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October 2014

Unlocking records from backlog collections

Posted by Harriet Wood on 17 October 2014
Seren Thomas working with Ben Rowson on the Mollusca collections
Photo1: Seren Thomas working with Ben Rowson on the Mollusca collections
The first drawer of British specimens that Seren is working on
Photo 2: The first drawer of British specimens that Seren is working on

This week we were delighted to welcome our new intern, Seren Thomas, to the Department of Natural Sciences. Seren is already known to the department having volunteered for us in the Mollusca and Botany Sections whilst studying for her degree five years ago. Now, with her degree behind her, including a professional training year at Kew Gardens, and a Masters degree starting late next year, Seren was keen to work with us once again. So, what will she be doing… 

There is so much useful information held in our collections that we are continually trying to make available and disseminate. Seren will be helping unlock data from our non-marine British backlog collections in Mollusca (primarily slugs and snails). These specimens date from before 1900 to the present, cumulatively spanning almost the whole of Britain and Ireland, representing many species and habitats. The project will involve repackage and re-labelling each species in turn, and extracting, verifying and georeferencing the species and site data. This will allow the data to be exported to the national environmental recording networks via the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. It will also help the material to be used more efficiently and widely in our research projects and other activities.

Watch this space to see how the project progresses over the next year and beyond.

More I Spy Competition Winners

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 14 October 2014

Winner in the under 6 age category receiving her prize

Winner in the 10-13 age category receiving her prize

The winners and their families after the special behind the scenes tour of the Natural Science Collections

Behind the scenes in the shell (mollusc) collections

We were joined this Saturday by two more of our I Spy…Nature drawing competition winners and their families. The winners were shown around the mollusc (shell), marine invertebrate and vertebrate collections as part of their special behind the scenes tour by museum curators Katie Mortimer-Jones and Jennifer Gallichan. The visitors were able to select draws from the mollusc collections to look in and saw a Giant Clam and a cone shell known as Glory of the Seas (Conus gloriamaris), a once sort after shell found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to name but a few. Next onto the fluid store, where we keep our fluid preserved specimens such as marine bristleworms, starfish, crabs, lobsters and fish specimens. Lastly the tour finished up in the Vertebrate store where we keep some of the Museum’s taxidermy and skeleton specimens. After the tour, the winners were given their prizes of natural history goodies from the Museum Shop.

World Octopus Day

Posted by Harriet Wood on 8 October 2014

Portrait of William Evans Hoyle from the Amgueddfa Cymru library archive

Hoyle’s library stamp identifies the books he donated to the Mollusca library

A few examples from Hoyle’s Cephalopod collection

An Octopus close up from the Hoyle collection

» View full post to see all images

Today is a very special day…it’s World Octopus Day! So, what better opportunity to celebrate the life of the eminent Cephalopod expert Dr William Evans Hoyle. Here at Amgueddfa Cymru Hoyle has a particularly special place in our hearts as he was our first Director and donated part of his Cephalopod collection to our museum containing some 463 jars of specimens.

So, who was this man…?

Born in Manchester in 1855, Hoyle followed a varied and interesting career but his passion was always for science and nature. From an Oxford degree in Natural History to a diploma in medicine; from writing Challenger Reports to being Keeper and Director of the Manchester Museum; whatever the challenge, Hoyle took it on with energy, enthusiasm and a great sense of humour.

The challenge of Challenger:

It was in 1882 that he was invited to be a naturalist on the editorial staff of the “Challenger” Expedition, under the supervision of Sir John Murray. This was to be the start of his life-long love for cephalopods. All of the cephalopods collected over the four years of the expedition (1872-1876) were passed through his hands. His skills in dissection and anatomy meant he was an excellent candidate to carry out their thorough examination. He produced diagnoses and descriptions of these creatures which were compiled into a preliminary report in 1885 and a final report in 1886.

His tenure with the Challenger team lasted six years but for the remainder of his life he studied and analysed cephalopods from all over the world and produced numerous publications. Examples of some of his studies are those collected by Herdman from Ceylon (1924); Stanley Gardiner from the Maldives and Laccadives (1905); those collected on the National Antarctic Exhibition (1907); and the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1912). Hoyle was a meticulous worker and drew many of his own beautiful illustrations for these publications, some of which now reside in the archive at Amgueddfa Cymru. He quickly became recognised as a chief authority in the subject.

