A belated happy New Year to you all! In the weeks since I posted my last co-curation update, we’ve been on the road again co-producing audio-visual content for the Making History project. Working with various community groups and individuals, we've been creating short films based on the collections selected for display. These films will form part of the interpretation in the new galleries. Here's a quick overview of what we've been up to.
First World War
In December, I was invited behind the wired walls of Maindy Barracks to interview two serving members of 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh. One of the new galleries will include a display about the First World War, focusing on voluntary action, healing and remembrance. My brief was to capture a glimpse into Army life today and to record contemporary responses to century-old collections. Inevitably, the interviews touched on difficult subjects – separation, injury and death. Hearing first-hand testimony from the soldiers was a fascinating experience. It's going to be a challenge to combine and edit the interviews into a three minute film.
Earlier this month, we shifted our attention to the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. Working with colleagues from Big Pit National Coal Museum, we asked a group of Youth Ambassadors from Blaenavon to interview individuals who were involved in the Strike.
After a morning learning about the ethics and techniques of oral history, the young people formulated their own questions and spent the afternoon recording the interviews. We were conscious of the need to represent a diverse range of experiences; to give the young people the opportunity to challenge their preconceptions. With this in mind, we invited an ex-police officer to join the workshop, as well as former miners and others affected by the dispute.
You’ll have to wait until the new galleries open to see the results! Needless to say, the Young Ambassadors were natural interviewers – curious, probing and balanced. When asked to reflect on the process, Owen from Blaenavon said he'd been on “an extreme historical adventure”. I'll second that.
The work with 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh is supported by the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme.
Llys Llywelyn is our reconstruction of Llys Rhosyr, which is a ruinous hall complex in Anglesey dating to the 13th century, and previously a Royal seat of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, also known as Llywelyn ‘The Great’. Alongside his great hall, we are recreating a smaller building, also based on the archaeological findings from the site. This is interpreted as a kitchen, and in our recreation will be a multifunctional space where visiting schoolchildren will be able to get changed into their medieval servants’ costumes, and prepare food for their evening feast. In the few months prior to Christmas the wooden framework for this roof was raised into position, and after battening was thatched with wheat straw. Now that this building is roofed, work can begin on its interior fit-out.
It will be a while before the main hall is roofed, however. Its stone walls are over a metre in thickness, and the gables at their highest point are 9m tall. As the building work continues we have time to research its likely internal layout. Museum staff are working with respected academics from a wide range of disciplines in order to accurately reflect period furniture and decoration, as well as the overall division of space.
Our Iron Age farmstead, Bryn Eryr, is open to the public on weekends only at present. This is because of the heavy road traffic heading to the Gweithdy building site, which when finished will be one of our new galleries. This reconstruction is also based on archaeology found in Anglesey. Although the building itself is essentially finished, we have plenty of work to do, such as planting willow along the tops of the banks and erecting hazel panels to give the site more of a sense of enclosure. Soon we will paint the internal faces of the walls with Iron Age patterns based on archaeological finds, such as decorated metalwork. As the buildings are open to pre-booked school groups during weekdays we can get a sense of how the buildings work as a museum display, and consequently do our utmost to get things looking good and running smoothly.
I hope you enjoyed your holidays! How are your daffodils and crocus? Before we broke-up for Christmas a number of schools had written to tell me that their daffodils and mystery bulbs had begun to show above the soil! How are yours getting along? You can update me on how much your plants have grown by adding to the ‘comment’ section when you send in your data. It’s always exciting when you see the first shoots begin to show!
Last year the average flowering date for the Crocus was the 7th of March and the average flowering date for the Daffodil was the 16th of March. The first flowers were reported in early February, but they may appear even earlier this year. So keep an eye on your plants because it won’t be long now! Remember to measure the height of your flowers on the day they bloom. We will then look at all the dates and heights recorded to find an average date and height and this will help us to spot any changing patterns when we compare our findings to those of previous and future years.
Remember flowers need sunlight, warmth and water to grow. Last year saw less rain and lower temperatures than 2014 and as a result plants flowered slightly later. What has the weather been like where you live? Do you think our flowers will bloom earlier or later than they did last year?
