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One of the most exciting objects the Museum has acquired for the industry collections this month is an Albert Medal. This Albert Medal, Land, Second Class (No. 32), was presented to William Morgan for his heroism during the Tynewydd Colliery inundation. William Morgan was a collier at Hafod Colliery, Porth. The disaster occurred on the 11 April 1877 and further information can be found in this article. Information on Albert Medals can be found in this article where you will note that Amgueddfa Cymru now holds seven of the Albert medals awarded for Tynewydd. A number of objects relating to the Tynewydd disaster can be seen in a display on coal mining disasters at Big Pit: National Mining Museum.

This month the museum purchased a collection of share certificates to add to the already important collection of Welsh interest certificates held by the Museum.

The debenture seen here is for P.S. Phillips Ltd. Philip Samuel Phillips owned five Monmouthshire tinplate works and built a steel works, making him a major figure in the late nineteenth century Welsh tinplate industry. He acquired Abertillery Tinplate Works prior to 1872, and was part owner of Blaina Tinplate Works. He acquired Pontymister Tinplate Works in 1880 and then Lion Tinplate Works at Nantyglo in 1882. He also acquired Waterloo Tinplate Works near Machen prior to 1893. In 1891 he opened Pontymister Steel Works to supply his, and other tinplate works. The company was wound up in 1897.

This debenture is for Hurst’s Mines Limited. This company was registered in 1896 to acquire the Glasdir Coper Mine in Merionethshire. The name of the company reflecting Henry Ernest Hurst, a mining engineer and principal creditor of a previous company. The company embarked on large scale development at Glasdir, employing 125 men by 1897. It was renamed Glasdir Copper Mines Ltd. in 1898. The low grade of ore and depressed prices forced the company into liquidation in 1903. It was reopened under a new company from 1907 until final closure in 1914.

The Railway Heritage Committee was established by statute. It has the function of designating records and objects which are historically significant to the history of railways, and should be permanently preserved. This plaque has been designated by the Committee and deposited with the Museum. It is a cast iron plate of Evans, O'Donnell & Co. Ltd., and was originally attached to Barry Town signal box. 

If you look back at some of my previous blogs you will see that over the last few months we have acquired an original Lesbians & Gaymen Support the Miners badge dating from 1985. Also a promotional t-shirt from the film ‘Pride’. This badge was produced in 2014 to commemorate the 30th anniversary.

This full hull ship model is of the S.S. CALDY. The original ship was built by Richardson, Duck & Co. Ltd. of Stockton-0n-Tees, for Farrar, Groves & Co. Ltd. in 1913.

This poster shows rail sections produced at Cwm Celyn, Blaina & Coalbrook Vale Iron Works 1860-1867, whilst in the ownership of Frederick Levick and his son-in-law Robert Simpson. Wrought iron rails were the single most important product of the Welsh iron industry in the mid nineteenth century with enormous tonnages being exported worldwide for the construction of railways.

Mark Etheridge
Curator: Industry & Transport
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

The Contents of Fragile?

Penelope Hines, 24 February 2015

Fragile? the major new ceramics exhibition in the west wing will contain a mix of pieces from our own collection, loans and site specific installations. Each ‘source’ (for want of a better word) of objects will bring different delights and challenges to the installation and display.

The loans we have coming from artists and other institutions have never been on display at National Museum Cardiff before. This gives us the opportunity to tell the story of objects and artists who visitors may be unfamiliar with or would not have the opportunity to discover otherwise. 

However it means we are presented with display requirements that may be different to that which we are used to and the intimate familiarity that we have with the appearance and presence of objects from our own collections is lacking.

None of this should, of course, detract from how excited we are to show these works and the fact that these challenges are ones taken on with alacrity.

The installations are thrilling due to their uniqueness and (in the case of the three in Fragile?) the extent to which visitors will be able to interact with them. However they present the element of the unknown.

Until they are completed the specific details of their appearance is unknown and though we can look to past audiences of galleries and museums who have displayed these artists work before we cannot know how visitors will engage with the installations.

