Young Critics, 3rd Act Critics and Kids in Museums volunteers are working in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (ACNMW) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/ on a new free project focusing on the quality and standards of exhibitions and programming at their sites across Wales. Those involved recently spent a day with the staff at the National Museum, Cardiff. We will be featuring the responses to the day from the participants over the next few days, next up is Kids in Museums volunteer Annette Wells.
The Remarkable Maps of William Smith
This exhibition is upstairs and to be honest, if I didn’t have to go in, I may not have done -or at least, I would have looked at other stuff first. I get why the bust of William Smith, flanked by giant maps is the first thing you see, but it failed to give me the WOW that exhibitions can do (and should do?). But out of the corner of my eye I spotted a cabinet. THis is a reconstruction of the system William Smith used to display his collections of fossils..all sloping to the right because that;s what geology does, I now know!
The maps are huge and I have to admit, mightily impressive. I’m sure there is a lot of interesting information on them, but it is so small, that even with the A4 magnifying sheets I still couldn’t read it. Note to self – ALWAYS REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR GLASSES TO EXHIBITIONS! Our group was fortunate enough to be shown around by members of staff who filled in some of the missing bits, but if you’re not that fortunate, then just marvel. And I did find myself marvelling by the time I left.
There is just enough information on the panels. I’m not much of a reader, so once I’d looked at the objects – geology specimens and William Smith’s notebooks mainly – I did have a read. I’m glad I did. William Smith led an extraordinary life. From humble beginnings he led the way for geoloical map recording and in so doing put a spanner in the works for the many unscrupulous Victorian geological surveyors who up til then seemed to have free reign to ‘find’ and charge what they liked to hopeful/greedy/innocent/naive (delete according to your own convictions) landowners hoping to make a fortune from the mineral deposits under their feet. I also learnt that he spent time in a debtors prison.
The exhibition design was very traditional. The panels made for easy reading and the object labels complemented them, which I liked. There was the obligatory interactive, and I mean that in a positive way. It was beautifully constructed and thought out, but it flummuxed me. But that might have been just me! The exhibition is bilingual and the lighting and contrasts are good.
Although I grew to enjoy this exhibition, It is unclear whether this is an exhibition of the maps, which are remarkable actually, or whether it was an exhibition about a remarkable man. You go. You decide. But do visit!
The Ivor Davies Destruction in Art Archive
This exhibition is in THE BEST SPACE EVER! Immediately it felt monumental. The exhibition charts Ivor Davies’s work from 1950s to his more recent work, but concentrating on his work in 1960s with the destruction in art group. There is alot to look at. Running the length of both walls and a lot of it is very similar. In the centre of the gallery is a reworking of his Swansea project. Worth watching for a while, although I’m not sure I saw anywhere near all of it. Maybe that’s the point..that you can come in and out? Well thats what I did.
As usual, the arty farty way of labelling contemporary artworks which means that you have to search for information, prevails. This simply serves to make anyone who may be out of their comfort zone, even more so. Please don’t do it. If something needs a label make it obvious. If it doesn’t, then leave it out.
This exhibition is bilingual too, but I felt that the contrast was not strong enough for the Welsh text which may mean that some people might struggle to read it.
I have to say that I wasn’t overly keen on the work on display and prefer other works that wern’t there, but as an experience, it is an exhibition you should give a go. If only to look knowledgeable next time you have to name an internationally important Welsh artist!
Young Critics, 3rd Act Critics and Kids in Museums volunteers are working in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (ACNMW) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/ on a new free project focusing on the quality and standards of exhibitions and programming at their sites across Wales. Those involved recently spent a day with the staff at the National Museum, Cardiff. We will be featuring the responses to the day from the participants over the next few days, firstly Kids in Museums volunteer Eleanor Dobson.
The day was extremely enjoyable and offered me an insight, in extraordinary detail, into the inner workings of a museum. I felt myself becoming increasingly aware of the importance of understanding the expressions that are part of an exhibition. With this I was able to develop the skills to both criticise and value various elements of the areas we explored.
The first exhibition, Reading the Rocks: the Remarkable Maps of William Smith
This was a wonderful start to give us a chance to act both as a first time audience and test our skills at critiquing. I truly appreciate the level to which we were listened to, and the extent to which our thoughts were valued. Furthermore, the environment and the format that we gave our feedback in – standing and discussing as a group –was a fantastic way for people to express their thoughts in a non-threatening or intimidating environment.
The second exhibition, Silent Explosion: Ivor Davies and Destruction in Art
Again this was also a brilliant way to test the skills we developed from the previous experience, and ensured that we could also develop further our thoughts. This was because it was a completely different style and format. The only suggestion that I could make to improve on this particular part of the day, is that I would suggest that the curators tell us which parts they feel needed improving, and reflected their own thoughts on the exhibition. This way we could have offered practical advice that would have conformed their personal aims. However sometimes I felt that our criticism and suggestions went off topic slightly. For example, if they could suggest which target audience they are aiming to impress. This is only because, as I am from Kid in Museums, although I didn’t feel the exhibits were child friendly, they were extremely impressive and interesting from an adult perspective. With this in mind, it would be good to know if this is what they were aiming for, and then we could criticise them effectively.
Overall the day was fabulous. It enhanced my knowledge and skills in critiquing museum exhibits. I was enlightened into the different elements of creating a museum. Alongside this I was made to feel that I was making a positive contribution to the National Museum. I would be delighted to be allowed to take-part again, and hopefully become more confident in expressing pragmatic feedback.
Young Critics and 3rd Act critics are working in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (ACNMW) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/ on a new free project focusing on the quality and standards of exhibitions and programming at their sites across Wales.
ACNMW are keen to generate feedback and data from interested visitors regarding what makes a good exhibition and programme. The project aims to make the work of museums more accessible to the general public and increase the reach of culture and heritage. The project may also focus on Cadw sites and local museums and galleries.
The project is expected to last for 6 months initially, before being reviewed, and participants will be expected to commit to the lifetime of the project. Staff at National Museum Wales will provide training and workshops, and exclusive expert guidance on their roles. All participants will be supported in critical response methods and use of digital technologies to develop critical thinking skills.
The first workshop will take place on Saturday the 5th of December 10-1pm at National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NP.
If you aged between 12-25 or 50+ and would like to be involved please contact project coordinator Guy O’Donnell on firstname.lastname@example.org