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Collectors & Collections

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/ 

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 1 July 2014

Amongst the new accessions we received in June was a 14” Sony ‘Trinitron’ colour teletext television set with remote control. This was manufactured by Sony at Pencoed, Bridgend, in 1995. If you look back to the December blog you will see another television set we acquired recently.

 

This slate sample originates from Maenofferen slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is a sample slate sent out to potential customers to show the colour and quality of the slate produced in the quarry. There are a number of slate veins in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area, all of which have their own name, such as New or Deep Vein, the Old Vein, Back or Middle Vein, and North Vein. This particular sample is from the middle vein of Maenofferen Quarry.

 

We have been donated a lovely collection of 91 photographs, the majority of which show the redevelopment work carried out by the National Coal Board at Glyncorrwg Colliery during the 1950s. I have illustrated three views here. The first photograph shows the colliery as it looked on 11 September 1951 before the reconstruction work started. The view is looking north up the valley.

The following two photographs show the reconstruction work. The first showing a circuit gantry on 1 November 1955 and the second shows the reconstruction work progressing on the headgear, and was taken on 6 Feb 1957.

 

 

On the 17th May 1965 an explosion caused by firedamp occurred at the Cambrian Colliery, Clydach Vale killing 31 miners. The colliery had been winding down to closure, and many of the workforce had been transferred, otherwise the fatalities might have been even greater. This image is of the front cover of the brochure commemorating a memorial service held on 17 May 2014. It shows the headgear preserved within a memorial garden. 

 

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

May 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 30 May 2014

Amongst this month’s new accessions was an aluminium prop withdrawer, known as a 'buller', manufactured by Parsons. It consists of handle and rack, and was used in coal mines for pulling out roof supports (as well as other tasks). This one is unusual in that it is made of aluminium for lightness. However the use of aluminium was later banned (because of its tendency to induce sparking) after the Horden Colliery explosion in 1953.

 

We have been donated the following four badges manufactured in 2014 that relate to the 1984/85 miners’ strike. These include two limited edition badges to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1984/85 miners’ strike. The inscription on reverse reads “Forget not the / lessons of / our past”.

 

This badge with the slogan ‘Coal Not Dole’ issued by The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign which included ex-miners, Trades Unionists, activists and others determined to get justice for miners.

 

The final badge in this collection is in the shape of a miners flame safety lamp. WAPC-NUM stands for Women Against Pit Closures - National Union of Mineworkers, and was manufactured for their 30th Anniversary.

 

We are currently working on documenting an important collection of approximately 150 film negatives taken by E. Emrys Jones in the 1950s and 1960s. The negatives show the slate industry in north Wales, concentrating on the Dinorwig slate quarry. Many images are of the Dinorwig quarry workshops (Gilfach Ddu) which is now the Welsh Slate Museum, and part of Amgueddfa Cymru. Below are three images taken from this collection.

A general view of Dinorwig Quarry, 1950. It shows the ‘Wellington’ section of Dinorwig Quarry, with the Muriau Shed in the foreground, and the Ceiliog Mawr in the background.

 

This view shows loaded slate wagons outside Gilfach Ddu (now the National Slate Museum) in the 1950s or early 1960s.

 

This group of quarrymen are probably at Dinorwig Quarry.

 

This model of an opencast coal truck was manufactured from South Wales anthracite coal. It is inscribed OPEN CAST / EXECUTIVE.

 

With 2014 being the centenary of the start of the First World War it is poignant that we have acquired a collection of photographs and documents relating to Captain Anthony Starkey of Bristol. Capt. Starkey was master of the S.S. Torrington which was torpedoed and sunk off the Scilly Isles in April 1917. 34 members of the crew were killed, and Capt. Starkey was the sole survivor. He was taken from the ship and held as prisoner aboard the U-boat for 15 days. He was then held in four different prisoner of war camps in Germany (including Brandenburg, Holminden and Strohenmoor).

This view shows the S.S. Torrington with an inset portrait of Capt. Starkey.

