Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Over the Easter Holiday, we held an activity called ‘Through the Keyhole’ at St Fagans. The idea is for members of the Learning Department to be out in the historic buildings interpreting and discussing the buildings or objects, drawing attention to its history or history closely associated with them. During the week there will be 3 blogs by 3 members of staff that took part in this event.

I left it a bit last minute to decide which Building to use. With this in mind, I decided to go for a building I already know a bit about, Gwalia Stores. I hold formal sessions (with school groups) here so have background knowledge and an idea of the kind of activities I could do, and a costume good to go!

I raided the photo archive and took copies of the building in its original location, and some fresh coffee and coffee beans to weigh and highlight the coffee grinder, but also to bring back some smells to the shop. When open originally, the smells would have hit you as you walked in; dried fruit, teas, tea, coffee, cheese, meats and all sorts of items for sale.

One of the photos that prompted the biggest reaction was the photo of Gorwyl House overlooking Ogmore Vale. It was the house William Llywelyn built for his family when they’d made enough from the shop to move out from above it. The contrast is quite striking between the ‘mansion’ as it was locally called and the rest of the valley’s terraced houses, and its position on the hill mirrors he high social status of the Llywelyn family at the height of Gwalia Stores’ success.

I enjoyed being in the shop and getting the chance to tell its absorbing history, which mirrors that of the Valleys themselves. It was great to talk and imagine how different an experience a weekly shop would have been 100 years ago, how much more social especially.

The staff would also have trained as apprentices for years and would have been a well-respected role, and the shops really were a centre point in the community. There was much reminiscing by visitors, and some even came from Ogmore Vale and remembered the shop in its original location. One lady commented on the gap that’s still there in Ogmore Vale opposite the railway station, after discussing and looking back on the history of the shop, losing these shops and the experience of going there has left gaps in communities all over Wales.

The next blog will be up soon, discussing the event in one of the other historic buildings.

I was just making coffee for the team and when I looked around at everyone beavering away at their desks - and realised just how diverse the work we do is… Take this afternoon as an example:

Kay Hanson, our Peoples Collection Wales Technical Officer is fresh from the launch of a brand new “Learn’ section of the People's Collection Wales website – over six months in the planning, such a milestone is no mean feat. The result is the combination of thousands of assets from the main heritage institutions around Wales as well as content contributed from the public and filters all this data according to what educational purpose you require. Give it a go yourself at:, what will you learn?

Rhodry Viney our Web Officer (and Final Cut Pro guru) is hard at work editing, slicing and generally making good the video he filmed in the field a few weeks ago with our scientists and paleontologists. It'll be ready soon, but in the meantime I’ll give you a clue… it’s big, it’s extinct and it had lots of teeth. (Shhhhh!!)

Chris Owen our Web Manager is working hard on creating exiting new sections for our website, where all the collections content is brought together in the most user-friendly way possible. Not an easy task given we have 7 physical sites, 5 main collecting departments, hundreds of staff and millions of collections… oh yeah, and two languages to consider!

Dave Thorpe, Senior Developer is tweaking his very popular audio guides, developed as a first for Amgueddfa Cymru – for the new exhibition: Chalkie Davies: The NME Years at National Museum Cardiff. The exhibition focuses its interpretation on an audio guide you access through your own mobile device. Given the theme of the gallery is based around photographs captured in the 1970’s, bringing our new mobile era into the mix is very interesting. He’s also fine tuning some super duper interactives in the gallery. But come and visit the show for yourself to witness his handywork first hand!

Myself, I’m the Digital Programmes Manager and have been up to my eyes in fleshing out software/digital briefs for the new galleries in development at St. Fagans. Funded by a HLF grant, the largest ever awarded in Wales, the plans are ambitious and exciting. Not due to open until 2017/18, it's all about planning at this stage so I’m surrounded by spreadsheets, tables and forms - what a good time to stop for a coffee break and to knock out a quick blog post!


Yn dilyn ymlaen o flog Elen am Wersyll Carcharorion Frongoch, dw i am dynnu eich sylw at y gwrthrychau sydd gennym yn ein casgliadau sy’n gysylltiedig â charcharorion rhyfel neu gwersylloedd rhyfel yn ystod y ddau ryfel byd.

Am gyfod byr bu’r peilot Arthur Wellesley Rees Evans yn garcharor rhyfel pan saethwyd ei awyren i lawr tra ar ei ffordd i fomio Cologne yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Mae ei gasgliad gennym yn yr archif yn Sain Ffagan ac yn cynnwys dogfennau megis canllawiau am gyfathrebu â charcharorion rhyfel sydd wedi'u caethiwo dramor, canllawiau'r Pwyllgor Canolog Carcharorion Rhyfel ynghylch anfon parseli bwyd i garcharorion rhyfel yn yr Almaen, yn ogystal â cherdyn post o Wersyll Carcharorion Rhyfel Limburg yn hysbysu ei deulu ei fod yn garcharor rhyfel.

