Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


This is a void appreciation post.

It's not often that we have a lot of time to reflect on what we do, because there's always so much to do. So, before I jump into venue hire revamps; finishing off a piece of prep for this Women's Archive Wales conference and helping with new 'suggest an event' pages, let's look into the murky abyss and just take a minute to breathe.

The Sea's Edge

Nice, no? [The Sea's Edge, Arthur Giardelli]

Since 'keeping busy' is the other Welsh national sport, it's not for everyone - but I'm a firm believer in taking stock, staying still for a minute, and listening. There'll always be a call: an email that's fallen down the back of the sofa, a book you've been meaning to pick up, or a colleague you'd like to make more time for will pop upstairs and say hi.

Evaluation and Taking Stock

We're in transition as a department - welcoming two new team members this week - and have been working, quite separately and like the clappers recently, on various projects, on web, galleries, social, governance, research and planning.

Graham, who heads the Content Team (and who I will now be calling Captain Content if he lets me), has been taking part in a cross-sector project looking at evaluation and taking stock, called Let's Get Real. Last week, he braved their Crit Room in Brighton, where he presented our work for open criticism and questioning. Curiously scary.

The results of the crit have been a real encouragement - I had been worrying about the size of our twitter network, since the time cost of keeping everyone trained up is ever growing for me. But, we were encouraged to see it as a sign that we're a healthy, tweeting organisation.

I am really trying to believe them.

Feedback from the Crit Room

Self-deprecation aside, I'm quietly happy with how we're working as a network, and really chuffed to see people really run with the new skills they've acquired on social media. In fact, while totting up some numbers for an unrelated report last week I saw we'd passed a great milestone - as a network, we now have over 125,000 followers on twitter alone. I know it's not just a numbers game, but there's something reassuring about those great, neat, empty 000s in a row.

The Crit Room also had great words of encouragement for Chris, who's built all the foundation for the website redesign (and much more besides), and the rest of the team - namely that our digital offer was 'highly rewarding, rich and satisfying'. I can't stop thinking of coffee when I read those words. Speaking of which: time to stop blogging about stopping now, and start stopping for a cuppa.

Teacups & Memories

The Exhibition: Fragile?  

Fragile? is an exhibition of contemporary ceramics at National Museum Cardiff, showcasing the beauty and variety of contemporary ceramics practice. The exhibition explores the artistic and expressive possibilities of clay as a material, including the contradiction between two of its innate qualities – durability and fragility. The exhibition includes items from the National Museum’s collection, shown alongside exciting new ceramic installations made especially for this exhibition.  

Dementia-friendly workshops – Free! But limited availability so please book in advance

On October 1st we will be running a day of free workshops for people living with dementia and their carers, with activities inspired by the Fragile? exhibition. The workshops will be relaxed and friendly. No previous experience is required for any of the activities. Tea and biscuits will be provided and chatting is encouraged! Some sessions may be photographed, so that we have a record of our activities, but you can always ‘opt out’ of being photographed. 

Workshop schedule 

Explore the exhibition, 11am-1pm. Maximum 10 people - please book in advance

In the morning, we will take a spotlight tour of some objects in the Fragile? exhibition. You will not be given a full tour of the whole exhibition as it is quite large! There will be tea, cake, and music with different ceramic items available for you to touch, hold and chat about. A family member, friend or helper is very welcome to attend with you.

Lunch, 1 – 2pm.  Maximum 20 people – please book in advance

We would love for you to join us for lunch if you have taken part in either or both of our sessions. Family members, friends and helpers are also invited.

Teapots and Clay pots, 2pm-4pm. Maximum 10 people – please book in advance

In this fun, hands-on session led by artist Jess Midgley, you can have a go at modelling and pattern making with clay. A family member, friend or helper is very welcome to attend with you.

To enquire or book a place please email

Staff at Amgueddfa Cymru work across a number of different departments. These departments do not work in isolation, but staff work together to look after the collections preserved for the people of Wales.