 

This photograph shows Capt. Starkey during his internment in Germany. It will have been taken in one of the four prisoner of wars camps in Germany that he was held in.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curatorial Assistant (Industry)

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

Aurelian Society

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 13 May 2014

The following photographs are from the book, Twelve new designs of English butterflies, by Benjamin Wilkes [published in 1742]. This rare work consists solely of twelve engraved plates each depicting geometric arrangements of both butterflies and moths. Wilkes produced this profoundly beautiful work as member of the Aurelian Society. Aurelian is an archaic word for lepidopterist [one who is interested in butterflies]; the term is derived from aurelia, meaning chrysalis, and relates to the golden colour it may attain just before the butterfly emerges.

The Society of Aurelians [London], one of the oldest organized bodies of specialists in any branch of zoology. The group collected and documented insects from the 1690s but came to an abrupt end in March 1748. While members of the society were in a meeting in the Swan Tavern, a great fire broke out  in Cornhill and enveloped them. All the members escaped, but their entire collection, library, and records were destroyed. This event was documented by Moses Harris in The Aurelian; or, Natural History of English Insects (1765). The loss disheartened the group so much that they never managed to regroup again…Aurelian societies were formed several times in Britain [most notable 1762 and 1801], but each time they collapsed.

…Benjamin Wilkes was an 18th-century artist and naturalist whose profession was 'painting of History Pieces and Portraits in Oil'. When a friend invited him to a meeting of the Aurelian Society, where he first saw specimens of butterflies and moths, he became convinced that nature would be his 'best instructor' as to colour and form in art. He began to study entomology spending his leisure time collecting, studying and drawing the images larvae, pupae and parasitic flies of Lepidoptera, assisted by the collector Mr Joseph Dandridge. Wilkes' own collection was kept 'against the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street' London 'Where any gentleman or lady' could see his collection of insects [Wikipedia].

 

 

Our  holdings of other Aurelian books include:

The English Lepidoptera: or, the Aurelian's pocket companion: containing a catalogue of upward of four hundred moths and butterflies ... / Moses Harris [1775]

 The aurelian. a natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also .../ Moses Harris [1766]

 English moths and butterflies… Benjamin Wilkes [1749] This work ran to three editions of which the last, incorporating Linnaean nomenclature, was published in 1824

 The British Aurelian:  twelve new designs of British Butterflies and Directions for making a collection, with an essay by R.S. Wilkinson / Benjamin Wilkes, R.S. Wilkinson [1982]

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 1 May 2014

One major acquisition that entered the industry collection this month was a collection of 76 film negatives of collieries in South Wales. 61 of these film negatives show the reconstruction at Hafodyrynys Colliery in 1956. Two images showing the ongoing work are shown here :- 

 

 

Another object to enter the collection this month is this receipt is from the Dinas Steam Colliery Co. Ltd. to Mrs Thomas of the Graig Ddu Inn, Dinas, and is dated 3 December 1887. The Graig Ddu Inn was 100 yards from the colliery, and the tram of coal would have been delivered direct to the house.

 

This set of five British Coal South Wales Area rescue and fire fighting plans are for Marine/Six Bells Colliery. They are dated 23 September 1988. The five plans are stapled together, and the top one is shown here.

 

These two paintings are an important addition to our art collections relating to the coal industry in Wales. They were donated recently and are both oils on canvas. The first is dated January 1862 and is a portrait of Thomas Powell aged 81. Thomas Powell founded the Powell Duffryn Coal Company. In 1840 Powell sunk the first deep mine at Cwmbach, Aberdare. This was followed by further deep mines in Aberdare (Cwmdare, Abernant, Abergwawr, Middle Duffryn and Cwmpennar) and in the Rhymney Valley. At their peak these collieries produced over 400,000 tons of coal each per annum. Thomas was the world's first coal millionaire, and he died in March 1863.

 

The second painting shows Thomas Powell's eldest son, Thomas Powell Junior (1827-1869) with his wife Julia and son John, and dates to about 1862. The family along with the entire safari party they were part of were killed in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1869 whilst elephant hunting.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curatorial Assistant (Industry)

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

April 2014

Exploring biodiversity in the Amazon

Posted by Adrian Plant on 15 April 2014

Adrian Plant continues his fieldwork in the Amazon in collaboration with Jose Albertino Rafael and Josenir Camara from INPA (Brazil’s national Amazon research organisation) in Manaus.

So far two field-trips to remote corners of the Amazon have been successfully completed. The first was to Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira high up the Rio Negra not far from Brazil’s borders with Colombia and Venezuela and the second to a major tributary of the Amazon along the border with Peru at Benjamin Constant.