Director of the National Museum of Wales

After 20 years of working at the Manchester Museum, including a period as Director, Hoyle took his final career change in 1909 when he was appointed Director of the National Museum of Wales (now Amgueddfa Cymru). By this time he was already considered the most prominent science museum director in Great Britain. For Hoyle this was the perfect job and represented the fulfilment of a life long ambition. It allowed him to be involved in the development of a museum, both as a building and a concept, from the beginning. The museum was chartered in 1907 but Hoyle joined the team at a time when he could participate in the architectural discussions and was responsible for some major changes in the design of the building. As part of his research he visited many museums in both Europe and America so he could learn from their mistakes and find the best methods of development. He noted particularly that often not enough space was allocated for collections and their future growth.

A place for exploration and discovery

Hoyle applied great energy to his work and with his exceptional organisational skills and knowledge he pushed this museum forward. With such a strong scientific background, and experience of working with material from expeditions, he was a strong promoter of the museum as a science and research institute. He promoted it as an arena for exploration and discovery of the world. Hoyle also had good acquaintances with fellow natural historians, especially as a member of the Cardiff Naturalist Society, and so encouraged them to donate their collections. His years at NMW put this museum on the scientific map and made it a place where eminent scientists were proud to bequeath their collections.

As a concept Hoyle was a great believer that museums should be “Schools for learning” as well as store houses for interesting objects. He was very well known as a popular lecturer in a great many subjects and his sense of humour and enthusiasm brought his talks alive. He was also known to have a wonderful ability to interest children and pass this enthusiasm onto them.

He was Director through the First World War which proved a great difficulty at times and caused frustrating delays in the development of the building. Sadly, Hoyle retired due to ill health in 1924 and was never to see the completion of the museum as he died on 7th February 1926 in Porthcawl. 

Are E-cigarettes harmful to museum collections?

Posted by Christian Baars on 7 October 2014

Re-visiting no smoking policies to include non-tobacco replacement products.

AC-NMW has recently banned the use of e-cigarettes from its galleries. E-cigarettes are considered a less harmful version of conventional cigarettes – do they really need to be banned from museums?

What's the problem?

An electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, is an electronic inhaler that vaporizes a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes use a rechargeable battery to power the vaporizer.

Many people use e-cigarettes as a way of quitting smoking and while this is deemed a positive development, the act of using an e-cigarette does look like smoking which is disconcerting to other people. Users of e-cigarettes should be sensitive to the impression that using the substitute may give to others. For example, there are questions surrounding the appropriateness of smoking e-cigarettes in public, especially around children.

Smoking ordinary cigarettes violates established museum policies and therefore, for the sake of consistency, the use of e-cigarettes has been prohibited at AC-NMW on health and safety grounds (and in line with existing legislation covering smoking in public places) since May 2014.

In addition, there are good conservation reasons against ‘vaping’ in museums. Electronic cigarettes work in a similar way (with a chemical carrier, such as propylene glycol, nicotine and a cocktail of flavouring chemicals) to scent and smoke machines that historic houses and museums have rejected in the past to protect collections from damage.

What is the effect on museum collections?

What does the science say about the effects of e-cigarettes? A summary report recently reviewed 29 studies on the chemistry of e-cigarettes and found that refill solutions and aerosols contain nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), flavours, solvent carriers and tobacco alkaloids (Cheng 2014). However, not all of those chemicals are necessarily emitted by a user exhaling vapour from an e-cigarette. In fact, the average nicotine concentration in e-cigarette vapour is considerably lower than the amount found in tobacco smoke (Czogala et al. 2013).

In addition, e-cigarette vapour does not appear to contain some of the other toxic products found in cigarette smoke. VOCs, including acetone and formaldehyde, are seemingly not emitted at all (Czogala et al. 2013), or at levels considerably lower than from conventional cigarettes (Schripp et al. 2013) – the slightly different results depend on the analytical methods used. Crucially, acetic acid is emitted by e-cigarettes (Schripp et al. 2013).

Acetic acid is very problematic in museum galleries and collections stores. Airborne acetic acid leads to destructive corrosion of metals and minerals, including calcitic bivalve shells and fossils. And while the levels emitted by each individual e-cigarette may be small, many museum conservators and curators have first-hand experience at dealing with damage caused by airborne indoor pollutants.

Pre-cautionary principle applies in museums

We have a duty to maintain our fantastic heritage, and to care for the collections of Wales to ensure their continued and future preservation. It is best to put the objects first and limit the chemical and aerosol exposure of museum collections by prohibiting the use of both conventional and e-cigarettes in museums.  

 

References

Cheng, T. 2014. Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes. Tobacco Control 23: ii11-ii17.

Czogala, J., Goniewicz, M.L., Fidelus, B., Zielinska-Danch, W., Travers, M.J., Sobczak, A. 2013. Secondhand exposure to vapors from electronic cigarettes. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, doi:10.1093/ntr/ntt203.