I look forward to seeing your data this week!
Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies,
Your comments, my answers:
Prof Plant: There was a lot of news about the weather before and during the Christmas holidays. It was very interesting to read comments about how the extreme weather was affecting you. We have had a few comments about flooding from schools across the country. Thank you for sharing your stories:
Arkholme CE Primary School: A very, very wet week. Some local flooding, the playground was under water and our football match was cancelled.
St. John the Baptist Primary School: On Wednesday we didn't get out to play because of the rain and it is getting cold!
Staining C of E Voluntry Controlled Primary School: We have had local floods in Staining
Ysgol Rhys Prichard: River Bran flooded Monday and Thursday evening causing roads closed and cars rescued by the fire brigade.
Mellor Saint Mary CE Primary School: Internet down due to flooding.
St. John the Baptist Primary School: Storm Desmond made it very wet here and our pupil who lives near the Clyde had to put sandbags on the path near the river. The Clyde burst its banks near Ikea and flooded the motorway. Even though it has been quite mild this week, it was snowing in Lanark on Monday and we had hail here today - it is getting colder.
Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Cawsom lawer iawn o law dros gyfnod y Nadolig gyda llifogydd yn lleol. Tymheredd cynnes am yr adeg yma o'r flwyddyn.
Coppull Parish Primary School: On Tuesday we found a piece of ice in the rain gauge! It must have been cold!!! One day it was raining a lot and we had to bring an umbrella!!!We love doing this project and we wish you good luck on it.xxx
Prof Plant: Hi Coppull Primary, I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the project. Did you wait for the ice to melt to take your rain fall reading? Did you compare the volume of ice to the volume of water once it had melted? If so, what did you find? Ysgol Pentrefoelas also reported ice in their rain gauge: Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Bore oer a wedi rhewi Dydd Llun (dwr wedi rhewi yn y twmffat).
Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Another cold and wet week observed this week! We had a light dusting of snow Saturday morning!!!We have spotted our bulbs in the ground have started to poke through the soil...
Prof Plant: Exciting news about your plants growing Stanford in the Vale Primary! A few other schools have reported seeing their first shoots, including St Joseph’s Primary and Wormit Primary.
Stonehouse Primary School: We are doing this by ourselves now.
Prof Plant: Fantastic Stonehouse Primary, you are doing a very good job!
Shakespeare Primary School: Dear professor plant, we have had so much fun going outside during lessons. We have been running up and down the field.
Prof Plant: I’m glad you are enjoying the project Shakespeare Primary. You can learn anywhere and I hope being outside caring for the plants and studying the environment around you is helping to bring your lessons to life.
Wormit Primary School: Four of our pots have been vandalised at the weekend. We are going to ask parents to keep an eye out and ask our community policewoman to help as well.
Prof Plant: I’m sorry to hear that your pots have been vandalised Wormit Primary. Especially as I know how excited you were to see your first shoots before Christmas. I hope this won’t happen again. Your plants are very robust so hopefully they will still grow.
Stonehouse Primary School: When we came back after the holidays our water container had blown over and we think it had overflowed. A tree in our school garden has also blown over.
Prof Plant: Hi Stonehouse Primary. You must be having really windy weather if trees are being blown over! Did you think the rain gauge was overflowing because there had been a lot of rain? You could look at the MET office website to see the rainfall rate over the holidays: http://wow.metoffice.gov.uk/
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: When we came back after the Christmas holiday our polytunnel had blown down so the bulbs had not been protected from the weather. However, they were all fine and many of them are showing shoots. The daffodils in the bed are all showing shoots and are already bigger than those in the pots. There has been so much rain that the ground is now getting very muddy. We will have to bring our wellingtons to school so we don't get too dirty!
Prof Plant: Hi Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary. I’m sorry your polytunnel blew over, it must have been very windy! I’m glad your plants were Okay. They are very hardy and should be fine in all kinds of weather as the soil provides a warm layer protecting the bulbs from the cold. I’m glad to hear your plants have started growing. Why do you think the plants in the ground are growing quicker than the plants in pots? Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies.
