Looking back, I have judged Cardiff, which didn’t become Wales’ Capital until 1955, to be a 5 Compass city having many worthwhile attractions with the exception of its huge art museum. I’m not a huge fan of castles. After the first 3 or 4 they all seem similar, but Cardiff Castle and others outside this city are superior. The one in Cardiff, a 3-part wonder in city center, is this city’s best overall enticement. Another stop that I really liked was not in any of my travel literature but also turned out to be a 3-part gem–The Cardiff Story Museum. Local residents told me about it with dazzlement in their eyes. I now understand their enthusiasm and support.
I discovered the best thing in the Cardiff Story Museum by accident. Since its inception in 2011, this museum has been in an old library building in Cardiff’s center. It tells the story of its citizens from their own perspective on 2 levels. The upper one is a traditional city history museum with some unique features. The lower one is designed for, but not exclusively geared to, children. This is the only small museum I’ve been to that actively solicits guest participation with shared memory boxes.
Cardiff was a small market town in the 14th century but grew to be one of the world’s largest ports in the 1900s when it became perhaps the world’s most important coal exporter. At that time the Bute family owned Cardiff Castle. The 3rd Marquess of Bute was as rich as Queen Victoria and hired architect William Burges to oversee the renovation of his residence in the castle. Their Victorian home here, which we and all others saw on a tour, is so lavish that it’s said to only be topped by their flamboyant country house on the Isle of Bute, where the world’s first heated pool was installed.
Because the Cardiff Story Museum found a home in a former library, it kept the Hayes’ original entrance intact. I found it by wandering around, and greatly appreciated its tiled and highly decorated features. The story of this city is told in both the upstairs and downstairs portions. Like a dollhouse for adults, the cleverest exhibit upstairs rotates to show the passing generations of a typical Cardiff home. Children and adults learn about their city through workshops, special events, creating memory boxes, etc. Sessions are held regularly in which Cardiffians choose a decade and literally fill a box with objects, memorabilia, and photos that tell their story. Many personal tales are told in the adult section of this excellent, and original, museum in Cardiff’s city center. I hope you get to see it in your own journeys.