Mae enghreifftiau gennym hefyd o wrthrychau a wnaed gan garcharorion rhyfel Almaeneg a Thwrcaidd yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Mae'r rhain yn cynnwys set ysmygu a wnaed gan garcharor Almaeneg mewn gwersyll carcharorion rhyfel ym Mhenarth, a model gleinwaith o neidr gyda chameleon yn ei geg gyda'r geiriau 'TURKISH PRISONER 1917'.

Mae pawb yn gyfarwydd â’r ddelwedd o garcharorion rhyfel Prydeinig yn brwydro ac yn dianc o wersylloedd y gelyn yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd mewn storïau anhygoel megis ‘The Great Escape’ neu ‘Pum Cynnig i Gymro’.

Mae stori Cecil Rees yn debyg iawn i’r storïau hyn. Bu’n aelod o’r RAF, a chymrodd rhan mewn nifer o chyrchfaoedd bomio yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd. Saethwyd ei awyren i lawr yn Mai 1943, a chafodd ei ddal gan yr Almaenwyr tra’n lloches gyda theulu Ffleminaidd. Danfonwyd Cecil i wersyll carcharorion rhyfel Almaeneg, Stalag Luft 3, ond nid oedd yn bwriadu treulio gweddill y rhyfel y tu ôl i’r weiren bigog. Felly, dihangodd o’r gwersyll ym Mawrth 1944 cyn cael ei ddal eto gan yr Almaenwyr a’i ddanfon yn ôl i’r gwersyll. Rhoddwyd ei gasgliad o ddogfennau i’r Amgueddfa ddwy flynedd yn ôl, ac mae’n gasgliad hynod ddiddorol. Mae’n cynnwys cynlluniau i ddianc , mapiau hancesi papur , trwyddedau ffug gyda’r stamp Natsïaidd , a hyd yn oed ambell i Reichsmarks!

‘Drown’d in drowsy sleep, of nothing he takes keep’. These were the words that William Goscombe John chose to accompany his sculpture Morpheus when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891.

The caption was taken from the 16th century poem The Fairie Queene by Edmund Spenser, although it is not a direct quotation. This epic allegorical poem follows the journey of several Arthurian knights as they battle their way through a mythical fairyland.

Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, plays a small role in The Fairie Queene. He is called upon to help the black sorcerer Archimago trap Redcrosse, one of the Christian knights. He does this by conjuring up a false dream of love and lust to fool Redcrosse into believing that his lover Una has been ‘sporting’ with another knight. This leads to Redcrosse abandoning her and continuing his quest alone.

In this sculpture Morpheus is shown asleep - or perhaps softly stirring from sleep, his arms stretched languidly above his head. Apart from this, John makes no other reference to the narrative of The Fairie Queene and it is not clear why he would have chosen to depict a figure who plays a relatively small role in the story, and in Greek mythology.

We might say that the mythological theme was a pretext for depicting a nubile male nude. Alternatively, we might see it as a statement about the role of the figurative sculptor. In mythology, Morpheus had one great power: he could mimic the human form, and trick people into seeing physical bodies that are not really there.


Stephanie Roberts and Penelope Hines 

Why are we concerned with boxes whose lids don’t close properly?

This is not just curators and conservators being pernickety; we really do have very good reasons to make sure that every closed box stays shut.

Museum collections contain a lot of valuable things that are easily perishable. Swords are made to be tough, but - believe it or not - even swords are not indestructible.

Iron rusts when it gets wet. Iron also rusts because of moisture in the atmosphere. Other metals can corrode in much the same way. If we are not careful we would end up with merely a bag of rust!

Therefore, we store all manner of sensitive objects (including cannonballs!) in what we call “micro-environments”. While many of our stores and galleries are air-conditioned, the humidity in the air is often too high to prevent these delicate objects from rusting.

Micro-environments are boxes or plastic pouches that contain one or several objects, plus a chemical that regulates the humidity within the box or pouch. This chemical is silica gel – if you have ever bought an electrical item the packaging probably contained a little sachet saying “Do not eat!”. The little granules in this sachet are silica gel. It is very widely used to keep things dry. Including in museums.

Once we have packaged our objects with silica gel we do not want moisture from the atmosphere to get into the box; that’s why we make sure the box closes properly. Only then will the objects be safe and dry, and ready for display or study.

To read more about our collections care work, go to our Preventive Conservation blog.