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January 2011

A great week

Posted by David Anderson on 28 January 2011

This week has been fantastic. On Tuesday, we held the official opening of the Dazu rock carvings exhibition and I am delighted by how it has all come together. They truly are magical, and we feel honoured to be the first ever Museum to host them outside of China. A real coup for us and for Wales! The media coverage has reflected their importance, and it has been wonderful to see so many people visiting the exhibition. In a happy coincidence, I was lucky enough to visit Dazu a few years ago and saw the carvings in situ. It truly was a breathtaking site, and I'm glad we're able to give the people of Wales a glimpse of them during the course of the exhibition.

Apart from the exhibition, I have also been busy meeting with various partners such as the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales. Although we already work closely together, I believe that the relationship could be strengthened and I have discussed with their President the potential for greater cooperation in the future. It is important that we support one another as a sector, to ensure a thriving museum sector in Wales.

I also spoke at a conference at National Museum Cardiff, Interpret Wales, and visited Wakefield in my role as one of the Trustees of the National Coal Mining Museum which is based there. I was glad to be able to be out and about this week, after being left frustrated last week as I had to take three days from work after I injured my knee. Though I can walk now, it is still painful and will require some heavy duty physiotherapy to strenghten the muscles. But such is life!

It has been a bit of a whilrwind since I took up post but I am enjoying it. The staff have been extremely welcoming, and I'm excitied about our future plans, particularly the St Fagans redevelopment. There's never a dull moment and I'm delighted to be a part of such a vibrant organisation.

Your top questions & reports

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 27 January 2011
Help the RSPB to count birds. Take part at home this weekend or in your school
Caught on camera! This hungry squirrel was caught on our wildlife cameras at St Fagans.

Last week Bishop Childs C.I.W Primary asked: "If you plant your bulb at the same time as your partner will they open their flowers at the same time?"  

This is a very good question and if the bulbs were planted at the same time, were the same size and kept in the same conditions then they could possibly open on the same day. But, all the bulbs are slightly different sizes and some may get more water or sunshine - so they tend to open on different days.

Generally, all of the bulbs in one school will open within a week or two of each other. At first, you get a few then the majority will open within a few days of each other, then a smaller number will take a little longer. It's a bit like a race, there will be a few quick ones, a larger group that arrives about the same time then a few slow ones.

In this experiment, we take the average flowering time. So we record each date from each flower then divide it by the total number of flowers. Look at the results from your school last year

Ysgol Glantwymyn asks: Ydy'r tywydd yma yn dda?/ Is this weather good? The recent warm temperatures we are having are good - as it is getting our bulbs growing. But, if we have a another cold snap it could be very damaging to our bulbs and slow them down again.

Good reports from schools:

Cwm Glas Primary:  We have got some shouts.

Maesycwmmer Primary School: A very frosty and cold week. We have noticed a few of our bulbs have started to grow. We have our chart ready and we are going to keep personal records of how much they grow each week. This is a great idea!

St. Mary's Catholic Primary School: It has been quite sunny this week and we haven't had a lot of rain.

Many thanks

Professor Plant 

Dazu: Designing the exhibition

Posted by John Rowlands on 26 January 2011
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales

During my time as a designer at National Museum Wales I have had to deal with displays of all shapes and sizes and the Dazu Rock Carvings exhibition provided a unique challenge, especially the heads!

The exhibition features many heavy stone heads, separated from the bodies by historical vandalism as well as some wear and tear (well, they are over 1000 years old!).

The problem posed was how to display them securely and yet in a good position for the viewing public. We also needed a flexible system that is quick: there was only ten days from the delivery to the practical installation!

Some weeks ago we had an idea in the design studio and called on the expertise of Annette and Mary from the Conservation department to discuss the merits of our thoughts.

“What if we set the stones in an expanding foam mould? Would it grip the sculpture securely and hold a display position?”

Mary and Annette both confirmed that if we employed a high-grade conservation material and sheathed the stone with polythene film, the stone would not be affected -in Layman’s terms, it would work!

As the icing on the cake we came up with the idea of adding a fabric layer that would act as the finish, ready for display. A mock up was quickly made and, wow! It worked brilliantly!

Mary and Annette made great progress and the heads were set into pre-made display boxes in a secure lab deep in the bowls of the Museum.

The fabric finish was trimmed and the boxes complete with the sculptures were transferred to the gallery for display with specialised lighting.

The heads joined larger items on specialised plinths and some very delicate carvings within cases. Further ingenious display methods were devised for each and every sculpture to ensure this truly amazing exhibition is as inspiring as possible.

We are all very excited to see this exhibition come together and are sure the public will love it too.

Simon Tozzo, Three Dimensional Designer, National Museum Wales

See more Dazu images on Flickr, keep up to date with Dazu on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @museum_cardiff  #dazuwales

Get ready to count...

Posted by Hywel Couch on 24 January 2011
Greater Spotted Woodpecker feeding on our peanut feeder outside the bird hide.
Male Chaffinch enjoying some seeds.

