch screens, some of the listening posts are tempremental. There must be a technical term for 'Gremlins', but I prefer to imagine little green creatures eating the wires.
I'm involved in setting up two exhibitions for 2009/2010 at the moment. One is an exhibition of Italians living in Wales, and the other is on British Sign Language, which will draw comparisons between BSL and Welsh - a radical, new approach to the way BSL has been viewed in the past.
We also held a very successful Hindu festival, and will be celebrating the re-opening of the temple in Grangetown, Cardiff this Saturday the 22nd. Come along to sample the sights, sounds, food and fun!
Other than that, I've been meeting with a community from Johnstown to collect the objects that they've curated for our Community Dresser. If all goes well, they will be on display well before Christmas.
Last, but not least, an exhibition by Mary Lloyd Jones, the internatinally renowned artist, called First Language, is being set up at the moment. It will open officially on October 4th.
Please feel free to comment - at the moment I feel that my blogs are very technical and rather lifeless. If people comment, maybe I could relax a bit and adopt a more conversational tone. See you soon!
Once more unto the breach...
Another project that I've started is trying to beef up the Youth corner of Oriel 1. The screen which is currently showing stills of Maes B events from the past will soon have a lively video of the events from 2007. The Meic Stevens guitar case will hopefully be clearly signed and will contain records and pictures to complement the story.
With the imminent launch of the Virtual Museum, there are a few projects to prepare for that, namely the Community Dresser objects, and interviews held with young people during Eisteddfod week.
I'm also involved in an exciting new project to build a turf round house at the Celtic Village, a radical new design that will turn archaeological theory on its head!
Other than that, I'm visiting Newport Museum this week to discuss their Pop exhibition plans, and have been on Welsh television and radio to promote Oriel 1 and the work that I'm doing. Things are beginning to move quite swiftly!
Iawn te! Bywyd yn Oriel 1!
Dyma fi yn fy swydd newydd fel dehonglydd Oriel 1, oriel newydd Sain Ffagan yn sgwennu blog am y tro cynta! Fe fydd, fel yr Oriel yn un arbrofol felly! (Ac fel Owain...nes i sgwennu hwn unwaith a cholli'r cwbl...ti'n meddwl sa'n well i ni gael gwersi?!!) Yn anffodus, ar hyn o bryd rwy'n eistedd wrth ddesg yn syllu ar olygfa ddigon llwyd drwy'r ffenest.
Mae ambell sied wedi eu ffensio ag arwydd 'keep out' a 'Site Canteen' i'w gweld ac adeilad mawr siedaidd yn gefndir. O wel, er mwyn cyfleu ychydig o naws y lle bydd rhaid i fi ddychmygu felly fy mod i'n eistedd yng nghanol yr Oriel. O fy mlaen i, mae superted a'i gefn tuag ata i a'i ben e'n pwyso ar hen arwydd y pentref a fu unwaith, 'CAPEL CELYN'.
Uwch ei ben, mae Sgrabble yn Gymraeg a rhes o oleuade bach gwyn yn goleuo'r casyn gwydr y mae'n eistedd ynddo.
Yn nes ata i mae dros gant o recordie saith modfedd o'r 60au a'r 70au yn garped lliwgar lliwgar ar y wal, ac yn treiddio drwy'r awyr mae cerddoriaeth hudolus hamddenol.
Ar y wal y tu ol i mi mae lluniau gan blant yn dawnsio ar y wal ar ffilm. O gyfeiriad arall mae swn gwahanol, clychau a baban yn crio, ac yn y pellder swn torf yn dathlu ym mharc yr arfau. Wrth droi o gwmpas rwy'n gweld drychau mawr ar y wal ac yn hongian o'u hamgylch mae dillad sy'n eich gwahodd i'w teimlo a'u gwisgo.