The forests of the Amazon Basin are flood forests; they become seasonally inundated by the flooded river and the waters bring with them many of the nutrients essential to the forests great productivity throughout the region. This year the forest remains unusually wet for the time of year which has caused a few practical problems for field entomology.- it is an acquired pleasure to slosh around in deep mud and water searching for new and interesting insects under a constant plague of biting mosquitoes. Yet, to an entomologist this is more or less a definition of “fun”!

The biodiversity is amazing of course and many of the insects seen and collected are undoubtedly new to science but will require much study in more comfortable surroundings after returning from the field. Meanwhile, Adrian will shortly be setting out on a third fieldtrip, this time to a little known area  between the mouth of the Amazon river and French Guiana where many exciting discoveries will undeniably be made.

March 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 27 March 2014

Amongst this month’s new additions to the collections we have received 16 very interesting share certificates. The Museum holds by far the largest and wide-ranging Welsh-interest share certificate collection held by any public museum, library or archive. The collection ranges across railway and maritime transport, coal mining, the mining and smelting of metals, general industry, and service industries (finance, leisure, consumer products, etc). We seek to consolidate and expand whenever appropriate material is offered.

The Royal Copper Mines of Cobre company was founded in 1835 by predominantly Swansea and Llanelli copper smelting interests who, recognising the rapidly growing importance of Cuban ore to Welsh smelting works, sought to see the mines both worked much more efficiently and on a larger scale as well as under their control rather than under inefficient Spanish colonial direction. These certificates are a rare example of tangible objects reflecting the international reach of globally pre-eminent Welsh copper smelting industry. The two strongest international connections of the industry were with Cuba and Chile, with Cuban connections being especially intimate at Swansea. 

 

This Mynyddbach-y-Glo Colliery Company Limited share certificate dates from 1924. The company was registered 1924. It operated the colliery from 1924 to May 1926 when it when into voluntary liquidation, seemingly an early casualty of the miners’ strike which continued after the end of the General Strike. Winding up was completed in 1927. The colliery comprised a small slant located at Waunarlwydd on the western outskirts of Swansea.

 

This Pontypridd Gas Light and Coke Company share certificate dates from 1852. The company was registered in 1850, and was later purchased by Pontypridd Local Board of Health under the terms of the Pontypridd Local Board (Gas) Act 1893. The Local Board became an Urban District Council in 1907 and the latter authority transferred the gas undertaking to the Wales Gas Board following the passing of the Gas Nationalisation Act 1948. Pontypridd was only the fifth Welsh town to be lit with gas, its Act creating its gas company being early by Welsh standards. At the centre is an interesting vignette of the gas works in front of the Pontypridd’s famous bridge. The bridge was built by William Edwards in 1756. 

 

One donation this month included two commemorative ties that can be seen here. Trelewis drift mine was opened in 1954 and was adjacent to Taff Merthyr colliery. One of the ties show here commemorates 25 Years of its opening. Production ceased soon after this tie was made in 1991.  The other tie commemorates 73 years of Markham Colliery which was opened in 1912. The tie was produced in 1985 during the miners’ strike. Markham colliery was to close the following year. 

 

As well as the ties we were also donated two tobacco or twist boxes. These were used by miners to store their ‘twist’ (chewing tobacco). They were generally made of brass and usually oval in shape, although we have many examples of different materials and shaped tins in our collection. They are usually stamped with the miners name, address or colliery, and also often a date.

Of the two boxes illustrated here one is oval (with the date 1985 stamped underneath) and the other rectangular and in the shape of a book, with a simple combination locking mechanism underneath.

 

One final new accession this month is very poignant as last year we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Sengehydd disaster in which 440 miners lost their lives in the worst mining disaster in Britain. This horse’s hoof mounted in silverplate was given to Reginald Mortimer of Standard Colliery, Ynyshir for his work with colliery horses during the disaster. It is inscribed "KILDARE" / 1ST HORSE FROM THE / SENGHENYDD / EXPLOSION. OCT. 14. 1913.

