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October 2014

World Octopus Day

Posted by Harriet Wood on 8 October 2014

Portrait of William Evans Hoyle from the Amgueddfa Cymru library archive

Hoyle’s library stamp identifies the books he donated to the Mollusca library

A few examples from Hoyle’s Cephalopod collection

An Octopus close up from the Hoyle collection

» View full post to see all images

Today is a very special day…it’s World Octopus Day! So, what better opportunity to celebrate the life of the eminent Cephalopod expert Dr William Evans Hoyle. Here at Amgueddfa Cymru Hoyle has a particularly special place in our hearts as he was our first Director and donated part of his Cephalopod collection to our museum containing some 463 jars of specimens.

So, who was this man…?

Born in Manchester in 1855, Hoyle followed a varied and interesting career but his passion was always for science and nature. From an Oxford degree in Natural History to a diploma in medicine; from writing Challenger Reports to being Keeper and Director of the Manchester Museum; whatever the challenge, Hoyle took it on with energy, enthusiasm and a great sense of humour.

The challenge of Challenger:

It was in 1882 that he was invited to be a naturalist on the editorial staff of the “Challenger” Expedition, under the supervision of Sir John Murray. This was to be the start of his life-long love for cephalopods. All of the cephalopods collected over the four years of the expedition (1872-1876) were passed through his hands. His skills in dissection and anatomy meant he was an excellent candidate to carry out their thorough examination. He produced diagnoses and descriptions of these creatures which were compiled into a preliminary report in 1885 and a final report in 1886.

His tenure with the Challenger team lasted six years but for the remainder of his life he studied and analysed cephalopods from all over the world and produced numerous publications. Examples of some of his studies are those collected by Herdman from Ceylon (1924); Stanley Gardiner from the Maldives and Laccadives (1905); those collected on the National Antarctic Exhibition (1907); and the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1912). Hoyle was a meticulous worker and drew many of his own beautiful illustrations for these publications, some of which now reside in the archive at Amgueddfa Cymru. He quickly became recognised as a chief authority in the subject.

Director of the National Museum of Wales

After 20 years of working at the Manchester Museum, including a period as Director, Hoyle took his final career change in 1909 when he was appointed Director of the National Museum of Wales (now Amgueddfa Cymru). By this time he was already considered the most prominent science museum director in Great Britain. For Hoyle this was the perfect job and represented the fulfilment of a life long ambition. It allowed him to be involved in the development of a museum, both as a building and a concept, from the beginning. The museum was chartered in 1907 but Hoyle joined the team at a time when he could participate in the architectural discussions and was responsible for some major changes in the design of the building. As part of his research he visited many museums in both Europe and America so he could learn from their mistakes and find the best methods of development. He noted particularly that often not enough space was allocated for collections and their future growth.

A place for exploration and discovery

Hoyle applied great energy to his work and with his exceptional organisational skills and knowledge he pushed this museum forward. With such a strong scientific background, and experience of working with material from expeditions, he was a strong promoter of the museum as a science and research institute. He promoted it as an arena for exploration and discovery of the world. Hoyle also had good acquaintances with fellow natural historians, especially as a member of the Cardiff Naturalist Society, and so encouraged them to donate their collections. His years at NMW put this museum on the scientific map and made it a place where eminent scientists were proud to bequeath their collections.

As a concept Hoyle was a great believer that museums should be “Schools for learning” as well as store houses for interesting objects. He was very well known as a popular lecturer in a great many subjects and his sense of humour and enthusiasm brought his talks alive. He was also known to have a wonderful ability to interest children and pass this enthusiasm onto them.

He was Director through the First World War which proved a great difficulty at times and caused frustrating delays in the development of the building. Sadly, Hoyle retired due to ill health in 1924 and was never to see the completion of the museum as he died on 7th February 1926 in Porthcawl. 

Are E-cigarettes harmful to museum collections?

Posted by Christian Baars on 7 October 2014

Re-visiting no smoking policies to include non-tobacco replacement products.

