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Community Engagement

November 2014

Museum scientists pop up at Fairwater Library

Posted by Lucy McCobb on 4 November 2014

A beautiful display of freshly-pressed leaves and fruits

Marine specimens from the Invertebrate Biodiversity Collections

Slug identification 

A range of fossils from different periods of the Earth’s history

Museum scientists were out and about during half-term week, when the I Spy…Nature pop-up museum paid a visit to Fairwater Library on 30th October.  Curators from the Botany, Invertebrate Diversity and Palaeontology sections took along specimens from their collection areas to show the public, along with a microscope and quizzes to encourage them to look even closer.

Ingrid Jüttner challenged people to identify as many trees as they could, using beautiful displays of freshly-pressed leaves and fruits.  This activity was a big hit with grown-ups, and it was very pleasing to see so many parents and grandparents encouraging children to learn more about these important plants, which bring our living spaces to life.

The library’s meeting room became temporary home to an impressive array of marine and mollusc specimens from the Invertebrate Diversity section.  People were fascinated by the creatures on display, which evoked a range of reactions (including ‘they’re really gross!’) depending on how they felt about slugs and worms!  Teresa Darbyshire showed some of the diversity of life found around our shores, with beautiful sea shells, lobster, starfish, and a pickled octopus and giant sea worm.  Visitors tried their hands at identifying shells using a key, all good training for trips to the beach!  Ben Rowson challenged people to identify mystery objects under the microscope, and introduced them to slug identification using his recently published book and life-like models.

Lucy McCobb showed visitors a range of fossils from different periods of the Earth’s history, ranging from an Ice Age mastodon tooth and horse’s leg bone, through Jurassic ammonites and ichthyosaur bones, to trilobites, which are among Wales’s oldest fossils.  The ‘what’s in a name?’ quiz was popular with children, and asked them to use the meanings of scientific names to match up the name with the correct fossil.

This was I Spy..Nature's  first venture into libraries, and showed that they have great potential as venues for taking the Museum’s collections and experts out into communities.

October 2014

#popupmuseum - How did it all go?

Posted by Sioned Hughes on 27 October 2014
Loading the van with the team
Loading the van with the team
The pop-up museum ready and set up waiting for its first participant.
The pop-up museum ready and set up waiting for its first participant.
Story cards with photographs at the #popupmuseum
Story cards with photographs at the #popupmuseum
The table with iPads and post-its
The table with iPads and post-its
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The pop-up museum was created over two days at the Wales Millennium Centre as part of the Welsh Museums Festival and the Museums Association conference between 9-10 October 2014.

We set up the cases, table, boxes, screen and various cardboard structures on the Thursday before the conference. 

It looked great, but we were all quite nervous.  Would anyone turn up? Would people bring an object in response to our call outs on social media? Would people participate and share their Cardiff stories and memories? Would the huge table at its centre attract visitors or put them off? 

Would Billy the Seal arrive safely?

We were about to find out if our experiment would work…….and thankfully it did!

What worked?

  • 1. The stuff we had already collected.

We were all really glad that we already had some material for the pop-up that provided hooks to show people how they could contribute. The story cards collected at previous workshops kicked things off. They gave people an idea of how they could contribute, and made the Cardiff theme obvious. The voxpops also provided people with another focus and showed that people had already shared their Cardiff story. This encouraged participants to be filmed sharing their story at the pop-up. 

  • 2. Taking photographs of participants

We took a photograph of all participants with an instant camera and pinned them to their story cards. This emphasised the personal aspect and made stories easier to find

  • 3. The big table in the middle with plenty of chairs.

This space really worked. It became a social space where people came together and shared their Cardiff story and a space where strangers started talking to each other. We piled Perspex boxes on top of each other along the middle and gradually filled them with objects over the two days. We encouraged people to write their comments about other people’s stories on post-its and stick them on the boxes. This added another layer to the interpretation. 

  • 4. Using iPads to show social media content 

We had built up interest around the pop-up on social media in the lead up to the pop-up itself, so it was good to continue this momentum. We used two iPads on the table as live labels that showed all tweets with the #popupmuseum #fflachamgueddfa hashtag. We used this as a way of highlighting interesting stories and providing information about what was happening at the pop-up over the 2 days.  We also experimented with iBeacons and placed content about some of the objects on that so that people could access it using their hand held devices. 

  • 5. We invited the Media and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism! 

To keep the buzz around the pop-up museum going, we managed to generate press interest in the pop-up. The experience was filmed by s4C for Heno and by Cardiff TV. Deputy Minister Ken Skates also came to the pop-up and contributed his Cardiff story. He was really interested in the fact that we had created a museum in 48 hours that anyone could contributed to.

  • 6. Billy the Seal made it! 

