Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

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Following on from our last beekeeper's report, Ben tells us what has been happening:

11th June: “Returning from my travels it was exciting to go see the bees again. I must admit I was anxious, mainly because earlier in the week there had been reports on Wales Online of a swarm in the City Centre. The reported swarm had caused mayhem in the brewery quarter when a few thousand bees descended on a table outside the Yard public house.  When I’d heard about this swarm I feared the worst, were they our bees? Had we missed something? I’d heard reports from some of the museum technicians that there had been clouds of bees up near our hives on that Monday – perhaps that was them swarming!

I can’t describe my relief when I opened the hive of our strong colony to discover that it was full of bees. They were there, all present and correct! The weather was perfect, warm and still, ideal for thoroughly going through the hive! So, removing the heavy super full of honey, I delved straight into the brood box with the help of Sally and lots of smoke! I must admit though, hearing of Nigel’s six stings didn’t fill me with confidence! There are a lot of bees in this hive now and actually seeing what’s happening on the frame is really quite difficult! Going through each frame carefully revealed two Supersedence type queen cups and several play cells (unlaid cells where the bees practice making queen cells). These were removed and the hive was carefully put back together and some of the bees coaxed back inside! Interestingly, now the hive is very full, bees seem to accumulate at the entrance and around the lip of the brood box and they often need a bit of smoke to encourage them back inside.

On opening the weaker hive I was delighted to see that the bees have substantially increased in number and activity. The colony has increased in strength from the 1.5 frames of bees to 5 full frames of bees. Without wanting to disrupt the bees too much, I quickly went through the hive to check the brood pattern and food supplies. Seeing that there were adequate capped reserves of honey and that lots of the bees were returning covered in pollen I closed the hive up and strapped it back down.  Just as we were finishing up Sally was stung! I think the first time for the female bee keepers! Rather painfully she’d been stung right on her heal, somewhere I’d been stung previously so I can vouch for the fact that it really does hurt!

Perhaps our bees aren’t so choosy about who they sting after all!”

Our second event on preservation of heritage in times of conflict is on Saturday 11th July at National Museum Cardiff, 10:00 to 17:00. Throughout the afternoon, we will again offer a series of short (15-minute) informative talks:

14:00 - Stabilizing heritage in turbulent times; what can science do? (Dr Lisa Mol, Cardiff University)

14:30 - The role of Conservators in heritage preservation. (Dr Christian Baars, Amgueddfa Cymru) 

15:00 - Authenticity, ownership and the question of restoration vs preservation vs conservation. (Jane Henderson, Cardiff University)

15:30 - Flint in Egyptian Pharaonic Warfare. (Carolyn Graves-Brown, Egypt Centre Swansea)

16:00 - War damaged monuments: memory and preservation. (Dr Toby Thacker, Cardiff University)

All talks are free of charge. The event is hosted by Amgueddfa Cymru and sponsored by Cardiff University. For further information follow our blog here, or at Cardiff University.

I'm thankful to my past self for leaving this list on my desk on Thursday. I compiled it after sitting in on a google analytics training course with Jess Spate from Thoughtful SEO, who gave us a great overview of what the platform can do. Some of my colleagues have already mastered it, but I thought I'd have a bit of practice - so here's this year's 5 most popular paintings from Art Online:

San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight - Monet

We hold a number of magical and dark Venetian cityscapes, including this Nocturne by Whistler, and my favourite, the Palazzo Camerlenghi by Sickert. The most popular painting on Art Online by far, however, is this technicolour sunset by Monet. To see it in the flesh, visit Gallery 16 here at National Museum Cardiff.

Rain - Auvers - Van Gogh

Known as one of Van Gogh's very last paintings, this one really benefits from being seen up close. The way the rain pierces the scene, and the paint laid thickly to suggest muddy furroughs: you can almost smell the petrichor. It'll be back on display after it returns from a tour of the US.

The Family of Henry VIII: an Allegory of the Tudor Succession - Lucas de Heere

Last week's candid photos of George and Charlotte might very informal by comparison, but this formal display of lineage and power is part of the same tradition. Hanging in gallery 10, I have always loved looking closely at this painting, to see the way the textiles are displayed and rendered: so rich and luscious. Wearing a Tudor costume used to be a part of my job, but nothing quite and exquisite as this!

