Paid collaboration with National Museum Cardiff and National Museum Wales
What better place to hang out on a damp and dreary winter’s day than the National Museum Cardiff?
Even before we started working as ambassadors for the museum it has long been one of our favourite places to visit as a family. We never get bored of the natural history galleries with the giant whale skeleton and all manner of animals to learn about; the evolution of Wales display with its video of an erupting volcano, dinosaur replicas and skeletons; or the incredible art collections upstairs. Not to mention the fact that entry is free (although donations help support the museum’s work).
There’s also a chance for children to get hands-on with history and science in the Clore Discovery Centre. Here, there are drawers to open and close, each filled with treasures that children can hold and touch helping to inspire and engage their young minds. The microscopes help you get even closer to historical finds. There are animal bones and skulls; fossils; insects; Bronze Age weapons; precious stones and minerals; fauna and flora. It’s a chance to get close to some of the 7.5 million items which are usually safely displayed in glass cabinets or stored away in the museum’s vaults. It’s definitely not just the kids who find themselves learning when they visit the Clore Discovery Centre; I find it all just as fascinating as they do.
During the week (Tuesday to Friday morning during term time) the centre is open to pre-booked groups only. Friday afternoons from 1pm-4pm, the Centre is taken over by Toddler Time sessions for preschoolers (read our review of Toddler Time here) and at weekends and school holidays it’s open to everyone.
Every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm during term time families can take part in Clore Explorers workshops. These sessions involve an opportunity to learn more about the museum’s collections as well as a related craft session. The workshops are free. Places are limited to 20 per session and must be pre-booked at the museum’s information desk on the day.
We headed along one recent Saturday afternoon when the museum’s Del Elliott was leading a Clore Explorers session about the skeleton.
Del is an archaeologist and explained in an age-appropriate way how those in the profession can work out whether skeletons they have discovered are male or female. He got the children attending the session naming body parts and measuring bones and trying to work out the gender of various bones and skeletons.
After this, the children then made their own moving skeleton by cutting out card templates and pinning it together with paper fastener clips so that the limbs would move. I find my middle child in particular really responds to this kind of interactive learning; whereas his big sister is more bookish and academic he understands things better if he can learn by doing. Our session inspired lots of follow-up questions about skeletons and archaeology… so we headed around the rest of the museum to see if we could answer any of his questions.
The natural history galleries were our first stop. One of my children’s favourite exhibits here is the humpback whale skeleton, which at 9m long is an incredible sight. My children are always amazed when I tell them I remember it being washed up on the beach at Aberthaw way back in 1982. My parents took me and my brother to see it. My overriding memory is of the smell.
Nearby is the largest Leatherback Turtle ever recorded. He was found stranded on a beach below Harlech Castle in 1988 and it’s thought he was over 100 years old when he died.
We had a quick look around Wriggle: The Wonderful World of Worms exhibition, which continues until 3 June 2018 (read our full review of Wriggle here) before heading down to the Evolution of Wales gallery. No visit to the museum is complete without a trip to see dinosaur skeletons and replicas.
On our way out, as always when we visit National Museum Cardiff we left a donation to help support its work and ensure it will remain free for generations to come.
Clore Explorers’ sessions are free. Spaces are limited to 20 per session and need to booked at the information desk on arrival at the museum.