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April 2012

Green Babies at St Fagans!

Posted by Hywel Couch on 24 April 2012
A selection of reusable nappies.
Gemma from Little Gems Nappies with her samples of nappies
Fairdos stand at Green Babies
Green Babies Ideas Tree

Over the last couple of months we have held a total of 5 Green Baby days at the T? Gwyrdd here at St Fagans Museum. The idea behind the Green Baby days was to promote greener practices and to lessen the environmental impact raising a baby can have. 

To help us achieve this we invited a number of experts in to help us, all of whom I’d like to thank! 

Obviously one of the main ways of lessening environmental impact when raising a child is through the use of re-usable nappies. This is also a great way of saving money, around £700! These re-usable nappies have moved on a great deal since the days of terry towelling and enormous safety pins! It was great to see peoples reactions when shown examples of the fancy newer nappies and to hear their stories! 

So I have to give a massive thank you to the 3 re-usable nappy providers who helped us over the 5 days. First of all to mamigreen who are based in Cardiff and came to help us on the first 2 Green Baby days. Secondly a huge thank you to Gemma at Little Gems Nappies (based in Pontypridd) who came to help us over 3 days last week during the Easter holidays. And also a big thank you to Melanie at Little Lion (based near Bridgend) who lent us a variety of re-usable nappies that we were able to showcase! 

If you are interested in learning more about re-usable nappies or are considering using them then check out their websites. They all cover most of the southWalesarea and offer phone consultations as well as home visit consultations! 

We also had a stand by Fairdos which is a Fairtrade shop based inCanton inCardiff. As a stockist of all kinds of Fairtrade products this was a great opportunity to showcase their range of Fairtrade cotton baby clothes, toys and bibs. A big thank you to the Fairdos volunteers who gave up their time to man the stand!

 The final area we covered was baby food. Making your own baby food is healthy, cheap, eco-friendly, and you know exactly what’s in it! We had Welsh Government advice and recipe documents for different stages available to read, and many visitors asked us where they could find these documents themselves. So here we go…

English Language Downloads

Welsh Language Downloads 

Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who came to see us during the event and for sharing your knowledge, especially those who entered our competition by posting tips on our Green Babies ideas tree! We will shortly be picking a winner and contacting them about their prize.

Super Scientist Awards 2012

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 24 April 2012
Super Scientists Map

Professor Plant

Blooming daffodil.

Thirty eight schools across the UK are to be awarded Super Scientist Certificates on behalf of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales in recognition for their contribution to the Spring Bulbs - Climate Change Investigation.

Congratulations to all 1,625 pupils who have keep records and made observations to study climate change - each will receive a certificate and other prizes to celebrate their outstanding efforts. Certificates and prizes will be sent to schools by the 14th of May 2012. Many thanks to the Edina Trust for funding this project.

Winners 2012: Each will receive a class trip of fun-packed nature activities!

  • Westwood CP School in Wales
  • Earlston Primary School in Scotland
  • Fulwood and Cadley School in England

Runner's up: Each to receive vouchers to purchase gardening equipment, certificates & seedlings.

  • Christchurch CP School
  • Saint Roberts Roman Catholic Primary School
  • Sherwood Primary School
  • St. Joseph's R C Primary (Penarth)
  • Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School
  • Woodplumpton St Annes C of E Primary
  • Ysgol Nant Y Coed

Highly commended schools: Each to receive certificates, sunflower seeds, salad seeds & flowers to attract butterflies.

  • Channelkirk Primary
  • Coleg Powys
  • Ysgol Y Ffridd
  • Ysgol Capelulo
  • Lakeside Primary
  • Maesglas Primary School
  • Ysgol Clocaenog
  • Ysgol Bro Ciwmeirch
  • Ysgol Porth Y Felin
  • Glyncollen Primary School
  • Ysgol Pant Y Rhedyn
  • Howell's School Llandaff
  • Williamstown Primary school
  • Ysgol Tal Y Bont
  • Morfa Rhianedd
  • Ysgol Deganwy

Schools with special recognition: Each to receive, certificates, flowers to attract butterflies and salad seeds.

