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March 2010

March update

Posted by Ciara Hand on 30 March 2010

The peregrine camera has just been reinstalled on the roof.

Despite the building works going on here we have managed to get the camera up on the roof. With a little ingenuity and the construction skills of a colleague in the Department of Industry the camera has been mounted on a purpose built metal support.

All being well the camera will be live by the end of next week.

Keepsakes Community Arts Project with Women's Arts Association

Posted by Sian Lile-Pastore on 30 March 2010

What would you consider to be a keepsake? What objects are important to you and why? I love to be surrounded by little objects and ornaments that remind me of places I’ve been to and people I know, but I think that my most precious keepsake is a letter and a bracelet made out of crystals given to me by a close friend just before she died. To anyone else this piece of cheap jewellery wouldn’t mean anything, but to me it is imbued with memories and every time I look at it or read the letter I am transported back six years ago to when I first received it.

In St Fagans: National History Museum, as you would expect, we have lots of fascinating objects which all come with their own story. The picture below seems to be merely a bit of wood…

but it’s actually an

‘Elder-tree charm - consisting of an elder branch with the twigs cut to give a cruciform effect. Crosses of this type were thought to be potent against witches and other malevolent influences. Used in a Monmouthshire farm-house during the late 19th century.’

And what about this beautiful sewing box?

Made approximately in 1830 out of rosewood, mother of pearl, silk, paper and leather and used in Garthmyl, Powys it’s as if it has keepsakes within keespakes! The box itself is a beautiful blue, the inside lid (which you can’t see in this picture) is of ruched turquoise silk and it has lots of lovely little compartments filled with treasures such as buttons, needlework samples, bright coloured thread and even a lock of hair which you can see in the bottom left-hand corner.

To explore this idea of the keepsake we have teamed up with Women’s Arts Association to collaborate on a community arts project culminating with an exhibition in Oriel 1 in September 2010. The idea is that participants of the project will visit St Fagans and choose some objects from our collections which resonate with them and use these objects as a starting point to create their own works of art. Ultimately the intention is that the museum object they choose and the piece of work they create will be exhibited side by side.

Leading this exciting project are two experienced tutors and professional artists: Prue Thimbleby and Becky Adams. Prue specialises in basket weaving and sculpture using natural and recycled materials and Becky specialises in book arts and textiles and they could help you make beautiful keepsakes of your own!

Workshops start in May, and for details of those and the rest of the project, please visit

I’ll blog about the project while it goes along, and meanwhile will leave you with a quote from Sherry Turkle’s book Evocative Objects: Things we think with:

‘We find it familiar to consider objects as useful or aesthetic, as necessities or vain indulgences. We are on less familiar ground when we consider objects as companions to our emotional lives or as provocations to thought. The notion of evocative objects brings together these two less familiar ideas, underscoring the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things. We think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with.’

We’d also love to know of any keepsakes you have and treasure - please write any comments below.

Finally the daffs are coming...

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 26 March 2010
25/03/2010 - This daffodil has just started to open - it should open up fully tommorrow.
22/03/10 The daffodil bud has tilted - which means it is almost ready to flower.
daffodil buds - 15/03/10

This winter has been the coldest in 30 years - so our flowers have opened much later than usual.  Our first crocus was recorded in Murch Junior School on the 14th of February and our 1st daffodil also at Murch on the 17th of February. 

Since then many more have opened across the country. Study the maps and graphs to find out more.

Finally, this week the daffodils in my garden have produced their buds and hopefully should be ready to open soon! They seem a lot shorter than in previous years. We will study the records to see if this is a trend this year.

Many thanks

Professor Plant


Mystery bulb No.1 Can you guess what it is?
Mystery bulb No.2 Can you guess what it is?


22/3/2010 Daffodils in Cardiff. Sent in by Mr. Alun Jones

Allotment Keeper Photography Project

Posted by Sian Lile-Pastore on 25 March 2010

Maybe you've noticed that there's been a bit of work going on at the back of Llainfadyn Cottage recently. Well all that digging is part of photographer Betina Skovbro's fantastic new project where she will be creating an allotment with a bit of a difference!

To follow her progress, have a read of her blog and i'll put a few updates on this blog too.

The Allotment Keeper Photography Project is just one of many events dealing with biodiversity this summer. Check our events pages for more details.

Photographs by Betina Skovbro

Wales and the History of the World

Posted by Sara Huws on 25 March 2010
St Teilo's Church was featured on the BBC's 'Wales and the History of the World' last night, and is now available to view on the iplayer. The programme will be available to watch here until the 31st of March.

Mural fragment - rose and throne
Original mural fragment, showing a Tudor rose and a throne, from St Teilo's Church. Copyright RCAHMW/Coflein.

Presented by rugby lej Eddie Butler, the show presents a refreshing view on what I mentioned in my last post: what makes us, 'us'. You'll see many unusual, interesting and iconic objects from your national collection on display throughout the programme.

