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Museums and Dust

Christian Baars, 4 March 2015

Dust, dust, dust, where ever you look! Museums are dusty places - dust is on top of shelves and underneath cupboards, it covers objects, books, specimens... Keeping our heritage in tip-top condition is a constant battle against dust.

What is dust? Dust in the atmosphere is made up of lots of tiny particles of soil, pollen, pollution, volcanic eruptions etc. Inside buildings, such as museums and your own office or home, dust is mainly bits of human (and pet) hair and skin, textile and paper fibres.

Why is dust a problem? Fresh dust, in small amounts, is not a problem other than making objects look unsightly. Over time, however, dust has a tendency to become really sticky. How often do you clean the tops of your kitchen cupboards? Only when you move houses, like most people? Then you'll know how difficult it is to remove the dust.

In addition, dust it hygroscopic - it absorbs moisture from the air. And because dust is really nutritious - just think of all those yummy skin cells - once it gets damp it is the PERFECT substrate for mould. Mould is really bad. Mould is responsible for damage to an awful lot of museum objects across the world.

Dust also attracts pest insects. They hide in dust, sometimes live of it – or the mould that grows on dust – and generally thrive in environments that are dusty, messy and neglected. There are some insects that cause a lot of damage to museum collections.

So we keep dust at bay in the museum because we want to maintain your heritage in as good a condition as possible. We are fortunate to have the support of some brilliant volunteers to help us keep the collections clean. Rachel, Vicky, Meredith and Elizabete - all students at Cardiff University's Department of Archaeology and Conservation - have just helped us clean one of the Library stores and one of the Art stores. Thank you to the volunteers for their help keeping dust, mould and insects under control in the museum.

Dust bunny.
Damage insect collection, caused by pest insects.
Volunteers Elizabete and Meredith helping with housekeeping in one of our Art stores.

lambing at Llwyn-yr-eos Farm

Gareth Beech, 3 March 2015

Lambing is one of the most important and busiest times of the year on the farm. It means long hours, day and night, watching over and caring for the sheep to ensure their lambs are delivered safely and that they survive the first couple of days. Lambs are a major source of income by being sold for meat, and provide replacement stock for flocks.

The keeping of sheep is such a significant part of farming in Wales because they are suited to the high altitude, damp climate and generally poor land. Sheep can survive and flourish on grass in both upland and lowland areas of Wales. The products from sheep have been wool, meat, milk, skins, and tallow for candles. Also, their manure has been used as fertilizer on the land. 

The first sheep brought to Wales were probably small, brown Soay sheep. They came with Neolithic farmers around 6 thousand years ago. The Romans brought with them superior, white-faced sheep whose wool was finer. The sheep were bred only for their wool, for which Roman farmers had a high reputation. These crossed with the Soay sheep, becoming the tan-faced ancestors of the hardy Welsh Mountain sheep, which have inhabited the highlands of Wales for over two thousand years.

By the Middle Ages sheep were most likely kept for their wool and milk rather than meat. Wool dominated until the Industrial Revolution, when the population started growing. This led to an increased demand for meat from the eighteenth century onwards.

Meat became the principal product from sheep and lambs, worth far more than wool in the twentieth century. Today producing fat lambs is the main income for many Welsh upland and hill farms. Exports of Welsh Lamb products were worth £154.7 million in 2013. France is the biggest overseas customer, followed by Germany. There were 9.74 million sheep and lambs in Wales in 2014.

Dafydd Jacob, shepherd from Ystradgynlais

A shepherd on horseback

Farmer on a quad bike

Curating Molluscs

Anna Holmes, 2 March 2015

Welcome to Umberto Fiordaliso, a postgraduate student from the University of Florence who will be working at the museum for 3 months with the Erasmus Programme, which helps students to study abroad. Umberto has previous experience working on Mediterranean molluscs and will be curating the marine molluscs collected by Monterosato, part of our extensive shell collection. He will be working closely with Anna Holmes and Harriet Wood in the Invertebrate Biodiversity section to produce a published handlist on this historical collection.

Umberto Fiordaliso

Daffodils for St David's Day

Penny Tomkins, 2 March 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I hope you all had a fantastic St David’s Day yesterday!

St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi) is a national holiday in Wales that celebrates St David (Dewi Sant), the patron Saint of Wales. This is a time when the history and traditions of Wales are celebrated. Traditional foods are prepared such as cawl/ lobscows and welshcakes, and traditional dress and Welsh emblems are worn. The Welsh emblems adorned on St David’s day include the leek (which is a symbol of St David) and the Daffodil. It is interesting that the Welsh word for Leek (Cennin) and Daffodil (Cennin Pedr) are very similar!

I thought it would be interesting for the schools in England and Scotland to see how important the Daffodil is in Wales. Did you celebrate St David’s Day? If not, are there other days that you do celebrate? You could let me know about these in the ‘comments’ section when you record this week’s weather data!

Have a look at the pictures attached!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies,

Professor Plant

Giant Daffodils at St Fagans National History Museum for St David's Day.

Flowers at Llanharan Primary School!

Daffodils and purple Crocus growing near National Museum Cardiff.

My plants!

First flower dates!

Penny Tomkins, 27 February 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I have exciting news to report! We have had our first flower dates recorded on the website!

Congratulations to Ysgol Deganwy, who’s first Crocus flowered an the 21st of February at 90mm tall. Ysgol Tal Y Bont and Ysgol Bancyfelin who’s first Crocus's flowered on the 23rd of February at 65mm tall. And, Ynysddu Primary School who’s first Crocus flowered on the 25th of February at 50mm tall. They expect two more to flower any day now!

I have also had reports of even earlier flowering dates. Swiss Valley CP School report that some of their Crocus plants flowered over half term.

