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December 2014

First World War collections

Posted by Elen Phillips on 17 December 2014
Butterfly shaped cotton belt buckle, decorated with wire and glass beads.

Butterfly shaped cotton belt buckle, decorated with wire and glass beads. Made by Corporal Walter Stinson of the 11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles) when a patient at the St Fagans Red Cross VAD Hospital.

Bronze memorial plaque, often known as the 'Dead Man's Penny'. Relief of Britannia holding a laurel wreath, surrounded by the inscription: 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR BRINDLEY [sic] RYHS [sic] EDMUNDS'

Bronze memorial plaque, often known as the 'Dead Man's Penny'. Relief of Britannia holding a laurel wreath, surrounded by the inscription: 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR BRINDLEY [sic] RYHS [sic] EDMUNDS'. Sent to the family of Private Brinley Rhys Edmunds of Dunraven St, Barry.

Attachments for a prosthetic arm. Worn by John Williams of Penrhyncoch who was wounded in one arm during the First World War.

After months of behind the scenes activity - rummaging in stores, researching, documenting, conserving and digitising Amgueddfa Cymru's First World War catalogue is now online. At the moment, the catalogue includes over 500 records from archives, photographs and objects from the collections housed here at St Fagans. New records will be uploaded over the next few weeks, including some fantastic additions from the industry collections. We'll keep you posted.

I can't tell you how much this project has meant to me and my colleagues. It may sound corny, but we really do feel emotionally connected to the people whose lives are commemorated in the collections. From Walter Stinson's delicate beadwork jewellery, to Brinley Rhys Edmunds and his typo-ridden memorial plaque, these stories have captured our imagination. To us, Walter and Brinley are no longer anonymous names on file.

Talking of files, it hasn't been easy to pull-together our First World War collections. When curators speak of "newly-discovered" or "hidden" objects, please don't think that museums are full of misplaced or lost items - there are no "dusty vaults" here! The issue is usually a lack of documentation - the information stored on file which helps us to locate and interpret the collections in our care. Collecting methodologies have changed over the years, so too standards in documentation.

Many objects featured in the database were originally catalogued according to their function, making it difficult for present-day curators to draw-out their First World War significance. A classic example being a set of prosthetic arm attachments used by John Williams of Penrhyncoch. These were found in the medical collections, catalogued in 1966 under "orthopaedic equipment". By chance, I was looking at the accession file a few months ago and found a scribbled note saying "wounded in one arm during WW1". If only the curator had asked more questions at the time, especially given that John Williams himself donated the arm attachments to the Museum!

Thankfully, accession files are never closed indefinitely. New research and the reassessment of collections through community partnerships means that we'e constantly editing and tweaking our records. So, if you knew a John Williams from Penrhyncoch who lost an arm during the First World War, please do get in touch.

Weather warnings

Posted by Penny Tomkins on 12 December 2014

Hello bulb buddies!

Merry Christmas and many thanks for sending me your data. Keep it coming!

We are getting an interesting picture of how the weather has varied across the country. Last week, Carnforth North Road Primary School in Lancashire, England reported a low temperature of 3°C and Mossend Primary School Primary School in Bellshill, Scotland reported 13°C for the same day! That’s quite a difference! If you’ve had extreme weather you can use the map to look at records from other schools on the same day and compare. Let me know if you find anything interesting!

I’m very interested to see what your records show for the last week. The Met Office (the UK’s official weather service) predicted colder temperatures and perhaps even snow in some areas! If you have snow perhaps you could ask your teacher to send in pictures, I would love to see them and might even post some on the bulb blog.

A yellow warning was given for wind, snow and ice in some areas of the UK. A yellow warning means that there is a possibility of bad weather in some parts of the country. The Met Office warn us about bad weather so that we can be prepared for it. This is because extreme weather (such as strong winds and ice) can cause difficulties and make it harder to travel. Sometimes roads, train lines and even schools close because of bad weather.

The colour chart below shows other colours used as a code for how strong the weather is.

Green: weather not expected to be extreme.

Yellow: possibility of extreme weather so you should be aware of it.

Amber (orange): strong chance of the weather effecting you in some way, so be prepared.

