The recent Ivor Davies exhibition “Silent Explosion” at National Museum Cardiff sparked an explosive partnership project. The museum’s Learning Department and artist Claire Prosser worked with Albert Primary School in Penarth on an art project inspired by Ivor Davies's work. Ivor Davies grew up in Penarth and went to Albert Primary School as a child, where he witnessed the war and air raids on Cardiff. Some of his early work is based on these experiences.
The year 5 pupils visited the exhibition at the National Museum which reflects some of those childhood experiences, and made sketches and collages. One of the boys had re-drawn Ivor Davies’ drawing of enemy planes being caught in search lights, and added an additional plane. Ivor Davies himself came to visit the school at the end of the day of walks and hand signed this drawing and many others, much to the delight of the pupils.
On walks around Penarth the pupils discussed conservation, death and decay with Senior Preventive Conservator, Christian Baars. It is not easy to conserve art which was created to be ephemeral. The pupils learned how organic objects, and even rock, are not ever-lasting, and instead part of a big circle of life, death and resurrection in new forms.
The role of any museum, in essence, is to preserve objects by halting that circle at a particular point. Whether this is in line with the artist's intentions, and how museums deal with this conundrum, was part of a "Conservation Conversation" at National Museum Cardiff a few weeks back. Museum curators, conservators and artists were involved in the discussion then. Bringing this theme closer to year 5 pupils proved entirely possible, as they enjoyed learning about how museums preserve objects while thinking about how it is really difficult to make anything last for centuries.
This interdisciplinary partnership project was also a joy to work on for staff, most of all the preventive conservator, as it brought together so many aspects of art and science.
Find out more about care of collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.