AC-NMW has recently banned the use of e-cigarettes from its galleries. E-cigarettes are considered a less harmful version of conventional cigarettes – do they really need to be banned from museums?

What's the problem?

An electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, is an electronic inhaler that vaporizes a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes use a rechargeable battery to power the vaporizer.

Many people use e-cigarettes as a way of quitting smoking and while this is deemed a positive development, the act of using an e-cigarette does look like smoking which is disconcerting to other people. Users of e-cigarettes should be sensitive to the impression that using the substitute may give to others. For example, there are questions surrounding the appropriateness of smoking e-cigarettes in public, especially around children.

Smoking ordinary cigarettes violates established museum policies and therefore, for the sake of consistency, the use of e-cigarettes has been prohibited at AC-NMW on health and safety grounds (and in line with existing legislation covering smoking in public places) since May 2014.

In addition, there are good conservation reasons against ‘vaping’ in museums. Electronic cigarettes work in a similar way (with a chemical carrier, such as propylene glycol, nicotine and a cocktail of flavouring chemicals) to scent and smoke machines that historic houses and museums have rejected in the past to protect collections from damage.

What is the effect on museum collections?

What does the science say about the effects of e-cigarettes? A summary report recently reviewed 29 studies on the chemistry of e-cigarettes and found that refill solutions and aerosols contain nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), flavours, solvent carriers and tobacco alkaloids (Cheng 2014). However, not all of those chemicals are necessarily emitted by a user exhaling vapour from an e-cigarette. In fact, the average nicotine concentration in e-cigarette vapour is considerably lower than the amount found in tobacco smoke (Czogala et al. 2013).

In addition, e-cigarette vapour does not appear to contain some of the other toxic products found in cigarette smoke. VOCs, including acetone and formaldehyde, are seemingly not emitted at all (Czogala et al. 2013), or at levels considerably lower than from conventional cigarettes (Schripp et al. 2013) – the slightly different results depend on the analytical methods used. Crucially, acetic acid is emitted by e-cigarettes (Schripp et al. 2013).

Acetic acid is very problematic in museum galleries and collections stores. Airborne acetic acid leads to destructive corrosion of metals and minerals, including calcitic bivalve shells and fossils. And while the levels emitted by each individual e-cigarette may be small, many museum conservators and curators have first-hand experience at dealing with damage caused by airborne indoor pollutants.

Pre-cautionary principle applies in museums

We have a duty to maintain our fantastic heritage, and to care for the collections of Wales to ensure their continued and future preservation. It is best to put the objects first and limit the chemical and aerosol exposure of museum collections by prohibiting the use of both conventional and e-cigarettes in museums.  

 

References

Cheng, T. 2014. Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes. Tobacco Control 23: ii11-ii17.

Czogala, J., Goniewicz, M.L., Fidelus, B., Zielinska-Danch, W., Travers, M.J., Sobczak, A. 2013. Secondhand exposure to vapors from electronic cigarettes. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, doi:10.1093/ntr/ntt203.

Schripp, T., Markewitz, D., Uhde, E., Salthammer, T. 2013. Does e-cigarette consumption cause passive vaping? Indoor Air 23: 25-31.

  

#popupmuseum

Posted by Heledd Fychan on 6 October 2014

Well, the week has finally arrived. After months of planning and discussing, later this week the #popupmuseum will become a reality. Whilst we already have some stories ready to share as part of the #popupmuseum and some museum objects to showcase, such as Billy the Seal, the truth is, we have no idea what it will become as it relies completely on people coming to the Wales Millennium Centre on Thursday and Friday (9th and 10th October) with their stories and/or objects that relate to or remind them of Cardiff.

