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October 2013

A Journey from the Amazon to Natural Selection

Posted by Ciara Hand on 10 October 2013

Continuing our celebration of the life of Alfred Russel Wallace...

We welcomed over 300 A-level students to National Museum Cardiff for this special event in partnership with Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

At the invitation of Prof Dianne Edwards F.R.S, Prof Steve Jones F.R.S gave a talk entitled ‘Is man just another animal?’

Prof Jones discussed our shared ancestry with other primates, the genetic evidence for human evolution, and cast light on Wallace and Darwin’s different views on the subject. Professor Steve Jones is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London and an author of several popular science books.

And Theatr na nÓg gave an excellent performance of their play ‘You Should Ask Wallace’.

The play took us through Wallace’s life as a young boy growing up in Wales to embarking on epic adventures to the Amazon and Malay Archipelago where he discovers the theory of evolution. His great findings would compel Darwin to publish his seminal work on the origin of species.

 

An exhibition on Wallace’s life will open on 19 October at National Museum Cardiff.

Making History Together

Posted by Chris Owen on 8 October 2013
Beth Thomas

Beth Thomas, Keeper of History & Archaeology

If you Google ‘National History Museum’ the first thing that comes up is London’s Natural History Museum, and then St Fagans. Though it is gratifying that St Fagans comes so near the top of the list, it does make you wonder why there are so few other national history museums listed. Of course, many national history museums don't call themselves such - some are simply the national museum, or the histories of the nation are split among a number of museums.

There is no doubt that being called a national history museum is loaded with expectations. Is it a one-stop shop for an authoritative narrative of the nation? The EUNAMUS project research reports are really worth reading (http://www.eunamus.eu/index.html). This EC-funded multidisciplinary project explored the formation and power of national museums in Europe.

A particular quote from the project summary really rang a bell with me in terms of the pressure of traditional expectations of a national museum:

'The museum is seen as possessing treasures and contributing to knowledge while simultaneously making concrete the cultural attributes of the nation. This is the performance undertaken by most national museums: visitors are expected to bow to the authority of the institution as it possesses the real evi- dence of the past.'

St Fagans is a former national open-air folk museum feeling its way towards becoming a national history museum. We are bringing the national collections of archaeology and social history together in an open-air site to create a very unique learning experience. Our origins as a museum lead us to a bottom-up approach to national history - or rather histories. We don't want visitors to bow to the authority of the institution - we want them to recognise our expertise, yes, but also to feel that they have a contribution to make. The significance of our collections to Wales is as much about their feelings in the present as about our knowledge of the past.

Some of you will already have read Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum. If not, then read it now - it's free and online. This publication has been a great source of inspiration to us on the project team. We aim to create a participatory museum of history on a national scale - no pressure there!

So what exactly does that mean? Well our aim is to work with the people of Wales to create a museum that actually makes a difference to people's lives -  a place where everyone can share knowledge, collections and skills and make history together. We want the people of Wales to contribute so that they are part of the story and not just visitors to it. We intend to ask our users to define what is recognised and preserved as Welsh history.

Most importantly we want it to be a museum that continually evolves with the people that participate with it. This blog is part of that process. You can find more detailed information about the aims and objectives of the project here. But from now on, the project team will add to this blog, and give you glimpses into the trials and tribulations of trying to deliver our vision of what a national history museum should be. Join us on the journey, and let us know what you think!

Walking in the footsteps of Wallace

Posted by Ciara Hand on 3 October 2013

Last week Museum staff and students from Cantonian High School journeyed to the Neath Valley to explore the life of Alfred Russel Wallace.

We spent a day re-tracing his footsteps from Pontneddfechan up to Sgwd Gwladys waterfall, exploring the geology and biology of the walk, with help from experts from the Natural Sciences department.

On his death 100 years ago, Alfred Russel Wallace was widely praised as the 'last of the great Victorians'. Famous for independently discovering the process of evolution by natural selection alongside Charles Darwin, today few remember this great Welsh scientist.

Wallace was inspired by the landscape of south Wales, and spent many years walking the valleys and mapping the natural history. The student’s photographs, video footage, sketches and interviews will become part of a display at National Museum Cardiff in January 2014. This display aims to tell the story of Wallace in Wales and hopefully inspire others to go and explore for themselves.

This project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of a Life Patron of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

An exhibition on Wallace’s life will open on 19 October at National Museum Cardiff.

An experiment of bulbous proportions!

Posted by Danielle Cowell on 3 October 2013
Professor Plant and Baby Bulb
Springfields daffodil farm in Manorbier - where the bulbs were grown.
Learning volunteers: Bethan Lloyd, Liam Doyle and Claire Amundson
A room full of bulbs.
» View full post to see all images

Hi! I'm Professor Plant and I'd like to welcome the six and a half thousand young scientists across the UK that are taking part in the Spring Bulb for Schools Investigation this year!

Twelve thousand bulbs will be planted and monitored as part of this long term climate investigation being co-ordinated at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. If there was a world record for the most people planting bulbs simultaneously, (in several locations) we could smash it!

All the bulbs have been counted up by our fantastic volunteers (see the pics) and are steadily being delivered to the 150 schools across the country. I'd like to welcome each an every pupil and teacher who will be working on this project!

  • Take a look at the map to see where the bulbs are being sent across the UK
  • If you haven't already received my letter please follow this link     
  • Before each bulb is planted, each pupil must also adopt their bulb and promise to care for it. If you want to know how see this link

If you are wondering where the bulbs came from and how they got to your school - please read then read on y friend Baby Bulb is going to explain:

"My bulb buddies and I come from a nursery plantation in Manorbier, near Tenby in Wales, it's called 'Springfields'. We didn't spring from the fields, but we were picked and loaded onto a van ready to go to our new homes. At first I was a little afraid, but then when I met Professor Plant at the Museum I understood that I would be cared for by a nice young person and that I have an important job to do. We have all been selected to help us understand how the weather can affect when my friends and I make flowers. My parents before me grew here too, Springfields have been growing us 'Tenby Daffodils' for about 25 years, and we are one of the two daffodils that are native to the British Isles".

Just a few weeks until planting now! I can't wait!

Professor Plant

The Fern Paradise

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 1 October 2013

A lovely pressed fern found between the pages of The Fern Paradise [1876] by Francis George Heath. I'm always a little disappointed that we don't find more pressed flowers in our old botany books so this really made my day.

How long has it been lying quietly cocooned between these dry secure pages? Who picked a live and vibrant frond one summers day and slipped it away never thinking it would stay hidden for decades? Did the sun shine that afternooon? What news was ringing around the world? So many questions...

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

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