On Wednesday 30th October, National Museum Cardiff came alive for a haunting day of Halloween fun. Curators (and witches!) from the Natural History department filled the main hall with spooky specimens from our collections to share with the public on a busy half term day.
The botanists made a real impression by opening up the Herbarium and creating a spooky graveyard of deadly plants. This was a real hit with the children who left repeating some of the delightfully ghoulish names to their parents such as “Stinking Hellebore!” and “Bloody Cranesbill!”
The Fungus table had a case of wonderful wax models where you could match each fungus with its creepy name, such as the Trumpet of Death, Scaly Tooth and Witch Heart. Children, and adults, could make their own fungus with the colourful modelling clay provided, creating some amazing new species!
Two witches stirred their potion in a cauldron alongside an eerie ‘Herbs in Medicine and Magic’ display. All Harry Potter fans would have immediately recognised the famous Mandrake, a plant often used in magic rituals due to its hallucinogenic properties, but there was no need for ear muffs as the real plant does not let out a fatal scream!
Marine and Mollusc curators put out an array of Halloween treats from ghost slugs and dead man’s fingers to blood cockles and pumpkin snails. Visitors enjoyed being able to touch sea urchins, spiny oysters and star fish. The pickled cuttlefish and squid were a real treat and produced a great mixed response, from awe to disgust, from children and adults alike.
The giant bloodsucking mosquito model dominated the Entomology stand whilst a witch displayed a table of British bats, from the largest Noctule to the smallest Pipistrelle.
Geologists enticed visitors with ‘fossils in folklore’, including echinoderms that were thought to be ‘fairy loaves’, and ‘dragon claws’ that come from dinosaurs. Those brave enough stayed to see the ‘Hell, Fire and Brimestone!’ stand which revealed specimens of larva, ash and volcanic rocks.
The Open Day was underpinned with an educational trail provided by the Education department. The trail took children around all of the displays, answering questions on blood stained petals and thunder stones, fungal fingers and tails of worms, to name a few. It was an excellent way to get families involved and encouraged children to interact with the curators. The trail proved to be extremely popular with 170 families taking part.
For those who wanted to know more, there was a scary ‘Dragons’ tour in the Evolution of Wales gallery and two behind the scenes tours of the Biology and Geology collections.
The day was a real success with 3127 members of the public coming through the museum doors. So, if you didn’t make it this time keep your eyes peeled on the ‘What’s On’ guide for more upcoming Natural History Open Days throughout the year.
Blog by Harriet Wood
The big plant
Just five days now until the big planting week which will take place all over the UK as part of the Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation! I do hope the weather is kind to us!
Six and a half thousand pupils will plant bulbs as the 1st step in this exciting climate investigation.
English and Welsh schools will be planting on the 21st of October and Scottish schools on the 25th.
To all of you planting:
- Remember to make your labels before you plant!
- Please read this before Planting your bulbs to ensure a fair-test!
- Please send me or Tweet me pictures of your class planting to use in this blog.
My Twitter account is www.twitter.com/professor_plant
Good luck bulb buddies!
Things I've been doing part two...
So part one of my epic sharing of photos with you looked at our summer art and craft activities. Part two is all about the food festival and a couple of craftivist sessions.
On a lovely sunny day up in the Italian gardens we had a picnic and took part in the Craftivist Collective project all about fashion. The project is all about how we love fashion and hate sweatshops, and as part of our event we talked about where we buy our clothes and what we can do to help the situation. It definitely made us all think more about ethical fashion and sustainability!
Another Craftivist project we've been a part of this year is the #imapiece jigsaw project. Earlier in the year we had a session where we made fabric jigsaw pieces embroidered with messages about global hunger and sent them to the craftivist collective to be a part of a huge installation. Just a couple of weeks ago we got a part of the installation back (300 pieces out of a whopping 700 or so) and exhibited it in St Fagans: National History Museum. We have also been adding to the installation ourselves, it will be up for a few days yet, so come and see it and let me know if you would like to add your own message.
For the food festival this year, myself and genius gardener Bernice made herbal teabags! Bernice picked and dried mint, lemon balm, fennel seeds and Elderflower from the gardens here in the museum and then we bought some teabags to fill and made little envelopes to put the teabags in for safe keeping, or as a sweet gift. We also made sure we had a pot of tea on the go all day and almost everyone liked our blend!
The last thing I wanted to tell you about is the Wedding Fayre that was held here a couple of weeks ago. You probably already know that you can get married here in St Fagans, either in the castle or in Oakdale. Well, now you can also have a hen afternoon tea party as well! as part of this tea party you can learn to dance, have hair and make-up done (vintage style), or get all crafy with me! The photos show what kind of things we could make... tissue pom-poms, name places, bunting... it will be lovely and I can't wait to take part!
