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For my take on the “Through the Keyhole” event I decided to approach it with a hands on activity. Having spent a lot of time recently learning to produce ragrugs for use within the historic properties here at St Fagans, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to mix a demonstration of the technique with allowing our visitors to come and have a go too.

With the idea of reusing and recycling fabrics to create new rugs in mind I decided that the Prefab, built as a response to housing shortage after the Second World War and furnished as it was during the early 1950s, would be an ideal backdrop to showcase the ethos of “make do and mend” which had carried on after War. In order to deal with shortages that took place during the War, the Ministry of Food introduced a system of rationing. As well as food rationing, clothing, soap, fuel and paper were affected. It was not until the early 1950s that most commodities came 'off the ration'. Clothing was rationed from 1941 to 1949. Importing clothes from the Continent was not an option, and factories usually producing clothes now had military demands to deal with. Each person received a rations book – items were purchased with money and tokens from the book. The rationing of clothing prompted a movement of “make do and mend”, in order to make the most of all clothes and materials individuals had. A booklet to encourage women to be creative and inventive with their clothes was produced, and magazines and newspapers began featuring a character named Miss Sew and Sew to promote the message.

I set up my table outside the Prefab with all the equipment I needed – hessian sacking, dolly pegs filed into points (known as a bodger) and plenty of scraps of fabric. A display of Wartime posters and music from the era helped to draw in visitors, and create a nice atmosphere. I continued work on my ragrug, using the peg to thread strips of material through gaps in the sacking, building a pattern up layer by layer. I use natural materials such as wool and cotton so that the rugs will be in keeping with the historic properties they end up furnishing. I had prepared some small sections of sacking for visitors dropping by to work on. I was pleased that I met a really wide variety of people - children who wanted to have a hands on go at making something, parents who were looking for craft-based activities that they could do with their children at home, and visitors who remembered doing ragrugs themselves, or their parents or grandparents. I was able to offer tips and advice to those who wanted to have a go at home. Many of them already had the items needed to make a rug, but were unsure how to go about it. Older visitors were able to give me further information on what knowledge I already have, and interesting stories and anecdotes. They really enjoyed reminiscing about it, and talking about the era in general. It was really lovely to hear their tales throughout my time at the Prefab.

Preserved within the collections is a Cardiff horse drawn tram. The tram was built by the Falcon Works, Loughborough in the 1880s and run by Cardiff Tramways Co. When the Cardiff Tramways Company was taken over by the City in 1902 the routes were electrified and the horse-tram was sold to the Cardiff Ladies Temperance Guild and used in the Docks as a snack-bar selling non-alcoholic beverages. About 1930 ownership passed to Mrs Elizabeth Leach of Tremorfa who ran it as 'Walters' Tavern' and in due course this ladies daughter, Mrs Walters, took it over. In 1955 her brother Mr Ekstrom, took it over and ran it for a further ten years until it closed in 1966. It was removed in Summer 1968.

This slide, recently accessioned into the collection, shows the tram in use as a refreshment stall at Roath Dock, Cardiff.

The tram is currently on loan to the National Tramway Museum in Crich were it is on display.

These photographs show the tram awaiting restoration in 1979, and then after restoration work was carried out by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

The final photograph shows a similar tram on Newport Road, Cardiff c.1890. It ran on the The Royal Oak - Newport Road - Pier head service.

 

A recent donation was this wooden board with a paper roster/list attached. The roster lists information about locomotives, winding engines, and saw mills at Dinorwic Slate Quarries. Unfortunately it is in poor condition and will need some conservation work carried out on it. The board had three headings, ‘locomotives’, ‘winding engines’ and ‘saw mills’.
Under the heading ‘locomotives’ the following information is recorded: old name of locomotive; present name of locomotive; location of locomotive; works number; date; remarks e.g. firebox renewed; firebox and tubes material. The roster records information about 20 locomotives.
Under the heading ‘winding engines’ the following information is recorded: place; started working; drive; circ & length of winding rope; circ &  length of standing rope; remarks. The roster records information about 11 winding engines.
Under the heading ‘saw mills’ the following information is recorded: place; started working; drive; no of dressing machines; no of tables; kind; diar of line shaft; revs line shaft. The roster records information about 10 saw mills.

 

Last year we were donated this painting by John Uzzell Edwards. It was on display at the National Waterfront Museum for a while and has just come off display to be accessioned and stored at the National Collections Centre in Nantgarw. The painting is acrylic and mixed media on canvas. It was painted on 2011 and is titled ‘Swansea Quilt’. The painting was inspired by a quilt made in Swansea by a woman who worked in the milliners department of a Swansea shop (she used fabric off-cuts from the shop).

This print shows the quilt which inspired John Uzzell Edwards.

