You are here:  > 

July 2013

Celebrating the tercentenary of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792)

Posted by Julian Carter on 26 July 2013
John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute
John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute
Plate from Botanical Tables
Plate from Botanical Tables
Plate from Botanical Tables
Plate from Botanical Tables
Plate from Botanical Tables
Plate from Botanical Tables
» View full post to see all images

In 2013 the tercentenary of the birth of the Third Earl of Bute is being celebrated across Britain with a series of events and new publications. Curators from Amgueddfa Cymru have contributed to a special publication published by Friends of the Luton Hoo Walled Garden, at one of Bute’s former residencies. Maureen Lazarus will also give a lecture at Luton Hoo in the autumn.

Bute was a powerful figure in eighteenth century Britain, both as a politician and as a botanist. He was a friend and confidante of George III who encouraged him to become a politician. In May 1762 he became Prime Minister. However, Bute proved an unpopular leader. Bishop Warburton wrote at the time “Lord Bute is a very unfit man to be Prime Minister of England, first, he is a Scotchman; secondly, he is the King’s friend; and thirdly he is an honest man.”

After a year of political turmoil and dissention, Bute resigned his post. He retired from public life to his house at Highcliffe in Hampshire with his vast botanical library. Here he rekindled his former enthusiasm for botany. Bute worked on several botanical publications and was strongly influenced by the renowned Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus. Bute’s best known publication is entitled Botanical Tables containing the different familys of British Plants distinguished by a few obvious parts of Fructification rang’d in a Synoptical method (1785). Its aim is to explain the principles of Linnaeus’s new and controversial taxonomic system. Angueddfa Cymru is fortunate to own a complete set of this rare and exquisite publication.

John Miller (1715-1790) became the main artist of the Botanical tables, a huge task of over 600 illustrations detailing the sexual organs and their number to comply with the Linnaean system. The volumes cover the whole range of plant life from mosses, lichens and seaweeds to fungi and grasses, flowers and trees. Twelve copies of the Tables (each consisting of 9 volumes) were printed by Lord Bute at his own expense at a cost of £1,000. 

In his retirement, Bute was quite isolated. He was closer to European rather than British botanists, perhaps partly as a result of his travels on the continent but probably partly due to his unpopularity in Britain. Curiously, he was never elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London or of the Society of Antiquaries, something which his role as a patron alone ought to have virtually assured him. In spite of this rejection, botany was, no doubt, a satisfying way for him to spend his time in later life in order to avoid the melancholy he referred to in the introduction to Botanical tables.

Bute was particularly keen to explain the taxonomic system to women since he felt that this “delightful part of nature” was peculiarly suited to the attention of the fair sex. Botany, under their protection, would soon become a fashionable amusement. True to this aim Bute presented seven out of the ten copies to women including Queen Charlotte and Catherine II, Empress of Russia.

In 1994 Amgueddfa Cymru acquired a complete copy of the Botanical tables. The curators of the collection, as part of their background research, decided to trace all 12 copies. So far ten sets have been traced, seven of which can be identified with their original recipients. Full details of this project may be found in this paper; Lazarus, M.H. and Pardoe, H.S. (2009) Bute’s Botanical tables: dictated by Nature. Archives of natural history 36 (2): 277–298.

Heather Pardoe and Maureen Lazarus

week one of summer 2013

Posted by Grace Todd on 26 July 2013
a family of bronze age styling
Families getting creative

It hasn't been our busiest week in terms of numbers but I can't blame our visitors for wanting to make the most of the lovely weather. Not being as frantic as we often are has meant that families have been able to spend a long time engaging with some lovely handling objects and learnt a lot about Bronze Age design. I have been tweeting pictures of people's creations every day, but here are two photos from the week.


Tomorrow we change activities to look at and make our own Bronze Age shields.

Also I wanted to mention a very exciting family treasure hunt we are running throughout the museum during the school holidays. Cardiff Bay Rotary Club have kindly donated some book tokens as prizes. Come and see us for more information.