This is how it will work. The #popupmuseum will be in the foyer of the Wales Millennium Centre, and manned from 9am to 5:30pm on both days. You can either donate an object and leave it with us, with a written or audio description of what it is, or you can have your picture taken with the object. If you choose to leave anything with us, it will be returned to you after the #popupmuseum comes to an end! Alternatively, if you have a story, you can either write it down or be filmed telling us the story, and it will be displayed as part of the #popupmuseum.

Still with me? Good...

All will be well if people turn up. Hence why we need your help. Please spread the word, by talking about the projects to friends and family and helping us promote via social media. Objects don’t have to be valuable or typical museum objects. They can be funny, quirky, strange, serious, surprising – in fact, anything goes as long as they have a Cardiff story. They can mean something to you personally or can be part of the story of a Cardiff institution or organisation. This really is your opportunity to create a different kind of museum.

For further information, please email heledd.fychan@museumwales.ac.uk or @heleddfychan

I Spy...Nature Drawing Competition

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 6 October 2014

Winner in our I Spy...Nature drawing competition

Runner-up in our I Spy...Nature Drawing Competition

Visitors to our I Spy….Nature pop-up museum at the Capitol Shopping center over the summer were given the opportunity to enter a drawing competition, using our museum specimens as inspiration for their artwork. Nine winners were chosen in three age groups, winning Natural History prizes from the museum shop. As part of the prize, all winners were offered the opportunity to have a special tour behind the scenes at the museum. Several of the prizewinners have already been to visit us and the rest will be visiting us over the next few weeks. All of the winning entries can be viewed here

The National Waterfront Museum Youth Forum join the fun on Roald Dahl Day

Posted by Loveday Williams on 1 October 2014

The 13th September 2014 was not your average day at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. There was childlike music playing, story-time in front of the caravan exhibition and a strange fellow walking around who seemed to have lost his famous Chocolate Factory. The Youth Forum was also there, collecting stories and memories of caravanning holidays from visitors to the Museum to feature alongside the main exhibit of the family caravan.

Roald Dahl day certainly attracted a lot of families to the Museum, and many of them were more than happy to share their own personal stories of caravanning. We even managed to film a few people, including one person who could only remember the bad weather – this is Wales after all! The weather was a constant theme in the recollections, but happily many people enjoyed caravanning and camping despite the rain. My favourite memory would have to be the person who towed a 2-berth caravan with their Harley-Davidson motorbike, although I wouldn’t want to be stuck behind them in traffic! People young and old were sharing their memories and stories of caravanning with their family and friends, showing that caravan holidays are still a popular choice for many people in the age of package holidays.

All in all it was a nice day for the children and families, and we were able to collect lots of memories to travel alongside the caravan when it moves to St Fagans National History Museum as a key display in one of the new galleries.

Daisy Binks Youth Forum Member       

September 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 29 September 2014

Amongst the new collections we have received in September is this unusual miniature miner’s dial. This is a compass-like instrument used underground for the surveying of passages and seams. The engraved plate on the lid of the box of this example shows that it was presented to Mr. W. Meredith by the workmen of Tylecoch Colliery on Sept. 12th 1881. The manufacturer is unknown.

We have been donated two twist boxes this month. These twist boxes were used by miners to carry their chewing tobacco. They were not allowed to smoke underground due to the risk of explosions. The one on the left even contains some original tobacco! Both examples belonged to ancestors of the donor and were both used in south Wales collieries. Twist boxes are fairly common mining related objects. An excellent display can be seen in our galleries in the old pit head baths at Big Pit: National Mining Museum.

This photograph was donated along with the two twist boxes and is a souvenir of the stay in strike at Parc Colliery. The donor’s grandfather is one of the men in the photograph.

Finally the certificate below was issued by the Monmouthshire Education Authority to Abraham Evans in 1945.

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Beachwatch

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 25 September 2014

Museum curators getting ready for the family activites

Our 'Beach Gallery' 

Land art in our 'beach gallery'

More land art

» View full post to see all images

Last Saturday 20th September we ran our annual Beachwatch event at Ogmore Beach in the Vale of Glamorgan. This was part of the national campaign run by the Marine Conservation Society encouraging communities to get out and about to care for their local shorelines. This is the 10th year that museum staff have been organising a Great British Beach Clean at this beach.