For more objects relating to the Senghenydd disaster check out our Images of Industry database. You can also find out more about the disaster in our article Senghenydd 1913 on Rhagor.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curatorial Assistant (Industry)

 Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

 

'A day in the life' - a post for the Twitter event 'Museum Week UK'

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 21 March 2014

I begin my day by checking our general library inbox for any inquiries that we might have received over the weekend. This morning [as usual] there were quite a few but they were mercifully straight forward so didn’t take too long to answer. Next, I spent a very enjoyable hour squirreling away through our old photograph drawers for some interesting images to share with everyone during this Museum Week UK  on Twitter and what treasures I have found [but more of that to come via Tweets from @amgueddfa_lib during the week]! 

Vintage albums and photographs

 

Main Library photograph drawers

I also took some photographs of the pages of a giant old scrap book full of museum ephemera; it contains tickets, pamphlets, public announcement posters, order of services, lists of lectures and just about anything else you can stick down with heavy duty glue and sellotape…

However, my day begins in earnest with the post – as Assistant Librarian one of my main priorities is to manage the journal subscriptions. We maintain around 700 titles, a combination of paid subscriptions, exchanges and gifts. Therefore, after our Administration Assistant has opened and checked it, I weed out all the journals and record them onto our database. By doing this I am alerted to previous issues not received and will then chase them up with relevant suppliers. This time, there are no missing issues to chase but we have received a few duplicates, and [as always] these are from suppliers who categorically promised that no further duplicates would be sent out! Next, I count and measure the post so that at the end of the year I am able to supply our Principle Librarian with the total number of actual issues received and the meterage of space they will have covered. For instance, our statistics for 2013 were 1972 issues received that covered just over 11 metres of shelf space.

Next, I date stamp and separate them into departments. Our subscriptions naturally correspond with the curatorial departments, so we receive journals on the following disciplines: Art, Archaeology, Zoology, Botany, Geology and Industry and we also subscribe to more general subjects kept here in the Main Library. Once all this is done, it’s time to go and shelve them in the departmental libraries. These are dotted all around the museum so I wait until I have a little pile, normally a few days’ worth, before I go on my shelving travels.

My next task is to work through any invoices received in the post and this morning there quite a few. The way I process these has changed recently and whereas it has taken a little time to get used to the new system, it is much more straightforward and done in no time at all.

Walking into town for lunch, looking back over my shoulder...

After lunch, it’s all about the special collections! I begin by photographing books for a new post on the Museum Blog; I have been posting articles for some time now and really enjoy it. This next post I’m working on concerns books with “marginalia” and we have some excellent examples so here is a little sneak peak… 

Cambria Depicta: a tour of North Wales by Edward Pugh [1816]

 

 

Instructions for collecting and preserving insects; particularly moths and butterflies by William Curtis [1771]

The last few hours of the afternoon are spent working on a talk I will be giving in April as part of the Museum’s Behind the scenes series where the curatorial departments allow groups of visitors in to show them what goes on behind the scenes. My working title is “Curios” and the talk will be based on a small selection of our more unique items, such  as fore-edge books, annotated books, and books made from unusual materials and bindings!

On my way out I leave via the art galleries, it does take a little longer to get out going this way but it gives me the chance to browse and see what's on display and today there were two things in particular I wished to see. First, the new exhibition Wales Visitation: Poetry, Romance and Myth in Art which includes works by  David Jones, Graham Sutherland and Richard Long. And also the new Constable painting [currently on loan from the Tate]; Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows  is a stunning work and I particularly like the dark storm clouds brooding behind the rainbow.   

A selection of books on WWI all ready for the 1914-2014 Centenary 

This post has been produced as part of the Twitter event #Museum Week UK [24-30 March 2014]

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

February 2014

The unknown soldier

Posted by Jennifer Barsby on 27 February 2014
The textile before conservation.
Dye pots
Detail of the photograph showing the unknown soldier
The textile after conservation
» View full post to see all images

As part of Amgueddfa Cymru’s First World War centenary programme the collections relating to this period will be conserved, digitised and made available online. My role at the museum is Textile Conservator so I am responsible for the practical care of the textile collections across all seven sites. There are many WW1 objects in the textile collection; most take the form of commemorative or souvenir pieces while others are costumes and accessories.

