Now that the collections reviews have started in earnest (6 collections down, 14 to go) and things are settling down a bit (ahem...), it is about time to introduce our project partners. Linking Natural Science Collections in Wales is a collaborative project involving many people and organisations. The idea of creating a network of collections (the very philosophy of the Distributed National Collection) would not be possible without partnerships. If we think of the project as a growing plant a number of analogies spring to mind.
The Welsh Museums Federation is instrumental for sowing the seeds of the Linking Collections project; the Federation is the strategic body for sector professionals in Wales and promotes good practice while providing a forum for discussion. Like a spider in her web, the Federation has the links it takes to pull the strings.
The seeds are watered by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund which provided a grant of £100,000 towards the project. These grants fund collections work outside the scope of an organisation’s core resources; in this case for a project manager to pull together collections reviews, data digitisation and online publishing, education resources, a touring exhibition, community engagement and training for museums.
Major nutrients for healthy growth of the little plant, lets say Nitrogen and Phosphorus, are provided by two major partners, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and CYMAL. Amgueddfa Cymru looks after the national collections. Seven museums in different parts of Wales with different themes provide one of the cultural backbones of the nation. Specialist curators from National Museum Cardiff are crucial for the smooth and reliable completion of the collections reviews in the partner museums.
CYMAL are the Welsh Assembly Government's heritage and culture arm; they provide advice and support to the sector in Wales, develop professional standards, manage grant schemes and advise the Minister for Culture and Sport on policy matters. Thanks to support from CYMAL, a number of training courses are going to be run for partner museum curators and volunteers.
And here they come – they have already been mentioned a couple of times: the partner museums. There are 20 of them, and in our little analogy they are the soil in which the plant is growing. I am going to list them all because they deserve it:
And we are not finished: communities are the carbon dioxide each plant needs for photosynthesis, and communities take an increasing interest and get more involved in their local museums. This ranges from amateur collectors organising community-curated displays, to Welsh speakers sharing their knowledge of vernacular terminology, to volunteers helping with identification and curation of museum specimens.
The light for the healthy growth of the plant comes, naturally, from school pupils (particularly from local primary schools), who are increasing better able to utilise their museum, through improved engagement programmes, updated exhibitions and a system of ready-to-use loans boxes with activities and guidance for teachers.
Last but not least, each plant needs someone to look after it, and the gardeners in this case are the members of the steering group. Usually, they prefer to remain modestly in the shadows, but they, too, deserve a mention for their work of seeding and weeding:
Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Natural Sciences, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
Diane Gwilt, Keeper of Collections, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
Jane Henderson, Senior Lecturer, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University
Dr Hefin Jones, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
Rachael Rogers, President, Welsh Museums Federation
Mike Wilson, Head of Entomology, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
A healthy plant is growing
Now I am going to sit back and watch the plant grow. Oh no, there is the next collections review to organise, the data to be edited, the annual report to finish, another meeting coming up… However, I will very much enjoy this new growth in the museum landscape. I hope you will enjoy it too.
For any comments, suggestions, or to contribute to this exciting project please get in touch: Facebook - Linking Collections Wales, Twitter - @LinkinCollWales.
Big Garden Bird Watch
Last weekend was RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch, the world’s largest bird survey! On Saturday I joined in the fun by making fat ball birdfeeders with some of the visitors to the museum. Inspired by the Big Garden Bird Watch, I spent a little time this week in the bird hide at St Fagans. Here are a few photos of what I saw…
Did you take part? What birds you see in your garden? Remember to report your findings to the RSPB - Big Garden Bird Watch
Keep in touch with the wildlife at St Fagans by following on Twitter
A Window into the Industry Collections
We have had a number of interesting objects coming into the Industry collections since my last Blog. Here are just a few.
This wooden full hull ship model is of the m.v. Innisfallen. The Innisfallen was built in 1969 to inaugurate British & Irish Line’s Swansea to Cork ferry service. She was eventually sold to Corsica Ferries and then to Sancak Lines, Turkey. After a number of name changes she was broken up in 2004.