When working with pieces already in the collection there is the bonus of the afore mentioned familiarity with the objects; their shape, size, handling requirements. But also a good understanding of how they work within different spaces or their “presence” as I called it earlier.

The inclusion of works from the collection is an opportunity to show pieces visitors may already be familiar with in new ways. Hopefully allowing the formation of new ideas and insights.

Works from the collection will be displayed with pieces which they are not normally displayed alongside and some will be displayed in a different manner, such as on open display rather than cased or viewable from all angles rather than against a wall.

We have a number of works coming out of the balcony cases on the first floor of the museum. Those who are familiar with the applied art collection of the museum and its permanent displays may know that these cases are arranged thematically; including cases of “Studio Ceramics”, “Craft and Design inspired by History” and “Craft from 1900 to present”.

For Fragile? pieces from these cases will be taken out of these displays and put into new groups to form new narratives. For example James Tower’s Pod Form, will leave “Craft from 1900 to present” and instead go into a dialogue of objects which examines how artists have applied colour to the base ceramic body.

Another example is Claire Curneen’s In the Tradition of Smiling Angels which usually sits in our "Contemporary Acquisitions" balcony case. In the exhibition it will be surrounded by other artists who have approached figurative representation through the ceramic medium. Though it could be argued that this work could also sit comfortably in all manner of dialogues; artist who mix materials, artists who use hand building as their technique and religious iconography this is the primary dialogue it sits in for this exhibition.

Putting object into new narratives, whether to do with ideas of form or decoration, we hope will be interesting and thought provoking  to new and regular visitors alike.

As some objects to be included in Fragile? are coming from display in the museum other objects have to come in and replace them in the permanent display cases. Therefore it gives another opportunity to get works out of stores and on display for everyone to enjoy. This too though a good opportunity, presents challenges. We have to get pieces which both fit into existing case narrative but also those which will practically fit the dimensions of the spaces which objects being used in Fragile? are moving out of.

Fragile? opens on the 18th April, in the meantime why not come and see the works which have replaced the works going into the exhibition on display? Come and see if you can spot the new pieces!  

View this exhibition in our “What’s On” Guide

Are there any themes or processes to do with Fragile? or the Applied Art Collection that you are particularly interested in? Leave any suggestions for future blog posts in the comments.

Pod Form

James Tower, Pod Form, 1985, tin-glazed earthenware.

In the Tradition of Smiling Angels
Claire Curneen, In the Tradition of Smiling Angels, 2007, terracotta & gold lustre.

 

Northumberland’s Sea Life

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 24 February 2015

The Marine Section at National Museum Cardiff have studied the shores around Berwick-upon-Tweed for several years now, concentrating on the marine bristleworms living in the muddy sand and the rocky outcrops of this beautiful beach. This is an historic beach for these fascinating creatures as several species were first described from this locality by Dr George Johnston (1797 – 1855), a Scottish physician and naturalist who studied the fauna and flora of the area. One of the most abundant types of bristleworms found there are shovelhead worms, beautiful creatures that use their flattened heads to dig in the sand and feed using two long feeding tentacles. Staff at the museum specialize in this group and hence Berwick-upon-Tweed is an important site for their research. Hence, I “set sail” to the shores of Northumberland again to collect more samples both for our research and the museum’s natural history collections. One of our current focuses is to understand how these animals feed, breed, burrow and behave and our latest findings have recently been published in the proceedings of the 11th International Polychaete Conference.

On this trip, I was joined by fellow science curator Kath Slade from the Botany section, who specializes in seaweeds. This allows us to look more holistically at the shore’s ecology, by looking at both the flora and fauna.

We will keep you posted with updates about what we have discovered.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Sampling for shovelhead worms (Magelona), Berwick-upon-Tweed

Worms that Dig

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 24 February 2015

Our trip to collect shovelhead worms (a type of marine bristleworm called a magelonid) at Berwick-upon-Tweed started last Thursday (19th) at 06.30, giving us plenty of time on the shore before low tide. We were extremely lucky with the weather, as although it was only 7 degrees, the sun was out and it wasn’t raining. Staff at the museum specialize in this fascinating group and this particular trip was aimed at collecting animals to further our understanding of the biology of the group but also to gain specimens for the Museum’s natural history collections. Magelonids are extremely abundant on this shore and material used in the description of the British species, Magelona johnstoni was collected here by Head of Invertebrate Biodiversity Andy Mackie, who was one of the team who described the species back in 2000. The species was given its name in honour of the work carried out by the naturalist Dr George Johnston in this region.

