A Waterfront experience

16th September 2005 at 01:00
TES Cymru likes to think it is read by the stars of the classroom, but it could also be spreading its pages over the heads of Hollywood movie stars - literally.

Apparently only a shredding machine at the local recycling centre stands between the pages in your hands and the snow that falls on film sets. More prosaically (and probable), back issues could be buried in motorway foundations up and down the M6.

Educational revelations like these await visitors to Wales's newest museum - the pound;30 million National Waterfront museum in Swansea, which opens next month.

The centre is being promoted as the total media experience, and it successfully combines the old and new in telling the story of Welsh industrialisation and innovation from the past to the present.

Imagine, for example, the clip-clopping of a 19th-century horse and carriage pacing through Wind Street in Swansea. Using a giant interactive ball-bearing, pupils can knock on the doors of people living in the street in 1851, and slowly uncover their faces and their lives.

Another exhibit allows you to use your arm as a computer mouse to find out more about Wales's past, including lessons on contraception in the early 1900s.

The museum was devised with the national curriculum in mind and is a labyrinth of discovery, with 15 themed sections and 100 audio-visual exhibits.

Staff are bracing themselves for around 200 children every day when the museum opens on October 18. Teachers have been urged to book 45-minute sessions in one zone and come back for more. Formal learning officer Llinos Thomas says: "We want children to come back because they are never going to see everything in one day.

"We want feedback on how best to organise school visits. We don't want anything set in stone until we see visits in action and assess if they are working well."

Built on old railtracks, the museum overlooks the sea. Inside it is lined with north Wales slate but outside looks more like a giant goldfish bowl.

Looming in the background is a 28-tonne rolling steel mill and a replica of Richard Trevithick's steam locomotive, the first in the world, which chugged out of Merthyr Tydfil.

Elsewhere you can find Gareth Edwards's rugby shirt and a Welsh hall of fame including fashion designer Julien McDonald, singer Dame Shirley Bassey, and Swansea-born actress Catherine Zeta Jones.

And with the launch in Trafalgar Week, it comes as no surprise to learn that the guns and cannonballs used to defeat Napolean were made in Merthyr - and that the iron used in the hulls on Nelson's ships was made in Swansea.

For information on school visits and conference facilities call 01792 638970. Admission is free

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