Real Life Frozen in Wax
The Department has a collection of over 1,000 botanical models. The collection portrays the Welsh flora as well as species from other parts of Britain, Europe and the world. The majority of the models are made from beeswax, which when skilfully used, produces a life-like quality. Dried botanical specimens can lose colour, shape and texture and are of limited use for display and educational purposes. The use of wax models gives us the opportunity to display scientifically accurate representations of plant material in all seasons.
The collection has gradually built up since the museum opened in 1927 and is still developing and growing today. Although some models were donated or purchased from other institutions the majority were made by botanical artists working in-house. The range of skills and techniques used by these artists over the years give the collection a great diversity and historical value.
We have models made by very distinguished artists and modellers including Adolf and Friedrich Ziegler (1820–1889) Robert and Reinhold Brendel and H. Smedley who all specialised in scientific model-making. Each used slightly different materials ranging from wax, fabric and papier mache to resin.
One of the most important model-makers was Eveline Jenkins who was employed by the museum from 1927 to 1959 and in that time produced 487 outstanding models. Her successor Roy Herbert (1959–1982) followed her methods and produced 153 models which are breathtakingly life-like.
Dale Evans, an established artist also turned her hand to model-making and between the years 1982 to 1990 produced 42 exotic fruits and seeds.
The contribution of these artists over the years has made the botanical collection at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales quite unique in its size and quality.
The tradition is now kept alive by Annette Townsend, who began work in 1997. She is now the chief conservator for the wax models and is also a model-maker for the department where she can freeze time for both animals and plants specimens.
The models are available for viewing – just make an appointment.