#popupmuseum - The story so far
Here’s an update on our pop up museum project.
We’re creating a pop up museum about Cardiff with the Cardiff Story, helped by the HLF, for the Welsh Museums Festival and the Museums Association Conference at the Wales Millennium Centre on 9-10 October. Before we set it up, we’ve asked the people of Cardiff and beyond to help us collect stories and objects to get it up and running.
So far, we’ve held 3 workshops at The Cardiff Story. We’ve collected over 30 Cardiff stories on film and story cards and seen weird and wonderful objects that all say something about Cardiff in their own unique way! The process has brought people together in conversation by sharing their Cardiff story.
The latest workshop was held at the Cardiff Story between 6-8pm on 11 September. Cheese, wine and soft drinks were on offer to add to the social feel of the evening. By the end of the session 20 people had popped in to share their stories. We also took a video camera out on to the streets and filmed 20 voxpops from a very diverse range of passers-by! Some of them are hilariously funny and will be shown at the pop up museum at Wales Millennium Centre.
The First Object
A polystyrene corgi was the first object to make an entrance. It had been left out with the rubbish on a street in Roath – but was rescued, given a wash, and now lives happily with its new owners in a Cardiff living room.
Designing the pop up museum
As the number of Cardiff stories and objects grow, so too does the need to think about how we will display the material we’ve generated. The pop up museum will move to the Wales Millennium Centre on 9-10 October for the Museums Association Conference so it will have to be very flexible and easy to put up.
We’ve started rummaging around in the depths of National Museum Cardiff’s stores for cases, shelves, seats, anything! Here’s a selection of what we found:
- A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories. One idea we had about displaying objects was to place them in Perspex boxes on this table and pile them on top of each other as the display grows over the two days.
- A couple of lovely cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff. These will allow us to show objects from the Cardiff Story collections and national collections that reveal something about Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre.
- More seats! Some rather nice grey square fabric cubes.
- And finally…..Billy the Seal!
We’re not sure yet if Billy can come with us to the Wales Millennium Centre, but we’re looking into what’s possible. Billy’s skeleton has been part of National Museum Wales’ collections since the 1940s. Billy came to Cardiff in 1912, when fishermen aboard a trawler found him in their nets. He was given the name Billy and brought to Cardiff where he set up home in the Victoria Park Lake.
Billy apparently escaped during flooding and swam down Cowbridge Road. On the way he stopped at a local fish shop and ordered ‘no chips, just the haddock thanks.’ He then made his way to the Admiral Napier for a pint, ‘half a dark’ to be precise, but was captured and taken back to the lake.
We don’t know if these events actually happened, but many local residents swear the story is completely true.
Follow this blog to find out if Billy can escape again!
Next pop up museum workshop:
27 September 11.00-1.00pm, Cardiff Story
For more on setting up your own pop up museum follow this link:
Is Content still King?
Graham Davies, Digital Programmes Manager, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
"Content is King". The phrase is strong, infallible, sitting proud on his pedestal, a little like the Queen Mother, or the National Health Service. Sacrosanct. But has the time come to question some of our long held adages in the world of digital content and web design? Is content actually 'King' anymore?
Fresh back from an energising few days with the fab team at Culture24 at the Let's Get Real workshops and conference, I am determined not to let the enthusiasm and momentum get buried by the squillions of things in my inbox that greet me now that I am not 'Out of Office' anymore.
The discussions of the last few days have left me pondering over our constantly evolving digital landscape.
Which direction, and how high do we have to throw our digital content ball to get it successfully into the constantly moving net of engagement?
Jessica Riches, in her talk on 'Learning from Brands' seemed very surprised that she was the first of the day to mention the phrase ‘Content is King’
This made me think. And think again. About the shift in focus to be more about platforms, the importance of audiences and what channels those audiences use and reside in.
So has the time come to update or even rewrite the rulebook?
1. Content is King?
Surely it's not just raw content that is king anymore. Who your content is intended for significantly alters how it should be written and where it should be published. What is the intent of those people reading it? (as apposed to the intentions of those writing it). So I give you rule rewrite number 1:
Content, Intent and Purpose are the new King, Queen and Jack
By thinking of it this way, you are reminded that content on its own doesn't stand any more. It's equally important to also think of why you are writing it and where the people are who want to read it?
