Work on St Fagans redevelopment continues
At the end of last week, I spent a day with the St Fagans Interpretation Group looking at desgin plans for the proposed new galleries. It's exciting to see the project progressing, as we now start discussing what the galleries may look like and what exhibitions may be included. Currently, we are exploring having two galleries - one about the Story of Wales and one about ways of life. We also need to ensure that there is ample space for a temporary exhibitions area. There are so many interesting and important stories to be told, and we're aware that not all of them can be included as part of a permanent gallery. Therefore, it is crucial that we have a high quality space to host a whole array of exhibitions. Personally, I'd like to see at some point in the future another exhibition about childhood in Wales as well as the political history of Wales. The possibilities are endless, and we're happy to listen to any ideas you may have as well!
Over the weekend, I did take some time to myself and went to Glyndebourne to see a production of Handel's Rinaldo. The singing was superb and it was a fantastic production, up to to the high standard one would expect at Glyndbourne. It was, however, quite an alternative production. The Director had decided to update the production so that iwas based around boys vs girls schools in the mid twentieth century. Rinaldo the hero became an adolescent schoolboy, bullied by his peers and transported into a fantasy world, where he then became a hero. Though it was interesting, I must admit that I prefer Handel's version but nevertheless I enjoyed the humour of the production in Glyndebourne.
The Battle of St Fagans
We welcomed the English Civil War Society last weekend, to explore the Battle of St Fagans, which took place near the museum in 1648. They brought with them not only a fair amount of weaponry (as you'd expect), but an amazing number of skills and objects to demonstrate. I think a list would be a bit boring, so here are some photo higlights from the week-end. Thanks to Alcwyn Evans for taking the photos, I was busy protecting the church from reforming zealots!
Plenty going on!
As you can imagine, it is a busy time at all of our sites now that it's the school holidays. It's great to see all of the museums full of people, and since entry is free, it's an affordable day out for all of the family. We've also been busy with events, such as our presence at the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham. Not only did the sun shine on most days, but there was also a wonderful atmosphere. Amgueddfa Cymru had a stand, and there was a lot of interest in the exhibition we had on display relating to the area. It was an opportunity for us to encourage visitors to visit the Wrexham museum, where we have a presence, as well as visit all of the national museums of Wales.Though the main focus of the week was on public consultation regarding the St Fagans redevelopment, we also had a successful launch of the latest issue of Glo magazine. The Minister, Huw Lewis, attended and helped us launch the issue and the response to the content has been fantastic. Having a presence at national events such as the eisteddfod is crucial to our work, as it allows people who don't live near any of our sites to experience the national collections and engage in our work.
On my way back from Wrexham, I visited the People's History Museum in Manchester. I was really impressed by the way it told political history from the perspective of people. The way the graphics were illustrated worked extremely well, and gave me some ideas for the redevelopment of St Fagans.
We were very privileged to be able to host artists from Chongqing in China at National Museum Cardiff as part of the Chongqing in Wales week. The official opening took place here as well, and it wonderful to meet some friends from China who'd helped deliver the Dazu rock carvings exhibition earlier in the year. Visitors were impressed by the demonstrations by the artists as well as the photographic exhibition. It is hoped that this will be an annual event, and we hope to be able to welcome other artists from Chongqing in the future.
Summer Art Activities
Summer art activities
This is a wonderful drawing by Charley of a Jester which ties in with our Tudor art theme.
Don't forget that art activities are running all through August, and if you haven't been before, now is the time to visit as it's generally a little quieter in the galleries when the weather is good!
Block Blog: Primary Investigations
At this juncture in the investigation of this block-lift, I am making every effort to outline the relationships (if any) between artefacts. As can be see in the first photograph, plenty of small pieces of iron plate, often with no telling association with larger plates, emerge as soil is scraped away. Aside from photographing their position for future reference, and examining them for signs of the remains of fittings, impressions of textile or leather, there is not much that can be done with these anonymous fragments. Moreover, these fragments often overlie more interesting and coherent features, and so I am generally removing these: I will most likely x-ray these in large batches at a later date. As you can tell by the annotations, I’ve begun to get a good idea of the fragile nature of the fragmentary, corroded copper and iron artefacts mixed in the burial deposit, and have begun to grasp how difficult lifting the larger pieces of lorica will be.
So far I have had limited success at recovering any ‘true edges’ of the iron armour, as most of the vulnerable thin plate has been broken. Finding edges greatly improves our chances of identifying plates, and where two edges have been found, dimensions such as the width of the plate can give us an idea of which part of the lorica cuirass the plate comes from. It also helps us to make educated comparisons with examples of Roman armour found from other sites. For instance, the iron plate recovered in the second photograph has a width of 6.5 cm across, dimensions similar to those recorded for the armour fragments found amongst the Corbridge Hoard, and from the Austrian site, Carnuntum. It also has the very corroded remains of two copper alloy rivets, which improves our understanding of how the cuirass was constructed and held together.