Red: extreme weather expected, on red warning days your parents might check for road closures before planning journeys.

The Met Office also use symbols to indicate what type of weather to expect. The symbols below show (in order) a red warning for rain, green for wind and snow, amber for ice and green for fog. This means there will be heavy rain and that you should prepare for ice. Why not have a look at the Met Office website and see what the weather forecast is for where you live?

Symbolau i ddangos pa fath o dywydd i’w ddisgwyl (delwedd y Swyddfa Dywydd).

Keep up the good work bulb buddies!

Professor Plant

Your questions, my answers:

Stanford in the Vale Primary School - Lots of rain on Monday, then hardly any during the week! The weather has started to get really cold, especially on Wednesday and frost this morning on Friday, the children are still hoping for snow!!!The children have made up a song for recording the weather and temperature - so we have named them the singing scientists. Prof P - Hello Singing Scientists, what a fantastic nickname! You all sound like a happy bunch and I’m sure that all the singing can only be benefiting your bulbs! Could you possibly send me your song lyrics or a recording of you singing? You are not the only school to have noted Wednesday as cold! Both Ysgol Rhys Prichard and Ysgol Hiraddug commented that they had heavy ground frost on Wednesday.

Glyncollen Primary School - One of our mystery bulbs is also starting to grow. We are all wondering what flower it is going to be. We are enjoying this project. Thank you Professor Plant. Blwyddyn 4. Prof P – Hello Bwyddyn 4, I’m so glad you are enjoying the project! It’s very exciting that your mystery bulb has started growing! Could you send me a picture? And keep me updated, I’d like to know when it flowers and what you think it might be! 

St. Ignatius Primary School – lots of our plants have died already! Prof P – Hello St. Ignatius, I’m very sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your bulbs. I will be in touch to find out more. Meanwhile, if any other schools are experiencing problems please get in touch!

5 Cosy Winter Comforts

Posted by Sara Maidment on 11 December 2014

As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, wrap up and stay toastie with our 5 favourite Welsh Winter warmers

1. We commissioned these lovely tapestry blankets from Welsh woollen mill Melin Teifi in Carmarthenshire, one of the few remaining working mills in Wales.  Using a traditional Caernarvon pattern we gave them a contemporary twist by using fresh tones and a bright pop of colour.

2. Treat yourself to a bit of luxury with a pair of cashmere socks. Carmarthen based Corgi Hoisery was established in 1892 to produce woollen stockings for local colliers. Today, every pair of socks is individually made on a hand knitting machine.

3. Just add hot milk to this luxury hot chocolate for a warming drink. Add a nip of Penderyn for an even more indulgent treat. This hot chocolate comes with a chunky earthenware mug.

4. These stylish pure new wool blankets from Tweedmill Textiles in Denbigh combine great design and value. Layer up a couple for an elegant style statement for the home.

5. Woven in Wales using a traditional pattern these 100% wool tweed flat caps are a stylish way to keep warm whether you’re out and about in the city or country this Winter.

Twelve Days of Christmas

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 11 December 2014

Happy Christmas from @CardiffCurator

Three French Hens

Six Goose Barncales-a-laying

Ten bugs-a-leaping

For the last two years we have put together an advent calendar celebrating some of the beautiful specimens in our natural history collections at National Museum Cardiff. We have been tweeting these from the @CardiffCurator Twitter account each day and will continue throughout December. The specimens behind the first twelve doors have been inspired by the song ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’.

We have compiled a Storify story on our advent calendar, which can be viewed here.

The Website is Changing

Posted by Chris Owen on 11 December 2014
Using the website
new beta homepage
Highlights page
St Fagans Homepgae

If you’ve been browsing our Visiting or Learning pages recently, you may have noticed a new look to those areas. From 9th December 2014, we are trialling parts of a new, updated Amgueddfa Cymru website with you.

Visit the Homepage

We need your feedback to help make these new pages as good as they can be. If there’s anything that didn’t work for you; anything that you found confusing or difficult to use; any information that you couldn’t find easily; or anything that you’d like to see improved, please let us know. Equally, if there are things that you really liked about the pages, we’d still love to hear from you!