2. Build it and They Will Come?
This fell off its pedestal a long time ago, but if we were to prop it back in place the stonemasons would need to re-carve the plinth to read:
Write it and take it to where they are. Or perhaps better still: Go pay them a visit and have a chat
This helps reinforce the idea that we can't be institutional broadcasters anymore, we should be working with our audience to help them answer what they want to know, rather than what we want to tell them.
To demonstrate this, Shelley Bernstein provided us with a superb keynote speech at the Let's Get Real conference on how the Brooklyn Museum are trusting the audience and developing a wholly user-centric approach to their new responsive museum.
3. Design Responsive Websites
Great, Yes, very good. Although a revision of this phrase can encompass web design by default whilst primarily focussing on content:
Optimise your content to be platform independent
4. Think Mobile First
Yes, we must, and we should make this behaviour ingrained. By turning this rule upside-down, our new banner proclaims (and by its very nature automatically assumes mobile first):
Remember to check the desktop
Think back to those good old days where everything had to be retrofitted to work in IE 6. Who now retrospectively checks that everything reads and works well on a desktop? Not many I'm guessing.
But beware. Herein lies the paradox: Remember, people looking to visit one of our venues are more likely to be looking us up through a mobile device. However, people looking at in-depth long-form curatorial and academic material are predominantly still using desktops.
This is where headline metrics can be misleading, if your website as a whole shows a rise in mobile, that doesn't mean that all the content on the site is being accessed through mobiles. This is why metric analysis is so crucial before we apply blanket statements based on overall trends.
This brings me onto to something bigger I have been mulling over recently...
"Can we put it on the website please"?
Quite frankly, I dislike the term "Website". I often ask what section or area people are actually referring to, for websites these days have come to contain many distinct areas and functions, serving completely separate and different audiences and requirements. Maybe this is the crux of the problem? At the moment we are all busy working on a 'one solution fits all approach'. Shouldn't we be thinking of applying separate templates and content strategies based on different audience requirements within our own websites?
Going back to our rewritten rule number one, and this should be applied within (and throughout) our own organisational websites too.
All this can help us ensure that we consistently put the users needs at the centre of our goals and ambitions. Just by thinking a little differently about our assumptions, we have the ability to take a quicker, more direct route to successful engagement.
Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit
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
I Spy...Nature Competition Winners
We ran an ‘I Spy…Nature’ drawing competition across the summer to celebrate our natural sciences pop-up museum and launch of a new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. Our young visitors used some of the specimens from the museum collections as inspiration for their drawings. We had some fantastic entries and it was extremely difficult to choose the best nine drawings. However, after much deliberation we have chosen first, second and third places in 3 age categories (under 6, 6-9 and 10-13). The winners will be receiving natural history goodies from the museum shop. Many thanks to everyone who took part, we have really enjoyed seeing all of your wonderful drawings.
Popping up at the Capitol Shopping Centre
Museum scientists have been popping up in the Capitol Shopping Centre throughout the summer with their I Spy…Nature pop-up museum. Natural Sciences staff spent 9 days there with a variety of specimens from the Museum’s collections. Every day had a different theme from shells, to fossils, plants and minerals to name just a few. The public were able to ask our curators questions and find out about our new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff (I Spy…Nature), which is open until April 2015. We ran a drawing competition alongside the pop-up with some fantastic entries. We have chosen winners in three different age categories and they will be visiting us at the museum to have special tours behind the scenes and to claim their prizes. The winning entries will be posted on-line in the next few weeks. 2437 people visited us on the stand, which is a fantastic figure. Next we will be popping up at Fairwater Library on the 30th October and visiting 10 schools throughout the autumn.
A Window into the Industry Collections
Amongst the new collections we have received in August was a collection of two ship models and six watercolours. The models and paintings are all by Mr Tony Jackson who was apprenticed to Sir William Reardon Smith & Sons in 1951. The two models are of the BP tanker British Sovereign, and a Liberty Ship. The six watercolours show the Orient City, Homer City, Devon City, Fresno City, Graig and Graigfelen. The photograph below shows Tony Jackson in his uniform aged 15. The next two show the ship model of the British Sovereign ship model and a painting of the Graig.