Pontrhondda Primary School: Hello Professor Plant Over the Christmas holidays our class plants have been growing as well as they could be growing. The rainfall and tempriture has been ok over Christmas. How have you been over the holidays.
Prof Plant: Hi Pontrhondda Primary, I had lovely holidays thank you. I hope you did too. I’m glad to hear your bulbs are doing well. Keep up the good work!
St. Brigid's Primary School: Primary 7 were at Kilbowie this week, Primary 6 stepped up to the challenge to record this week’s results.
Prof Plant: Hi Primary 7, thank you for arranging for the weather readings to be taken while you were away. Thank you and well done to Primary 6 for recording the data! Maybe you will be taking part next year?
Cyn i ni ddechrau o ddifri ar y bennod nesaf ym mhrosiect @DyddiadurKate (oes, mae dilyniant!), yn y blog hwn mi fyddai’n ffarwelio â dyddiadur 1915 drwy gyflwyno stori Tomi’r Hendre.
Mae enw Tomi’r Hendre yn gyfarwydd iawn i’r rhai ohonoch sydd wedi dilyn @DyddiadurKate o’r cychwyn cyntaf. Ynghyd â’i chwaer Win, roedd Tomi yn ymwelydd cyson â Ty Hen – cartref Kate a’i rhieni – drwy gydol 1915. Fe’u magwyd yng Nghwm Main, ble roedd eu rhieni – John ac Ann Jones – yn rhedeg Siop yr Hendre. Mae llyfrau cyfrifon a thalebau’r busnes bellach yng nghasgliad yr Amgueddfa, ac os gofiwch chi, mewn blog blaenorol, fe fues i’n trafod ymgyrch John Jones i gael blwch post cyfleus i drigolion yr ardal.
Ond i droi nôl at Tomi’r mab, yn 1915 roedd yn fyfyriwr yn y Coleg Normal ym Mangor, ac eisoes wedi hyfforddi fel athro. Yn Rhagfyr y flwyddyn honno – tri mis cyn ei benblwydd yn 21 – ymunodd â’r fyddin. Nid oes cofnod o hyn yn nyddiadur Kate Rowlands.
Erbyn Ionawr 1916, roedd Tomi wedi ei leoli gydag 21ain Bataliwn y Ffiwsilwyr Brenhinol Cymreig yng ngwersyll hyfforddi Parc Cinmel. Wrth chwilota drwy archifau Siop yr Hendre, fe ddes i ar draws cerdyn post a anfonodd Tomi at ei rieni yn ystod y cyfnod hwn.
Derbyniais y parcel ond oherwyd[d] prysurdeb yr wyf wedi bod yn anabl i atteb [sic] o’r blaen. Yr wyf wedi symud i Hut 30 fel y gwelwch ac wedi cael fy ngwneyd [sic] yn ben arno ac felly yr wyf yn hollol gartrefol. Yr wyf yn hynod o hapus a digon o fwyd ac mewn iechyd rhagorol ac yn mynd yn dew ac yn gryf. Nid wyf yn med[d]wl y byd[d] yn rhaid imi byth fynd i’r front gan y byd[d]wn yn cael ein gwneyd [sic] yn officers… Gyrwch fy nghyllell boced a fy spectol mor fuan ag a alloch.
Er nad oedd yn rhagweld cyfnod yn y ffosydd, ym Mehefin 1916 roedd Tomi ar ei ffordd i Ffrainc. Llai na mis yn ddiweddarach, ar 20 Gorffennaf, fe’i hanafwyd yn ddifrifol yn ei frest ym mrwydr Coedwig Delville. Cludwyd Tomi i ysbyty yn Boulogne, ac yna i Ysbyty Ryfel Leith, ger Caeredin. Mae’r adroddiadau gan feddygon Leith yn anodd iawn i’w darllen. Dyma grynodeb o’i gyflwr pan gyrhaeddodd yr ysbyty ar 31 Gorffennaf.
