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!

We have had more of our I Spy Nature Competition winners in for special behind the scenes tours of National Museum Cardiff.

We ran a drawing competition as part of our I Spy Nature Pop-up Museum at the Capitol Shopping Centre over the summer. We had some fantastic entries and it was extremely difficult to choose the winners. However, we managed to select several winners and they were given natural history related goodies from the Museum’s shop and offered special tours to see what happens once you leave the public galleries and go into the museum’s collections.

These three lucky winners had tours in the fossil and mineral collections with palaeontologist Dr Lucy McCobb and mineral curator Andrew Haycock. 

Some of our other winners have also been in to see what happens in the marine, shell and vertebrate collections.

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:


Things that go bump in the Main Hall…and the Herbarium

If Natural Sciences curators were of a superstitious nature, we might be feeling a little nervous, having welcomed 3113 visitors through the front door during our special Halloween Open Day.  We’re not sure what sort of omen back-to-back thirteens portend, but on the day itself they spelled meeting lots of new people and showing them some of the fascinating, creepy and sometimes deadly specimens from our natural history collections. 

Those brave enough to don special glasses and venture into the ‘Cave of Mystery’ were rewarded with a spectacular sight: minerals that look ghostly grey or white in normal light, but which glow eerily in pumpkin orange and gooey green under UV (ultra-violet) light.  For visitors wanting to see even more menacing minerals, there were poisonous ores, skeletal quartz, ghost crystals and goblin ore on display.

Slugs and snails, and creepy creature tales; that’s what our mollusc collections display was made of.  Many people were no doubt lured to this stand by the eerily back-lit cuttlefish, centrepiece of an intriguing array of shells, pickled specimens and models.  And if two dozen life-size slugs didn’t get you in the mood for Halloween, how about taking a closer look at a Pumpkin snail, ghost slug or South African Cannibal Snail?

We sometimes think that our entomology curators have one of the easiest jobs at Halloween.  Their wooden specimen drawers full of pinned insects (with the occasional massive spider or centipede thrown in for good measure) hold a fascination for many people.  Love them or loathe them, these invertebrates seem to draw everyone in to take a closer look.  This year, our insect experts went one better, and alongside the dried specimens of Death’s-head hawk moth and tarantula, they gave visitors the chance to have a close encounter with live cockroaches!  And not just any cockroaches. Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which, as the name suggests, make a hissing sound when they are disturbed.  Judging by the crowds that surrounded the cockroach tank all day, lots of our visitors were keen to touch or even hold one of the surprisingly docile creatures…or perhaps just to get as close as they dared.

Not to be outdone by cockroaches, on the palaeontology stand we presented visitors with ‘The biggest creepy-crawly ever to have lived on land’.  Not the real thing, sadly, but the next best thing: Arthur the Arthropleura, star of BBC’s The One Show and a life-size model of a giant millipede that lived 300 million years ago, and which reached over 2 metres in length.  To bring Arthur’s ‘coal forest’ habitat to life, we displayed beautiful fossil Coal Measures plants from the collections, alongside living ferns, horsetails and clubmoss.

Visitors to the National Herbarium were in for a real sensory treat when they entered the ‘Spooky Herbarium Orchard’.  A lovely apple aroma filled the air, as visitors got to see 40 varieties of everyone’s favourite Halloween fruit.  These were part of a larger display of 519 varieties that had starred at the recent National Botanic Garden of Wales’s ‘Apple Weekend’.  And for those who dared explore the atmospheric graveyard, our botany curators were on hand to help them discover some sinister-looking fungi and the spookier side of apples - did you know there are varieties called Bloody Ploughman, Red Devil and Catshead, or that if you throw an apple peel over your shoulder it will form the initial of your future love?

Our curators had a frighteningly good day, and we can’t wait to think up some more spooky spectacles for next Halloween.