Send Feedback

Why update the website?

During an extensive study of the existing website, we identified many areas where we think we can improve.

One of our core aims is to bring you the information you need more quickly and with less fuss. We are doing this by improving our content, simplifying our navigation and reducing the clutter on our pages.

With these new pages we want to bring you a fresh, modern web experience and one that works equally well on any device you may be using - be it a mobile, tablet, screen-reader or desktop computer. Visiting each of our seven museums is a unique experience and we also hope to bring a little more of that flavour of that to the web.

These are just a few of the ways we want to make the website better. We will be doing more work on all this in the coming weeks and months.

Coming in 2015

During the first half of 2015 you will see more and more areas of the website updated and improved. New Collections, Curatorial, Venue Hire and Blog pages will follow soon, as well as a new, updated Online Shop.

We will use any lessons learnt during this period to make sure that every area of the website is as good as we can possibly make it.

Your feedback and input to the new site will help us make that happen. And, of course, this is just the beginning.

Pest Management at National Museum Cardiff

Posted by Christian Baars on 9 December 2014

Insects love eating dead things. In nature, they are important decomposers. But in museums (and in your house) they can be a right old nuisance. Museums - who look after and preserve your heritage - need to keep a constant watchful eye on their collections; sometimes, this work hits the news, such as last week at Bakewell Old House Museum in Derbyshire.

Museum collections contain a lot of dead things. Wood is eaten by the larvae of furniture beetles (woodworm) who create very attractive tunnels; that is nice if you like tunnels, but not so good if you like that historic picture frame more than the tunnels inside it. Mould in archives and libraries provides a nice little food source for booklice. Carpet beetle larvae and clothes moth caterpillars aren’t fussy – they will eat wool, fur and feathers.

There is hardly a museum that does not have pest insects in its stores from time to time. These are the same insects you will find in your home. Your wardrobe at home is irresistible to moths. And did you ever have to throw away a bag of flower or cereal because it contained a healthy population of weevils or flour beetles? This is annoying, but you can easily buy a new pair of socks, or a new packet of flower. But can you imagine a WWI flag or a specimen of the extinct quagga being destroyed by moths? These are irreplaceable objects.

So insects like organic things. Parts of museum collections that are susceptible to insect infestations include entomology (yes, insects even love to eat insects!), taxidermy, botany, furniture, costume, shoe and library collections, and anything containing wood. It is often the larvae of insects that feed on organic objects. Insects also like not being disturbed. At home, you are more likely to find weevils in flour that is several months old than in a bag you bought last week.

To deal with an insect infestation does not mean fumigating the place with chemical insecticides; instead, it means not letting a problem get out of hand. It means regular checks and audits of the collections to spot any problems early. It means setting up pest traps around the entire building and checking them regularly. It means collecting data on insect activity across the site to spot patterns and relating them to particular problems, for example high humidity. It means setting up pest control zones with different restrictions in various parts of the building and a quarantine facility, which is something more and more museums are doing. It means good housekeeping: regular cleaning of stores, avoiding rubbish accumulating, putting specimens and objects safely away immediately after using them. And should any infestations be spotted we kill insects usually by freezing the object rather than using chemicals.

We are not quite "waging war on hungry bugs"; our approach to dealing with insect pests is called “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM). A couple of years ago the BBC made a helpful programme on this: What's eating the museum?, featuring museum pest management specialist David Pinniger. Work on this at National Museum Cardiff has only just started but IPM will receive a lot of attention in the next couple of years. Because of its general interest, pest management at the museum is also an area where we will involve the public through workshops, exhibitions and volunteer programmes. It will help us keep safe the collections we care for on behalf of the people of Wales while giving everyone an opportunity to learn about the fascinating world of insects.

November 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 28 November 2014

The 14th October 2014 was the 101st anniversary of the Universal Colliery disaster at Senghenydd. 440 people were killed in this disaster on the 14th October 1913. It is still the worst mining disaster in the U.K. Last year on the centennial of the disaster a Welsh National Memorial to all mine disasters was unveiled on the site of the pit head. The memorial can be seen on the front of this memorial service programme acquired recently.

