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November 2012

We have completed our work on the Wallace Palms!

Posted by Julian Carter on 29 November 2012
This image is of a small section of the palm stem of Euterpe oleracea in its original condition prior to conservation work.
Euterpe oleracea collected in 1881 by Wallace and Bates. Shown here after cleaning and prior to reattachment.
The fruiting branches (racemes) of Euterpe oleracea had to be correctly re-positioned after cleaning. Annette is shown here carefully holding the branches in place prior to stabilisation.
The finished product! The specimen has been stabilised and bound with original twine. Fragments and data labels are kept together with the palm.
» View full post to see all images

Over recent months, botanical conservators Vicky Purewal and Annette Townsend have been carrying out painstaking work on a series of eleven historical palm specimens. They were collected around 1850 by the renowned British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) during his travels in the Amazon. Wallace is best known for his studies on evolution, which helped trigger the publication of Charles Darwin’s ground breaking research ‘Origin of Species’.

The Wallace palms reside at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the curators there requested that Vicky and Annette, who are specialist conservators in botanical collections at AC-NMW, carry out the necessary conservation work. The specimens are over 150 years old and had to endure adverse conditions in the hold of a ship, and then later to contend with soot and pollution from Battersea Power station. The palms were understandably very fragile and in need of plenty of careful cleaning, re-structuring and repackaging so that their true splendour could be appreciated by all. The palms have been re-housed in custom made boxes so that they can travel back to Kew safely and are also now fit for display.

You will be able to see the palms for yourself on display at AC-NMW in Oct 2013, as RBG Kew will be loaning some of the collection for our Wallace’s bicentenary exhibition and celebrations.


Posted by Danielle Cowell on 23 November 2012
Weather report from Rhydypenau Primary School.

This week has seen floods across many areas of the UK - see the images in the links below. Stepaside School reported high flooding in many areas.

I suspect a few schools will be closed today and perhaps unable to send in their records. I do hope everyone will be safe and dry.

In my garden we had 30mm of rain on Wednesday and I had to rescue a frog who was hopping along a busy road on my way home. Harwell School reported 15mm of rain whilst Rhydypenau school in Cardiff and Balmerino outside Dundee also reported 30mm of rain!

Last week 57 schools sent in their weather records many thanks to you all!

Study the records. If you would like to look-up the weather and see how much rain everyone has been having, follow this link then select the school you would like to study. Please check that your records are displaying correctly and let me know if any problems.

Your questions, my answers:

RAF Benson Primary School: We would like to send our records on a Thursday as it is the evening of our gardening club. Prof.P: No problem, doing it like this, but as the web site is set-up to only allow you to send in a week of weather at a time, you will only be able to upload the weather from the week before. Thanks.

Medlar with Wesham CE Primary School: Why aren't our bulbs growing yet we are impatient. Prof.P: they will be growing - but under the ground. Ask your teacher if you could grow one of your spare bulbs in a clear gel so you can watch the roots growing, but you must be patient. If they grew above the soil now they could be harmed by the winter frost.

Ysgol Porth Y Felin: We are interested by the fact that all the temperatures are nearly the same and it only rained on Monday. Prof.P: My temperatures have been fairly similar too, temperature wise it is very mild at the moment. Test if your thermometer definitely working properly?

Westwood CP School: Cold day on Friday! We had a little shower. That is the 1mm of rainfall. Prof.P: great accurate recording Westwood!

Many thanks

Professor Plant



Experiencing Volunteering at St Fagans as part of the Our Museum Project

Posted by Loveday Williams on 22 November 2012
Volunteers preparing to dig over the rose bed.

Gearing up for a good day's volunteering

The Our Museum partners at a meeting.

The Our Museum Parnters working together

Volunteers digging the old rose bed in the Castel Garden.

Getting stuck in

A volunteers muddy hands after making clay at the Celtic Village.

Muddy hands, the result of clay making

» View full post to see all images

5th November saw the Our Museum Project Partners arrive at St Fagans to experience a day in the life of a volunteer at the museum. Luck was on our side, the weather was with us and we were all ready for a fantastic day.

The St Fagans Our Museum project has been going from strength to strength. The Initiative is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and aims at bringing museums and communities together. The St Fagans project hopes to do this by building a community of volunteers at the museum.

Over the past year the museum has been working with a dedicated group of Community Partners who are supporting us on the project. They have been involved in decision making every step of the way and are now fully embedded into the Our Museum initiative and the project at St Fagans.

To give the Community Partners a better sense of what it is like to volunteer at the museum, we felt that a day spent on site, carrying out different activities alongside staff would work well. So, we set about preparing an action packed day!

Everyone was extremely keen and it was felt that this would be a great way of getting to know each other in an informal setting.

