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Natural History

October 2014

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

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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. 

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

September 2014

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

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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.

I Spy...Nature Competition Winners

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 12 September 2014

1st place, under 6 category - Starfish drawn by Ella aged 4

2nd place, under 6 category - Trilobite drawn by Rohan aged 5

3rd place, under 6 category - Fossil plant drawn by Megan aged 5

1st place, 6-9 category - Amethyst crystal drawn by Jack aged 7

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We ran an ‘I Spy…Nature’ drawing competition across the summer to celebrate our natural sciences pop-up museum and launch of a new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. Our young visitors used some of the specimens from the museum collections as inspiration for their drawings. We had some fantastic entries and it was extremely difficult to choose the best nine drawings. However, after much deliberation we have chosen first, second and third places in 3 age categories (under 6, 6-9 and 10-13). The winners will be receiving natural history goodies from the museum shop. Many thanks to everyone who took part, we have really enjoyed seeing all of your wonderful drawings.

Popping up at the Capitol Shopping Centre

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 10 September 2014

Museum scientists adorned in their I Spy...Nature costumes

Goliath Beetles, the largest moth species in the world and British bumblebees 

Invertebrate Biodiversity

Museum scientists have been popping up in the Capitol Shopping Centre throughout the summer with their I Spy…Nature pop-up museum. Natural Sciences staff spent 9 days there with a variety of specimens from the Museum’s collections. Every day had a different theme from shells, to fossils, plants and minerals to name just a few. The public were able to ask our curators questions and find out about our new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff (I Spy…Nature), which is open until April 2015. We ran a drawing competition alongside the pop-up with some fantastic entries. We have chosen winners in three different age categories and they will be visiting us at the museum to have special tours behind the scenes and to claim their prizes. The winning entries will be posted on-line in the next few weeks. 2437 people visited us on the stand, which is a fantastic figure. Next we will be popping up at Fairwater Library on the 30th October and visiting 10 schools throughout the autumn.

August 2014

"Our Cats" by Harrison Weir [1889]

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 15 August 2014

We recently participated in #MuseumCats Day on Twitter and this involved a quick search through our holdings for some interesting pictures of cats to Tweet and what a gem we have found! Please enjoy this selection of wonderful and [in some cases] bizarre illustrations of cats from the book "Our Cats and all about them" written and illustrated by Harrison Weir in 1889. 

My personal favourites are the surreal disembodied heads [see above], "Sylvie" [she of the magnificent moustaches] and the Russian cat who [in my opinion] has a most unsettling human expression.


Weir was a very interesting character; he was born in 1824 on May 5th [d.1906], and is known as "The Father of the Cat Fancy”. He organizied the first ever cat show in England, at The Crystal Palace, London in July 1871 where he and his brother served as judges. In 1887 he founded the National Cat Club and was its first President and Show Manager until his resignation in 1890. Our Cats was the first published pedigree cat book.

Weir was employed, for many years, as a draughtsman and engraver for the Illustrated London News as well as many other publications and in his lifetime he both wrote and illustrated other books such as The Poetry of Nature (1867), Every Day in the Country (1883) and Animal Studies, Old and New (1885). In 1845 he exhibited his first painting at the British Institution and during his career he was an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy.

He was a keen animal fancier, an experienced breeder of cats, carrier pigeons, and poultry and for thirty years often acted as a judge at the principal pigeon and poultry shows. In 1903 he wrote and illustrated the exhaustive book Our Poultry and All About Them.

More information on Harrison Weir via the following links: 

http://www.harrisonweir.com/ 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Weir 

http://www.nationalcatclub.co.uk/History.htm

This book was bequeathed to the Library back in May 1916 along with around 500 other books by the Welsh artist, champion of Wales’ cultural heritage and one of the founding fathers of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Thomas Henry Thomas.

Along with the books, Thomas also bequeathed his entire catalogue of prints, drawings and watercolours to the Museum.

More information on Thomas Henry Thomas here:

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/rhagor/article/2035/

The illustration above appeares in the Chapter "Performing cats". Other chapters include, "Cats as tormentors", "Dead cats", "Fishing cats" and "Lovers of cats" [would you believe... Cardinal Richelieu?].

This book is available to view electronically via the following Project Gutenberg link:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35450/35450-h/35450-h.htm#Page_37

Biographical information on Harrison Weir taken from Wikipedia.

All photographs in this post taken by the author.

 

Students from Oman at National Museum Cardiff

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 14 August 2014

Two final year biology and crop protection students from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman have arrived at the National Museum Cardiff for 2 weeks on an internship to learn more about the identification of two groups of insects, flies and bugs and the techniques we use to study them. For Sara Mohamed Ahmed Al Ansari and Salma Saif Salmin Almabsli it is their first time outside of Oman. After the time here they will spend 2 weeks at the Natural History Museum, London to widen their knowledge of taxonomic techniques before returning to the warmth of Oman.

July 2014

I Spy...Nature Exhibition is open

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 24 July 2014

Dr Rhys Jones officially launching the I Spy...Nature Exhibition

Viewing specimens in the field zone

Viewing up-close historic microscope slides

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Saturday 19th July saw the official launch of the 'I Spy...Nature' Exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. The exhibition was officially opened by BBC wildlife presenter Dr Rhys Jones and many families were able to experience the exhibition first hand. Natural Science curators were also on hand showing a plethora of specimens from the Museum's Natural History Collections, including insects, marine invertebrates, fossils, fungi, plants, minerals and much more. The public helped to create fantastic modern and prehistoric scenes with beautifully coloured pictures.

Click here to find out more about the exhibition

Welsh Super Scientists

Posted by Catalena Angele on 8 July 2014

Welsh Super Scientists from Ysgol Clocaenog at the National Slate Museum

‘Little birds’ in the nest they built

Mini-beast hunting

Ysgol Clocaenog in Denbighshire was awarded first place out of sixty nine Welsh schools taking part in the Museum's Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation this year.

The Super Scientists won a fun-packed trip to the National Slate Museum where they learnt about the Story of Slate, looked for mini-beasts and built giant nests in the quarry!

Professor Plant: “Ysgol Clogaenog did really well in the Spring Bulbs investigation and sent in the most weather data out of all the schools in Wales! This really was an achievement as schools are getting better and better at recording and sending their data. It was lovely to meet the Super Scientists from Ysgol Clocaenog, we had lots of fun building nests and pretending to be little birds! We also learnt lots about Slate and I especially enjoyed watching the slate splitting!”

If you would like to take part in this project next term please complete the on-line application form:

Spring Bulbs for Schools - Application form

May 2014

Flower Drawing Competition 2014

Posted by Catalena Angele on 30 May 2014

1st - Abbey, Coppull Parish Church School

2nd - Louise, SS Philip and James CE Primary School (Pink 3)

3rd - Amelie, Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School

Congratulation to the winners of the Flower Drawing Competition 2014! Here are their excellent botanical illustrations.

  • 1st: Abbey – Coppull Parish Church School
  • 2nd: Louise – SS Philip and James CE Primary School (Pink 3)
  • 3rd: Amelie – Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School

In this competition I was looking for botanical illustrations – these are pictures of plants drawn in a scientific way. This means I was looking for beautiful pictures but they also needed clear labels to show the different parts of the flower.

All of the drawing sent in were really fantastic, so I have put them all on our website for you to see! Well done to all of you.

Click here to view all the drawings.

Many thanks,

Prof P

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