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!