A closer look at the National Collections

What a fascinating trip we MGAP volunteers had this week!

Thanks to the very kind folks at the National Museum Wales’s National Collection Centre in Nantgarw and our awesome project leader Al, who organised our ‘jolly’ [It was an educational visit, honest guv! – Al], a bunch of us were treated to a look at some of the objects most people don’t usually get to see.

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Part of the vehicle collection

First up we got a tour of the industry store by Carolyn Charles the Museum Registrar. A helicopter and push bikes, printing presses, railway signs and bricks, the variety of items was mind-boggling. I spotted an old agitator washing machine like the one my mother used when I was a kid and even older hand-turned mangles. There were huge pieces of architectural decoration that had been rescued from Cardiff’s Queen Street Station, and a fancy bird bath that presumably came from some posh estate. An old French cannon sat cheek by jowl with an enormous boulder that could only be coal – this is Wales after all!

These are items from the Welsh national industry collections. As you would expect, many are large and mechanical, some are in working order, others are undergoing or awaiting restoration. Most of these objects are ostensibly in storage, though some do get released for display in relevant exhibitions, both in Britain and abroad.

We were also treated to a talk by conservator Jennifer Griffiths, who’s in the process of restoring an old fish fryer dating from the early 1900s. De-greasing, de-rusting, dismantling, reassembling (the secret is to take lots of photos during the dismantling to make sure you can put your object back together again!), polishing – a conservator certainly needs a very broad skill set and a ton of patience to bring such old pieces back to life for the rest of us to admire and enjoy. Jennifer’s explanation of her work was fascinating and, hopefully, an incentive for some of our younger university-student volunteers who are still deciding on their career options.

The National Collections Centre is not open to the general public but they do offer a range of tours for groups as well as access to historians and researchers. You can read more about the centre, find their contact details and request a tour through the Collections Centre website.

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Thanks to Annie for writing the blog… read more of her words here!

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