Curator of Medieval and Later Archaeology, Department of History & Archaeology. Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

Marvellous medieval tiles-public engagement at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

There really is no such thing as a typical day in my role as curator of Medieval and Later Archaeology. Recent days have involved dealing with treasure items, answering public enquiries about our medieval collections and sorting out a massive post-medieval pottery assemblage from the Herefordshire/Monmouthshire border, a project I’ve recently worked on with a brilliant bunch of Cardiff University archaeology undergraduates.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the Day of Archaeology falls during the Festival of Archaeology, and if you work in museums then the FoA is always an important date in the calendar! This year we have held a variety of events, celebrating archaeology at AC-NMW, such as behind the scenes tours exploring the hidden depths of the museum, talks on the Saving Treasures project (https://museum.wales/portable-antiquities-scheme-in-wales-saving-treasures-telling-stories/) as well as a (plastic) skeleton-sorting exercise! Fortuitously, my event happened to fall on the Day of Archaeology.

I like a challenge, and being a fan of all things medieval I wanted to design an activity that would make medieval floor tiles as exciting to everyone else as they are to me.  But could it be done??

So, this is what I did. I took the design from a set of fourteenth-century tiles from Neath Abbey (the tiles depict a hunting scene-see below), asked our illustrator Tony Daly to trace the outline design and blow up the image to make a giant tile puzzle. These ’tiles’ were printed onto paper, cut up into small squares where participants were asked to colour them  however they liked.

Ably assisted by Joel Curzon, a Cardiff University undergraduate we drew in a crowd of budding medieval artists to help complete our puzzle. Whilst we didn’t quite manage to complete the entire set by the end of the event, we certainly had quality over quantity in terms of colour and patterns used. Here is the final result.

The colouring element was really great fun but the best thing for me was the wide-ranging interest shown in these small but beautiful objects, in particular the meanings behind the motifs used on different medieval tiles. One of my most enthusiastic participants, a six year old girl who completed a couple of the tile pieces, quizzed me on the hunting scene and  was amazed by how dogs were used in the past. She didn’t reckon her pet dog would have much luck against a deer. Perhaps I achieved my objective after all.

 

From Housing to History & Archaeology

Posted on behalf of Jonathan Howells, Department Administrator for Department of History & Archaeology, Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales

I am no archaeologist. Before working for the museum my idea of an archaeologist was vague and mostly gathered from watching Lucas’ Indiana Jones films.

Therefore, this blog can only highlight my experience since joining the History and Archaeology department at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales as their administrator; covering Cardiff Museum and St Fagans National Museum of History.

How did I come to be at the museum? Well, I was sadly made redundant from my previous position working for the national representative voice for tenants in Wales. Finding a suitable position or any work for that matter was difficult (especially in the Valleys). Thankfully after signing up to an agency, they managed to find me the right kind of work and more importantly with the best kind of people – and the rest is history!

Like going into any new working environment, it was a bit daunting at first, but the people were very welcoming and wouldn’t mind sharing their knowledge and past stories over a cup of filtered coffee.

Apart from administration I’ve been involved in a few archaeology-related activities, for example; I assisted with the cross-departmental Discovery Day that was based on the theme Colour, which was filled full of family-friendly activities, visitors were able to learn about the objects that were exhibited (including the impressive Treasure 20 display) and to take tours of the Collections with the curators.

One of the hidden gems that I’ve found at National Museum Cardiff is Clwb Pontio, an hourly break-time session that encourages staff, those who are Welsh learners and fluent speakers, to come together and converse in Welsh. It mostly starts and ends up with a game of Welsh scrabble (just to let you know, I’m bad at scrabble in any language!). I mainly go to enjoy the company of colleagues and it gives me a chance to find out who they are and what it is they do.

I’ve treasured my experience at the museum. It has facilitated in the development of my work skills and rekindled my interest regarding the history of the land of my fathers and even kept me from “abandoning” my mother-tongue – Nefoedd Wen!

Not only is the museum “Making History” but it has added a vital layer to the forging of my future, creating a solid cast for my career by providing me with further prospects.

I can honestly say Diolch o’r gallon.