So, the morning of 5th November saw us all trekking up to the Castel Garden’s where we spent a busy morning digging up the old rose bed in preparation for re planting with Peter and Gareth from the Gardening Team. The sun was shining and we all had a fantastic time. Everyone entered into the competitive spirit as we were split into two groups to dig the patch, the aim being to meet in the middle.

After a fascinating talk from Owain Rhys on the recent Refugee House project we enjoyed a delicious lunch before venturing out on site again with Ian Daniel, Steve Burrow and Janet Wilding. Up to the Celtic Village for an afternoon of clay making, daubing and copper beating.

We all really enjoyed the activities and got thoroughly muddy in the process. Through discussions with staff the Community Partners were able to see how the Our Museum Project will fit into the exciting re development of St Fagans.

Thank you to everyone involved for making the day such a great success! Hats off to the volunteers!

Describing new worms

Posted by Julian Carter on 21 November 2012
A new species of marine bristleworm, Dysponetus joeli.
Marine scientist Teresa Darbyshire has just re-discribed a new species of Polychaete (commonly called marine bristleworms).  Unfortunately, a recent description of the new species, Dysponetus joeli (Olivier et al. 2012) used damaged specimens and errors were made.
This is because Polychaetes react notoriously badly to being handled roughly which is usually unavoidable with large marine surveys. Collected specimens are often in very bad condition by the time they are identified.
However, hand collected specimens by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales from survey work done in 2009 in the Isles of Scilly were found to be the same species but in very good condition.
Using these specimens and comparing them with the original specimens from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris, enabled the errors to be corrected. 
A re-description and revised species key have now been published -

Last chance for Animal & Plant Games

Posted by Peter Howlett on 21 November 2012
Look out for the Animal & Plant Games coin
The Cheetah is one of the animals in the trail.

Last chance to have a go at the Animal and Plants Games Trail

The Animal and Plants Games Trail is in its last remaining weeks at National Museum Cardiff. Look for the Cheetah coin symbol in our Lower and Upper Natural History galleries, Evolution of Wales, Natural World and Origins galleries to follow it.

You can also follow the trail by picking up one of the colourful Animal and Plant Games leaflets. They can be found on a stand near the entrance to the Evolution of Wales gallery, near the top of the stairs to the restaurant. Alternatively, you can ask in the Clore Discovery Centre.

But hurry, the trail will be taken down in the New Year and the leaflets are running out fast!

Animals and plants have to compete every day to survive. Strength, size, speed and agility can all help give them an advantage over competitors. Along the trail you can discover specimens of record breaking plants and animals such as: the famously fast Cheetah, the small but strong Dung Beetle, deadly Rosary Peas and record breaking cones from the Big Cone Pine!

A new species of fly for Britain

Posted by Peter Howlett on 19 November 2012
Platypalpus nigricoxa: a new species of fly for Britain.
The Wye Valley, a new species of fly for Britain has been found there.

A species of fly new to Britain has been found from the Wye Valley by scientist Adrian Plant, working at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Platypalpus nigricoxa is thought to be a boreo-alpine relict (left behind when ice retreated at the end of the last glacial period). Apart from the Wye valley, it is only known from the extreme north of Scandinavia, the Kola peninsula in northern Russia and some mountains in eastern Europe.

Weather records are flying in!

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 16 November 2012
Professor Plant and Baby Bulb
Mini-origami booklet

Wow! What a fantastic start to this year's weather recording. Forty six schools sent in weather records last week and this weeks are flying in as I type! The project was also mentioned in the South Wales Echo and the Oxford Times.

If you've ever wondered what your bulbs do once they are planted then why not make this mini-origami booklet! The secret undercover life of the bulb. By Prof. Plant. (Colour version) (Fill in the gaps version) (How to do)

Many of you have sent in comments and questions - please see my answers below:

Ysgol Nant Y Coed - "We have had rain this week but not enough to measure. We've enjoyed keeping the records this week" Prof.P: "Thanks for the info and delighted to hear you are enjoying being a scientist!"

St Mary's Catholic Primary School - "Hello, we have had no rain this week". Prof. P: "Hi St Mary's - Welcome to the project - keep up the good work!"

Greyfriars RC Primary School - "Hi we are really enjoying this" Prof.P: "So glad you are enjoying!"

Nether Kellet Primary School - "It has been hard to remember to keep track of the bulb project since it's only our first week. We forgot to cheek on Wednesday so we went on the weather forecast. Do you own the museum we are gathering information for? We really enjoyed collecting the weather information and are 'into' the project now!" Prof.P: "Yes I agree it can be tricky to remember in the beginning, good idea to check with your local forecast when you forget, delighted that you are enjoying it now! I don't own the Museum but I work here so I guess it own me ;-) The Museum is owned by the people of Wales, part of my job is to help people understand and enjoy the weird and wonderful collections we have. I'm very lucky!"