One of the objects recently conserved for the project is an embroidered panel measuring 43.5cm x 53.5cm maker unknown, it is made from a single piece of royal blue silk satin embroidered with flags and text which reads ‘VICTORY FOR THE ALLIES MALTA PRESENT’ in yellow silk thread using stem stitch. It also features a photograph of a Welsh soldier printed onto a postcard which is slipped inside a frame made from card and covered in painted silk. The frame is tacked to the satin along the bottom and sides with the top edge left open. The flags are made with lines of silk floss which have been laid down to form the coloured sections and secured in a criss-cross, net like fashion and couched using a very fine thread. Thicker, cotton threads are used to define the sections of colour, the flags and poles are made from a coiled paper thread with a cotton core.

When it came to the conservation studio the panel was in a fair condition with some light surface soiling all over and creasing across the silk from being folded around the frame at some point, probably before it came to the museum. It is possible that the panel once had an adhesive backing as the embroidery threads on the reverse appear stiff and flattened. There is also some abrasion to the surface of the embroidery threads and satin floating yarns. The top and bottom edges are frayed and there are several splits in the ground fabric where it has been stitched through.

The conservation treatment began with a surface clean using a micro vacuum to pick up dust and fluff. It was then humidified to remove the creases; we cannot iron historic textiles because the heat and pressure of conventional irons can cause further damage. Instead we use gentle techniques with cold water vapour or in this case, a combination of materials layered up to introduce moisture gradually to the textile giving it time to penetrate the fibres. Once the fibres were relaxed, glass weights were used to hold them in position whilst drying. The photograph was removed during the humidification process to avoid any damage. The next stage was to support the splits in the satin which affect the stability of the textile. Fine silk crepeline was chosen to do this because it is gives a light support but is almost transparent, so even though it covers the reverse you can still see the threads; it was dyed blue to match the colour of the satin. The crepeline was fixed to the textile using a very fine layer of thermoplastic adhesive, which was applied to the dyed crepeline and allowed to dry. The adhesive was then re-activated to bond it to the reverse of the panel using a heated spatula, the bond created is enough to support the textile but not so strong that it cannot be removed in the future if required. The frayed edges were then laid out and secured though to the backing by working a blanket stitch along the edge using a fine polyester thread.

The textile is now back in store but will soon be available to view online and may one day go on display at St Fagans. Keep checking the blog for more updates as the project progresses!

The Soldier in the photograph is yet to be identified if you recognise him please contact the museum via Elen Philips Principal Curator: Contemporary & Community History Tel: 029 2057 3432 or on Twitter: @StFagansTextile

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 27 February 2014

This month we have been donated six lamp checks to add to our very comprehensive collection of checks. Lamp checks informed colliery management of who was in work and became vital when rescue services needed to know how many men were actually underground during an incident such as a fire or explosion. Colliery check systems apparently became common during the late nineteenth century and became mandatory in 1913 after an amendment to the 1911 Coal Mines Act. The two lamp checks shown here were manufactured by E. Thomas & Williams at their Cambrian Works in Aberdare in 2013 using original dies owned by the company. The one on the left was produced to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Big Pit operating as a museum.

If you would like to find out more information on check and tokens then check out an article written by our coal curator on Rhagor.

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

You can also see a selection of checks and tokens from our collection on our online database ‘Images of Industry’.

http://amgueddfacms/industry/images/?action=browse_category&category=1716

 

 

This ophthalmoscope was used by colliery nurse Sister Iris Evans for checking ears and eyes in Pochin and Oakdale Collieries. After completing her training in 1952 Sister Evans joined the National Coal Board as a nursing officer at Pochin Colliery in 1955. Later she was transferred to Oakdale Colliery. She retired in 1985 finishing her career as Senior Nursing Officer for South Wales Area NCB. During her career she helped out during the Six Bells Colliery disaster in 1960. She also vaccinated many miners at Lady Windsor Colliery during a smallpox outbreak in South Wales in the 1950s.

 

 

This large 15 ton piece of coal is now located at Bedwellty Park, Tredegar, and is Grade II listed. It was cut at the Yard Level, Tredegar as a single block with the intention to display it at the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was originally 20 tons, however, after a 5 ton piece broke away in transportation it was decided not to transport it to London as it might not survive the journey. It was subsequently set up in the grounds of Bedwellty House. The smaller block of 2 tons (to the left) was cut in 1951 from the same seam as the earlier one. It was exhibited at the Festival of Britain in London, before being placed next to the earlier block in Bedwellty Park.

 

 

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

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