Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

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Continuity and Change

Sara Huws, 11 July 2013

I've just spent a few minutes taking in this blog feed - it's been a while since I visited and it's amazing how many new bloggers and topics you can find here. Well done everyone! 

My own contributions have been more sporadic, and for that, dear reader, I hope you'll forgive me.

Even though a lot has been going on here at St Fagans, most of it has been behind the scenes - and not the interesting, 'sneaky peek' behind the scenes either. Nope, it's been large grids and even larger bits of paper; evaluation, planning and decision-making. Nothing to write home about maybe (although my mother does love those letters*) - but the results of this hard work will start to show on-site very soon.

We've completed a fair bit of infrastructure work, audited our sprawling, wooded site for 3G and wi-fi capability, and worked with an access consultant to learn more about how to open up the site to a wider variety of peoples. I can't wait to see how we implement what we've learned. 

The aim is to keep that special something that makes St Fagans such a draw to visitors from all over the world, and to improve the facilities as well. We want to do this is a way which is open and participatory, so our committee room doors have flung open to welcome new youth, teacher and craft forums, to name a few. The galleries are also getting a complete re-vamp, and I'm very curious to see what my colleagues have come up with for the new display.

Meantime, I would like to keep you updated as the project develops - the question is how?

Do I write more about our current buildings' history? Or show you the new ones as they appear?

The big stories, or the everyday wonders? How about our future plans for sleepovers and performances? More Tudors? Less Tudors? Fewer Tudors?

I'm a firm believer that if you don't know, you should ask. So, to practise what I preach:

  • What would you like to see on this blog?

Pop your suggestions in the comments - I look forward to hearing from you.

  

 

 

*with apologies to Woody Allen

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ExArc 2013 Conference

Sara Huws, 10 January 2013

It's been a while since I last blogged from St Fagans - there's been a glitch in the matrix and we still haven't quite got to the bottom of it. But we'll get there.

That's one way of apologising that there won't be any pictures with this post. Anyway, onwards:

This week, Museum Wales and Cardiff University will be hosting the annual ExArc conference. ExArc, in this context, refers to Experimental Archaeology; a hands-on approach to learning about the past, which looks at the 'how?' of history, as well as the 'when?'.

ExArcers' work is in raw materials, painstaking detail and learning from mistakes as well as triumphs. The research they take part in can range from bronze-casting or iron-smelting using rudimentary tools; to recreating underwear or researching the practicalities of life in the past.

I have been lucky enough to learn a lot from ExArcers over the last few years, and so am very proud that St Fagans will feature in their visit down to Cardiff. We're known here for our hands-on approach, and I suspect we could learn an awful lot from these trailblazers!

While the conference is completely full, you can follow the discussion online using the hashtag #eauk2013.

The twitter stream is already full of interesting people, travelling here from all around as I type. If you're planning to attend, please do come and say hello. You will know me by my, erm, museum name badge?

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We have a limited amount of places left on a very special event - and I thought I'd give you loyal readers first dibs!

 

I will be taking a small group behind the scenes to look at some very fragile, very rare fragments of Tudor-era wall-paintings. Painted around 1500, they were moved to the museum when we moved St Teilo's Church from Pontarddulais. You can see replicas of these paintings on the walls of the reconstructed church today. If you've ever wondered what the originals look like, then this is the workshop for you!

 

A few have been on display in the past, but this tour will provide unprecedented access to the paintings in their dormant state, as well as a chance to learn how, and why, we removed them.

 

The tour takes place on the 25th of September. The morning session will look at St Teilo's as it stands today, running from 11:00 to 13:00. The afternoon session will take you into the stores, and will take place between 14:00 and 16:00. Numbers are very limited so booking is essential. Phone (029) 20 57 35 29 to claim your place!

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Radio 2 Arts Show - tonight

Sara Huws, 27 July 2012

Twice in one week? Just a quick post before I succumb to blog fever:

On tuesday, I visited the BBC in Llandaf to talk a bit about my work, and St Fagans in general, for the Radio 2 Arts Show. This week, Penny Smith is standing in for Claudia Winkleman, so it's a good job I decided to forego the nude-coloured-lipstick tribute I had planned. The interview was conducted across the BBC aether - me in front of a box of very compelling lights and buttons, them in a padded room in London - and so I did end up feeling overdressed all the same.

Anyway, we had great fun, even though the question of the Welsh language's perceived lack of vowels did come up, which can sometimes lead to a leap in my blood pressure. I consider it a public service to have tackled that myth with grace and aplomb. Tune in to see if you agree!

Radio 2 Arts Show - 22:00 Friday 27 July

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Making blogs while the sun shines

Sara Huws, 26 July 2012

Reading back over my entries, it seems I only really like posting here when the sun is shining! It's another beautiful day at St Fagans and it seemed only right to fire up the blogging engine and start writing.

You'll find us in a very cheerful mood at the moment: after many months of working collaboratively, we handed in a dossier as thick as a loaf of bara brith to the Heritage Lottery Foundation. They, in turn, pored over it and decided to award St Fagans with a whopping grant of £11.5 million, to fund its redevelopment. We still have a few quid to raise in order to reach our goal, and so the '£1 appeal' was launched last week. Its message? If you've got a pound to spare, then we promise to do something amazing with it!

Our plans for the future, while unbelievably detailed, still seem a bit distant and unreal - but soon enough, you'll start to see the site start to change. The museum, as an entity, will change, too - and we hope you'll come along with us for the ride. We want to open up how we work, and give people from all walks of life a chance to take part in the day-to-day life of the museum.

At the moment, though, it's business as usual.

My Tudor Plant walks went off without a hitch (and by hitch I mean rain and slugs). I was joined by students from England, France, Germany and Japan, as well as a couple of English/Welsh/Spanish families. I was a linguist in a former life and so dredged as much vocabulary as I could from the back of my mind, so that everyone could follow the tour. We tasted and smelled our way around the gardens, where 16th century varieties still grow. We usually discourage people from picking plants while they're here, to leave enough for our furry/feathered residents - but on this occasion, we were allowed to have a nibble here and there. Thankfully, Bernice and Paul from the gardens department have been kind enough to teach me which ones to eat, and which to avoid!

Yesterday, I met with students from Cardiff University yesterday, to talk about how we can use information and objects from excavations to engage the public. We looked at all sorts of things: from the pigments on the church walls to cauldrons and Tudor toilet-seats. This morning, I helped Sian and Ian take eighty-four (we counted) cardboard shields up to the Celtic Village for a painting workshop.

The reason I find myself in the office is because I am preparing a lecture for the Eisteddfod. I'm honoured to be speaking, and want to make sure I show off St Fagans in its best light! The topic of the talk will be murals from the Vale of Glamorgan - reading about all these little fragments has me keen to traipse around a graveyard with my camera pretty soon.

I hope you're enjoying this sunny spell - if you're thinking of coming to see us, then have a look here for our upcoming events. If you're coming by bus, remember that, as well as the number 32, you can now catch a band new shuttle bus, the number 5, which takes you from the steps of the National Museum in Cardiff, right to our front door.

PS: next time there'll be pictures, I promise!