Admitted from No 18. Gen. Hospt. Boulogne. There is a small wound size of 5/ on right side about the level of the 8th rib. Dulness all over this side absolute at base, breath sounds faint over upper lobes. Pat. states that he spat blood but only very little at first. X-ray shows piece of metal at level of 8th rib.
Bu farw Tomi’r Hendre o’i anafiadau ar 27 Awst 1916.
I hereby certify that No. 29606 Pte Thomas Jones… who died to-day of Empyeme and septicaemia… stated to me that he was wounded inaction [sic] at Delville Wood on July 20th 1916. There was a wound in right side of the chest, haemothorax and X. Ray showed a piece of metal in chest. Patient was operated upon and portion of rib resected to allow of free drainage on the 13th, but septic condition was very bad. L. Stewart Sandman M.D.
Mae’n dorcalonnus meddwl am fawredd y golled i’w deulu a’i gymdogion yng Nghwm Main. Cynhaliwyd ei angladd yng Nghefnddwysarn ar 31 Awst, ac mae’n debyg fod tad Kate yn un o’r rhai fu’n talu teyrnged iddo mewn seiat gyda’r hwyr. Cyhoeddwyd adroddiad manwl, di-flewyn-ar-dafod, am yr angladd yn Y Cymro (Lerpwl a’r Wyddgrug).
Angladd Tom yr Hendre yw y condemiad mwyaf ynddo’i hun fu ar y rhyfel yng Nghefnddwysarn… Y mae ei ysbryd caredig yng nghartref Caredigrwydd ei hun. Nid oes yno orfodaeth, nid oes yno glwyfo, nid oes yno ladd a llofruddio, nid oes yno neb yn cael ei gablu a’i regi gan ei salach. Yno y mae cydwybod yn rhydd, yno ni chlwyfir cariad mam, yno rhoddir ei le i gariad tad, yno ni chwelir cartrefi, ac yno ni thorrir calonnau.
Fel y byddai’n gwneud i goffau Hedd Wyn maes o law, cyfansoddodd R. Williams Parry – cyn ysgolfeistr y Sarnau – englynion er cof amdano.
This post is a synopsis of a Behind the Scenes event I presented on September 30th 2014. It consisted of looking at a “snapshot” of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ activities during the WWI period. Information was obtained through scanning our scrap books, publication archives and photographic collections for the years 1914 to 1918 and extracting interesting items of news concerning staff and exhibitions.
However, the first thing I did was to warn everyone that in 1914 this is what we looked like….
We still existed of course, established by Royal Charter back in 1907 but, without a finished building to call our own.
Therefore, during this time while construction of the building was in progress, administration was carried out in offices close by at Park Place and the Kingsway area while exhibitions were held in temporary galleries next door in City Hall.
I centred the staff news on three people...
Archibald H. Lee, the Museum Secretary, who saw active military service and was decorated with the Military Cross after fighting at Gaza. He returned to work after the war and remained Museum Secretary for 44 years, finally retiring in 1953. He appears in many photographs of special events and royal visits over the years.
Cyril Mortimer Green, who had been appointed as Botanical Assistant in 1914, but never got to take up his post. He held a Commission in the 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment, went abroad to fight early on in the war and was eventually killed on active duty in November 1917.
His death is all the more poignant because, not only did never take up his position at Museum, his brother Hugh Mortimer Green had also been killed on active duty in 1915.
Click the link below and scroll down for more information on Cyril and his brother.
Eleanor Vachell, spirited and outstanding amateur botanist who stepped in to take charge of the botany collections, while Cyril Mortimer Green was absent on military duty. She did this, with the help of pupils from Cardiff High School for Girls, whilst also supporting the war effort as one of the ‘Committee Ladies of the Auxiliary Workers Territorial Forces Nursing Association’ at the hospital set up in Howard Gardens, working as both nurse and librarian.
Eleanor was the daughter of Charles Tanfield Vachell [1848-1914], a member of the Cardiff Naturalists Society, serving as its secretary and president for many years, he was also behind the creation of the Cardiff Municipal Museum and was a member of the National Museum Wales council.
