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I Spy…Nature out and about

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 24 Mawrth 2015

Last year Staff from the Departments of Natural Sciences, and Learning, Participation and Interpretation took their I Spy…Nature themed pop-up museum out into the community. This year we have been delivering I Spy…Nature related workshops throughout March as part of the I Spy…Nature Exhibition outreach programme. Workshops at National Museum Cardiff allowed members of the public to carry out fieldwork within the museum, bringing the outside in! Visitors were able to explore the miniature world of British Slugs and Snails, go pond dipping, explore a rocky shore (utilising our brand new portable 3D Rocky shore) and go worm charming with our OPAL Community Science officer. During the middle part of March, staff ran a series of school workshops both at National Museum Cardiff and within a local primary school, where pupils could explore the seafloor, Fossils and Minerals before trying their hand at scientific illustration with a local artist.  The aim of these sessions was to inspire children to explore their natural environment and also to give them a chance to experience the work that museum scientists do. For British Science and Engineering Week, staff held an I Spy…Nature Open day in the main Hall at National Museum Cardiff, with a plethora of specimens from our collections and even a giant lobster, fly and squirrel!

 For more information on the I Spy…Nature activities see our Storify Story.

As part of the redevelopment project at St.Fagans National History Museum, we wish to open our doors to volunteers and invite them to work alongside the Preventive Conservation team, helping to care for the collections on open display in the historic houses. There are hundreds of objects on display ranging from furniture, textiles, pottery and agricultural equipment. Providing plenty of opportunities to share a skill or learn something new.


Caring for this site is no mean feat, we currently have 26 furnished properties including a castle. Plus there are 4 new buildings on the way, including a medieval hall and the Vulcan pub! So plenty to keep us busy. The Museum is also open throughout the year and can have up to 700,000 visitors during that time, which means we are kept on our toes making sure everything continues to look good, day in and day out.

This work is a combined effort, involving staff from many different sections, which often goes on behind the scenes unnoticed by visitors. However, we wish to change this and provide opportunities for volunteers to assist us, not only in the care of objects, but also contribute to interpretation and help inform the public.


We are currently refurbishing one of the cottages on site, aiming to provide a comfortable and creative work space for our new collection care volunteers. We hope to start recruiting in May so if you're interested, I'll be posting more updates as the project continues to progress.

Brinley Edmunds – Barry’s Boy Soldier

Elen Phillips, 26 Chwefror 2015

On this day in 1917, Brinley Rhys Edmunds, an 18 year old groom from Barry, joined the army – one teenager among the 272,924 Welshmen who served during the First World War.

At the time, Brinley was living with his parents – Evan Edmunds and his Norwegian wife, Christine Sofia – at 7 Dunraven Street, a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Barry Docks. On the 1911 census, his father’s occupation is listed as Railway Engine Driver. From the census, we also learn that he, along with two of his four siblings, was a Welsh speaker.  

Brinley’s Record of Service Paper – the form he completed at a Cardiff recruiting office on 26 February 1917 – shows that he was initially assigned to the 59th Training Reserve Battalion. As you can see, the recruiting officer mistakenly noted his name as Brindley, rather than Brinley – an error replicated in all subsequent military records. The Service Paper reveals an intriguing twist to Brinley’s story. It appears that he had enlisted once before, with the 18th Battalion The Welsh Regiment, but was discharged for being underage:

Have you ever served in any branch of His Majesty’s Forces, naval or military? If so, which?

Yes 18 Welch Discharged under age 16-11-15

By my calculations, Brinley was born in November 1898, therefore he would have been 17 years old, or thereabouts, when he was discharged from the 18th Battalion. He probably joined-up at the age of 16, but I have been unable to trace any online documents relating to his time as an underage teenage tommy.

Frustrations aside, we’re fortunate to have several objects in the collection which were donated to the Museum by Brinley’s family in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are among the most powerful and poignant of all the First World War collections in our care. Although undated, the postcard shown here was almost certainly written by Brinley when he served with The Welsh Regiment. In July 1915, the 18th Battalion moved to Prees Heath training camp in Shropshire. This novelty postcard, addressed to Brinley’s parents, includes a set of pull-out images of the camp.

In addition to the postcard, we also have a beautiful pincushion made by Brinley as a gift for his mother. The centre features the insignia of The Welsh Regiment and the motto Gwell Angau na Chywilydd (Better Death than Dishonour). We don’t know where or why Brinley made this pincushion, but it’s possible that he was given the material and beads in kit format to alleviate boredom or to focus his mind.

