Friday, 1 April 2011

The Cardiff Story

The Cardiff Story - a museum dedicated to the city's history - opened today in The Old Library in The Hayes, so I went along to take a look.

A previous museum on this site closed 80 years ago. The new museum incorporates around 600 objects from that museum, which have been in storage, together with newly-donated objects and interactive multimedia presentations.

I particularly liked the Object Theatre, where a series of short films accompanies objects displayed below the screen. You can dip in and out of these films, but I recommend staying for the whole 40 minute sequence. These excellent films include the history of Clark’s Pies, the rise and fall of the J.R. Freeman cigar factory on the Penarth Road, and the story of Tommy “the fish” Letton. Tommy took his mobile fishmongers stall around Tiger Bay for about 50 years. He died in 1991, aged 90; the city renamed a road after him (Letton Road). Nearby, on a listening post, fishmonger Chris Bloom describes life on the Ashton’s fish stall today in Cardiff's indoor market.

The rotating doll’s house wittily depicts family life, including dining, over the years. Spiller’s Records, the oldest record store in the world, is represented through objects and reminiscences from owner Ashli Todd. If you want an olfactory workout, the docks section has evocative smells to sample – garlic, tar rope, fried fish, Turkish cigarettes, oilskins.

Museum Manager Kathleen Howe has stressed that what opened today is only phase 1 of the museum, with phase 2, which will focus more on culture and sport, opening soon in an upstairs gallery.

Don’t miss a trip downstairs to look at the City Lab, especially if you have children with you. It has been designed for kids, with interactive activities and dressing up opportunities. Like the rest of the museum, it’s very well done.

The Cardiff Story, The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1BH
Tel: 029 2078 8334

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