La Parisienne - Renoir

One of the cornerstones of the collection, bought by the Davies Sisters, whose eye for impressionist works and passion for philanthropy formed such a key part of the museum and its collections. I've never quite been able to discern what's behind her expression - in that respect, she's our very own Mona Lisa! I also really loved seeing this last week, taken at a wedding here at the Museum, by photographers Sioned a Nia: 

Running Away with the Hairdresser - Kevin Sinnott

The only work by a Welsh artist to make it to the top 5 -  and a real favourite with visitors to our galleries, this bittersweet painting is due to go back on display on the 20th of August. I remember being so taken aback by the piece when I first saw it, and then again when I saw the title - the artist gives us just enough of the story to feed the imagination. I wonder where the hairdresser's adventure ended up?

So - there you have the top 5 from Art Online. Have a look for yourself - I love using the 'random pick' to find part of the collection I've never seen before. And if you find something you really love, don't forget that our Print On Demand service will deliver a copy straight to your door! 

Museum conservators are responsible for the care of collections. This includes appropriate storage of objects, housekeeping, and maintaining the correct environmental conditions to stop, for example, books in library collections from getting mouldy. In addition, emergency preparedness is another aspect of collections care (or: preventive conservation). How important this is was recently demonstrated during a large fire that gutted an entire historic property.

The fire at Clandon Park in April 2015 was devastating. However, a large part of the objects on display in the house were rescued successfully. This was only possible because the National Trust, who owns Clandon Park, has in place extremely well organised emergency plans. When the fire broke out these plans kicked into action immediately, and a well-rehearsed cooperation with the fire service led to the salvage of hundreds of objects from the house.

The fire fighters risked their lives to salvage important cultural objects. In addition, the help from staff, volunteers and local people must not be forgotten. But the point I am trying to make is that without an emergency plan, all of those helpers may not have achieved very much.

The documentation handed over to the emergency services in case of a disaster in a historic property or museum includes information on what the most important objects are, where they are kept and how they are secured. This enables planning a salvage operation down to taking the tools required for object removal into the building; it avoids the situation where you stand in a burning room in front of the object that needs to be removed quickly only to find out you took a flat-head screwdriver, rather than the Phillips you actually needed.

Emergencies are not restricted to fires. Floods, storms, even earthquakes and acts of terrorism (for example, the attack on the Bardot, Tunisia’s National Museum) can all lead to cultural heritage being damaged. In Wales, the Assembly Government has set up an Emergency Planning Network for museums to help museums, archives and libraries prepare for emergencies. The development of a network response group provides heritage professionals to help museums, archives and libraries in the event of an emergency, and assist with salvage and recovery.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has its own emergency plans which we hope will never have to be used – but it is nevertheless important to be prepared. Disaster preparation is part of the role of preventive conservators; we attempt to limit damage occurring to cultural objects in our care to keep them safe for you and future generations. This involves risk assessments, minimising risks – and being prepared for the worst to happen.

If you would like to know more about disaster prevention in museums, and heritage preservation in general, follow our blog, or Cardiff University's “Heritage in Turbulent Times” blog, and come to our free event at National Museum Cardiff on 11th July with talks on why scientists shoot with guns at building stones, restoration/preservation/conservation, flint in Egyptian Pharaonic warfare, and war-damaged monuments.

"Heritage in Turbulent Times" is a joint project between Cardiff University and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.  

Every week on #FossilFriday we like to highlight specimens from the palaeontological collections of the Natural Sciences Department at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, via our @CardiffCurator Twitter account. Sometimes they are fossils on display at National Museum Cardiff, whilst at other times they form part of the collections behind the scenes.

Interested in trilobites, ammonites and dinosaurs? Then why not find out what we have been tweeting over the last year or so in the following two Storify Stories: ‘Friday is Fossil Time’ and ‘Fantastic Fossils’.

If you find these interesting why not follow us on Twitter.