The commemorative plate below was manufactured by Ceramic Arts in 1989. It commemorates both the National Justice For Mineworkers Campaign, 5th Anniversary of 1984-85 strike, and the centenary of the National Union of Mineworkers.
This illuminated address was presented to Harry Brean by the workmen of the Risca Collieries for bravery during the “Gob Fire” at the Old Black Vein Colliery between July 12th and August 9th 1918. Presented towards the end of the First World War, it is interesting to note that the address states that “the Coal Mines produce their Great Heroes no less than the Battlefield”. The address is of a standard format that was printed by the Western Mail Ltd., Cardiff, and then hand illuminated. Note that his name is spelt incorrectly on address!
The object below we believe to be a calendar mount. It was printed on tinplate by Metal Box Company Limited in Neath, c.1960. The image is of a painting by the artist Harold Forster. The original oil on board painting depicts the hot strip mill at Abbey iron and steel works in Port Talbot and dates to 1955. The original painting is in our collection and details of this work and others by Harold Forster can be seen on our Images of Industry online catalogue - http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/industry/images/?action=search&search_type=artist_title&artist=forster&title=
Curatorial Assistant (Industry)
Little Tiny Shoots
Hi bulb buddies
How are your bulbs getting on? Remember to watch them closely as from January onwards you may start to see little green shoots pushing up through the soil – it’s very exciting when they first appear! I was so happy when I went outside this week and saw these little tiny shoots in my plant pots – they are so lovely!
Archbishop Hutton's Primary School sent me this message: A. and J. came running to tell me that our first crocuses have appeared over the weekend and we have taken some photos of them.
That’s fantastic news! Well done A. and J.! I am really glad you are so excited about your plants. I would love to see your photos, maybe you could email them to me?
I hope you are all enjoying your investigation bulb buddies. When your plants start to peep through the soil, why don’t you take some photos too? If you email them to me I will put them on this blog.
WHAT TO DO NEXT…
- Keep up the great work sending in your weather reports.
- Watch for your first shoots to arrive.
- Keep watching every day as they grow taller.
- When you flowers open - celebrate!! Then record the date and how high the plant is.
- Send me your Flower Records on the website.
Please use my Power Point presentation to find out how to keep flower records.
Your questions, my answers:
Ysgol Bro Eirwg: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda Athro’r Ardd! Ar ôl y gwyliau roedd y casglydd glaw yn llawn, felly methu cymryd darlleniad cywir. Arthro’r Ardd: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda Ysgol Bro Eirwg! Diolch am roi gwybod i fi am eich problemau mesur glaw, bydda i’n nodi hyn. Peidiwch â phoeni, digwyddodd hyn i lawer o ysgolion oherwydd iddi fwrw cymaint o law dros y gwyliau.
Cawthorne's Endowed Primary School: Im sorry we missed Friday we still want to go to Wales!!! Please wish us luck in Manchester. Prof P: Wishing you lots and lots of luck with your Spring bulbs Cawthorne School! Just wanted to let you know that if you are an English School and you win the Super Scientist Prize, we will arrange a day out for you in England instead of you travelling to Wales. It will still be a Super fun day, I promise.
Woodplumpton St. Anne's Primary School: sorry we forgot to take readings on two days - our teacher was not in school to remind us. There was a lot of rain over the holidays! We were surprised the temperatures were as high as they were. It felt colder. We talked about wind chill. Prof P: You are doing a great job and I am very pleased to hear you have talked about wind chill, it can make us feel VERY cold, can't it? Brrrrr.
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: When we came back from our Christmas break the rainfall gauge was overflowing as nobody had been able to empty it over the holidays. The ground is getting very wet and muddy and we have to be careful collecting the information. Prof P: Be careful in the mud! We don't want any accidents, were you wearing your school shoes or your wellies?
Raglan VC Primary: Extreme rainfall on Wednesday evening. Prof P: There has been some very extreme weather recently Raglan, you are right!