Silverdale St. John's CE School have reported that some of the Crocuses they planted in tyres have flowered. One is 110mm tall!

And today, via Twitter I received photographic evidence that Llanharan Primary School has at least two fully grown Crocus plants! They saw one of them open today!

Remember to enter your flower date and the height of your flower on the National Museum Wales website. But, only do this once the petals are fully visible and remember to measure the height in millimetres.

I would love some photos of the flowers for the Museum’s website and my Twitter page. Please ask your teachers to send these in to me if possible.

I would also like to see just how artistic you all are! So, I have an activity for you to do once your flowers have opened! I’d like you to draw a detailed picture of your plant and label all its different parts. This is a great way to get to know your flowers better, and to see just how complicated such small things can be. It’s also very interesting to compare the Daffodil and the Crocus, can you spot the similarities and differences? In many ways all flowers are very similar, even though at first glance they look completely different to one another!

Here is a fun game to do with labelling plants that I found on the BBC Bitesize website:

I look forward to seeing your photos and pictures.

Keep up the good work Bulb buddies,

Professor Plant

Your comments:

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: We had snow on Tuesday! Bitter cold all week. Prof P: Wow Stanford in the Vale Primary, you have had cold weather! -2 on Tuesday – burrr!

Rivington Foundation Primary School: Our daffodils in pots started sprouting last week, now between 1 and 4 cms. Daffodils in pots no sign yet. Probably too cold in the ground. Professor Plant: Hi Rivington Foundation Primary, I’m glad to hear your bulbs are sprouting! It is exciting to see how fast they grow once they start to show above the soil. Usually, the plants in the ground would grow first because they are slightly warmer than your plants in pots. But this depends on a number of things, such as how much frost you have had! I’m sure they will show themselves soon, maybe they are waiting for it to get a little warmer!


Chryston Primary School: Sorry but we were off for 3 days and sadly a bulb got squished because it is near the playground and a ball landed of top of it. The good news is the bulbs are starting to grow. Next week we will start recording the height of the bulbs. Prof P: Oh I am sorry to hear that you lost one of your bulbs! I hope you are all sharing so that no one is too upset – these things do happen! I’m glad to hear that your bulbs have started growing though! It’s interesting to document how quickly they grow, and to see that each one grows at its own pace!

Saint Anthony's Primary School: We are enjoying taking the measurements and are delighted at how well our bulbs are progressing. Prof P: Hi Saint Anthony’s Primary, I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the project. I very much enjoy studying all the weather records that are sent in. And I especially like receiving lovely comments that show me others enjoy this project as much as I do! Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies.

Glyncollen Primary School: We have had good fun so far doing spring bulbs investigation! Prof P: I’m glad you are enjoying the project Bulb Buddies! There are lots more experiments and investigations you can do if you are enjoying this one, why not have a look at the MET Office website for idea! 


Saint Anthony's Primary School: We have noticed that the temperatures have recently been rising and falling. Prof P: Hi Saint Anthony’s Primary, I’m glad to hear that you are studying and comparing your weather records. You have had a bit of a jump, from -2 on Wednesday to 11 on Thursday! Differences like this can result from taking readings at different times of day, as the temperature will be consistently lower in the morning than in the afternoon! This is why it’s important to always try to take the readings at around the same time. However, this can also result from changes in the weather. I’m guessing it was a lot sunnier and less cloudy on Thursday compared to the rest of the week!

Our Lady of Peace Primary School: We hope our bulbs flower soon. We enjoyed planting them. Prof P: I’m sure it won’t be long now Our Lady of Peace Primary! One of my Crocus plants is nearly big enough, but it will be a while yet before my other plants flower! Isn’t it interesting to see that all of our plants are developing differently even though we planted them on the same day!


Keir Hardie Memorial Primary School: We have started to see that our bulbs are starting to grow. Some of our bulbs during the extremely windy weather blew over and were nearly out of the plant box and plant pot. However, we have seen some growth in a number of our plant pots and are hoping they will grow further. For the other ones that had blew over, we replanted them just in case there is any hope. This was a few weeks ago so hopefully we will see some change. Prof P: Hi Keir Hardie Memorial Primary, you did the right thing by re-planting your bulbs. I have my fingers crossed that they will still grow for you! I’m glad to hear that some of your plants have started to grow and that you are monitoring them so closely. Keep up the good work!

Glyncollen Primary School: We have had a broken thermometer on Monday and Tuesday. Professor Plant: Hi Glyncollen Primary. I’m sorry that your thermometer wasn’t working. But I’m glad to see that you fixed it or got a new one, and that you still took your rain fall readings. Good work!  

The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: Nearly all our bulbs have shoots now the weather is a bit warmer and the mystery bulbs have buds so it looks like we may have some flowers soon. E and O. Prof P: Ooo this is exciting! Once your mystery bulbs have flowered let me know what type of plant you think they might be! Keep up the god work!

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Another strange week with the weather....high winds, cold and heavy rain, then beautiful sunshine! Our plants in the ground look as if they could be showing signs of opening.....but the one in pots seem rather behind....so we are on constant watch! Kind Regards, Gardening Club. Prof P: Hi Stanford in the Vale Primary Gardening Club! I’m glad to hear that your plants are doing well, and that you are comparing the growth of the plants in the ground to the plants in pots. It’s very interesting that these are developing differently, can you think of reasons why this might be?

Glyncollen Primary School: Some of our spring bulbs are starting to grow and our crocus! Prof P: That’s good news Glyncollen Primary, keep a close eye on them now because they’ll grow quickly!

Main parts of a flower (from the BBC Bitesize website).

Here is a fantastic and clearly labelled picture that was sent to me last year: