Amgueddfa Cymru


Roedd Palas yr Esgob yn Henffordd yn neuadd fawreddog un tro, a gan i’r gwaith adeiladu ddechrau ym 1180 mae’n rhoi cipolwg prin i ni ar dechnegau’r cyfnod. Yr wythnos diwethaf fe es i a rhai o’m cydweithwyr, i’r Palas i weld yr un cwpwl siap bwa sydd wedi goroesi hyd heddiw, ynghudd yn yr atig.

Un o brosiectau diweddaraf Sain Ffagan yw ail-greu un o lysoedd Tywysogion Gwynedd. Sâf y llys gwreiddiol yn Rhosyr, ger Niwbwrch ar Ynys Môn ers y drydedd ganrif ar ddeg. Roedd yn un o 22 llys a ddefnyddiwyd gan Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) er mwyn cyflawni ei ddyletswyddau gweinyddol ym mhob ardal. Adfail yw’r llys bellach a phrin yw’r dystiolaeth o ffrâm bren y to, ac felly gwnaed ymchwil helaeth er mwyn creu cynllun addas i’r ail-greuad. Roedd tystiolaeth un sylfaen postyn ynghyd ag ardaloedd gwahanol o gerrig pafin yn awgrymu bod dwy rês o byst pren yn y brif neuadd yn rhannu’r neuadd ar ei hyd, gan greu ‘corff’ canolog a dwy ‘eil’ i’r naill ochr. Byddai’n rhaid angori pyst pren tal fel y rhain er cadernid, a dyma’r rheswm dros ein hymweliad â Henffordd. Y bwriad yw ail-greu’r dechneg fframio drwy ddefnyddio trawstiau angori bwaog tebyg, fydd yn ffurfio pendistiau cryf i ddal distiau’r to. Mae’r trawst bwaog bron mor fawreddog heddiw ag yr oedd yn anterth y neuadd.

Roedd safon y gwaith ym 1168 yn uchel iawn, a gallwch chi weld y cerfio cain ar bennau’r colofnau a’r stydwaith ar ochr uchaf y carn-tro. Rhaid nodi’r pren ei hun hefyd, gan taw dim ond breuddwydio am goed o’r maint all seiri heddiw. Crëwyd dau hanner y cwpwl o un boncyff crwm, a fyddai’n hynod o brin heddiw, ac mae’r golofn gron ger gwaelod y bwa wedi’i cherfio o’r un boncyff â’r trawst sgwâr y tu ôl iddi, sy’n galw am goeden trwchus dros ben. Er bod safon y gwaith yn uchel iawn, rhaid nodi hefyd bod rhai wedi amau y dechneg. Yn English Historic Carpentry (1980) dywedodd Cecil A. Hewett bod hyn yn ‘saernïaeth wael... lluniwyd esiampl Henffordd i safon uchel, ond gwelir y safon yn hollti medrus y pren a manyldeb y ffitio yn unig. Fel y dangosir, mae’r uniadau mor wan, prin y gellir eu galw’n uniadau...’

Ond, mae Palas yr Esgob yn dal i sefyll 835 mlynedd yn ddiweddarach er gwaethaf y ‘saernïaeth wael’. Wedi dychwelyd o Henffordd, yr her i mi yw ail-greu’r cynllun yn ein neuadd ni gan godi dwy ar bymtheg o drawstiau angori hanner cylch i ddal to gwellt Llys Rhosyr. Bydd y cyfan ar raddfa lai, ond y gobaith yw y bydd dau denon cudd ar frig y bwa yn cryfhau’r uniad, tra’n cynnal yr edrychiad traddodiadol.

This October Amgueddfa Cymru had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Made in Roath community arts festival. Now in its 7th year, the festival celebrates creative talent by taking art out of the gallery and into the wider community, with an emphasis on social engagement and inclusivity.

During the weekend of 17th and 18th October, the Natural Science conservators and curators along with some amazing Made in Roath volunteers, contributed to the festival’s creative extravaganza by installing a pop-up museum in a residential house. The unique setting allowed us to display many of our scientific specimens in a completely different way and also to make great use of our outreach collections.

