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Amgueddfa Cymru

First World War collections

Elen Phillips, 17 Rhagfyr 2014

After months of behind the scenes activity - rummaging in stores, researching, documenting, conserving and digitising - Amgueddfa Cymru's First World War catalogue is now online. At the moment, the catalogue includes over 500 records - archives, photographs and objects from the collections housed here at St Fagans. New records will be uploaded over the next few weeks, including some fantastic additions from the industry collections. We'll keep you posted.

I can't tell you how much this project has meant to me and my colleagues. It may sound corny, but we really do feel emotionally connected to the people whose lives are commemorated in the collections. From Walter Stinson's delicate beadwork jewellery, to Brinley Rhys Edmunds and his typo-ridden memorial plaque, these stories have captured our imagination. To us, Walter and Brinley are no longer anonymous names on file.

Talking of files, it hasn't been easy to pull-together our First World War collections. When curators speak of "newly-discovered" or "hidden" objects, please don't think that museums are full of misplaced or lost items - there are no "dusty vaults" here! The issue is usually a lack of documentation - the information stored on file which helps us to locate and interpret the collections in our care. Collecting methodologies have changed over the years, so too standards in documentation.

Many objects featured in the database were originally catalogued according to their function, making it difficult for present-day curators to draw-out their First World War significance. A classic example being a set of prosthetic arm attachments used by John Williams of Penrhyncoch. These were found in the medical collections, catalogued in 1966 under "orthopaedic equipment". By chance, I was looking at the accession file a few months ago and found a scribbled note saying "wounded in one arm during WW1". If only the curator had asked more questions at the time, especially given that John Williams himself donated the arm attachments to the Museum!

Thankfully, accession files are never closed indefinitely. New research and the reassessment of collections through community partnerships means that we're constantly editing and tweaking our records. So, if you knew a John Williams from Penrhyncoch who lost an arm during the First World War, please do get in touch.

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 28 Tachwedd 2014

The 14th October 2014 was the 101st anniversary of the Universal Colliery disaster at Senghenydd. 440 people were killed in this disaster on the 14th October 1913. It is still the worst mining disaster in the U.K. Last year on the centennial of the disaster a Welsh National Memorial to all mine disasters was unveiled on the site of the pit head. The memorial can be seen on the front of this memorial service programme acquired recently.

You can read an article on this disaster on our website. It is also possible to view all the objects from our collections that relate to this disaster on our ‘Images of Industry’ online database. Check it all out here

This interesting autograph book was donated this month. The book contains autographs, inscriptions and drawings connected with the South Wales Miners Federation, and most date to 1926. There are also some inscriptions relating to the Spanish Civil War. The photograph here shows the main inscription on the inside of the front cover.

This month also saw the launch of our First World War online database. It currently contains all objects and documents from the social & cultural history collections. It will soon include all our WW1 related objects from the industry collections as well. The site can be viewed here

To complement the launch of this database, staff from across Amgueddfa Cymru were involved in an ‘Explore Your Archives’ event held at the Oakdale Institute at St. Fagans: National History Museum. This event was an opportunity to show some original documents and photographs to members of the public, and promote the work we do in looking after these important collections.

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Golwg ar y Casgliadau Diwydiant

Mark Etheridge, 28 Hydref 2014

Buom yn ffodus iawn ym mis Hydref o dderbyn yn rhodd y bag powdwr gwn diddorol hwn a ddefnyddiwyd yn ffatri Curtis's and Harvey Ltd. yng Nglyn-nedd. Mae eu monogram i’w weld ar flaen y bag. Cafodd ei ddefnyddio gan Elizabeth Thomas, hen famgu y rhoddwr. Dyma hi’n gadael yr ysgol yn 14 oed i weithio ar fferm, cyn mynd i weithio yn y ffatri powdwr gwn yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Mae’r rhodd amser yn berffaith ar gyfer arddangosfa Gwaith a Buddugoliaeth: Diwydiant Cymru a’r Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol y Glannau, Abertawe sydd ar agor tan 15 Mawrth 2015.

Yn ystod y mis prynwyd tair tystysgrif ar gyfer ein casgliad pwysig o dystysgrifau cyfranddaliadau Cymreig.

Mae’r cyntaf am bum cyfran gwerth £100 yng nghwmni Abercwmeiddaw Slate Quarry Company Limited ac yn dyddio o 1898. Cofrestrwyd y cwmni yn Lerpwl ym 1876 i gaffael chwarel llechi o’r un enw yng Nghorris a agorwyd yn y 1840au. Roedd y cwmni canolig ei faint yn cyflogi 188 o ddynion ym 1882 ac yn cynhyrchu 4,000 tunnell o lechi, ond cafodd ei ddirwyn i ben ym 1905 gyda’r lleihad yn y galw am gynnyrch Cymru. Sefydlwyd cwmni ag enw tebyg ym 1911 wrth ailagor y chwarel ar raddfa lai, cyn i hwnnw ddod i ben ym 1938.

Mae’r ail yn dystysgrif am gyfran gwerth £50 yn y Pen-y-Bryn Slate Company Limited, yn dyddio o 1882. Cofrestrwyd y cwmni ym 1881 i gaffael chwareli llechi yn Nantlle a agorwyd gyntaf yn y ddeunawfed ganrif a’u rhedeg ar raddfa fawr ers y 1830au. Cwmni canolig cyffredin oedd hwn yn rhedeg pedwar chwarel dan law Blondins mewn dull oedd yn nodweddiadol o Ddyffryn Nantlle. Ym 1883 roedd yn cyflogi 240 o ddynion ac yn cynhyrchu 5,000 tunnell o lechi. Aeth y cwmni i’r wal ym 1887 a caewyd y chwarel tan 1895 pan gafodd ei ailagor ar raddfa lai a’i weithio tan y 1940au.

