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!
Happy Birthday Big Pit
Big Pit National Coal Museum celebrates 30 years as a major visitor attraction this year and we celebrated the occasion yesterday in the company of members of the local community who have supported the Museum, staff at Big Pit and the Minister for Culture & Sport John Griffiths who had a tour of the Museum.
Since opening in 1983 Big Pit has welcomed more than 3.5 million people who can go 300 feet underground to find out what life was like for men who worked there. In 1913, one in ten Welsh people were employed in the coal industry and many more were dependent on it for a living – by the end of the 20th century, only one deep mine remained in Wales.
Big Pit employed 1,300 people and produced around a quarter of a million tons of coal a year. The buildings are the same as they were when the mine closed in 1980, but now visitors descend the shaft with a real miner and see what life was like for the thousands of men who worked at the coal face.
The Museum is set in the unique Blaenafon industrial landscape, designated a World Heritage Site in 2000 and is an exciting and informative day out for visitors.
September has crept up on us already and autumn’s well on its way!
It’s been a successful summer across all of our sites, with nearly a quarter of a million visitors being welcomed over August alone across the seven museums. That’s a great achievement and I hope our visitors have enjoyed their experience. We’ve got an exciting line up of exhibitions, events and activities now until Christmas across all seven museums including Peter Blake’s exhibition of works inspired by Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood which will be on show at National Museum Cardiff from 23 November. The exhibition will launch a year-long festival in 2014 – Dylan Thomas 100 – which will mark the centenary of the birth of the poet Dylan Thomas.
Last week I was invited to Bologna in Italy to speak at a two-day final conference of the LEM project "The Learning Museum".
“The Learning Museum” is a network project funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme Grundtvig (2010-2013) which aims to establish a permanent network and web space for museums and adult educators to participate in a learning society and in a knowledge-based Europe.
Seventeen European countries and the United States of America are represented in LEM. Its aim is to create a network of museums and cultural heritage organizations, to ensure that museums play an active role with regard to lifelong learning, and to raise awareness among decision makers at national and European level.
The conference was intended as a meeting place to facilitate networking and develop further collaborations at European level and also an opportunity for participants to discuss the outcomes of the project and share the knowledge developed throughout the three years of its duration, as well as giving a chance to share experiences and exchange ideas with colleagues from all over Europe.
Some interesting ideas emerged. It was striking how many of these involved greater cooperation and consolidation in the face of the financial crisis common to almost all European countries. In the Netherlands, for example, there are two museums associations which will now merge. Central, regional and local government are being encouraged by the sector to coordinate their museum policies. Speakers from the Netherlands said that development of a vision for each museum, before governments decided on them, was essential.
To find out more about the LEM project and the LEM reports go to
Museums are Good for You
Museums are brilliant and inspiring places, there can be no doubt about it. People visit museums for many, many reasons. Museums make you smarter, inspire, are a focus for the community and a great place to spend time with your friends and family. But what effect does a museum visit have on you? The entertainment factor of a museum makes you feel enjoyment. Understanding how things work raises your self-esteem. Appreciating the aesthetics of a great object stretches your imagination and is uplifting. And you get all of this in a calm and safe place. People definitely visit museums to feel good and if you need a bit of a lift I would wholeheartedly recommend you visit your local museum.
There is plenty of research to back all of this up. Museums make us happy – museum visits contribute more to wellbeing than arts and sports. Museums, especially if working in partnership with other organisations, can make a huge contribution to mental health (Museum Development North West Who Cares report). The economic benefits of museums are estimated to be in the order of £1.5 billion per year. And while many museums have reduced their own carbon footprints, the role the cultural sector play in driving wider societal change is also growing.
Museums have an enormous potential to change and develop communities. One of the best places to visit in any town and city for access to current research and new ideas is the museum. Museums are therefore best placed for being hot spots of community engagement. In this context, the Museums Association, through their new flagship campaign Museums Change Lives), encourages museums to be more proactive in making an impact on society and people’s wellbeing.
It is hard in the current financial climate especially for small museums with staff shortages, leaking roofs and paint peeling off the walls to continue this work. Fortunately, museums attract some of the most enthusiastic and resourceful staff and volunteers, who, despite these pressures, will do anything they can to ensure that museums continue to be good for you.
The Welsh Museums Federation’s ‘Linking Natural Science Collections in Wales’ project is supporting curators in 20 local museums around Wales. By providing training and information about natural science collections we are going to ensure the continued use of these collections for inspiration, learning and community focus. We are enabling curators to care for and use their natural science collections. This will help to ensure that museums in Wales can look into the future and still make us happy for many more years to come.
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 species new to science!
A new species of marine bristleworm (polychaete) has just been described in a collaboration between Amgueddfa Cymru and the East China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Shanghai. The species is a type of shovelhead worm, a group that get their name from the flattened head region used to burrow within sand. The new species was discovered in the Jiangsu Province of the Yellow Sea. The new species is called Magelona parochilis Zhou & Mortimer, 2013 and was published this month in the scientific publication, The Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.
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!