Of course, I'm a bit biased but St Teilo's was beautifully shot, and the team was fun to work with. I only wish I'd brought a crate to stand on for my interview, as Mr Butler is a giant! You can see my grinning mug at the 9 minute mark. Hope you enjoy.

It exists, but not according to this...

Posted by Sara Huws on 16 March 2010

I was just visiting the St Fagans library, looking to do a little reading up before the Easter tours of St Teilo's Church. A chance encounter and a fleeting chain of thoughts later, I'm here on the blog.

It begins when I bump into a colleague clutching a hefty old book, in the reference section of our research library. Rather cryptically, he tells me "It exists! And it's in here!". Taking the book to one side, he lets it fall open - and rightly it does, on the very page he was looking for.

In my experience, old dictionaries and manuscripts that fall open like that usually contain something very juicy. Finding a page in this way always makes me think of the people who read the book before me. I feel almost as if I am joining a secret club, where generations of readers have sought out and read the same pages carefully. My old art history professor had a story about illuminated Biblical manuscripts, painstakingly drawn and handled by monks. Almost without fail, they will all fall open at the same page: where Bathsheba is described in the bath. Thankfully, I wasn't confronted with anything as lascivious - but certainly something scandalous.

"WALES, see ENGLAND", Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The near-apocryphal entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: 'Wales, See England'. I had always thought of it as an idiom, muttered under my breath at Jeremy Clarkson's use of 'us'; defensively invoked on seeing corporate maps which leave out Anglesey, and, most recently, when Google decided to celebrate St David's day by putting one of Kind Edward's castles on their homepage. I suppose it isa lot of history to squeeze into so few words.

That's just my reaction, of course. Debates about Britishness, Welshness, and other -nesses will continue as long as there are people on this island, and in the darker corners of the internet. Whatever your take on the matter, whichever 'ness'-ness you subscribe to, the museum's job is to take a reading every now and then; keep an eye on what makes us, inexplicably, 'us'.

I optimistically dropped by the updated Encyclopaedia Britannica. I was hoping to tie up this post with a point about Wales' growing confidence and international profile using a pithy, concise definition. By now,, as it's known, refers to Wales as a 'constituent unit'. I must admit I was disappointed. Over a 150 years since the phrase "Wales: see England" was first published, even as new law-making powers are invested to our Assembly Government: it's strange that 'Country' still does not describe what some people see, when they look at Wales.

Tudor Guided Walk

Posted by Sara Huws on 11 March 2010
Having filmed, unwrapped and admired the thurible I mentioned in my last post, it's time now to edit the video!

While you wait (with baited breath, I hope), I'd like to share some new pictures with you.

St Teilo's Church Chancel. Photo: Wales News
The Chancel of St Teilo's Church, as it looks today.

Musical Angels, St Teilo's Church. Photo: News Wales
Angels, shown playing the Crwth and Harp. Painted by Fleur Kelly.

Natural pigment, St Teilo's Church. Photo: News Wales
Verdigris pigment, used to make green paint in St Teilo's Church

If you feel inspired after seeing those, why not hop over to the events page to book a place on our Tudor Guided Walk. The walk, lasting around an hour, will take place next weekend, the 20th of March. As well as a tour of our Tudor buildings, you'll get a chance to handle replica objects, and explore Tudor smells - good and bad! Places are limited, so booking is essential.

I hope to see you there!

And as if by magic - it's still not here.

Posted by Mari Gordon on 10 March 2010

Well, the iPad now has a release date for the US - early April, not mid-March as first expected. It will probably arrive in the UK late April. In the meantime we seem to have exhausted ourselves trying to decide whether or not it's a good thing - let alone a necessary thing. But then not being needed didn't make the iPod or iPhone any less desirable.

Apple's marketing for the iPad has taken a turn for the interesting, as their key words are "revolutionary" - possibly true - and "magical" - what?! Of course it's slick, sexy, a thing of beauty; there might well be something revolutionary about it; but - magical? Now using that concept to describe a piece of digital equipment, that's revolutionary! It's a piece of kit that lets us use our email and the web, look at our pics and videos and play with all our digital toys (150,000 of them apparently). Eventually we'll be able to use it to read e-books.

Previously Apple were promoting the iPad's similarity with the iPhone in terms of functionality, so that we'd all feel at home right away. Now, however, the iPad is revolutionary, magical and value for money. It sounds as though somewhere in the flurry of attention since its announcement, Apple have abandoned the "third category" concept that so many people questionned, and instead are positioning the iPad as a gem of a product, something lovely and affordable and just so much fun. A must-have accessory, perhaps. In which case, where does that leave the e-reading function? It was never primarily an e-book reader, more for all-round media consumption, but publishers were desperately looking forward to the healthy, straightforward supply deal offered by Apple, and any further delay in launching iBook in the UK is surely going to be a major cause for concern.

More 1950s patterns from the artcart

Posted by Sian Lile-Pastore on 2 March 2010

Detail from 1950s dress

Detail from the prefab

Art Cart - St Davids Day

Posted by Sian Lile-Pastore on 2 March 2010
  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.