Cardiff Story Museum opens to the public

April 1, 2011 2 Comments »
Cardiff Story Museum opens to the public

cardiff story museum

The Cardiff Story museum will today open its doors for the first time to the public who helped make it happen.

yourCardiff and South Wales Echo readers were among hundreds of people who donated objects to the £2m museum, which has finally opened in the Old Library building, The Hayes, after five years in the making.

As the first museum dedicated to Cardiff’s history in more than 80 years, it will chart the history of the city through the eyes of the people who lived in it from 2,300BC right through to the modern day.

Watch an interview with Museum manager Dr Kathleen Howe about her favourite parts of the museum

Artefacts donated by readers include a cutlass used by the Bute Dock Police to keep the peace in Cardiff docks, a cushion cover made by a women’s co-operative in Gwaelod-y-Garth during the  depression of the 1930s and a teapot that travelled across the Atlantic and back again with its emigrant owners.

It is just phase one of a two-phase project that will eventually fill all three floors of the Old Library building.

While the first phase looks at the city’s industrial heritage, docks, transport, and people’s home and working lives, phase two, due to open in 2012, will tackle the city’s legacy of sports, culture and leisure.

Museum manager Kathleen Howe said: “We have been blown away by the number of donations we’ve had.

“We have had more than 1,000 object and story donations, largely as a result of the Echo running really good features on us and engaging the public’s interest.

“We’ve tried to cover all the tangible aspects of Cardiff’s history in the first galleries that we’ve opened, particularly in the ground floor gallery, which is called Cardiff in Context.

“There we have looked at building the city, where the city’s wealth has come from, transport and the communities that have been drawn to Cardiff.”

She added: “That is what is in the museum at the moment, but people are going to think that there are some major omissions.

“Those are the things that will be covered by phase two, which we have already started working on and which will feature the more intangible elements of Cardiff’s history, looking at it’s culture and leisure and, of course, sporting history, which is very, very dear to Cardiffian’s hearts.”

As well as donations from Echo readers, funding for phase one of the museum came from Cardiff Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Engelhardt family’s Moondance Foundation, the Assembly  Government’s Museums, Libraries and Archives (CyMAL) fund and the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries Wales.

Dan Clayton Jones, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, which awarded £440,000 to the project, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund is very proud to be supporting this project, which brings to life the story of the people who helped make the city what it is today.

“The communities and local people that have shared their tales, memories and experiences with the Museum are at the centre of this project.

“Their involvement has helped to bring together the city’s rich history, to share with visitors and residents for years to come.”

Cardiff council leader Rodney Berman added: “Along with investing in the future of the city, it is important that we continue to invest in its heritage.

“The Cardiff Story reflects our commitment to making sure the rich history of Cardiff is remembered and future generations are given the opportunity to learn more about their heritage.

“The museum not only provides a vital learning resource for residents and schools but will also be a valued tourist attraction based in the heart of the city.”

My take on inside the museum

As you climb the steps and walk through the imposing wooden doors of the Old Library building on The Hayes, now home to the Cardiff Story museum, you are greeted by the grand entrance hall and wide stone staircase of the 19th-century Grade II*-listed building.

The finishing touches were yesterday being added to the words of a poem written especially for the museum by Wales’ National Poet Gillian Clarke and painted on the white walls.

To the left is the historic Victorian tiled corridor, closed for more than more than 80 years until its refurbishment last year, and down a curving staircase is a special hands-on learning centre for children and school groups.

As you walk through to the main exhibition room on the ground floor, four floor-to-ceiling panels take you through the capital’s history from before 1794 to 1999.

Explore further inside and you find a huge round futuristic screen that lets you fly over the city and zone in on its landmark buildings and streets, a rotating dolls house with rooms fitted out to reflect different eras and, nearby, life-size versions of a seal and lion from Cardiff’s famous animal wall, that can surprise you if you get too close.

Elsewhere you can race canal boats and trains, look at a 3D model of the docks circa 1900 and step into a theatre to watch videos of people sharing their stories about the objects on display.

To find out more, drop in between 10am and 5pm, call 029 2078 8334 or visit the museum’s website at

Let us know if you go along to the museum. Did you donate your story to it? Let us know in the comments below

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