 

This month we also acquired another painting. Probably gouache on board/paper it shows Merthyr Vale Colliery from Aberfan, and is dated 1902. It is signed by an artist called David John Evans. We haven’t yet been able to find anything out about him, so if anyone has any information on this artist we would love to hear from you.

The sinking of Merthyr Vale No. 1 Colliery began in 1869, and coal was first produced in 1875. Merthyr Vale Colliery No 2 was sunk some years later. In 1902 the colliery employed 3,064 men and produced 830,000 tons of coal. Reaching its peak in 1913 , when it was the largest colliery in the South Wales coalfield, manpower and output reduced over the years until the colliery eventually closed by British Coal in August  1989.

This photograph shows Merthyr Vale Colliery in 1960 showing tips on the hillside. It was the spoil from Merthyr Vale Colliery that slipped down the mountainside onto the community of Aberfan on the 21st October 1966. Engulfing Pantglass Junior School and a number of houses 144 people were killed, 116 of whom were children.

‘J. Eurof Martin Collection’

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

Keith Harrison's superb installation Mute in Fragile? focuses on the viewer/ visitors interacting with the work. From seeing yourself reflected in gold tiled surface of the work to walking around the huge installation in the gallery to spinning a vinyl on the deck.

The "aim" of this installation is to make the slip in the speakers break down and discover what happens to the sounds: a voyage of discovery as much for the artist and the museum as the exhibition is for the visitor!

Records are played on one or both of the decks in the gallery which are attached to the main body of the installation, the music then sounds through a wall of dried slip (dried liquid clay) filled speakers, which crack and crumble as the music reverberates through them. Keith supplied several vinyl's for people to play on the decks of Mute. All records feature brass and horns and are ready to be used on shelving at the back of the gallery.

However he was also keen to encourage people to bring in their own records to be played in the galleries, and over the last few weeks we've noticed that the number of records seem to be growing!

Originally starting at 14, the number of vinyl's has grown to 18 (one was being played as the image was taken!). People seem to be leaving records in the space for others to enjoy!

If you want to experience this incredible installation why don't you bring in a record to play on Mute and contribute to this installation?

It may be some way off but a date to put in your diary is Keith Harrison's "In Conversation" on July 19th: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/cardiff/whatson/?id=7959

Also Spillers is hosting a late night event tomorrow (the 28th June!): http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/cardiff/whatson/?id=7848

The first ever Murder Mystery evening at National Museum Cardiff took place on 19th May 2015 and was linked to the ‘Museums at Night’ festival, which ran from 13-16th May and will run again 30th-31st October. The evening was organised by staff from the Department of Natural Sciences and was attended by over 90 adults.

Visitors were invited to attend a grand gala evening to witness the unveiling of the largest and most beautiful diamond in the world, being shown in Wales for the first time. However, the evening began with a missing diamond, a dead body and six potential suspects. The Museum was now in lock down for three hours with the killer trapped inside! After the Crime Scene Investigators had collected evidence from the murder scene and suspects, scientific tests were set-up throughout the Natural History galleries and visitors were requested to help with testing the evidence. They also had the opportunity to interrogate the six suspects and to try and determine ‘Whodunnit?’ before the killer struck again! Fortunately the event ended in the successful capture of the murderer and the diamond returned, with all visitors fortunately  unharmed.

This was a fantastic opportunity for visitors to explore the atmospheric galleries and main hall and see our galleries in a completely different atmosphere. We have received requests to run this event and other mysteries in the future, so check out the museum's What's on pages to see future events.

Last week I got the chance to go up on the roof of National Museum Cardiff to see the two Natural Sciences beehives. Since the bees arrived last year, Ben Evans and his team of trained staff from across the Cathays Park site have been responsible for the weekly maintenance of the hives. On this occasion Ben was able to sign me in as a visitor and we collected the box of beekeeping equipment and made our way up and out onto the roof. Next we put on our beekeeping gear; a half suit with an integral hat and face net and some thick gauntlet gloves. Ben lit up the smoker and waved it near the entrance of the hives to calm the bees. He then took the top off the hive and carefully pulled out the individual layers so that we could have a clear look inside. Each layer was covered in hundreds of bees and underneath we could see the beautiful hexagonal formations where the bees store their food and larvae. We also checked through each layer to locate the queen. She is marked with a green spot on her back so she can be clearly identified. The two hives are very different, in one the bees are quite subdued so Ben is feeding them with a sugary syrup to help them along.  In the other hive the bees seem very active and are starting to produce honey. I actually got to taste the honey and it was gorgeous! Ben plans to produce a beekeepers diary, so keep an eye out for further updates about the bees on our blog pages and our Twitter Feeds (@NatHistConseve or @CardiffCurator). Let’s hope they produce more honey so we can eventually sell it in the museum shop!