Do you enjoy watching birds in your garden? Do you have a favourite place to go to watch birds? This coming weekend (29th and 30th January) is the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, an annual survey of the nations birds.

All it takes is an hour of your time to record which birds visit your garden or local park. For a list of local parks in Cardiff, click here.

You could even visit us here at St Fagans museum to record which birds you see from our bird hide. Wherever you choose to go, make sure you wrap up warm, it can be very cold work!

Registration is free and all the information you need is available from the RSPB's website: 

What will you see??

St Dwynwen's day cards

Posted by Sian Lile-Pastore on 20 January 2011

We will be making St Dwynwen's Day cards this saturday (drop in session in Oriel 1 at the usual times of 11 until 1 and 2 until 4). Am still working on the designs for our cards, so far I have tried and been happy with two different pop up cards, one with material, and one with felt. For those who are a bit more adventurous (or possibly the adults!) we will be making felt hearts - you could even add a little pocket to leave a love note!

Sacred Dazu rock carvings leave China for the first time

Posted by John Rowlands on 19 January 2011
(c) Dazu Rock Carvings Museum, Chongqing, China
Head of Vairocana Buddha, Baodingshan, Dazu, Southern Song dynasty (AD1174-1252).
(c) Dazu Rock Carvings Museum, Chongqing, China

January 26th marks a special day at National Museum Cardiff as it is the opening day of a very unique and exclusive exhibition.

From Steep Hillsides: Ancient Rock Carvings from Dazu, China is a collection of rare Chinese religious sculptures from the World Heritage site in Dazu.

The very earliest sculpture at the sites date from the mid 7th century and these beautiful carvings depict and were influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist beliefs.

The exhibition will contain sculpture mostly from the 10th to the 13th century. Eclectically bringing these religions together, they create a highly original manifestation of spiritual harmony and give life to the exceptional Chinese history of this particular period.

Off limits to visitors for many years, the carvings were only opened to Chinese travellers in 1961 and foreign visitors in 1980. The result is that they remain in excellent condition despite their creation centuries ago.

While many of the larger carvings still remain embedded in the cliffs and mountain sides of Dazu, this is the first time the more manageable sculptures have left Chinese shores and travelled West.

National Museum Cardiff will be the only museum outside of China to host this extraordinary exhibition, providing a fascinating insight into ancient rock art and Chinese culture to all those who come and visit.


See more Dazu images on Flickr, keep up to date with Dazu on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @museum_cardiff  #dazuwales

Has anyone spotted spring?

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 14 January 2011
First sign of spring in my garden!

After all the snow and freezing temperatures, today seems almost hot in Cardiff at 10 degrees Celsius. My bulbs must have noticed too - because they have already started to grow! It really cheered me up to see some life returning to my garden!

Ysgol Porth Y Felin reported: "Now the snow has cleared we can see that the plants are growing. It is getting warmer!" Excellent news! Let me know if the bulbs in your school have started to grow or if you have seen any other signs of spring locally? Send me photographs if you have any.

At this time of year all schools taking part in this spring bulb investigation should be busy collecting weather records for a chance to win a trip and checking your bulbs daily for signs of growth. Please use the resources below to be sure to know what you are looking for and how to record properly.

My favourite question of the week comes from Bishop Childs C.I.W Primary. They asked: "If you plant your bulb at the same time as your partner will they open their flowers at the same time?"  Let me know what you think the answer is and I will reveal next week....

Lots of rain & floods. Unfortunately, many areas of Wales are now suffering with floods, including our museum at St Fagans. Maesycwmmer Primary School reported that they have had "A very wet week!" with over 100mm of rain in one day. Take a look at our recent weather reports sent in from schools to see how much rain they are getting. 

Across the world, many countries are suffering very badly from flooding. In Brazil, Australia and Sri Lanka floods have affected the lives of many people. Although you can't make a direct link between the recent floods and climate change, they do hold a warning for the future: Scientists predict such extreme weather events will increase both in intensity and frequency as the planet warms.

This is why the work that each spring bulb school is doing is so important - so please keep up the good work!

Professor Plant

Quilting Club

Posted by Sian Lile-Pastore on 13 January 2011

I've blogged about it before, but we have started a quilting club here in Oriel 1, St Fagans: National History Museum. We meet every two months on a saturday morning between 11 and 12.30, our next meeting is on 5th March. It's a relaxed and informal session with a mixture of complete beginners and people that have been quilting for a while. Samantha Jenkins is there to help out when we make quilting errors and generally to offer hints and tips.

It's been really lovely and I have started making my own quilt too

It looks pretty garish in this photo so I hope it's going to turn out ok! It would be great if the quilters in the group could email me photos of their works in progress too - my email address is


Posted by Gareth Bonello on 13 January 2011
The road on entering the site...
» View full post to see all images
First it was the snow and now it's the rain! The Ely burst its banks at St Fagans today and rose pretty high. A mere trickle compared to what's happening over in queensland though... You can help victims of the floods in Australia here
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