Our aim was to simply have fun with the specimens, to inspire curiosity and delight for our visitors, and reinforce the idea that museums can be a friendly, relaxed spaces. So that’s just what we did…. by placing a sheep in the kitchen, a giant ancient millipede on the worktop, a crocodile under the stairs and an ostrich skeleton in the bay window. We filled a snooker table full of insects, made blinds from pressed plants and replaced the cups and saucers in the welsh dresser with fossils and minerals. Our curators enjoyed weaving their humour into the displays in subtle ways too. Visitors may have noticed a fox and otter playing a family game together and spelling their names, the spider’s web in the garden with its own paper label and even the specially created 2015.032 accession number with reference to the year of the festival and the door number of the house! 

Thanks to everyone’s hard work, the exhibition was a huge success and was amazingly well received by the local community. We have a visitor book full of lovely comments to prove it!

We’d like to say special thanks to the local Roath celebrity, Boyd Clack, who cut the red ribbon and opened the museum for us; the property owners who let us take over their home; and our volunteers who warmly welcomed visitors over the weekend, helping us to bring the museum to life.

We hope that our collaborative work with Made in Roath will grow in the future, so we can find even more creative ways to engage the community with our science collections. Watch this space!

For the last five years, St Fagans National History Museum has been a partner in the EU Culture-funded project, OpenArch.

OpenArch is an exciting project which aims to raises standards of management, interpretation and visitor interaction in those open-air museums that focus on Europe’s early history – archaeological open-air museums (AOAMs) as they have become known. AOAMs can be found right across Europe, bringing to life everything from Stone Age campsites to Iron Age farms, Roman forts and medieval towns. Their great strength is in the way in which they present their stories, often through detailed reconstructions and live interpretation.

The partners in this project are:


Archaeological-Ecological Centre Albersdorf, Germany

Archeon, Netherlands

C.I. De Calafell, Catalonia

EXARC, Netherlands

Exeter University, UK

Fotevikens Museum, Sweden

Hunebedcentrum, Netherlands

Kierikki Stone Age Village, Finland

Parco Archeologico e Museo all’aperto della Terramara di Montale, Italy

Viminacium, Serbia


And, of course, St Fagans National History Museum.


The project itself consists of three main strands: conferences and workshops, staff exchanges and activities.

Almost all the partners have hosted conferences related to the main area they are covering in the project: management practices, visitor interaction, craft work, scientific studies and communication, among others. Many of these have attracted large audiences and all have been stimulating opportunities to share new ideas.

Staff exchanges have also been a key method of strengthening links between the partner organisations, with practitioners spending time working in one another’s institutions to help share best practice.

The activities that partners have undertaken have, of course, been very varied. For example, visitor surveys have been undertaken to help us understand how well we are serving the public, and scientific studies have been carried out to learn more about how life was lived in the past and how this can be shown to the public.


What has St Fagans done?

St Fagans has benefited tremendously from the project. Over the course of the last five years, around twenty members of staff from all parts of the museum have had the opportunity to see how their colleagues in other museums go about their work. It’s been a chance to share what we do well, and learn from others. On one exchange visit, staff from our Events team were able to see how public activities were organised by our partners at Archeon in the Netherlands. On another, our Iron Age learning facilitator helped out on an Iron Age themed event in Calafell, Spain. The experience has certainly given us a better appreciation of the benefits of European working and has helped us to develop further ideas for collaborative working with European partners.

Throughout the project we have been using the experience we’ve gained in OpenArch to improve the quality of the new Iron Age farmhouses which we’ve been building. For example, we learnt from the very high standards of interior display demonstrated by our colleagues in Modena in Italy and adopted their standards in the choice of display items; while the work of the Hunebedcentrum in the Netherlands helped in suggesting ways that we could improve our building maintenance programmes. Along the way we’ve shared what we’ve learnt and how we’ve applied it in presentations at conferences run by the partners.

Perhaps the high point of our involvement in the project was the conference that we ran in May 2015. We used this to focus the project on issues relating to the management of archaeological open-air museums, and over three days we looked at issues both theoretical and practical in the company of a very distinguished selection of speakers from across Europe.