Schripp, T., Markewitz, D., Uhde, E., Salthammer, T. 2013. Does e-cigarette consumption cause passive vaping? Indoor Air 23: 25-31.

  

#popupmuseum

Posted by Heledd Fychan on 6 October 2014

Well, the week has finally arrived. After months of planning and discussing, later this week the #popupmuseum will become a reality. Whilst we already have some stories ready to share as part of the #popupmuseum and some museum objects to showcase, such as Billy the Seal, the truth is, we have no idea what it will become as it relies completely on people coming to the Wales Millennium Centre on Thursday and Friday (9th and 10th October) with their stories and/or objects that relate to or remind them of Cardiff.

This is how it will work. The #popupmuseum will be in the foyer of the Wales Millennium Centre, and manned from 9am to 5:30pm on both days. You can either donate an object and leave it with us, with a written or audio description of what it is, or you can have your picture taken with the object. If you choose to leave anything with us, it will be returned to you after the #popupmuseum comes to an end! Alternatively, if you have a story, you can either write it down or be filmed telling us the story, and it will be displayed as part of the #popupmuseum.

Still with me? Good...

All will be well if people turn up. Hence why we need your help. Please spread the word, by talking about the projects to friends and family and helping us promote via social media. Objects don’t have to be valuable or typical museum objects. They can be funny, quirky, strange, serious, surprising – in fact, anything goes as long as they have a Cardiff story. They can mean something to you personally or can be part of the story of a Cardiff institution or organisation. This really is your opportunity to create a different kind of museum.

For further information, please email heledd.fychan@museumwales.ac.uk or @heleddfychan

I Spy...Nature Drawing Competition

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 6 October 2014

Winner in our I Spy...Nature drawing competition

Runner-up in our I Spy...Nature Drawing Competition

Visitors to our I Spy….Nature pop-up museum at the Capitol Shopping center over the summer were given the opportunity to enter a drawing competition, using our museum specimens as inspiration for their artwork. Nine winners were chosen in three age groups, winning Natural History prizes from the museum shop. As part of the prize, all winners were offered the opportunity to have a special tour behind the scenes at the museum. Several of the prizewinners have already been to visit us and the rest will be visiting us over the next few weeks. All of the winning entries can be viewed here

The National Waterfront Museum Youth Forum join the fun on Roald Dahl Day

Posted by Loveday Williams on 1 October 2014

The 13th September 2014 was not your average day at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. There was childlike music playing, story-time in front of the caravan exhibition and a strange fellow walking around who seemed to have lost his famous Chocolate Factory. The Youth Forum was also there, collecting stories and memories of caravanning holidays from visitors to the Museum to feature alongside the main exhibit of the family caravan.

Roald Dahl day certainly attracted a lot of families to the Museum, and many of them were more than happy to share their own personal stories of caravanning. We even managed to film a few people, including one person who could only remember the bad weather – this is Wales after all! The weather was a constant theme in the recollections, but happily many people enjoyed caravanning and camping despite the rain. My favourite memory would have to be the person who towed a 2-berth caravan with their Harley-Davidson motorbike, although I wouldn’t want to be stuck behind them in traffic! People young and old were sharing their memories and stories of caravanning with their family and friends, showing that caravan holidays are still a popular choice for many people in the age of package holidays.

All in all it was a nice day for the children and families, and we were able to collect lots of memories to travel alongside the caravan when it moves to St Fagans National History Museum as a key display in one of the new galleries.

Daisy Binks Youth Forum Member       

September 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 29 September 2014

Amongst the new collections we have received in September is this unusual miniature miner’s dial. This is a compass-like instrument used underground for the surveying of passages and seams. The engraved plate on the lid of the box of this example shows that it was presented to Mr. W. Meredith by the workmen of Tylecoch Colliery on Sept. 12th 1881. The manufacturer is unknown.

 

 

 

We have been donated two twist boxes this month. These twist boxes were used by miners to carry their chewing tobacco. They were not allowed to smoke underground due to the risk of explosions. The one on the left even contains some original tobacco! Both examples belonged to ancestors of the donor and were both used in south Wales collieries. Twist boxes are fairly common mining related objects. An excellent display can be seen in our galleries in the old pit head baths at Big Pit: National Mining Museum.

 

This photograph was donated along with the two twist boxes and is a souvenir of the stay in strike at Parc Colliery. The donor’s grandfather is one of the men in the photograph.