This photograph is one of three we received showing the basilica and copper mines at El Cobre, Cuba, taken in February this year. These mines were important as a source of ore to Welsh smelting works. We recently acquired a share certificate relating to the Royal Copper Mines of Cobre which you can see in my March blog.
We have been donated a history of the Ely Brewery called ‘Beer and the Brewery’. This has been compiled by an ex-employee of the brewery who was an apprentice fitter and then fitter there from 1949 - 1962. This month we have also received 35 copies of the Ely Brewery house magazine ‘Mild and Bitter’. The image shows a front page from a 1956 edition.
We have purchased two interesting handbills for the collection. One is for the St. George’s SS Co. Ltd., and dates to 1910. The other is for a cruise along the Cardigan coast in 1968.
This Sharp 'Font Writer' Personal Word Processor (Model FW-710 UM) was purchased by the donor to be used during her university course. The word processor was manufactured by Sharp Electronics (UK) Ltd. at Wrexham in about 1995.
Curator: Industry & Transport
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Over the weekend, amidst the armed police and large NATO wall, the second pop-up museum workshop was held. The aim of these workshops is to find content for the pop-up museum being created at the Museums Association Conference in October and as part of the Welsh Museums Festival. The pop-up is being created with staff from the Cardiff Story Museum, Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales and the Heritage Lottery Fund with content coming from anyone who has a story to tell about Cardiff.
This time around we tried a different approach and held drop in sessions rather than a 2 hour workshop… Sadly it was a bit of a quiet day. Despite that, we did get some great stories. We heard from a busker who hadn’t been to Cardiff on a Saturday for 20 years but was back for a wedding, and from a man who remembered coming to Cardiff for work and ended up being a regular at the Vulcan pub.
The problem we found with the drop in session is that people did not have objects and if they did, they were not prepared to leave them. This meant that at the end of the 2 hours, we didn’t have a pop-up museum, just a collection of stories. You live and learn!
The next session is going to be on a Thursday evening, 11th September between 6 and 8pm at Cardiff Story Museum so you can come along and do some late night shopping or have a nice dinner afterwards. We’ll be holding it as a 2 hour workshop again so we have a great looking museum at the end of it.
We hope you can make it to one of our future sessions.
Contact Arran Rees on Cardiffstory@cardiff.gov.uk or 02920 788334 to find out more.
Shells, Scorpions and Shopping Centres
I started out writing a long meandering post about galleries, but what I came to say is this: I've really enjoyed the I Spy Nature exhibition at National Museum Cardiff, which runs until April 2015. Each time I've gone down to see it, the place has been full of families, conversations, and children dressed up as bugs and scientists, hopping from display to display.
I Spy... Nature gives you a chance to see the world as seen through the eyes of a bat, a scientist, or a fly. Provided you're under 10, you can even to dress up like one as you explore the creepy-crawly specimens, 3D printed corals, interactive quizzes and activities. The giant, interactive microscope screen mentioned in David's post can be found in a beautiful cabinet of slides. For those of you who prefer 'the real thing', there's also a working laboratory microscope, with a spinning table of fascinating slides to choose from.
The I Spy... team have also been taking the show outside to different places, bringing their amazing collection with them. For example, here's @CardiffCurator with a curious object at the Eisteddfod:
The I Spy... pop-up museum will be, er, popping up, for one last time this summer. Catch them at the Capitol Centre in Cardiff between the 28th and 30th of August. In amongst the handbags, sandwiches and end-of-season sales, you'll find scorpions, creepy-crawlies and a seashell that's bigger then your head. Pop down to see them between 11am and 3pm to see what you can spy!
What’s your Cardiff Story?
The first workshop to create content for the pop-up museum at the Museums Association Conference in October at the Wales Millennium Centre was held today at the Cardiff Story Museum. Staff from the Cardiff Story Museum, Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales and the Heritage Lottery Fund came together with a group made up of National Museum Wales and Cardiff Story Youth Forum members and volunteers to test the processes that are needed to create a pop-up museum.
