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Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

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ladies in waiting

Bernice Parker, 23 January 2015

Our pregnant ewes came in from the field just after Christmas for extra care, shelter and food - this is important for strong lamb development. The ewes were all scanned in the New Year so that we can separate them into two groups: those expecting a single lamb in one group, twins or triplets in the other. The blue and green marks on their backs are the farmer’s code for whose got what inside them.


There are currently about 100 breeding ewes in the flock and we expect 150+ lambs. Our ewes are 2 years old the first time they lamb. The gestation period for a sheep is 5 months - the ewes come into season in September and we put our rams in the field in with the girls on 1st October. This means lambing will commence in the first week of March. We choose this schedule in order to have lambs on show in the Museum's fields for Easter.


So for the next few weeks they’ll be loafing around in the shed eating and sleeping….

Sunbathing, and generally being pampered.

Somewhere in amongst them is Poopsie, one of our bottle fed lambs from two years ago. She got the name after pooping all over my leg the first time I fed her.

Sometimes hand reared lambs will stay very tame, but Poopsie has merged back into the flock. Just occasionally though, there’s a look in the eye that makes me think ‘maybe it’s you……’

counting sheep

Bernice Parker, 15 January 2015


In between Christmas and New Year our girls came in from the fields for pregnancy scans.

The St Fagans flock


And the scores on the doors are……

scan results for St fagans ewes


We have three breeds of sheep at St Fagans and they’re all on the Rare Breeds List:

A Hill Radnor ewe

Hill Radnor

Llanwenog ram


Llanwenog

a group of mixed ewes on a frosty morning

sheep at St Fagans


and Black Welsh Mountain.


We’re expecting our babies to start arriving in March,
so keep an eye on the website for more details nearer the time.

Make an Aria

Sioned Williams, 27 October 2014

What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.

So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.

The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.

The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.

We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.

Speed-dating session with composers and writers
Speed-dating session with composers and writers
Looking at objects from Museum’s collection
Looking at objects from Museum’s collection
Necklace made at St Fagans by convalescing soldier, Walter Stinson
Necklace made at St Fagans by convalescing soldier, Walter Stinson
The Italian garden, a possible location for an aria?
The Italian garden, a possible location for an aria?
Soldiers and nurses in the Italian garden, St Fagans, during First World War
Soldiers and nurses in the Italian garden, St Fagans, during First World War

Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit

Gareth Bonello, 17 September 2014

Hendre'r Ywydd Uchaf Farmhouse

Elan volunteers with the St Fagans Youth Forum and spent some time with the Museum's Historic Buildings Unit and has blogged about her experience below;

Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit

As part of the Historic Buildings Demonstrations at Sain Ffagan, I visited Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf to see a carpenter at his work. When I arrived, he was busy working on a head of a door frame for the new Iron Age Village with wood that was sourced on site and freshly cut that morning. The work had to be done by hand without any aid from machines. He was more than happy to talk to us about his work and answer any of our questions. He talked about how he has done an NVQ in Historic Carpentry and that he has just finished his apprentiship after working at the museum for five years. His admiration towards the knowledge of the more experienced craftsmen was clear and he was aware that this knowledge came from experience not from qualifications.

He later explained how they brought buildings to the museum desribing the finished result as ‘flatpack buildings’ as they numbered the bricks around the sides before taking the building down and rebuilding it in Sain Ffagan using the Havorfordwest House and the Raglan Train Station as examples of this. The importance of conservation in this process was evident as he talked of only taking away what you needed whilst repairing historic buildings in order to keep their authenticity. He explained how the new developments happening in Sain Ffagan would lead to new work such as the Prince’s Palace from Anglesey where they would need to handle 480kg of timber! This was time well spent in order to understand how the building happens in Sain Ffagan.

blog gan Elan Llwyd

Out with the old, in with the new

Sioned Hughes, 18 June 2014

By: Sioned Hughes, Head of Public History

 It’s difficult to imagine that over the next couple of years the old Agricultural Gallery, largely unchanged at St Fagans for 20 or more years will be transformed as part of the Making History project. It will become a space that celebrates the fact that history belongs to everyone. It will be a platform where the museum shifts from being the provider of history to supporting and providing opportunities for others to explore meanings around diverse objects and make their own histories through participation and community curated displays.