Although, abundant on this shore, finding and collecting animals which are less than 1 mm in width can be tricky! These animals are rather long and fragile and a great deal of care has to be taken when collecting them. Animals are gently removed from the sand using a water bottle and soft forceps and placed into a cool box to keep them cool on the journey home. Once back to our makeshift laboratory I was able to identify and observe them for our research. We have designed a specialist tank in order to observe them over longer periods of time as well. We have successfully kept animals in this tank for nearly two years. We are hoping to observe the difference between three species, which can be found on this shore, Magelona johnstoni, Magelona mirabilis and Magelona filiformis. A fourth species is known to occur in low numbers on this shore, however, we were unable to locate any specimens for study this time.

We spent four days on the shore at Berwick-upon-Tweed collecting animals and although the weather did turn and temperatures on the beach dipped significantly it is a lovely shore to collect on. The tank and the animals have now made the long trip back to Cardiff and are now in the marine laboratory at National Museum Cardiff. We will continue to observe and publish research on these fascinating and also beautiful creatures (although may be I am somewhat biased, I shall leave it up to you whether you agree or not!).

Watch this video, to see how we sample shovelhead worms.

Collecting shovelhead worms, Berwick-upon-Tweed

The worms are gently removed from the sand using a water bottle and soft forceps

Shovelhead worms are generally less than 1 mm wide and can be difficult to find on the beach

Shovelhead worms in the sand, they have to be removed very gently as they are so fragile

Identifying species back in the makeshift laboratory

Shovelhead worm under the microscope

Aquarium tank back at National Museum Cardiff, allowing us to observe shovelhead worms over long periods

A Year at St Fagans Gardens

Sally Anne Lickley, 23 February 2015

A Year at St Fagans Gardens.

A Robin sitting on top of a hard pruned Yew hedge

Robin on a Yew hedge

Ever wondered what gardener’s do at winter?

Hello and sut mae. This is my first blog entry and it’s my story about being a trainee gardener and Welsh learner at St Fagans Museum over the course of 14 months. I’d better start by telling you a bit about myself. I arrived on the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme (HHSS) last September and I’ll be blogging about what I get up to until I finish the course in November.

Before I became involved in the scheme I was a self-employed ‘maintenance’ gardener for several years in Cardiff. My technical knowledge was limited and I was really looking to learn new skills through practical experience. I also wanted to expand my knowledge of plants and horticulture techniques. In the past I’d tried doing this through books and YouTube videos, but I soon realised that what I really needed was some kind of gardening guru to guide me. When I heard about the HHSS scheme I got very excited and knew it would be perfect for me as it was an opportunity to learn a huge amount in a practical hands-on way, with guidance from experts in the field.

So, here we are in mid-Feb and I can’t believe I’ve been on the scheme for just over 5 months already. It’s been incredibly busy and I haven’t had much time to stop and think. The months have flown by. In this post I’ll be talking about what I and the other trainees have been doing over winter. Lots of people think that winter is a quiet time without much going on in the garden. A time to tidy up the shed, clean your tools, and think about your summer planting scheme. Don’t believe that for a second. Trust me, there’s plenty to do!

During the winter months the daylight hours are shorter and weather conditions can be harsh at times, but in a place like St Fagans the gardens are so varied there’s always a job that you can get on with. There are lots of plants that benefit from pruning at this time of year including fruit trees and bushes, late flowering shrubs, roses and some climbers. In the past few weeks we’ve tackled a few of these, and used different techniques to suit the individual needs of the plants.

Why prune at this time of year?