  • Gordon Primary School
  • Laugharne VCP School
  • Milford Haven Junior school
  • Ysgol Iau Hen Golwyn
  • Oakfield Primary school
  • Windsor Clive Primary

Schools to be awarded certificates: Each to receive Super Scientist Certificates.

  • Radnor Primary
  • Brynhyfryd Junior School
  • Bishop Childs CIW Primary School
  • Eyton Church in Wales Primary School
  • Ysgol Cynfran
  • Ysgol Bodfari

Many thanks

Professor Plant

www.museumwales.ac.uk/scan/bulbs

Twitter http://twitter.com/Professor_Plant

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We have chicks!

Posted by Peter Howlett on 24 April 2012

Or at least the Peregrines do. There was a worrying moment yesterday morning when I didn't see any activity around the nest for hours, I couldn't see a bird on the nest - and it was raining. I eventually saw the female at the nest late morning but she just had a cursory glance at the nest then flew off.

She returned a little while later and then sat on the nest for the rest of the day. The male flew in a couple fo times and on one occasion I am pretty certain brought in a little lump of food. The female didn't stir but it's possible the chick hatched sometime yesterday (or over the weekend).

When I switched the camera monitor on in my office this morning I saw the female was sitting on the nest then the male popped in with a morsel of food. The female stood on the edge of the nest, started tearing small chunks off and was stretching into the back of the nest to offer the food to the chick. This went on for about 10 minutes until the female resumed incubation.

Peregrines normally lay 3-4 eggs and start incubating as soon as they lay the first one, which means the first egg laid hatches first. Assuming the other eggs hatch there will likely be more chicks over the next few days but it could be a couple of weeks before they are big enough to be seen over the rim of the nest.

Peregrines on the Clock Tower 2012

Posted by Peter Howlett on 24 April 2012

As with last year the Peregrines were around over the winter, I could see, or hear, them from the office most days. It seems August/September is when they are least visible, probably while they are moulting their feathers after the breeding season.

The camera was back up and running in mid-March just in time to see the female start incubating eggs some time around the 20th.

Let's hope that they have a better season than last year!

Brick by Brick (stone by stone)

Posted by Sara Huws on 20 April 2012

Fans of craftspeople, rejoice!

Our very own Haverfordwest House has been given a TV special: 'Brick by Brick' with Dan Cruickshank, which plays out on BBC2 at 9pm tonight (9.30 on BBC2 Wales).
The project has been a slow-burner, not least because the building, when removed from its original location in Haverfordwest, lacked a fourth retaining wall. If you've ever wondered how on earth we do what we do at St Fagans, then this is the programme for you. Follow the link below for a flavour of what's to come:

'Brick by Brick' - Charlie builds a vault.

interior of Haverfordwest House
The house is 'dressed' for the television crew. The permanent display will be installed once the lime mortar in the walls has dried out.

The building is in the last stages of drying out, which means we'll have to wait a little while longer to furnish it permanently. To satisfy your curiosity, however, we're holding a preview opening this weekend, between 10 and 5. I'll keep you posted about our progress - in the meantime, if you've got any questions about the building, or the show, leave 'em here for me in the comments!

topping out at haverforwest house
Some of the crew who saved the building, and some of the crew who will be looking after it from now on!

Roman Mosaics at Easter

Posted by Grace Todd on 17 April 2012

So during this very busy Easter holiday our visitors have been taking inspiration from the Roman building materials we have in the Clore Discovery Centre to make their own Roman mosaics. The results have been oustanding with adults getting as absorbed as children. Here are some of the results but for more come and see the big screen in The Clore Discovery Centre

Art Gallery VADU

Posted by David Thorpe on 17 April 2012
Photograph 1: Art Gallery VADU screenshot, with no images (July 2011)
Photograph 1b: Art Gallery VADU screenshot, with images (July 2011)
Photograph 2: Art Gallery VADU screenshot (January 2012)
Photograph 3: Video page showing subtitles
» View full post to see all images

VADU: Visual Audio Display Unit

My last blog entry was back in April 2009, so this is a hesitant return.