 

Currently called by its working title Wales Is… we aim to display 17 moments in Welsh history using objects from the national collections. It will be a space where we encourage visitors to use historical skills to find out what the national collections can tell them about different moments in Welsh history.

 

The past few months have seen the Making History core content team work intensively with designers from Event Communications to develop this space. It’s an exciting, creative and intense process that involves looking in depth at our object selection and testing them against this exciting new concept.

 

To aid our current thinking and to generate discussion, we have stopped thinking about this space as a gallery and have started referring to it as a 3D social media account. Over the next few weeks we will be developing the idea of using social media as a conceptual framework for how the space works and how visitors will behave in it.

 

So far, we have identified that we would like the space to have followers and that it will follow other institutions or spaces that share relevant collections and opinions. We would like to ask visitors to Like, Share and Comment on what they see and provide opportunities to do this digitally and non-digitally, both in the space and remotely. We would like the space to have its own social media account and we would like its digital identity to develop as the content and the space itself develops – not as an add-on once it is open. We are looking at the possibility of tagging displays and objects so that content generated around them can be gathered and used as layers of interpretation. We want each display to have a social media feed on a screen as part of its interpretation.

 

The Public History Unit

Key to testing and delivering this space is the establishment of a new Public History Unit within the History and Archaeology Department. As a unit we have already facilitated workshops that support groups to develop historical skills to discover what objects can tell them about the past. These sessions have generated diverse, sometimes surprising, often emotional and occasionally controversial content that adds layers of rich and relevant interpretation to our storytelling.

 

In the space, we see the content generated around the displays, both digitally and non-digitally, as information that will be curated by museum staff. It will also be part of curatorial practise to manage social media campaigns around displays so that targeted audiences are reached. These campaigns will be supported by a programme of events and pop-up activities that can be used to generate interest and debate.

Suffrage Participatory Workshops

As part of the process for testing the content for Wales Is…the Public History Unit took the national suffrage collection to two schools in the Newport area as part of the Bird in a Cage project with Winding Snake. Within a few hours, over a hundred pupils from Lewis Girls School and Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd had seen and participated in a debate around the collections and suffrage movement in Wales. This is an example of how objects can generate content that is as interesting as the objects themselves. It demonstrates how groups and individuals can construct their own meanings around what they see. It also showed how social media can be used to generate interest and debate around a subject area.

The next challenge

The challenge will now be to work with Event to develop a design that can deliver this concept so that the outcomes of a participatory workshop can translate into a gallery context using the framework provided by Social Media. The questions we are asking ourselves at the moment are: is this workable? How can we use the information generated? What would a social media campaign linked to one of the displays look like?  How can we create a framework and strategy to help develop the digital identity of the space?  And most important of all, is this approach future proof? The Agricultural Gallery was popular at St Fagans for over 20 years. This new space will also have to stand the test of time and the changing behaviour patterns of our visitors in the future. 

The Agricultural Gallery emptied and ready for its transformation.
The Agricultural Gallery emptied and ready for its transformation.
Working with Event on designs for the new space.
Working with Event on designs for the new space.
Working with Event on designs for the new space.
Working with Event on designs for the new space.
Elen Phillips exploring the Suffrage collection with children from Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd
Elen Phillips exploring the Suffrage collection with children from Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd
Comments generated around a satirical suffragette doll and anti-suffragette doll from the collections
Comments generated around a satirical suffragette doll and anti-suffragette doll from the collections
Comments generated around a satirical suffragette doll and anti-suffragette doll from the collections
Comments generated around a satirical suffragette doll and anti-suffragette doll from the collections
A comment from a pupil at Ysgol Gynradd Casnewydd  ‘Very angry. Sad. Suffragettes were people like Nelson Mandela.’
A comment from a pupil at Ysgol Gynradd Casnewydd ‘Very angry. Sad. Suffragettes were people like Nelson Mandela.’
Elen Phillips and Sioned Hughes from the Public History Unit Tweeting comments generated by the pupils at the session
Elen Phillips and Sioned Hughes from the Public History Unit Tweeting comments generated by the pupils at the session
Comments shared on Twitter generating re-Tweets and further comments.
Comments shared on Twitter generating re-Tweets and further comments. storify.com/ElenPhillips/my-title