Have a nice weekend


More Excting Summer Activities

Posted by Grace Todd on 19 July 2013
Albie the Adventurer at the Hay Festival earlier this year

So the weather forecast is predicting rain next week which is fine as we have plenty going on at National Museum Cardiff throughout the school holidays.

Starting tomorrow and continuing on Sun 21st, Wednesday 24th, Thursday 25th and Friday 26th staff from the Clore Discovery Centre will be running noisy dinosaur workshops based on our newly published children's story book 'Albie the Adventurer'. The book was written by me (Grace Todd) and illustrated by local illustrator and designer Caroline Duffy (google her, she is great)

The workshops will be running at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on the days listed and can be booked at the front desk. They will be loud and lots of fun!

Hopefully see you there.

Gearing up for a summer of family learning activities

Posted by Grace Todd on 18 July 2013
Summer fun

Here in the Clore Discovery Centre we've been running round like crazy preparing to deliver a busy programme of Family Learning workshops throughout the summer holidays. Starting on Saturday 20th July we'll be running a different workshop every week for six weeks.

Have a look at the photo below for a taste of what we (you!) will be creating!

Every workshop links to an exhibtion,display or collection at National Museum Cardiff. The schedule for the six weeks is:


Week 1 (July 20th - 26th)Dress to Impress Bronze Age Style Visit the Mold Cape for inspiration to create your own lunula

Week 2 (July27th - Aug 2nd) Dress to Impress Bronze Age Style Visit the Mold Cape for inspiration to create your own Bronze Age Shield

Week 3 (Aug 3rd - 9th) Fishing for the Future
Discover what you can do to protect the fish in our seas and make some fish-inspired art to take home.

Week 4 (Aug 10th - 16th) Mughal India
Make your own story inspired by work in the exhibition.

Week 5 (Aug 17th - 23rd) Flying Lizards
Find out more about Pterosaurs and make a flying lizard to take home.

Week 6 (Aug 24th - Sept 1st) Pop Art
Make your own vinyl album cover inspired by works of art from the ‘Swinging Sixties’.

These workshops will happen in the Clore Discovery Centre between 11am and 4pm

They are free, and are drop in sessions which means places may be limited at times! But worry not, we have a gallery full of awe inspring museum objects for you to explore through handling, as well as plenty of trails and worksheets.

Hope to see you during the Summer!

Dont forget to follow @cloreexplorer

Access to Museum Collections – online

Posted by Christian Baars on 18 July 2013

Professor Dimbledare of Warthogs University is a geneticist working on the evolution of parasites in insects. This is important because bee populations are currently declining partly due to being attacked by increasing numbers of parasites; this threatens human food production, as bees are the most important pollinators of many fruits and vegetables. Professor Dimbledare wants to find out whether there is historic evidence for temporary increases in parasite attacks on bees. He wants to look at museum collections worldwide and extract DNA from specimens. Where does he start looking for suitable collections?

Can you help me find...

This is a hypothetical scenario, but a typical example of the sort of enquiries frequently received by museum curators. Museums are being approached either through the mailing lists of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (which has a worldwide reach), the Natural Sciences Collections Association (UK), or – and this is really hard work – individually, one by one. When (15 long years ago) I undertook the research for my PhD I wrote to more than 20 individual botanic gardens around the world to ask if they had any clippings of a wonderful little fern-like plant called whisk fern (Psilotum nudum).

Museums are vast repositories of nature, and there are thousands of them. They document life on Earth (past and present) by housing specimens and associated data. Not all museums contain everything, but combined they represent a brilliant account of the natural history of a country and even our planet (see the Distributed National Collection article below).

Museum specimens are being sought for research projects, exhibitions in other museums, and by school teachers and university lecturers for education inside and out of the classroom. Museums are usually very happy to let people look at, study, and even borrow specimens. But finding an example of an animal, plant, fossil or mineral in a museum collection can be extremely difficult. The chances are you have some specimens in a museum near you – how do you find out where?