Ddoe, roedd criw o blant yn dawnsio o amgylch y 'juke box' ac ymwelwyr yn rhyfeddu ar wydr lliw a wnaed gan SMYLe, grwp o fwslemiaid ifanc o Abertawe. Roedd plant bach yn gwneud llwyau caru papur gydag un o'r artisiaid fydd yn gweithio yn yr Oriel bob dydd ym mis Awst gyda'r Cert Celf. Roedd merched yn eu harddegau yn gigls i gyd yn cael tro'n cario'r ddol mewn siol yn y dull Cymreig a thatcu yn rhyfeddu ar ei wyrion bach yn gwrando'n astud ar glustffonau arbennig ar straeon ac atgofion o gasgliadau'r archif. Mae cymaint wedi digwydd yn yr Oriel, dawnsio o dros y byd, artistiaid yn perfformio a darlithiau a sgyrsiau o bob math.
Ond well i fi fynd nawr i wneud ychydig o waith paratoi ar gyfer y gweithdau a'r gweithgareddau fydd yn yr Oriel. Mwy o hanesion am gymeriadau a bywyd Oriel 1 i ddod!
A month is a long time...
June 18 - Meeting with National Library of Wales. Discussed collecting websites, TV programmes and records, amongst other things (ephemera, how to record Youtube etc) Very interesting, and a big thanks to all at the Library for the welcome.
June 19 and 20 - Digital Storytelling workshop with the BBC. A technique which is very useful to record contemporary life. Visit website at www.bbc.co.uk/wales/capturewales/
June 21 - Digital Storytelling Conference missed due to illness
June 23 - Family wedding
June 24 to July 1 - Holiday in Caernarfon
July 6 and 7 - Oral History conference in London. Again, a technique which is very useful to record contemporary life.
July 12 (tomorrow) - Meeting with Johnstown History Group to discuss curating for the Community Dresser.
If anybody is interested in learning more about these things, then please contact me. In the original Blog, I managed to mention, Glyn Wise off Big Brother, setting up a virtual museum in Second Life, a Welsh name for Facebook and numerous other fascinating things. But there we go, such is the ficklelessness of the ether.
Collecting the contemporary
Well, I've taken the plunge, after years of resisting and cynically refusing to believe the hype regarding blogs. Read by millions? Scarcely believe. Change the world? In your dreams. Truth be known, I've just been appointed Curator of Contemporary Life at the National History Museum here at St Fagans, Cardiff, and my job application advocated that all curators should take advantage of new technologies. For example, I stated cockily, they should keep blogs so that the public could have "access" (spot the museum buzz-words) to aspects which will explain the collections.
So when this opportunity came along, I thought that I would show the way, although now that I'm actually writing this, I feel quite scared.
So, contemporary collecting - what exactly is that? Well, I've decided to split the job in two.
The first part will be to work with curators from other fields to fill the gaps in the collections since 1950. We are quite strong on artefacts and oral histories from rural, Welsh speaking, agricultural backgrounds before 1950, but less so on urban, non-Welsh, industrial evidence after 1950, although the building of the Rhyd-y-car cottages, Gwalia Stores and Oakdale Workmen's Institute has begun to rectify that.
We will have to be very selective while filling these gaps - the storerooms are bursting at the seams. So the idea is to pick and choose certain items e.g. a super 8 camera, and to weave histories and exhibitions around them.
The second part is more problematic. What to collect? We can't collect everything that is produced by this wasteful society of ours, so we have decided to deal with communities, projects, initiatives and themes. This will narrow down the criteria quite nicely, but will also let us focus on certain objects or stories which will encapsulate the age.
For example, every six months, a different community will curate objects to be displayed in our Community Dresser. The first group was Penyrenglyn Youth group, who displayed objects such as a Nintendo Gameboy, a signed football and a comfort blanket. The next group will be Johnstown History Group.
Another method might be Digital Story telling, which involves capturing pictures on your mobile phone and producing a little film with the result. I'm off to a workshop and conference on this in Aberystwyth next week. I'll let you know how it went.
My first big exhibition (hopefully), will be about Welsh Pop Music. I hope to include objects such as instruments, stage props and fanzines, show videos, play sound recordings, and hold rap and recording workshops.
Watch this space...
Collectors & Collections