The industry and transport photographic collections comprise over 206,000 images, covering all aspects of Welsh industrial, maritime and transport activity. One of the greatest treasures held within this rich collection is the Hansen Collection, which comprises of 4,569 negatives (two-thirds glass, and a third film) of ships mainly at Cardiff. These were taken by members of the Hansen family between 1920 and 1975. They provide an amazing photographic record of shipping activity at the port during those years. You can find out more about the history of this collection by reading this article from 2011.

One of our main aims is to make all the collections we look after more accessible. When we purchased the Hansen Collection in 1979, the first stage in the process of making the collection available was to compile a catalogue. Initially a handwritten catalogue was produced which could be consulted in the photographic research room. Then in 1996 the catalogue was published under the title “the Hansen Shipping Photographic Collection” making the contents of this collection available to a wider audience. A few years ago I worked on converting this catalogue into a digital format so that it could be placed on the museum website. It is now available for anyone to search, and find vessels they are interested in. The online catalogue has greatly improved access to this collection, and we have had enquires from all over the world because of it. People might be researching a particular ship and are looking for an image of it. A family member might have worked on the vessel and so someone might be interested in seeing what the ship looked like.

Following placing the catalogue online the next stage has been to input information on each negative onto our collections management database. A number of staff are currently involved in this, including myself and staff working in the History & Archaeology and Collections Services departments. We have so far put just over 1,500 negatives onto the system. It is a long process, especially as we are repacking the collection into conservation grade packing as we go along.  

As well as preserving the collection and making information on the collection available, we also need to digitise each negative. This will provide us with a record shot, meaning that we can minimize the handling of the original. This is especially important as so much of the collection is made up of fragile glass plates. We have made a start on this, and have so far digitsed 572 negatives. Our intention is now to continue this work and digitise the remainder of the collection.

We will be doing a series of blogs on various aspects of the process to make this collection accessible, and will be blogging on cataloguing and adding the collection to our database, repacking the collection, and the digitisation process. Check back to see how we are getting on with this important photographic collection.

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

[update - voting is now closed, thanks to all who took part and look out for the winners very soon!]

Christmas Comes Early - When You're the One Designing the Cards

As summer comes to an end we are busy working on our 2015 Christmas cards and would like your help.

Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales has the most wonderful and diverse collections and we like to take inspiration from them when producing our Christmas cards.

Our curators have been scoring the collections looking for objects, paintings, photographs and specimens that shout Christmas and we have selected some images as potential cards for this year.

Help Us Choose - Vote For Your Favourite

We’d like you to help us make our final choice of six by voting for your favourite three images.

Natural History Collage 1

Natural History Collage 2

Natural Sciences Collage 3

These images have been created by the Digital Imaging Officer in our Natural Science Department. Look closely and you’ll see that these snowflakes and tree are not what they seem.

Quilt 1 (Hexagons)

Quilt 2 (Triangles)

Red and white applique quilts from the textile collections at St Fagans National History Museum. The red used is usually referred to as Turkey red!

Pine Cone Illustration

This pine cone is botanical illustration from our Natural Sciences department at National Museum Cardiff.

Welsh Woman by John Thomas

This photography of a Welsh lady comes from our photographic archive at St Fagans National History Museum, and was taken by John Thomas, an early travelling photographer.


This photograph shows children enjoying the Welsh tradition of Calennig, a celebration of New Year. It is from the photographic archive at St Fagans National History Museum.

Robin (Taxidermy)

This beautiful piece of taxidermy of a robin is from our Natural Science collections.


This illustration of turkeys by Pierre Belon comes from our Library at National Museum Cardiff.

History of British Birds 1

History of British Birds 2

These two beautiful illustrations from the History of British Birds 4th edition and was suggested by our Librarians at National Museum Cardiff.


This striking poinsettia image is also from our Library at National Museum Cardiff.

Star Map from the 1500s

Another suggestion from our Library, this is an illustration from a C16th star map.

Christmas Wreath

A photograph of a Christmas wreath hung on the door of St Fagans Castle.

Hand-Knitted Socks

A row of hand knitted sock from the textile collections at St Fagans National History Museum.

Which one is your favourite? Don't forget to cast your vote!