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Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales team up with British Institute for Geological Conservation for the 2015 RHS Show

This year, for the first time Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales had its own marquee at the Cardiff Royal Horticultural Society Show. The Museum has been represented at the show for several years, enabling us to share with the public many of our hidden treasures from the museum’s collections. Our theme, Tropical Plants: bringing the tropics back to Wales, provided an excellent introduction to the Museum’s Botany collections. Visitors marvelled at the coco-de-mer, the world’s largest seed (native to the Seychelles). Curator, Heather Pardoe, introduced show-goers to a selection of sumptuous eighteenth-century botanical illustrations, rarely on show to the public, originally painted in tropical countries including Australia, India, America and Java.

The highlight for many was the opportunity to hunt for fossils with experts from the Museum, led by Ben Evans (BIGC) and Head of Botany Chris Cleal. Young and old alike were thrilled to split rocks and discover Carboniferous plant fossils, dating back 300 million years. This year the fossil hunt was accompanied by a prehistoric reconstruction, created using tree ferns, horsetails and an amazing diversity of mosses. The Carboniferous garden was home for the weekend to our incredible Arthur the Arthropleura (a giant millipede from the Carboniferous period), another show stopper.  Visitors could also see exotic insects, accidentally imported into Britain,  held in the Museum’s Entomology collections, and learn about both the OPAL and the Spring Bulb projects.  Over the three days of the show more than 5,000 people visited the Museum’s marquee, out of a record-breaking 24,000 visitors to the show.

We’d like to thank Waitrose Pontprennau, PJS Flowers and Miller Argent for supporting and sponsoring our activities and displays this year.

To find out more about the museum’s presence at the RHS show, why not read our Storify story

The core project team comprising botanists, entomologists and a conservator were delighted to see the fruition of months of planning

Erecting this lavish arrangement of tropical fruit was a challenge for the ingenious display team.  The fruit was generously donated by Waitrose Pontprennau

Exciting new discoveries meant that the fossil hunting activity was more popular than ever, with many repeat visitors

Arthur the Arthropleura (a giant millipede from the Carboniferous period) at his weekend retreat

The Museum’s marquee featured on the show’s trail for children; this superb illustration of the cacao tree and the dried cacao pod were used to explain the source of chocolate flavour

Twelve Days of Christmas

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 11 December 2014

For the last two years we have put together an advent calendar celebrating some of the beautiful specimens in our natural history collections at National Museum Cardiff. We have been tweeting these from the @CardiffCurator Twitter account each day and will continue throughout December. The specimens behind the first twelve doors have been inspired by the song ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’.

We have compiled a Storify story on our advent calendar, which can be viewed here.

Happy Christmas from @CardiffCurator

Three French Hens

Six Goose Barncales-a-laying

Ten bugs-a-leaping

European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop

Christopher Cleal, 26 November 2014

Two weeks ago, Botany Curators at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Cardiff welcomed scientists from across Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Germany and Spain. The visitors, who are all experts in the study of plant fossils and pollen analysis, spent two days discussing how best to study the changes that have occurred in plant diversity over the last 400 million years. These changes are important as they help scientists understand how vegetation has influenced climate and environmental change in the past.  The meeting included 17 presentations discussing the vegetation from different geological time periods. The visitors also had the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at National Museum Cardiff to see a selection of rare plant fossils from the David Davies Collection and pollen specimens from the Hyde Collection.  This meeting was fully funded by an exclusive grant from the European Science Foundation. It is intended that the workshop will inspire a series of international collaborative projects that will maintain the Museum’s reputation as a centre of excellence in this field.

We produced a Storify Story based on Tweets made throughout the conference.

Conference delegates

Magnificent Molluscs

Katie Mortimer-Jones, 25 November 2014

Every Monday curatorial staff from the Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales highlight some of the fantastic mollusc specimens from our collections, on Twitter using the hashtag #MolluscMonday

The Molluscan collections at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales number some 180,000 lots from many different collections which have been amalgamated into one systematic sequence.

The most historically important part of the collections is the Melvill-Tomlin collection which came to us in 1955 and contains over 1,000,000 specimens!

Want to find out more? Why not follow us on Twitter @CardiffCurator or @NatHistConserve or follow the hashtag #MolluscMonday to find out about this fascinating group of animals. Lots of people have been joining in so why not join in the fun!

We have compiled a collection of our favourite #MolluscMonday Tweets on Storify. We also do #BotanicMonday, #WormWedneday and #FossilFriday

Our 'Magnificent Molluscs' Storify story about #MolluscMonday

The Adventures of Arthur the Arthropleura

Annette Townsend, 11 November 2014

In June this year the Natural Sciences Department received a rather special donation from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; a life size model of a giant millipede, Arthropleura, that would have lived in the Carboniferous Period, 300 million years ago. Arthropleura is the largest invertebrate (creepy-crawly) ever known to have lived on land, reaching up to 2.6 metres in length, but despite its monstrous proportions it is thought to have been a harmless herbivore.

The model was originally on display in Kew Garden’s Evolution House but when the space was dismantled in preparation for the HLF funded restoration of the Temperate House, it was no longer needed. So it was donated to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, thanks to the generosity of Chris Mills, David Cook and Jonathan Farley at Kew.

The Arthropleura model was in need of some substantial conservation work when it arrived at AC-NMC. It had been on open display for many years in a glass house alongside living plants and was damaged and rusty. The humid display environment had caused the surface paint to flake away and several spiders and snails had taken up residence on the underside of the model!

The first job was to give the model a good wash with hot soapy water and remove the dirt and cobwebs! Then all the flaking paint was scrubbed off, the damaged areas on the legs and head were rebuilt with an epoxy putty and the surface textures recreated. The nuts and bolts of the removable antennae had rusted together, so the metal parts were replaced with new stainless steel threaded rods.

Once the repairs were complete the model was carefully painted with acrylics and then coated in a durable varnish, making it once again suitable for public display.

Some of the Natural Science staff had become rather attached to the impressive 1.5m long millipede model whilst it underwent conservation work in the lab and named it Arthur the Arthropleura! We also decided to have a bit of Halloween fun with Arthur… so he “escaped” and went on the run around the museum galleries! We posted pictures of his adventures on the @CardiffCurator Natural Sciences Twitter account and had a fantastic response from our followers. Arthur the Arthropleura is now a social media star and is a really wonderful addition to our collections!         

Arthur before conservation

Arthur has a bath

Arthur after conservation

Arthur visits the impressionists

Arthur cools down in the snow