I Spy...Nature Competition Winners
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
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.
"Our Cats" by Harrison Weir 
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:
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:
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:
Biographical information on Harrison Weir taken from Wikipedia.
All photographs in this post taken by the author.
Students from Oman at National Museum Cardiff
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.
I Spy...Nature Exhibition is open
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.
Welsh Super Scientists
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:
Flower Drawing Competition 2014
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.
Overcoming the Taxonomic Impediment in the Amazon
It is well known that the Amazon rainforests are amongst the most biodiverse places on the planet. However, much of this biodiversity remains completely unknown having never been formally described and with absolutely no knowledge of the ecological and other conditions required for its survival. This profound lack of scientific knowledge arises from what is called the Taxonomic Impediment - there simply are too few taxonomists (people who can identify and describe living things) to get to grips with the magnitude of biodiversity. The Taxonomic Impediment is a world-wide problem as taxonomists themselves have become endangered species and few, if any, countries now devote sufficient resources to biodiversity research. There are many unfortunate knock-ons from this fact; for example designing rational conservation strategies is difficult without knowledge of the animals and plants that live in an area and some knowledge of why. It is only taxonomists who can deliver this knowledge.
In the Brazilian Amazon the situation is improving with a major research institute Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) now conducting extensive taxonomic research and training a new generation of taxonomists to lead in future biodiversity studies. One such trainee is Josenir Camara, a PhD student at INPA now spending 6 months as an intern at Amgueddfa Cymru under the tutelage of Dr Adrian Plant (Principle Curator, Entomology). Josenir’s research is describing the diversity of a group of aquatic flies (Hemerodromiinae). She has already discovered more than 50 new species, and using sophisticated cladistic techniques to understand more of their evolutionary relationships with related forms elsewhere in the world. The Museum’s extensive collections and taxonomic skills will be an invaluable aid to develop her research and the expertise and experience she develops will be lasting benefits she will take home to Brazil. A small but positive contribution to removing the Taxonomic Impediment in her own country.
Spring Bulb for Schools: Results 2005-2014
The ‘Spring Bulbs for Schools’ project allows 1000s of schools scientists to work with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales to investigate and understand climate change.
Since October 2005, school scientists have been keeping weather records and noting when their flowers open, as part of a long-term study looking at the effects of temperature on spring bulbs.
Certificates have now been sent out to all the 4,075 pupils that completed the project this year.
See Professor Plant's reports or download the spreadsheet to study the trends for yourself!
- Make graphs & frequency charts or calculate the mean.
- See if the flowers opened late in schools that recorded cold weather.
See how temperature, sunshine and rainfall affect the average flowering dates.
Look for trends between different locations.
From Amazonian Rainforest to Welsh Rain!
Brazilian PhD student Josenir Camara is working with Dr Adrian Plant, Principle Curator of Entomology at Amgueddfa Cymru, on a three-year project to describe some of the diversity of Diptera (flies) inhabiting the rainforest of Brazil’s Amazon Basin. The two researchers have already made numerous collecting expeditions to remote parts of the Amazon, but now they are both back in Cardiff where Josenir will spend the next six months studying at the Museum. As a part of her research she will describe all the Amazonian species of a group of water-inhabiting flies known as Hemerodromia. She already has more than 50 species that are completely new to science and once these have been formally described, the next task is to construct an evolutionary tree showing how the Amazonian Hemerodromia have diversified in respect to Hemerodromia elsewhere in the world. This is where Amgueddfa Cymru comes in as our extensive collections will provide her with an invaluable resource she can use to compare how Amazonian species differ from others. By careful comparison of ‘characters’ of each species and using sophisticated computing methods, Josenir will construct a ‘phylogenetic tree’ to illustrate the sequence of evolutionary changes that have occurred. By comparing the evolutionary tree with the fossil record, geological and climatic history it is hoped that we start to learn more about the biogeography of the Amazon (biogeography is the study of how species and communities or organisms become distributed both geographically and through geologic time).