Is it a university? Is it a college? Yes, and it's also a museum!

There are many things that make the University of Glamorgan extraordinary. One of the more recent developments: we’re not just a university, but from this year onwards, we’re a fully accredited museum, too!

Part of a painting by Joan Baker


To be precise, the University is now an art museum focusing on the “visual culture of South Wales since 1945”. It is officially listed as “University Of Glamorgan, Art Collection Museum”. You can download a full list of Welsh museums accredited by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) on their website.

As a student, you have hopefully noticed artworks around campus, usually with little labels nearby informing you of the artist. The University has been steadily increasing its collection, from 75 artworks in 2001 to around 200 at the moment. Many of these are displayed on campus, but not the entire campus is a museum. The official, permanent exhibition area is in Ty Crawshay, and known as Oriel Y Bont. Two other rooms are also used as gallery spaces (A30, the Zobole Room and A35, the Gallery), depending on the scope of the exhibition. In the exhibition areas, you can find works owned by the University or visiting exhibitions. The gallery is free to enter and open year-round, 9am-5pm Mondays to Fridays, as befits a publicly accessible museum. It’s even possible to book guided tours of the exhibition in advance, for larger groups. Lecturers on some of the arts courses take advantage of this opportunity.

The University’s curator, Dr Ceri Thomas, has been putting a lot of energy in ensuring the University could meet the requirements to achieve museum accreditation. There are a number of benefits to being a recognised museum:

  • As a recognised museum, the University will be able to develop its links with the arts community further
  • The University has arrived, even more so than before, on the arts map in Wales
  • As accredited museum, the University will be eligible to accept donations from institutions (so far, only donations from individuals could be accepted)
  • The overall result is likely to be a continuation of the growth in the pool of artworks that can be exhibited on campus, benefiting students through enriching the environment on campus.

The exhibition in Oriel Y Bont will change periodically. To celebrate our newly obtained museum status, a very special exhibition is now in place:

Joan Baker: a retrospective

Photo of a Joan Baker painting

This is an unprecedented exhibition of oil paintings from 1944 to the present, researched and curated by Dr Ceri Thomas, with assistance from students Tiffany Oben and Julie Matthews.

‘Joan Baker: a retrospective’ celebrates her long career as a painter of the south Wales environment and is a landmark retrospective. Joan Baker (b 1922) trained under two of the leading artists of the day, Evan Charlton and Ceri Richards, from 1939 to 1944 at Cardiff College of Art. She then taught generations of art students there from 1945 to 1983. Amongst her pupils were Charles Burton, Ivor Davies, Ken Elias, Carol Hiles, Mary Lloyd Jones, Sally Moore, Peter Prendergast, Frances Woodley and Ernest Zobole.

This will be only her second solo show in 65 years, the first having been held twenty five years ago at the Howard Gardens Gallery, Cardiff. You can find out more about Joan Baker in this essay prepared by Dr Thomas, which includes a chronology of significant dates in her career.

Ultimately, the exhibition and museum status is designed to benefit students. Whether you are an arts afficionado, seek a moment of reflection and relaxation in the surrounding of the art gallery or use the art to inspire your own creativity, the exhibitions at the University are there for you to enjoy and appreciate.

Student involvement, however, has not been limited to passive appreciation: the University has offered the opportunity to assist in the curation of this exhibition to students, and two students in particular have helped Dr Thomas with this project:

Tiffany Oben

Tiffany Oben is a mature, part-time student at the University of Glamorgan, studying for an Art Practice BA degree and has just started her final year. Her work is becoming increasingly conceptual as she grapples with contemporary theories concerning gender, sexuality and identity. She works in a variety of media including photography, performance, ceramics and textiles and is always the subject of her own work. Outside the University, Oben has exhibited at Swansea’s Elysium Gallery, Cardiff’s Bute Space, and she is currently in the early stages of collaboration with three other artists to be shown in Grangetown Library, Cardiff.

Julie Matthews

Julie Matthews is a mature, part-time student in the third year of her BA Fine Art degree course at the University of Glamorgan. Within these studies her main interests lie in portraying landscape forms through the medium of clay. Julie was a close friend of the artist Peter Prendergast (1946-2007). Her extra-curricular activities include painting and for the past twelve years she has acted as the Programme Secretary for the Caerphilly Art Society, organising a series of demonstrations and talks for the membership.

Visiting the exhibition

You can visit the Joan Baker retrospective between 30th November 2009 and 23rd December 2009, and 4th to 11th January 2010 (weekdays 9 am to 5 pm).

There is an official opening ceremony / museum status launch event which you can attend – but you need to RSVP to the organisers to book your place. The launch event will be led by Nicola Heywood Thomas (who has blogged about this on the BBC website) on Wednesday 9th December 2009, between 6 – 8 pm. To book a place, please contact Gwyneth Speller by phone on 01443 482662 or email gspeller@glam.ac.uk.

Features on Glamlife

You may have noticed articles similar to this one appearing on Glamlife in recent weeks. You can find an overview of all features here: http://glamlife.glam.ac.uk/features

If you know of any students who have an interesting story to tell, please get in touch. We’d like to cover the stories that you want to read about.

New: We’re now offering the opportunity for students to gain work experience on Glamlife. If you are interested, please email worktasters@glam.ac.uk for more information.