Internet data bases

Both the scope and quality of databases vary. Some only list basic collections information and contact details of staff (e.g. Index Herbariorum and Registry of Biological Repositories). Others contain information about individual specimens, both living and fossil (e.g. GBIF, Geological Collections of Estonia); these types of data bases are created specifically for researchers. Others again try to capture the culture, history and natural history of an individual country (People’s Collection Wales), aimed for use by the general public. The number of records in these data bases is huge, reaching into the billions.

There is, however, a discussion amongst scientists how much information we want to make available publicly. Sometimes it is not a good idea, for example, to publish information of where to find species that are endangered. Museums do have a responsibility to care for not only their collections, but also the conservation of living species. It would not be a good idea to alert everyone and their dog to the occurrence of species listed as threatened or endangered by CITES;because nobody would want to drive them closer to extinction through overcollecting.

So, where does this leave Professor Dimbledare? Increasingly there are attempts to include global information in data bases, so he should find it easier in the future to locate the specimens for his research. Some data bases are merging, e.g. Index Herbariorum and Registry of Biological Repositories. And in Wales, the People’s Collection is currently being redeveloped to make it more user-friendly; in the near future it will be easier to upload and search for information on museum collections, including natural science collections.  With increasing digitisation it gets easier all the time to locate museum specimens.


Continuity and Change

Posted by Sara Huws on 11 July 2013

I've just spent a few minutes taking in this blog feed - it's been a while since I visited and it's amazing how many new bloggers and topics you can find here. Well done everyone! 

My own contributions have been more sporadic, and for that, dear reader, I hope you'll forgive me.

Even though a lot has been going on here at St Fagans, most of it has been behind the scenes - and not the interesting, 'sneaky peek' behind the scenes either. Nope, it's been large grids and even larger bits of paper; evaluation, planning and decision-making. Nothing to write home about maybe (although my mother does love those letters*) - but the results of this hard work will start to show on-site very soon.

We've completed a fair bit of infrastructure work, audited our sprawling, wooded site for 3G and wi-fi capability, and worked with an access consultant to learn more about how to open up the site to a wider variety of peoples. I can't wait to see how we implement what we've learned. 

The aim is to keep that special something that makes St Fagans such a draw to visitors from all over the world, and to improve the facilities as well. We want to do this is a way which is open and participatory, so our committee room doors have flung open to welcome new youth, teacher and craft forums, to name a few. The galleries are also getting a complete re-vamp, and I'm very curious to see what my colleagues have come up with for the new display.

Meantime, I would like to keep you updated as the project develops - the question is how?

Do I write more about our current buildings' history? Or show you the new ones as they appear?

The big stories, or the everyday wonders? How about our future plans for sleepovers and performances? More Tudors? Less Tudors? Fewer Tudors?

I'm a firm believer that if you don't know, you should ask. So, to practise what I preach:

  • What would you like to see on this blog?

Pop your suggestions in the comments - I look forward to hearing from you.




*with apologies to Woody Allen

Beans on Toast

Posted by Ciara Hand on 9 July 2013
Beans on Toast
Art Work

3 primary schools took part in activities exploring the new Beans on Toast exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff last week.

Pupils from Windsor Clive Primary School, Trelai Primary School and Ysgol Wirfoddol Abergwili explored where in the world our food comes from and how we can make sustainable choices about the food we buy. They then worked with an artist to create a 'World Food Stall' display to encourage discussion on the issues of food security back in school.

Funding was received to work with the artist through the British Ecological Society.

The exhibition will be open until 29 September 2013. Contact the Learning Department 029 2057 3240 if you would like to take part in future activities. 

Theatre of insects

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 8 July 2013

Thomas Moffet [Moufet, Muffet] (1553-1604), was a physician and naturalist. After graduating from Cambridge, he travelled abroad, gained the degree of MD in 1579 from Basel University and eventually established a successful medical practice in Frankfurt. In 1580 he visited Italy, where he studied the culture of the silkworm and developed an absorbing interest in entomology. By 1588 he had returned to England and secured a good practice, first in Ipswich and afterwards in London. On 22 December of that year he was admitted as a candidate of the College of Physicians, then became a fellow and eventually censor. In 1589 he was appointed to a committee responsible for compiling the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (1618) for the College of Physicians.