Alongside the conference we ran a craft festival as a major public event – the first of its kind to be held at St Fagans in many years. Over the course of a packed day, we hosted around 50 craftspeople from across Wales and the UK, including colleagues from our partner museums who were with us on staff exchange. Together they put on a great show, demonstrating everything from metalworking to pot-making, leatherwork, painting, food preparation and lots more. Over 5,000 visitors came to visit and feedback was excellent.

More information about our involvement in OpenArch can be found on the project website:


Conservators are a misunderstood race. When we start talking about what we do (conservation, of course), many people see us cuddling pandas and elephant babies. Some of us do indeed work with elephants – but generally only long after their demise. Because we protect not the living from dying, but the dead from decaying.

Natural and cultural heritage (for a definition, please see here) does not last forever. In fact, heritage can be incredibly ephemeral. In the museum context, just think of all the materials we hold in store: paper, wood, bone, feathers, leaves, glass, ceramics – all things that can break or decompose easily. But this just happens to be what your heritage is made of. All those objects making up our cultural treasure chest are in constant danger of breaking, getting mouldy, being eaten by insects, falling apart.

It is the job of your friendly museum conservator to make sure your children and your children’s children will still have that cultural reference point in many years to come. This requires a lot of work, all of the time – the rot never sleeps. Usually, only when things go wrong do conservators end up in the news. Most of the time, these highly skilled and experienced people go about their jobs unseen, in laboratories and studios deep in the bowels of museums, or in the galleries long after closing time.

To be a conservator today requires years of training, and rightly so – our heritage is too precious to risk gluing a beard back on wonky and with the wrong type of glue. The National Museum’s team of 20 conservators cares for approximately three million objects. These collections are hugely varied: the museum collects helicopters, microfossils, skeletons, oil paintings, mobile phones, harps and 18th century ball gowns. Conservation is therefore definitely for the specialist.

Restoring a painting, cleaning a Viking sword or preparing a fossil dinosaur skull, let me tell you, is really not easy. If you want to do it well it takes knowledge of materials, history and analytical sciences, experience and skill. Is it any easier to store things? Well, no, actually, to store objects correctly – that is, without inviting decay – the store must be dry (but not too dry!), cool, clean, free from pests, well organised, and have the right type of shelving for whatever we are storing.

Do you now want a chance to find out what a conservator is and what they really do? If you have a coin bring it along to our first Museum Conservators Open Day – we’ll show you what it’s made from during half term week: 27th October 2015 at National Museum Cardiff. You can play the X-ray game (perfectly safe, promise!), find out what creepy-crawlies are eating our collections and your wardrobe at home, and try your hands at conservation skills. All for free from 10am to 5pm!

On Saturday 10th October, scientists from the Museum’s Natural Sciences Department and Cardiff University came together to mark both National Biology Week and Earth Science Week, and to prove that biology (and geology) does indeed rock!  Engaging displays and fun activities filled the Main Hall and were also scattered through the lower natural history galleries and Clore Learning Space.  Visitors collected a stamping sheet at the door and could claim a stamp for every activity they completed.  Everyone who collected ten stamps had the chance to colour in and make their own natural history badge to take home.  Museum scientists wowed visitors with specimens from our collections behind the scenes, including the largest seeds in the world, glow-in-the-dark minerals and huge scarab beetles.  Visitors could also explore sea creatures and seaweeds in a rock pool, and have a go at matching fossils to their correct place on a timeline of the Earth’s history.  Fans of the game ‘Operation’ had the opportunity to try their hand with an actual size, adult dummy version, courtesy of biologists from Cardiff University, who also presented a range of other fascinating topics, including what we can learn from road kill, how healthy babies are made, how toadstools get their white spots and how to extract DNA from strawberries.  Appropriately enough, the University’s team of geologists set up shop at the entrance to the Evolution of Wales gallery, and invited visitors to experiment with what makes an explosive volcano, try to bend rocks and have a go at stepping in the footsteps of dinosaurs.  The day also featured several family-friendly events linked to the ‘Reading the Rocks: the remarkable maps of William Smith’ exhibitionTheatr na nÓg gave three performances of a one-man play exploring Smith’s work from the point of view of his young Welsh apprentice, and scientific historian Dr Leucha Veneer gave a family talk looking at early ideas about rocks and fossils.