We recently showed the pincushion and postcard to children whose parents are serving in the Armed Forces today. Both objects will be displayed in the redeveloped galleries here at St Fagans, alongside contemporary responses generated through partnership work with the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme. When asked to consider why Brinley may have made this pincushion for his mother, one young girl suggested it was his way of saying ‘I’m alive, don’t worry.’

Brinley Rhys Edmunds died on 5 September 1918 while serving with the Durham Light Infantry, a matter of weeks before the armistice and his twentieth birthday. He is buried at the Berlin South-Western Cemetery in Germany. With no grave to visit at home, his family preserved and displayed the pincushion under a glass dome. Like all families who lost a relative in the line of duty, Brinley’s parents received a bronze memorial plaque in recognition of his service, inscribed HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR BRINDLEY RYHS EDMUNDS – the error made by the Cardiff recruiting officer compounded by the misspelling of his middle name, Rhys.

Remember, you can now access the Museum's First World War collections online. We'd love to hear from you if you have further information about Brinley Edmunds, or any other person or family represented in the collections.

Before Christmas, I posted a blog about our First World War collections. If you’ve had a chance to browse our new online catalogue, you’ll know that we have a number of campaign medals and memorial plaques in the collection. Recently, we accepted a donation from the family of Private Alfred Prosser Workman – a coal miner who is commemorated, along with his brother Edward, on the Newbridge War Memorial. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs Gaynor Hoare, we now have Alfred's Victory Medal, British War Medal and memorial plaque in the collection.

Alfred Prosser Workman

Alfred Prosser Workman served with the 11th South Wales Borderers. He married Mrs Hoare’s grandmother, Elsie Mayo, in 1915. After his death in 1916, the young widow went on to marry Mrs Hoare’s grandfather, William Thomas, in 1919. Elsie remained close to Alfred’s family long after he had died. Although not a blood relative, her son called Alfred’s mother ‘Granny Workman’.

Memorial on the move

The Newbridge War Memorial was re-erected here at St Fagans in 1996. Its original location, high on a hill in Caetwmpyn Park, Newbridge, made access an issue for ageing veterans. A new memorial was built in the town centre and the original structure was offered to the Museum. Members of the Newbridge Branch of the Royal British Legion organise an annual service of remembrance at the Museum. It remains, twenty years down the line, their memorial.

Community engagement

The First World War centenary has provided an ideal opportunity for us to re-connect with the people of Newbridge. Across the country, communities of ‘citizen historians’ are coming together to uncover their First World War heritage, and Newbridge is no exception. Supported by Ken Merriott of the Newbridge Branch, Tim and Suzy Bowers have been researching the hidden histories of the 79 men commemorated on Newbridge War Memorial. Take a look at their fantastic website to learn more about the project. Alfred Prosser Workman’s story is featured here.

This research is also accessible at the Museum in the Reading Room of Oakdale Institute. We have condensed the men’s biographies into short profiles which you can browse in the form of replica broadsheet newspapers.

Museum scientists pop up at Fairwater Library

Lucy McCobb, 4 Tachwedd 2014

Museum scientists were out and about during half-term week, when the I Spy…Nature pop-up museum paid a visit to Fairwater Library on 30th October.  Curators from the Botany, Invertebrate Diversity and Palaeontology sections took along specimens from their collection areas to show the public, along with a microscope and quizzes to encourage them to look even closer.

Ingrid Jüttner challenged people to identify as many trees as they could, using beautiful displays of freshly-pressed leaves and fruits.  This activity was a big hit with grown-ups, and it was very pleasing to see so many parents and grandparents encouraging children to learn more about these important plants, which bring our living spaces to life.

The library’s meeting room became temporary home to an impressive array of marine and mollusc specimens from the Invertebrate Diversity section.  People were fascinated by the creatures on display, which evoked a range of reactions (including ‘they’re really gross!’) depending on how they felt about slugs and worms!  Teresa Darbyshire showed some of the diversity of life found around our shores, with beautiful sea shells, lobster, starfish, and a pickled octopus and giant sea worm.  Visitors tried their hands at identifying shells using a key, all good training for trips to the beach!  Ben Rowson challenged people to identify mystery objects under the microscope, and introduced them to slug identification using his recently published book and life-like models.

Lucy McCobb showed visitors a range of fossils from different periods of the Earth’s history, ranging from an Ice Age mastodon tooth and horse’s leg bone, through Jurassic ammonites and ichthyosaur bones, to trilobites, which are among Wales’s oldest fossils.  The ‘what’s in a name?’ quiz was popular with children, and asked them to use the meanings of scientific names to match up the name with the correct fossil.

This was I Spy..Nature's  first venture into libraries, and showed that they have great potential as venues for taking the Museum’s collections and experts out into communities.