Llanishen Fach C.P School: No rainfall measurement for Monday as rain gauge was full from holiday. Very high measurement for Friday rainfall - gauge was emptied on Weds and no rainfall Thursday during day. Prof P: Excellent weather reporting Llanishen Fach.
Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Monday we were off. We have noticed that the bulbs have started to sprout and are growing nicely. Prof P: Fantastic news!! Thanks for letting me know I hope you enjoy watching them grow!
Greyfriars RC Primary School: it was 50mm because that was all over the holidays. C: this is exciting and i dont know whats gonna happen. R: it was fun watering the plants with C. Prof P: Well done C and R, its great to hear you are working together and having fun.
Ysgol Nant Y Coed: School was closed on Monday sorry professor plant. Prof P: That's okay Ysgol Nant Y Coed, keep up the good work!
John Cross CE Primary School: we had some problems because sheep got on to our field and knocked over the rain collector. Prof P: What cheeky sheep! Maybe they were interested in your investigation and came over to have a closer look.
At the beginning of January we had a crochet session where myself and Anna Phillips attempted to turn everyone into crochet queens. Anna made up a great little easy pattern to crochet circles which could then be turned into a garland, or maybe a coaster if you stopped at just making one. We will be having another crochet meet up on March 15 so come along to that one, and because everyone seems keen I'll try and add more dates to the rest of the year.
St Dwynwen's Day Cards and a Mocktail
Last saturday (25th) was St Dwynwen's Day! I hope you all had cards and treats... we had a family drop-in card making session here in St Fagans National History Museum and we also did a bit of sewing too.
We will be doing something pretty similar for Valentine's Day on 8th and 9th of February.
And the mocktail?
That was for reading group! We were discussing 'Rules of Civility' by Amor Towles which is set in 1930s New York and therefore we had suitably 30s type refreshments - Shirley Temples and kit kats all round! (the kit-kat was introduced in 1937). Our next reading group meet up will be on 22 February where we'll be discussing Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Stranger's Child'. It's a big book, so you'd better start now.
Collections Review at Carmarthen Museum
On Friday, Adrian Plant and I, along with Christian Baars, took part in a Collections Review at Carmarthen Museum as part of the Esmee Fairbairn ‘Linking Natural Science Collections on Wales’ project. The museum, was in a lovely old house, the old Bishop’s Palace, just outside Carmarthen. We spent the day in the natural history store, systematically going through all of the boxes to see what was in each one and assess it’s condition and potential importance. As not all of it had been accessioned even the curators were not sure what might be there and we had a very interesting time never knowing what might be in the next box. Amongst the specimens we found were a collection of weaver birds’ nests and a ‘vasculum’ (metal box containing botanical specimens) containing an old seed collection along with the original bill of sale. Hopefully, some of these specimens may now find their way out to public display at some point in the future.
Dydd Santes Dwynwen
To celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen we have searched our Natural History Collections at the Museum for some love related specimens:
The True Heart Cockle, found on reef systems in the Indo-Pacific.
Fioled Bêr/Sweet Violet (Viola odorata), which represents faithful love in the language of flowers.
The Purple Heart Urchin (Spatangus purpureus), a large heart-shaped urchin often found buried in sands and gravels. This is one of the specimens on display in the Life in the Sea Gallery.
Or for an alternative Dydd Santes Dwynwen, how about the Love-lies-bleeding plant (Amaranthus caudatus). This example was collected in Roath Park, Cardiff back in 1924 and is now in the National Welsh Herbarium at National Museum Cardiff.
Post by Sally Whyman, Jennifer Gallichan and Katie Mortimer-Jones
Happy New Year Bulb buddies! I hope you all had a fun Christmas.
It has been a very stormy in the last few weeks in many parts of the UK. Weather scientists at the Met Office say that this is due to the jet stream – a narrow band of fast moving winds high up in the atmosphere. The jet stream blows from west to east across the Atlantic Ocean and can bring us stormy weather.