As I work I am keeping the surface of the soil block wet, by spraying it with deionised water. This prevents the soil from drying out too much, separating, and breaking the iron remains as it falls into chunks. As most of the iron is in such a poor condition, consolidation with a removable acrylic adhesive, such as Paraloid B72 (ethyl methacrylate copolymer) is a must (which is why in some photographs the iron surface appears to have a dark sheen to it).
Whilst excavating an area of the block to the left of the photograph, I came across an exciting, (and sadly, very degraded) find: copper alloy wrapped around a thin iron plate. It can be seen in-situ in the photograph to the right, and after excavation in the photograph below. Sadly, as not much of the object has been recovered, a firm identification of this piece hasn’t been reached yet, though further excavation might yield more clues.
Readers may have noticed that I have begun to clean the outside of what is most likely a girth hoop. The exposed iron plate is 1mm in thickness, and the hoop is broken in several places, that I can see from the surface. When focusing on this feature, I will have to be careful to remove enough soil and other burial debris to reveal the curved plate’s shape, whilst maintaining the earthy support until I am ready to remove the that section of armour from the soil block. The next blog entry will focus on describing the results of excavations in this area, which includes a copper-alloy tie loop, still associated with the iron plate.
Lots of talk, for some very small numbers
Ok, so we had the iPad moment. What’s changed? Lots. The iPad itself was, in truth, disappointing for publishers. Beautiful, sure, but not very helpful. It wasn’t multifunctional and it wasn’t backward compatable with much stuff either (I can’t be the only person still using OS 10.4?) But, like Apple’s previous offers, it was a gamechanger. It established the tablet as a device, despite many people, myself included, wondering if anyone really wanted Job's 'third device'. Apple then let other manufacturers come up with their own versions, the best of which is probably Samsung’s Galaxy, and quietly went home to improve their own model. Having established the tablet, and just in time to catch the secondary wave of adopters, out comes iPad 2. With improved functionality and more features (camera – two, actually), it still passes itself off as the most desirable tablet, even if it’s not necessarily the best. With iPad 2 and the iPhone, Apple has now firmly entered the mainstream consumer market. In losing the geek factor, what has it gained? Well, turnover, and profit, obviously. While Apple’s top-quality combined hardware/software model of Macs retains its market-leading position in the creative industries, the iPods, Ipads and iPhones are now thoroughly high-street, even with their top-end price tags.
However, part of this trajectory has been the strategic downplaying of the iPad’s e-reader function, which is what publishers were most excited about. Instead, the iPad focuses on portable, sleek, seamless acces to the web and email – truly, a big iPhone, but also ready and waiting for Web 3.0.
In terms of e-readers the iPad moment just didn’t happen. This has left Amazon’s Kindle as market leader, even though it only reads Amazon’s own e-book file format (although there are rumours Amazon will soon be allowing US publishers to submit e-books in the industry-standard e-Pub format). Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, by 2010 in the US Amazon were selling more Kindle books than hardbacks; today Amazon sells more Kindle books than hardback and paperback put together. At the moment it’s selling 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books, and three times more Kindle books than this time last year. In the UK, where the Kindle store has only been open a year or so, Amazon are selling twice as many Kindle books as hardbacks.
What can we learn from this? Remember, the Amazon figures only apply to their own sales, of Kindle books, which can only currently be read on a Kindle device. What’s happening across the rest of the bookselling industry? The true picture for the UK is that sales of e-books are currently 2.5% of all book purchases; interestingly, they peaked at 3% over Christmas (did you get an e-book in your stocking?!) Adult fiction is still the most popular category, at 5.4% of all purchases; men and women are buying e-books equally, and the age group 55-64 makes up over a quarter of e-book buyers.
This 2.5% seems like a tiny figure for us all to be worrying so much about, especially as the value of the sales is low – about 1.6%. I still can't wait to have a go though.
I tried out a printing session with young adults the other day. We looked at designs from the 1950s (on clothes from our collections and in books)and then made some prints based on them. The printing techniques were a mixture of relief prints (like lino but using softblock) and monoprinting. Here are some of the pictures which are fantastic! I'll try and get round to adding more soon.
I'm planning on running something similar next year for adults and young adults (aged 16+) so if anyone has any suggestions or would be interested in having a go, please get in touch.
Summer Art Activities
Art activiites have begun in Oriel 1 for the summer and will continue every day throughout August. It's a drop-in session and runs from 11 until 1 and then 2 until 4. We are looking at lots of things to do with the Tudors and making models of Tudor Buildings.
I'll be adding more pictures as the summer goes on!