Thorneyholme RC Primary School - "We are enjoying growing and looking after our bulbs.
We love your hair-do and your glasses!!" Prof.P: "Thanks no one has ever complimented me on my hair or glasses before - you've made my day! Glad you're enjoying!"

Ysgol Clocaenog - "Diolch am y bylbiau. Mae hi wedi bod yn wythnos dda i'r bylbiau oherwydd dydi hi ddim wedi bod yn rhy oer ac mae hi wedi bwrw glaw. Athro'r Ardd: Dim problem, dwi'n falch i glywed bod y tywydd yn dda i'r bylbiau".

Medlar with Wesham CE Primary School - "Hi Professor plant. We have not yet watered our plants because it has rained a lot. Prof.P: "Yes that is good, it's important that your bulbs don't get too wet or too dry."

Glyncollen Primary School - "Thank you for the bulbs. We are looking forward to when they grow." Prof.P: "You're welcome! You should start to see some growth after Christmas!”

Ysgol Deganwy - "We have moved our pots to the south side of our mobile classroom against a wall. There has been some building work on the previous north side which meant we couldn't put our pots there." Prof.P: Thanks for letting me know. They should get a lot more sun on the South side too.

Henllys CIW Primary - "Rainfall on Thursday 8 November was 0.5 mm; Rainfall on Friday 9 November was 0.1mm." Prof.P: "Thanks for these details - very accurate recording!"

St Joseph's Primary School (Penarth) - "We were interested to see that the temperature remained the same for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, even though we thought that it felt colder." Prof.P: "That is interesting; sometimes the wind can make it feel colder. It you have two thermometers you could check if they say the same thing."

Westwood CP School - "Cloudy but dry week apart for some rain on Friday. Temperature are not too bad yet but I'm sure worse is to come!" Prof.P: "Thanks for the update and Welcome to the project again this year!"

Stanford in the Vale Primary School - "Dear Professor Plant. First week of observations...Monday really cold with sharp frosts to the ground...then Thursday warm and sunny blue sky's amazing. No rain has been recorded as we have had no rainfall. Best Wishes. Stanford in the Vale Gardening Club." Prof.P: "Thanks for the observations, a real mixture of weather - keep up the good work!"

Many thanks

Professor Plant


Natural History Halloween Open Day - more scary pictures!

Posted by Julian Carter on 13 November 2012
Realistic wax models of fungi
Dare to smell a fresh stinkhorn fungus?
'Murder mystery' in the herbarium......

Following on from the last post about our Natural History Halloween Open Day, we thought you might like to see some more pictures of the event.

We had some freshly collected fungi on display, including an invitation to sample the smell of a fresh stinkhorn and to speculate on the significance of the smell to the biology of the fungus. We found it got some interesting reactions (although it’s not so fun being sat downwind from it!).

There were also some less stinky but realistic wax models of fungi. These were made in the mid 1900s by our in-house botanical model-maker, a practice that continues today.

A ‘murder mystery’ had also taken place in our herbarium (the plant collections), an area not usually open to the public. Whilst surrounded by our quarter of a million pressed herbarium specimens, you had to work out which plant was used to poison the victim!

If this has whetted your appetite, keep an eye on our Natural History collections Twitter feed @NatHistConservation for more behind the scenes sneak peeks. Also stay tuned to the What’s On guide on our main website for details of the next Open Day. More stories from behind the scenes can also be found on the 'Rhagor' pages of our website e.g. conserving wax models.

Natural History Open Day.

Posted by Julian Carter on 7 November 2012
Friendly witches in the main hall!
Big spiders from the collections!
Looking into the main hall towards the end of a busy open day.

During half term we held a Natural History open day in the main hall at National Museum Wales, Cardiff. It was a great opportunity for us to chat to visitors about our work and show them parts of the collections not normally seen by the public.

The day had a Halloween theme, and visitors had the chance to engage with a wide range of material from the collections. This included solving a ‘murder mystery’ in the herbarium, comparing our UK bats to the size of the largest fruit bat or studying closely a bedbug!

It was a busy, but fun day for all the staff involved. Look out on the website for the next open day.

Cycle Champs 2012.

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 5 November 2012

The Cardiff Cycle Challenge sees workplaces compete to see who can get the most staff cycling. This summer staff at National Museum Cardiff took and won their category! Our team prize was a delicious cup cake delivery – well deserved after the calories we burnt!

The stats:

Fifty of the 297 staff cycled 4,565 miles and burnt 144,350 calories as part of their daily commute!

By cycling they prevented another 1,170kg of carbon dioxide being pumped into our atmosphere.

Whilst we put in an extra bit of effort for the competition – we do cycle all year around. Recent, investment in bicycles shelters and staff training has helped to get more and more people involved.