That's all for today, but I do have some knit and sew group photos to share next time, and look out for half term halloween arts and crafts and quilt club on the 2nd and november. Happy Autumn!
Things I've been doing part one....
I've been taking photographs of all the activities I've been a part of, but keep forgetting to update the blog with them. Therefore this is going to have to be a two-parter as I have so much stuff to update you all with.
Ok. Let's go:
Our summer art cart activities included the super successful Iron Age shield making workshop. Ian (the celtic guy) and I spent two days running the workshop and we were really lucky to have volunteers on hand too as with all the glue, paint and celtic pattern designing it was pretty crazy. As you can see from the pictures, the finished results were just beautiful. I love the one that looks like maybe Chagall had a hand in it.
Artist Tracey Williams made the most wonderful house out of cardboard with visitors over the summer, inspired by our buildings on site. It was a lovely community project which I stupidly don't have any photos of!
I spent the rest of august doing a variety of art and craft workshops - we did some sketching of nature in the bird hide, made dragonflies out of wooden pegs and did gorgeous drawings and collages of the lily pads in the Italian Gardens with a bit of inspiration from Monet. We also did some sewing and made felt flower badges which were really popular.
If you took part in any of these activities, do you have any photographs you could share? and what did you think of our locations this year? was it fun going to the Italian gardens (I know I enjoyed it) or was it too far away from the main entrance? let me know!
A Journey from the Amazon to Natural Selection
Continuing our celebration of the life of Alfred Russel Wallace...
We welcomed over 300 A-level students to National Museum Cardiff for this special event in partnership with Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.
At the invitation of Prof Dianne Edwards F.R.S, Prof Steve Jones F.R.S gave a talk entitled ‘Is man just another animal?’
Prof Jones discussed our shared ancestry with other primates, the genetic evidence for human evolution, and cast light on Wallace and Darwin’s different views on the subject. Professor Steve Jones is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London and an author of several popular science books.
And Theatr na nÓg gave an excellent performance of their play ‘You Should Ask Wallace’.
The play took us through Wallace’s life as a young boy growing up in Wales to embarking on epic adventures to the Amazon and Malay Archipelago where he discovers the theory of evolution. His great findings would compel Darwin to publish his seminal work on the origin of species.
An exhibition on Wallace’s life will open on 19 October at National Museum Cardiff.
Walking in the footsteps of Wallace
Last week Museum staff and students from Cantonian High School journeyed to the Neath Valley to explore the life of Alfred Russel Wallace.
We spent a day re-tracing his footsteps from Pontneddfechan up to Sgwd Gwladys waterfall, exploring the geology and biology of the walk, with help from experts from the Natural Sciences department.
On his death 100 years ago, Alfred Russel Wallace was widely praised as the 'last of the great Victorians'. Famous for independently discovering the process of evolution by natural selection alongside Charles Darwin, today few remember this great Welsh scientist.
Wallace was inspired by the landscape of south Wales, and spent many years walking the valleys and mapping the natural history. The student’s photographs, video footage, sketches and interviews will become part of a display at National Museum Cardiff in January 2014. This display aims to tell the story of Wallace in Wales and hopefully inspire others to go and explore for themselves.
This project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of a Life Patron of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.
An exhibition on Wallace’s life will open on 19 October at National Museum Cardiff.
An experiment of bulbous proportions!
Hi! I'm Professor Plant and I'd like to welcome the six and a half thousand young scientists across the UK that are taking part in the Spring Bulb for Schools Investigation this year!
Twelve thousand bulbs will be planted and monitored as part of this long term climate investigation being co-ordinated at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. If there was a world record for the most people planting bulbs simultaneously, (in several locations) we could smash it!
All the bulbs have been counted up by our fantastic volunteers (see the pics) and are steadily being delivered to the 150 schools across the country. I'd like to welcome each an every pupil and teacher who will be working on this project!
- Take a look at the map to see where the bulbs are being sent across the UK
- If you haven't already received my letter please follow this link
- Before each bulb is planted, each pupil must also adopt their bulb and promise to care for it. If you want to know how see this link
If you are wondering where the bulbs came from and how they got to your school - please read then read on y friend Baby Bulb is going to explain:
"My bulb buddies and I come from a nursery plantation in Manorbier, near Tenby in Wales, it's called 'Springfields'. We didn't spring from the fields, but we were picked and loaded onto a van ready to go to our new homes. At first I was a little afraid, but then when I met Professor Plant at the Museum I understood that I would be cared for by a nice young person and that I have an important job to do. We have all been selected to help us understand how the weather can affect when my friends and I make flowers. My parents before me grew here too, Springfields have been growing us 'Tenby Daffodils' for about 25 years, and we are one of the two daffodils that are native to the British Isles".