Participants agreed that using Cardiff as a theme was a good idea. What is your Cardiff story? Or what does Cardiff mean to you? provides opportunities for people to give their opinion about Cardiff – the capital city of Wales, whether they’ve visited before or not. It includes those who are Cardiff born and bred and those who’ve stepped off the train for the first time; delegates at the Museum Association conference and families visiting the Wales Millennium Centre as part of the Welsh Museums Festival.
A conveyer belt of museum processes was set up with everyone taking turns to write text, photograph their object, be photographed themselves and be filmed talking about their Cardiff story.
In one hour, we created a mini museum in its most basic form. 12 objects, 8 stories, 7 voxpops, and 12 photographs all saying something different about Cardiff and what it means or has meant to the participants today or in the past.
Arran Rees, Curator of collections at Cardiff Story kicked off the session by showing his chosen object and sharing his Story.
Everyone joined in and within 30 minutes, a variety of different objects ranging from Welsh cakes to a fossil revealed something about Cardiff. One participant used Welsh cakes to show her fondness of the stall in Cardiff Market and how she identified with Cardiff and Wales by getting to like Welsh cakes even though she hated dried fruit. Another object was a ring that was a symbol of friendship and good times at Cardiff University. Another contributor told of her experience as a performer in the Cardiff Mardigras in 2013. Everyone wanted to read other people’s stories and the objects inspired discussion about Cardiff – good and bad, past and present.
The session was incredibly useful. The group confirmed that a broad theme is better, more inclusive and has more potential to inspire diverse responses than something too specific. Simple low tech methods work, and can be used to create interest and discussion – even when technology lets you down.
Now that the method has been tested and some ideas put into practise, we are ready for the next workshop. This will be an open workshop again at the Cardiff Story, 30 August 11am – 1pm. Come along and share what Cardiff means to you.
Contact Arran Rees at the Cardiff Story for more details:
"Our Cats" by Harrison Weir 
We recently participated in #MuseumCats Day on Twitter and this involved a quick search through our holdings for some interesting pictures of cats to Tweet and what a gem we have found! Please enjoy this selection of wonderful and [in some cases] bizarre illustrations of cats from the book "Our Cats and all about them" written and illustrated by Harrison Weir in 1889.
My personal favourites are the surreal disembodied heads [see above], "Sylvie" [she of the magnificent moustaches] and the Russian cat who [in my opinion] has a most unsettling human expression.
Weir was a very interesting character; he was born in 1824 on May 5th [d.1906], and is known as "The Father of the Cat Fancy”. He organizied the first ever cat show in England, at The Crystal Palace, London in July 1871 where he and his brother served as judges. In 1887 he founded the National Cat Club and was its first President and Show Manager until his resignation in 1890. Our Cats was the first published pedigree cat book.
Weir was employed, for many years, as a draughtsman and engraver for the Illustrated London News as well as many other publications and in his lifetime he both wrote and illustrated other books such as The Poetry of Nature (1867), Every Day in the Country (1883) and Animal Studies, Old and New (1885). In 1845 he exhibited his first painting at the British Institution and during his career he was an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy.
He was a keen animal fancier, an experienced breeder of cats, carrier pigeons, and poultry and for thirty years often acted as a judge at the principal pigeon and poultry shows. In 1903 he wrote and illustrated the exhaustive book Our Poultry and All About Them.
More information on Harrison Weir via the following links:
This book was bequeathed to the Library back in May 1916 along with around 500 other books by the Welsh artist, champion of Wales’ cultural heritage and one of the founding fathers of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Thomas Henry Thomas.
Along with the books, Thomas also bequeathed his entire catalogue of prints, drawings and watercolours to the Museum.
More information on Thomas Henry Thomas here:
The illustration above appeares in the Chapter "Performing cats". Other chapters include, "Cats as tormentors", "Dead cats", "Fishing cats" and "Lovers of cats" [would you believe... Cardinal Richelieu?].
This book is available to view electronically via the following Project Gutenberg link:
Biographical information on Harrison Weir taken from Wikipedia.
All photographs in this post taken by the author.