Mae’r dystysgrif olaf wedi’i hargraffu ar femrwn – cyfran gwerth £50 yn y Blaenavon Iron & Coal Company, wedi’i dyddio ar 8 Medi 1836. Sefydlwyd y cwmni cyfranddaliadau cyfun cynnar hwn (gyda chyfalaf anferth o £40,000) i gaffael gweithfeydd haearn a glofeydd y teulu Hill a’u partneriaid. Dyma’r cwmni newydd yn ehangu’n sylweddol ar y gwaith gan agor gwaith newydd Ger yr Efail, adeiladu nifer o dai a chyflwyno trenau stêm. Tyfodd y gweithfeydd yn un o brif gynhyrchwyr dur Prydain a daeth yn gwmni atebol cyfyngedig ym 1864.

Ar 26 Awst 1892 lladdwyd 112 o ddynion a bechgyn mewn ffrwydrad yng Nglofa Slip. Mae’r caffaeliad newydd hwn yn un o ddau lyfryn o lythyrau ar gyfer Cronfa Gymorth Ffrwydrad Tondu (Caerdydd) fyddai wedi cael eu dosbarthu i godi arian. Cawsant eu dyddio yn Neuadd y Ddinas Caerdydd ar 3 Medi 1892.

Mae gennym gasgliad bychan o wrthrychau a ffotograffau yn ymwneud â’r digwyddiad gan gynnwys mwg coffa

Cynhyrchwyd y fricsen hon yn un o lofeydd y brodyr Hedley, mwy na thebyg yn ardal Bryncoch. Cafodd ei achub o’r adeilad a elwir yn Ysgoldy Sant Pedr ar Ffordd Aberhonddu, Abertawe. Amgueddfa Cymru yw ceidwad casgliad briciau cenedlaethol Cymru, ac mae hwn yn atodiad gwerthfawr.

Llathen fesur swyddogol (neu Ffon y Dirprwy) yw’r gwrthrych olaf y mis hwn. Cai ei defnyddio gan Reolwr Bwrdd Glo Cenedlaethol olaf Big Pit cyn i’r pwll gau ym 1979. Byddai swyddogion yn cario llathen fesur ac yn ei ddefnyddio i brofi am nwy. Cyn y 1960au byddai’r Dirprwy yn gallu hongian ei lamp drwy’r twll yn un pen a’i chodi i’r nenfwd i brofi am nwy. Yn ddiweddarach byddai falf samplo arbennig yn cael ei ffitio i fferel ar ben arall y llathen, a byddai hwn yn cael ei ddefnyddio i roi sampl nwy o fwlb samplo mewn lamp ddiogelwch Garforth.

Mark Etheridge

Curadur: Diwydiant a Thrafnidiaeth

Dilynwch ni ar twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Make an Aria

Sioned Williams, 27 Hydref 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.

Last month we were given a fascinating insight into the life of Fanny Eaton, one of the models for John Everett Millais’ Jephthah (1867), which is currently on display in our Art in Victorian Britain gallery. Fanny is the figure at the far right of the painting, standing just before a curtain and wearing a yellow hood.

We were delighted to hear from Brian Eaton, Fanny’s great-grandson, who came with his wife Mary to see the painting. They first became interested in Fanny while researching their family tree, and since then have done a considerable amount of research into her personal history.

At the same time curators and art historians have become increasingly fascinated by Fanny, particularly following the exhibition Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900 at Manchester and Birmingham Art Galleries in 2005-6, and the accompanying catalogue written by the show’s curator Jan Marsh.

Fanny was born in Jamaica in 1835 but by 1851 was working as a servant in London where she lived with her mother Matilda Foster. Within a few years had begun to model for several Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic artists including Frederick Sandys, Albert Moore and Rebecca Solomon, probably to earn extra income.  Her striking features made her a popular choice with 19th century artists. Dante Gabriel Rossetti compared her to the Pre-Raphaelite ‘stunner’ Jane Morris.

The earliest studies of Fanny that we know of are pencil studies drawn in 1859 by Simeon Solomon. These were used as studies for his Mother of Moses, now in the collection of Delaware Art Museum, US. When this painting was displayed in the Royal Academy in 1860, a reviewer for the Athenaeum thought her features represented 'an exagerated Jewish type’.1

This is one of the interesting things about Fanny. As Jan Marsh has pointed out in Black Victorians, although originally from Jamaica, she was described in her day as being of ‘mixed race’ and artists of the time used her distinctive features to represent a variety of different ethnicities or ‘types’. This is perhaps what attracted Millais to use her in Jephthah.

Jephthah seems to be the last painting to feature Fanny, although there may be more that are not yet identified. Brian and Mary Eaton are continuing with their research, and are particularly interested in finding out about Fanny’s early childhood in Jamaica and the circumstances that led to her moving to London with her mother.

We are grateful to Brian and Mary for sharing their findings, and hope that much more information about Fanny will come to light!

1. 19 May 1860, pages 688-90. Source: Simeon Solomon Research Archive