 

Finally the certificate below was issued by the Monmouthshire Education Authority to Abraham Evans in 1945.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

Beachwatch

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 25 September 2014

Museum curators getting ready for the family activites

Our 'Beach Gallery' 

Land art in our 'beach gallery'

More land art

» View full post to see all images

Last Saturday 20th September we ran our annual Beachwatch event at Ogmore Beach in the Vale of Glamorgan. This was part of the national campaign run by the Marine Conservation Society encouraging communities to get out and about to care for their local shorelines. This is the 10th year that museum staff have been organising a Great British Beach Clean at this beach.

In the morning families took part in workshops with museum curators finding out about different types of seaweeds and animals in the strandline and in rock pools. There were fossil hunts where people discovered lots of fossilised bivalve shells and sily lilies (crinoids) in the rocks. Families also helped create our ‘Beach Museum’ making Landart, inspired by the works of artists like Richard Long.

After lunch the serious work began, museum staff and families scoured a 150m stretch of beach near to the slipway searching for rubbish. Sadly this wasn’t a challenge, we collected over 35kg of litter in an hour!  Each piece of rubbish found was logged and all this data will be sent on to the Marine Conservation Society who will use it to find out where beach litter comes from and contribute to marine conservation. Over the last 10 years we have seen a change in the rubbish that we have collected on this beach. During initial cleans one of the greatest problems encountered were cotton bud sticks, however these have declined over the years. Sadly one of the greatest problems encountered this year was dog poo in plastic bags and hypodermic needles. Over 65 people took part in the day’s activities and we look forward to taking part in Beachwatch the same time next year.

#popupmuseum - The story so far

Posted by Graham Davies on 22 September 2014
A growing number of Cardiff story cards
A growing number of Cardiff story cards
A polystyrene corgi pops up at the museum.
A polystyrene corgi pops up at the museum.
A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories.
A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories.
Display cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff
Display cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff
» View full post to see all images

Here’s an update on our pop up museum project. 

We’re creating a pop up museum about Cardiff with the Cardiff Story, helped by the HLF, for the Welsh Museums Festival and the Museums Association Conference at the Wales Millennium Centre on 9-10 October. Before we set it up, we’ve asked the people of Cardiff and beyond to help us collect stories and objects to get it up and running.

So far, we’ve held 3 workshops at The Cardiff Story.  We’ve collected over 30 Cardiff stories on film and story cards and seen weird and wonderful objects that all say something about Cardiff in their own unique way! The process has brought people together in conversation by sharing their Cardiff story.

The latest workshop was held at the Cardiff Story between 6-8pm on 11 September. Cheese, wine and soft drinks were on offer to add to the social feel of the evening. By the end of the session 20 people had popped in to share their stories. We also took a video camera out on to the streets and filmed 20 voxpops from a very diverse range of passers-by! Some of them are hilariously funny and will be shown at the pop up museum at Wales Millennium Centre.

The First Object

A polystyrene corgi was the first object to make an entrance. It had been left out with the rubbish on a street in Roath – but was rescued, given a wash, and now lives happily with its new owners in a Cardiff living room.

Designing the pop up museum

As the number of Cardiff stories and objects grow, so too does the need to think about how we will display the material we’ve generated. The pop up museum will move to the Wales Millennium Centre on 9-10 October for the Museums Association Conference so it will have to be very flexible and easy to put up.

We’ve started rummaging around in the depths of National Museum Cardiff’s stores for cases, shelves, seats, anything! Here’s a selection of what we found:

  • A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories. One idea we had about displaying objects was to place them in Perspex boxes on this table and pile them on top of each other as the display grows over the two days.
  • A couple of lovely cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff. These will allow us to show objects from the Cardiff Story collections and national collections that reveal something about Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre.
  • More seats! Some rather nice grey square fabric cubes.
  • And finally…..Billy the Seal!

We’re not sure yet if Billy can come with us to the Wales Millennium Centre, but we’re looking into what’s possible. Billy’s skeleton has been part of National Museum Wales’ collections since the 1940s. Billy came to Cardiff in 1912, when fishermen aboard a trawler found him in their nets. He was given the name Billy and brought to Cardiff where he set up home in the Victoria Park Lake.

Billy apparently escaped during flooding and swam down Cowbridge Road. On the way he stopped at a local fish shop and ordered ‘no chips, just the haddock thanks.’ He then made his way to the Admiral Napier for a pint, ‘half a dark’ to be precise, but was captured and taken back to the lake.

We don’t know if these events actually happened, but many local residents swear the story is completely true.

Follow this blog to find out if Billy can escape again!

Further information

Next pop up museum workshop:
27 September 11.00-1.00pm, Cardiff Story

For more on setting up your own pop up museum follow this link:

http://popupmuseum.org/pop-up-museum-how-to-kit/

  • National Museum Cardiff

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    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

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