Background

In July 2011 the refurbished Contemporary & Modern Art galleries were re-opened at the National Museum Cardiff, the following VADU would be included in the initial exhibition. The specification was mainly to showcase video shorts: recorded, interviewed and edited by a few of my colleagues (Art and New Media), the videos would have subtitles and also there would be a visitor comments page.

The iPad 2 was about to be launched when I started work on the VADU. Magic was in the air, queues were forming.

Note: it has been used for two exhibitions, so far:

  1. Contemporary & Modern Art (July 2011 – January 2012)
  2. The Queen: Art and Image (January 2012 – April 2012)

Project Ethos

Although there is an 'App Store', it seemed like overkill to write and release an application simply for four machines in an art gallery - I used 'Kiosk Pro' instead, an application which basically removed all the usual iPad functionality and locked it down to a fullscreen Safari browser.

In terms of creating the backend mechanisms for providing/collecting content, one shouldn't reinvent the wheel. Therefore, I used the trusty Museum‘s web CMS (Amgueddfa CMS) to control things - the Amgueddfa CMS controls the museum websites and intranet for all seven nation museums. Built in-house over several years, it has evolved with the requirements of the organisation. It's built with open source PHP, MySQL and Javascript. Succinct and effective, even if we say so.

In regards to the actual design aspect of the VADU interface: the only two constraints were museum brand guidelines and a particular colour had to be used to unify it with the surrounding new gallery signage.

Around May 2011, Braun's designer Dieter Rams design ideas entered my world (I can't repeat his mantra here, but only because it is copyrighted). Anyhow, I tried to create an interface that was simple, intuitive, consistent, and didn't distract the user from the actual content:

  • Only two colours
  • No drop-shadows or gradients
  • 10px borders
  • I did allow myself one curvy corner (bottom-right), one guilty pleasure
  • User navigation: horizontal gestures only
  • Page transitions: vertical only

Building Blocks

If you haven't already looked at the photograph 1 and 1b, I would take a look now; so we have a shared reference images in mind.

The top section displays the title of the exhibition, followed by page buttons (Art, Comments and What's On). All exciting stuff - the tip of an arrow indicates which page the user is on (hopefully in a subtle fashion).

The language button starts the most convoluted process on the VADU, in terms of animating a page change. I didn't want the change to be instant, instead I gave it a more graceful flow. The actual result of changing the language only swaps the domain name from English to Welsh or visa-versa (museumwales.ac.uk, amgueddfacymru.ac.uk), but the time it takes to do that is over four seconds. It should become clearer later, if you watch the video below.

I used the Javascript Mootools framework, it has served us well - lightweight and fast. I chained the transitions and effects to create the smooth transitional actions throughout the VADU. It was also necessary to chain things because I would describe the Safari browser on the iPad as OK, in regard to the power of Javascript, rather than excellent if used on a desktop (there is reduced access to the normal power you find in apps wrapped up in objective C; no WebGL access).

The middle section displays the video in focus at the time, large screen print from the video is shown in the background - title, summary and extraneous information such as video length are shown on the information panel. In large font the word: 'Play', indicating the user can start a video. Left and right arrows also allow the user to shuffle through the videos. The information panel can be moved from the right or left of the background image - something that resulted from the fact artists don't like their work flipped [in a digital sense] i.e. if the focus of the background is to the left, the information panel can be positioned to the right by indicating such in the CMS metadata entry.

The bottom section can be dragged with a finger left and right, selecting any one of the sixteen videos. It was quite important to have draggable areas, because it is simply expected by iPad users (thus, making it intuitive). The same draggable feature is used for the what's on page (photograph 6).

If the user selects a video, the screen removes all navigation features so they are only left with the title of the video, a video time indicator (so the user knows the video is only short), the video itself in the center of the screen, the subtitles at the base of the screen and a 'back' button. The user can pause and un-pause the video by tapping of the video in the center (see photograph 3). The video's themselves use the same colour as the VADU, so it all fits together neatly.

Finally the comments page is simple too: optional name input, text input and the last three comments are displayed on the right-hand side (hopefully encouraging the user to write something). The comments are fed into the usual website comments system, approved (or not) by a staff member (photograph 5) – there has been over 2000 comments left of the gallery VADU since July 2011, which is quite a lot considering no one was forcing these people to write something.