Just a few weeks until planting now! I can't wait!
Beachwatch 2013 - a great success
On Saturday 21st September Amgueddfa Cymru ran their annual Beachwatch event. This involved fantastic family science activities in the morning attended by 41 members of the public and seven members of staff. Participants looked at strandline and rockpool animals and seaweeds as well as fossilised corals and snails. Inspired by the fossils and shells that they had seen, the children went on to create wonderful pieces of artwork using Plaster of Paris on the wet sand of the beach.
After lunch, the volunteers gathered to clean the beach and do a litter survey recording all the items they found. The beach clean was attended by 59 volunteers including many of the families from the morning activities.
The results will be sent to the Marine Conservation Society who will collect the data from this beach and hundreds of other UK beaches that were cleaned this weekend. As well as making the beach safer for people and marine life, the Marine Conservation Society also use the data to find out where beach litter comes from and contribute to marine conservation.
As you can see from the photo we found a lot of rubbish including 9 tyres, half a canoe and a traffic cone! A huge thank you to our wonderful volunteers, Ogmore Beach now looks even more beautiful!
3 days to Beachwatch!
BEATCHWATCH – Saturday 21 September
10.30am – 12pm. Amgueddfa Cymru staff will be running fun family activities for the public to help them learn about the biology and geology of Ogmore beach. They will be looking at rock pools, strandlines, rocks and fossils along the shore.This year we will also have a fun ART activity involving plaster of paris and seashells. These morning activities are now fully booked, but you can still come along in the afternnoon to help out with the beach clean.
1pm – 2.30pm. Help with the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean (Open to all).
Where: Ogmore Beach, Vale of Glamorgan. Meeting on the beach at Ogmore beach car park – down the ramp in front of the lifeguard centre.
Suitable for all ages, hope to see you there.
A batty summer at St Fagans!
I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe how quickly August flew by! It seems as if it was only yesterday that schools were breaking up, but now it is already time for us to welcome school visits again for a brand new school year!
This summer was slightly different for myself in St Fagans. Due to the redevelopment project we have lost use of the Tŷ Gwyrdd eco house, so our summer events this year had a slightly more nomadic feel than normal! It was nice to visit other parts of the museum and to explore some of the wildlife found in different places.
In total this summer, around 1000 people took part in a variety of nature activities within the museum, from minibeast bug hunts in the woods to our very popular twilight bat walks around the site.
The summer began with us re-opening the bird hide at its new location near Hendre Wen barn. After initial worries of whether we would attract similar numbers of birds as the previous location, I was very relieved after spending 30 minutes in the hide and spotting 11 different species. Hopefully we will continue to attract such a wide variety of birds to our feeders. The bird hide is open every day, so on your next visit be sure to pop in and see what you spot!
In August we had a bit of a bat scare at the Tannery. The Tannery building is home to a roost of rare Lesser Horseshoe bats. A small electrical fire broke out one morning in the room directly below the roof space where the bats normally roost. Thankfully a quick response from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service ensured that the fire did not spread. Luckily, the bats had flown to an area of the building unaffected by the fire. The story even made it onto the BBC website! Thanks to Anwen for the pictures!
The bats have now returned to their normal roosting spot and they seem to have been largely unaffected by the event. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our bat camera which is situated in the building. A combination of smoke and water damage means that we will have to replace the camera, which we will be doing as soon as possible!
Bats at St Fagans seem to be going from strength to strength. We have 11 of the 18 British species known roosting within the museum grounds, including the elusive Nathusius Pipistrelle bat which has been found roosting in 2 of our buildings. Previous to this, there were only 2 known roosting locations for this species in the whole of Wales. This story also made the news recently!
This year we held 3 Twilight Batwalks, all of which booked up well in advance. Thanks to all who came and apologies to anyone who tried to book but were unable to! Next year we are planning on having 4 walks throughout August, with the possibility of more depending on demand! If you came on one of our batwalks, or took part in any nature events this summer, please let us know what you though, either by commenting here or sending an us an email!
Finally a big thanks to our new team of volunteers who helped out over the summer! Having an extra pair or two of hands during workshops and events is invaluable and means that we can offer a better experience to our visitors. I look forward to working with you again in the near future!