In winter, deciduous plants shed their leaves and that makes it much easier to see its general structure. There is also less chance of transmitting diseases from one plant to another or attracting insects to fresh pruning wounds. Sap producing plants will bleed heavily if you prune when the sap is rising. Many of these are dormant over winter and bleeding is not so much of a problem if you prune at this time of year. As you may have already gathered, this post is going to focus on winter pruning techniques.

The first thing to remember when pruning any plant is the 4 D’s. Always remove Dead, Diseased and Damaged or Displaced material, in that order!

There are 4 main types of pruning.

·         Formative pruning encourages growth and builds the basic framework in a young plant.

·         Maintenance pruning improves the look of the plant as well as increasing the amount of fruit or flowers.

·         Regenerative pruning – If you have a plant that’s been left to itself and grown out of control for a few years, there’s no need to panic. Certain plants can be restored. This type of pruning can help you manage the growth, size and the overall look. It’s often an intimidating prospect. But, if you have an idea about what you’re doing and you feel brave, it can give your old plants a new lease of life. And save you throwing them out, when all they need is a good prune.

·         Specialised pruning creates and maintains an attractive look. If you’ve always wanted a hedge in the shape of an elephant, then Topiary is a form of specialised pruning that might be right up your street.

Now that you know the basic rules, I’ll talk a little bit more in depth about what we’ve been doing recently.

Pollarding Lime (Tilia) trees

It’s best to Pollard Lime trees annually in late winter or early spring if you want to restrict height. Prune the new shoots back to a bud, 1-2cm from the pollarded head. This will also stimulate new shoot production for the following spring.

Wisteria

Wisteria can grow 10-12ft in a season, it’s a beast, and benefits from pruning twice annually in summer and winter. At this time of year we prune the lateral growth back to 2 or 3 buds on each spur shoot. These spurs will bear the following season’s majestic display of flowers.

Standard Apple Trees

Apple trees are pruned to manage fruit buds and the shoots they grow on. Not, as many people think, to control the size of the tree. Start by concentrating on one main branch at a time. Find the leader and work your way down to the main trunk. Cut the leader by a third, leaving a bud facing the direction you want the new growth to follow. Prune back any laterals to 2-3 buds. Thin out large groups of spurs because too many will produce small fruits and it’s much better to have less quantity, but bigger and better quality.

Hard Pruning Yew (Taxus baccata) Hedges

We decided to prune back hard the Yew hedges down by the ponds because they had grown too wide, and in places the height was obscuring the pretty spectacular view. Yew responds well to renovation pruning, but it’s best carried out staggered over a few years. This year we concentrated on one side and the top. We used string lines tied to bamboo canes to mark out a straight cutting guide. We cut back hard using loppers and secateurs to reduce the height and width, and to re-shape where needed. After hard pruning it’s always good idea to apply feed and mulch at the base to give the plant a bit of extra nutrition and TLC while it recovers.

Rose Pruning

A few of the other HHSS trainees from other gardens on the scheme joined us just last week for a Rose pruning workshop led by St Fagans gardener Julie. Our task was to give the Roses a light annual prune. Different Roses respond better to different styles of pruning. We were each given a specific Rose bed, a map, and a list of the Roses with their pruning preferences. I was working with ‘Gruss an Teplitz’, which are a beautiful and fragrant old Hybrid Tea which prefer to be pruned thin. The first move was to remove any dead, diseased and damaged or displaced material. The 4 D’s! Next I thinned out the centre to produce a well-balanced open shape, and removed any crossing stems to stop them from rubbing against and damaging each other. I removed some of the very old, less productive wood to encourage new growth from the base. Always remember to prune to just above an outward facing bud, and make sure the cut slopes away from this to shed water.

A Lime tree before pollarding

A Lime tree before pollarding

HHSS trainee Sally pollarding a lime tree

HHSS Trainee Sally pollarding a Lime tree

A person in silhouette in a tree with the sun in the background

Pollarding a Lime tree

Trainees Sally and Nico Hard pruning a Yew hedge

Sally and Nico hard pruning Yew  hedges

St Fagans ponds on a frosty morning

St Fagans ponds on a frosty morning

A picture of a statue of a piper over looking St Fagans ponds

The Piper at the ponds