Subtitles

The subtitles are again displayed using javascript, they are not integrated into the video. I built a subtitles tool within the Amgueddfa CMS using Javascript and Flash, which creates a XML file that could be dropped into the caption of the video. The idea being that the majority of videos need to be available to two languages and if the videos were published on the main website at anytime, a transcript could be displayed too. Hopefully the task of transcribing the video in the first place is easier because of it. There you go, a little of the behind the scenes work (photograph 7).

Past Performance

The gallery VADUs have been very reliable; once every few months one of them may freeze, but considering they are always on (one weakness of iOS software is you can‘t boot-up into a single application), that's not too bad. I darken the screen after the galleries close – simply using a whole–screen black div.

We had a brief problem when changing the local network settings in January, so I added a check before the VADU changes language to see if there is a network available (an AJAX query: onSuccess or onFailure).

Future Development

If it continues to be used, I would like to develop a local version of the VADU, providing a fallback if the network goes down, or maybe a hybrid version (storing the videos on the VADU). This would mean a update of the iOS (from 4.3 to 5.1+), but I‘m sure there would be some associated browser performance improvements.

Other major changes shouldn't be required, as the video shorts are meant to be the star of the show.

Final Word

Obviously it helps to have a pleasant environment to place the VADUs (photograph 9).

Video Demo

I've included a short demo video for posterity:

Every object tells a story

Posted by Grace Todd on 6 April 2012

Inspired by the most inquisitive visitor ever who came and really tested my knowledge yesterday (perfect mental warm up for all the questions we'll get about the collections over the holidays) I thought it would be useful to give some suggestions for things to consider when exploring objects.

All objects have some kind of a story, and objects are all evidence of somewhere, something, or somebody ans as such all have stories to tell.

So when you're looking at an object for the very first time, thinking about some of these will guide your exploration:

Is it real or a model?

How old is it?

Is it man made or natural?

What might it have been used for/by whom/when/for what?

Does it remind you of anything you've seen before?

 

Some of our busy school visitors investigated and explored objects in the gallery, through careful questioning and research they discovered lots about their objects. Here is a selection of the labels they wrote

Make do and Mend

Posted by Hywel Couch on 5 April 2012
Footstool Making Workshop held at the Tŷ Gwyrdd
Flyer for the Upcycling Chalky Workshop

Wood for the Trees return to the T? Gwyrdd this Saturday, 7th of April. Earlier this year they held a footstool making workshop, which was a great success as can be seen from the picture. Participants made their own footstools from start to finish, from planing the stool legs to the upholstery work at the end. 

The footstool workshop was for people who had booked in advance, but this time the T? Gwyrdd doors will be open to all for an Upcycling Chalky Workshop! There will be a chance to make your own blackboard to take away with you and also the chance to decorate some furniture! 

The T? Gwyrdd will be open between 11 and 1 and again from 2 till 4 after lunch, so why not drop in and see what’s on offer!

Click here for more information.

Sun, snow & hosepipe bans

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 5 April 2012

Professor Plant

What a crazy few weeks of weather we have had! In one week the weather reporters have featured record breaking temperatures, hosepipe bans and now snow in many places!

The high pressure gave us plenty of sunshine and record breaking temperatures but now temperatures have returned more to what we would normally expect for the time of year.

Meanwhile, the temperature of our planet is still rising. 2010 was the hottest year across the globe. For the UK this seems to mean that wierd weather is becoming more and more normal. We have certainly seen some strange weather since starting our investigation.

BBC Horizon broadcast a program called ‘Global Weirding’, it explored the science behind why the world’s weather seems to be getting more extreme.

It will be interesteing to see what our results show this year.

I've recieved all the data now so after Easter I will be looking at the trends and discussing them with schools.

Many thanks to all the bulb buddies that have worked so hard keeping records since last November.

Enjoy the Easter Break!

www.museumwales.ac.uk/scan/bulbs

Twitter http://twitter.com/Professor_Plant

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