Moffet combined real literary aptitude with his interests in natural philosophy, publishing the lengthy poem, The Silkworms and their Flies, in 1599.

Theatre of Insects was published posthumously. In 1590 he had completed a compendious work on the natural history of insects, partly compiled from the unpublished writings of Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner and Moffet’s friend [and fellow physician] Thomas Penny. After Moffet’s death, this still unpublished manuscript (BL, Sloane MS 4014) came into the hands of his apothecary [Darnell], who sold it to Sir Theodore Mayerne, who published it in 1634 as Insectorum, sive, Minimorum animalium theatrum. It was translated into English by J. Rowland as The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures and appended to Edward Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658).

We hold copies of both the 1634 and 1658 editions; the copy photographed here is one of the earlier editions.

These books, along with many other early natural history works, were bequeathed to the Library by Willoughby Gardner in 1953 [for more details visit our website or see The Willoughby Gardner Library: a collection of early printed books on natural history, by John R. Kenyon, published by Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru / National Museum Wales, 1982]

It has been supposed, on the basis of Moffet’s interest in spiders that his daughter Patience was the ‘little Miss Muffet’ of the nursery rhyme; although some sources state this unlikely as the rhyme did not appear in print until 1805.

Biographical information taken from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Rhondda Super Scientists

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 8 July 2013
Receiving Super Scientist certificates.
Giant nest building competition.
Mini- beast hunting - spot the millipede!
» View full post to see all images

Williamstown Primary School pupils, in the Rhondda Valleys, were awarded first place amongst the sixty three Welsh schools taking part in the Museum's Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation this year.

The class of Super Scientists won a fun-packed nature trip to St Fagans: National History Museum where they were awarded certificates. As part of the day trip they studied newts, looked for mini-beasts, watched bats and built giant nests in the woodland!

Professor Plant: ''They all had a great day and should be very proud of how they represented their school. The standard was very high this year, the schools are getting better and better at recording and logging their data. Williamstown did extremely well with their recording and really got involved in the project from the start last November until the end in the spring - which came very late this year!"

Alison Hall, Teacher at Williamstown Primary: "The pupils said it was the best day out they had ever had - they loved viewing the bat roost in particular! In terms of the investigation, the children have have loved the whole process from planting and recording to measuring and waiting for the first bloom to appear. It has been great for improving their science, numeracy and ICT skills. We are now really enthused about nature and the environment and are keen to set-up more outdoor investigations in our school grounds".

If you would like to take part in this project next term - please complete the on-line application form:

To see our teacher evaluation report - follow this link:

As you can see from the evaluation question below the project is very cross-curricular:




A species new to science!

Posted by Peter Howlett on 5 July 2013
Scanning electron microscope image showing a group of sperm (left) next to a multi-celled egg (right) from inside the body of one of the worms.
Scanning electron microscope image of Micromaldane shackletoni: a new species of marine polychaete from the Falkland Islands

The first results and new species have now been published from the project on the Polychaetes of the Falkland Islands. The project, which started in 2011, intends to document the polychaetes (marine bristleworms) of the intertidal region around the islands, information that will help inform marine environmental work and improve future identification of the group in the area. Further details of the project can be found in a Rhagor article here and earlier blogs here that documented the fieldwork.

The new species, Micromaldane shackletoni, was named in recognition of the Shackleton Scholarship Fund who support the work. The species is of particular interest as it is a simultaneous hermaphrodite, which means that it produces eggs and sperm at the same time that fertilise internally. The larvae are then brooded inside the animal's tube until they are large enough to leave and build their own tube. This method of reproduction has only been reported once amongst other species in the same genus. To document the stages of reproduction involved using a scanning electron microscope to look in detail at the eggs and sperm (see photo) from inside the body, the developing larvae and other structures on the adult bodies (see photo of head). Animals are only 0.3mm wide and around 11m long. The species description and details have been published in the scientific journal Zootaxa.

Teresa Darbyshire

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.