December 2013 was the windiest month in the UK since January 1993. It has also been very rainy - in Scotland December was the wettest month since 1910. That means it hasn’t rained that much in Scotland for over 100 years! What has the weather been like where you live?
All this rain and stormy weather has meant that there have been floods in parts of England, Wales and Scotland, and sadly some people’s houses were flooded at Christmas. In areas close to the seaside giant waves also caused flooding.
SUPER SCIENTIST CHALLENGE:
Why do some areas flood and others don’t? Use these maps to investigate!
Study the first map of Aberystwyth in Wales, where there has been flooding. Can you see the wiggly lines called ‘contour lines’ that show the shape of the mountains and hills? Can you see the sea and the river shown in blue? When rain falls in the surrounding area it runs down the hills into the river then into the sea. If there is very heavy rainfall the river may flood. If it is very stormy there may be very large waves. Where do you think it might flood? Hint – flooding can happen in low lying areas and areas near rivers and the sea. This link has some animations about the different factors that cause a flood.
Study the second map from the Environment Agency – the purple areas show where there is risk of flooding. Is the flood risk where you thought it would be?
Now you can investigate the area where you live…
First search for your school on the first map. Can you see any contour lines? Where is the high land and the low land? Is there a river, lake or the sea nearby? Where might it flood?
Next search for your school on the second map. Make sure you tick the two boxes ‘Flood Warning areas’ and ‘Flood Alert areas’ on the left of the page, flood risk areas will then show up in purple. Is there a flood risk in your area? Is the flood risk where you thought it would be?
Exploring Insect Diversity in Thailand
(Searching for the ‘missing millions’)
To an explorer of biodiversity, especially invertebrate biodiversity, tropical forests remain largely unknown and unmapped territory. I study the insect Order Diptera (flies), and while some 150,000 species have already been found and described world-wide, perhaps 2-10 million (maybe more!) remain completely unknown to science and a large proportion of these will undoubtedly be found in tropical forests. As Principal Curator of Entomology, much of my research effort is devoted to finding and describing the ‘missing millions’ (taxonomy), understanding how and where they evolved (phylogeny and biogeography) and investigating the roles they play in modern ecosystems (ecology).
One of my favorite areas to work in is southeast Asia, particularly Thailand where my studies have already described about 70 new species of fly in the group known as Empidoidea (dance-flies and their allies). I recently began a project with Wichai Srisuka, my colleague in the Entomology section of the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Thailand, in which we are using Malaise traps (a tent-like structure into which insects fly and can be trapped) to sample dance-flies and other insects on two of Thailand’s highest mountains; Doi Inthanon and Doi Phahompok. The samples collected will no doubt contain many new species for me to describe for the first time and should also yield valuable data on how communities of insects on the mountains vary with altitude. The summit slopes of Doi Phahompok and Doi Inthanon are covered in a type of thick luxurious wet forest known as Moist Hill Evergreen in which many endemic species occur (an endemic species is one entirely confined to a particular locality). Our earlier results suggest that although these two mountains are only 150km apart and have many similarities in their fly fauna, both have many endemic species on them too. By comparing the degree of ‘endemicity’ on the two mountains we hope to better understand some of the historical processes that gave rise to the exceptional biodiversity of these areas.
When scientists try to identify geographical areas of conservation importance they like to map not only diversity (essentially, how many different species there are) but also endemicity. Knowing exactly where biodiversity and endemicity hotspots are enables conservation planners to better target their efforts. In the tropics, knowledge of diversity and endemicity is largely confined to a few groups of plants and vertebrates. Unfortunately, these creatures represent only a small fraction of the variety of life so prioritizing conservation efforts using them alone is imperfect. Furthermore, measures of plant and vertebrate variety are not effective surrogates of invertebrate diversity whereas knowledge of invertebrate diversity does in fact tell us much about that of other animals and plants. We are slowly starting to produce maps of invertebrate endemicity which we hope will provide better tools to help conservation authorities in Thailand prioritize their conservation efforts.
Dr Adrian Plant