You can read an article on this disaster on our website. It is also possible to view all the objects from our collections that relate to this disaster on our ‘Images of Industry’ online database. Check it all out here

This interesting autograph book was donated this month. The book contains autographs, inscriptions and drawings connected with the South Wales Miners Federation, and most date to 1926. There are also some inscriptions relating to the Spanish Civil War. The photograph here shows the main inscription on the inside of the front cover.

This month also saw the launch of our First World War online database. It currently contains all objects and documents from the social & cultural history collections. It will soon include all our WW1 related objects from the industry collections as well. The site can be viewed here

To complement the launch of this database, staff from across Amgueddfa Cymru were involved in an ‘Explore Your Archives’ event held at the Oakdale Institute at St. Fagans: National History Museum. This event was an opportunity to show some original documents and photographs to members of the public, and promote the work we do in looking after these important collections.

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Our Top 5 Welsh Gifts

Posted by Sara Maidment on 27 November 2014

Cardiff on a bag!

Cardiff bag

Bight and breezy hand printed bag showing some of the Welsh capital’s best loved buildings. Heavy weight, wipe clean cotton makes these bags long lasting. They come in two sizes, a roomy shopper and a mini tote, perfect as a lunch bag. Each bag comes with a button badge so that you show your love of Cardiff wherever you go.

A perfect present for romantics

Ewenni lovering

This beautiful silver ring is inspired by a 15th-century gold posy ring found near Ewenny Priory. Inscribed with ‘ieme la belle’ on the outside there is a secret translation just for the eyes of your loved one on the inside that reads ‘love is beautiful’. 

Looking for a present for an art lover?

Internationally acclaimed for its eccentricity and lovelorn lyricism, Dylan Thomas’s 1954 ‘play for voices’ has long echoed in the imagination of the founding father of British Pop Art, Sir Peter Blake.  This beautiful book captures his obsession with works in pencil, watercolour and collage.

St Fagans Lovespoon Collection

This stunning collection of Welsh Lovespoons have been hand carved by Sion Llewellyn. Each one is based on a Lovespoon from the collection at St Fagans: National History Museum.

Knit one, purl one

Join the craft revolution with this lovely 100% pure new wool yarn made on the historic machinery at National Wool Museum near Carmarthen West Wales. Just a few balls will knit up a cozy snood or buy for a 500g cone for a cost effective way of making a larger project. Roll on winter…

European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop

Posted by Chris Cleal on 26 November 2014

Conference delegates

Two weeks ago, Botany Curators at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Cardiff welcomed scientists from across Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Germany and Spain. The visitors, who are all experts in the study of plant fossils and pollen analysis, spent two days discussing how best to study the changes that have occurred in plant diversity over the last 400 million years. These changes are important as they help scientists understand how vegetation has influenced climate and environmental change in the past.  The meeting included 17 presentations discussing the vegetation from different geological time periods. The visitors also had the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at National Museum Cardiff to see a selection of rare plant fossils from the David Davies Collection and pollen specimens from the Hyde Collection.  This meeting was fully funded by an exclusive grant from the European Science Foundation. It is intended that the workshop will inspire a series of international collaborative projects that will maintain the Museum’s reputation as a centre of excellence in this field.

We produced a Storify Story based on Tweets made throughout the conference.

Magnificent Molluscs

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 25 November 2014

Our 'Magnificent Molluscs' Storify story about #MolluscMonday

Every Monday curatorial staff from the Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales highlight some of the fantastic mollusc specimens from our collections, on Twitter using the hashtag #MolluscMonday

The Molluscan collections at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales number some 180,000 lots from many different collections which have been amalgamated into one systematic sequence.

The most historically important part of the collections is the Melvill-Tomlin collection which came to us in 1955 and contains over 1,000,000 specimens!

Want to find out more? Why not follow us on Twitter @CardiffCurator or @NatHistConserve or follow the hashtag #MolluscMonday to find out about this fascinating group of animals. Lots of people have been joining in so why not join in the fun!

We have compiled a collection of our favourite #MolluscMonday Tweets on Storify. We also do #BotanicMonday, #WormWedneday and #FossilFriday