Eleanor compiled, with her father, the Vachell herbarium that contains 6,705 dried specimens and is one of the most complete herbaria ever collected by a private individual. This is now held here at the Museum along with a very large collection of their own personal library on British floras.
I also looked at the problems faced in the construction of the building due to a lack of basic materials that had been re-allocated for the war effort. The progress must have been excruciatingly slow and all material orders had to apply via license applications to The Ministry of Munitions and the Report for 1917/18 it is stated that work was suspended completely for a time…
Unfortunately it has become necessary to suspend work on the New Building, and an agreement terminating the contract has been entered into with the builders, Messrs J. Willcock & Son. The roof had already been completed and the windows have been filled with oiled canvas so that the structure is now weather proof… Some of the rooms in the New Building are already in use for storage of specimens. NMW Annual Report p. 9
One of the most enjoyable parts of researching this talk was looking at the exhibitions that were held through the war years and there were plenty of them! Because even though the country was at war, the Museum still had an obligation to the public to carry on programming exhibitions and events. Here are just a few of the many exhibitions held at City Hall and for which we hold the original catalogues...
Turner's Welsh Drawings
Open from Oct 26th 1914 to Jan 30th 1915 and visited by over 8,000 people
Exhibition of Modern Belgian Art
Held in 1915 from March 17th to April 15th….visited by over 6,000 people.
Exhibition of Topographical Prints and Engravings
An exhibition of Prints and Engravings of places in Wales was opened on July 27th 1915 and closed on October 30th The number of visitors to the exhibition was in excess of 7,000.
Lovett Collection of Toys
A unique collection of children’s toys and playthings lent to the Museum by Mr. Edward Lovett, of the Folklore Society. The exhibition was originally intended to close on August 16th 1915 but in view of the interest it aroused, and to give school children an opportunity of visiting it during the whole of their holidays, the date of closing was postponed to September 2nd. The total attendance was 21, 889.
I also found mention of a number of war related exhibitions held at City Hall but for which we do not hold the catalogues…
Exhibitions of Women’s War Work
A Ministry of Munitions exhibition of photographs illustrating women’s war work during February 1916
Exhibition of Allied War Photographs
An Exhibition of Allied War Photographs held in 1917 from August 4th to 20thand visited by nearly 4,000 people.
British Battle Photographs [in colour]
An exhibition lent by the Ministry of Information. This was opened in November 1918 closed on the 11th December, and visited by about 3,500 people.
I concluded the talk by showing two other WWI related items held here in the Library. The first was a volume of military portraits of soldiers from the Welsh Horse Yeomanry. This regiment did not exist before the Great War; it was formed in August 1914 under the administration of the Glamorgan Territorial Force Association and headquartered in Cardiff [Sophia Gardens]. The title page states that the album was presented to Alderman J. Robinson, who was Lord Mayor of Cardiff (1913–1914) and it was donated to the Library on the 27th April 1932 by Councillor R. G. Robinson.
The second item I showed comprised of three albums, most likely put together for promotional purposes by the Italian air craft manufacturer, The Caproni Factory. The factory was founded in 1908 [in Taliedo, near Milan] and during WWI, they developed a series of successful heavy bombers, used by the Italian, French, British and US air forces.
Officine Caproni contains photographs of large Caproni factory spaces [interiors and exteriors].
Aeroplani Caproni contains photographs of many types of Caproni aeroplanes [many with machine guns attached]
Smaller third album [blank cover] contains photographs of Caproni staff groups at work. This album also contains 5 typed sheets of paper listing the aeroplanes and listing technical information; entries are accompanied with phrases like:
Easily managed and very useful in attacking infantry
Well-armed with 2 - 4 machine guns
Purpose built for attacking enemy workshops / enemy ships
These albums were donated to the Library on 15th February 1926 by “Lord Treowen” [Major-General Ivor Herbert, 1st Lord Treowen] National Museum Wales Treasurer 1907-12, Vice President 1912-17, and President 1917-22.
More information on the Caproni Factory can be found here:
The last item I showed was one of our scrapbooks covering the WWI period. These articles in particular, paint a vivid picture of an exceptional and turbulent period in the history of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.