Thanks to the huge effort of conservation staff across Amgueddfa Cymru, Billy made it to the pop-up. Billy generated lots of interest and was definitely a big pull to the pop-up. It was useful to have one star object that attracted the curious. Those who knew about Billy’s story couldn’t believe that she was actually there and that it was part of the museum’s collections. And those who didn’t know the story were…confused but intrigued. 

  • 7. Working with Cardiff Story, HLF, and Youth Forum members

You can’t set up a pop-up museum without a team. The input from our Youth Forum members was invaluable, making sure that the processes of the pop-up ran smoothly and making sure that participants knew what to do. Staff members form the Heritage Lottery Fund provided guidance and support throughout the pop-up process. Working with Arran Rees and Lucy Connors from the Cardiff Story and was a great experience and we are already planning to create a pop-up together again in the future. 

Make an Aria

Posted by Sioned Williams on 27 October 2014
Speed-dating session with composers and writers
Speed-dating session with composers and writers
Looking at objects from Museum’s collection
Looking at objects from Museum’s collection
Necklace made at St Fagans by convalescing soldier, Walter Stinson
Necklace made at St Fagans by convalescing soldier, Walter Stinson
The Italian garden, a possible location for an aria?
The Italian garden, a possible location for an aria?
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What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.

So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.

The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.

The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.

We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.

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.

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.

Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit

Posted by Gareth Bonello on 17 September 2014
Hendre'r Ywydd Uchaf Farmhouse

Elan volunteers with the St Fagans Youth Forum and spent some time with the Museum's Historic Buildings Unit and has blogged about her experience below;

Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit

As part of the Historic Buildings Demonstrations at Sain Ffagan, I visited Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf to see a carpenter at his work. When I arrived, he was busy working on a head of a door frame for the new Iron Age Village with wood that was sourced on site and freshly cut that morning. The work had to be done by hand without any aid from machines. He was more than happy to talk to us about his work and answer any of our questions. He talked about how he has done an NVQ in Historic Carpentry and that he has just finished his apprentiship after working at the museum for five years. His admiration towards the knowledge of the more experienced craftsmen was clear and he was aware that this knowledge came from experience not from qualifications.

He later explained how they brought buildings to the museum desribing the finished result as ‘flatpack buildings’ as they numbered the bricks around the sides before taking the building down and rebuilding it in Sain Ffagan using the Havorfordwest House and the Raglan Train Station as examples of this. The importance of conservation in this process was evident as he talked of only taking away what you needed whilst repairing historic buildings in order to keep their authenticity. He explained how the new developments happening in Sain Ffagan would lead to new work such as the Prince’s Palace from Anglesey where they would need to handle 480kg of timber! This was time well spent in order to understand how the building happens in Sain Ffagan.

blog gan Elan Llwyd

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

» View full post to see all images

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.

July 2014

'Made in Roath' take some of the Museum’s specimens on a day out to Chapter

Posted by Julian Carter on 25 July 2014

For this year’s Art Carbootique at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, 'Made in Roath' were lucky enough to be able to work with Annette and Jules, the natural science conservators at the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales in Cathays Park.

The National Museum of Wales has a vast collection of approximately 2000 taxidermy specimens most of which are not on display, and some of which present interesting curatorial challenges because of their history and the stories they tell. Having long been fascinated by the stuffed animal collection on display in the Natural History gallery at the museum, we felt really privileged to be invited behind the scenes and view the specimens in storage.

This was an amazing experience; the conservator’s stores are wonderful -  heartbreaking and fascinating in equal measure. We decided that our mission would be to make a ‘museum’ in our caravan of a selection of these unseen animals, allowing them to temporarily escape the museum archive and be seen by the public. In this context, the specimen is not just being viewed as a singular object but as part of a wider culture, referencing human practices such as hunting, shipping and collecting happening in the Victorian period, but which are still practiced today. Furthermore, a consideration of the specimen’s history within the museum itself, with its changing site,  politics and attitudes, exposes how wider socio-political forces have shaped the specimen’s display, reception and curation at the local level of the museum. Jules and Annette were really helpful and accommodating when we told them what we wanted to do, they went up to Nantgarw to the stores there and selected some more specimens to add to the collection, many of which had not been displayed for many years.

We installed the work, with a lot of help from Jules, and drove over to Chapter – there is something very surreal about towing a caravan full of stuffed animals through central Cardiff on a rainy Sunday Morning, but it was worth it. The response from the public was great, both adults and children have such a fascination for taxidermy, the exhibition was a big success, we’d also photographed the animals and made masks to give to visitors, so the animals had another opportunity to ‘escape’. Although the emphasis was on fun, we had expected to get some criticism with people possibly disapproving of the museums stuffed animals, but apart from some healthy and thought provoking discussion about the way human beings treat animals, it was a hugely enjoyable day. Thanks to AC-NMW, especially Annette and Jules, for making it happen.

The 'Made in Roath' Team!

Find out more about the work of 'Made in Roath' at http://madeinroath.com/