In the morning families took part in workshops with museum curators finding out about different types of seaweeds and animals in the strandline and in rock pools. There were fossil hunts where people discovered lots of fossilised bivalve shells and sily lilies (crinoids) in the rocks. Families also helped create our ‘Beach Museum’ making Landart, inspired by the works of artists like Richard Long.

After lunch the serious work began, museum staff and families scoured a 150m stretch of beach near to the slipway searching for rubbish. Sadly this wasn’t a challenge, we collected over 35kg of litter in an hour!  Each piece of rubbish found was logged and all this data will be sent on to the Marine Conservation Society who will use it to find out where beach litter comes from and contribute to marine conservation. Over the last 10 years we have seen a change in the rubbish that we have collected on this beach. During initial cleans one of the greatest problems encountered were cotton bud sticks, however these have declined over the years. Sadly one of the greatest problems encountered this year was dog poo in plastic bags and hypodermic needles. Over 65 people took part in the day’s activities and we look forward to taking part in Beachwatch the same time next year.

#popupmuseum - The story so far

Posted by Graham Davies on 22 September 2014
A growing number of Cardiff story cards
A growing number of Cardiff story cards
A polystyrene corgi pops up at the museum.
A polystyrene corgi pops up at the museum.
A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories.
A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories.
Display cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff
Display cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff
» View full post to see all images

Here’s an update on our pop up museum project. 

We’re creating a pop up museum about Cardiff with the Cardiff Story, helped by the HLF, for the Welsh Museums Festival and the Museums Association Conference at the Wales Millennium Centre on 9-10 October. Before we set it up, we’ve asked the people of Cardiff and beyond to help us collect stories and objects to get it up and running.

So far, we’ve held 3 workshops at The Cardiff Story.  We’ve collected over 30 Cardiff stories on film and story cards and seen weird and wonderful objects that all say something about Cardiff in their own unique way! The process has brought people together in conversation by sharing their Cardiff story.

The latest workshop was held at the Cardiff Story between 6-8pm on 11 September. Cheese, wine and soft drinks were on offer to add to the social feel of the evening. By the end of the session 20 people had popped in to share their stories. We also took a video camera out on to the streets and filmed 20 voxpops from a very diverse range of passers-by! Some of them are hilariously funny and will be shown at the pop up museum at Wales Millennium Centre.

The First Object

A polystyrene corgi was the first object to make an entrance. It had been left out with the rubbish on a street in Roath – but was rescued, given a wash, and now lives happily with its new owners in a Cardiff living room.

Designing the pop up museum

As the number of Cardiff stories and objects grow, so too does the need to think about how we will display the material we’ve generated. The pop up museum will move to the Wales Millennium Centre on 9-10 October for the Museums Association Conference so it will have to be very flexible and easy to put up.

We’ve started rummaging around in the depths of National Museum Cardiff’s stores for cases, shelves, seats, anything! Here’s a selection of what we found:

  • A lovely big table where people can sit and chat about their stories. One idea we had about displaying objects was to place them in Perspex boxes on this table and pile them on top of each other as the display grows over the two days.
  • A couple of lovely cases currently in the contemporary art space at National Museum Cardiff. These will allow us to show objects from the Cardiff Story collections and national collections that reveal something about Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre.
  • More seats! Some rather nice grey square fabric cubes.
  • And finally…..Billy the Seal!

We’re not sure yet if Billy can come with us to the Wales Millennium Centre, but we’re looking into what’s possible. Billy’s skeleton has been part of National Museum Wales’ collections since the 1940s. Billy came to Cardiff in 1912, when fishermen aboard a trawler found him in their nets. He was given the name Billy and brought to Cardiff where he set up home in the Victoria Park Lake.

Billy apparently escaped during flooding and swam down Cowbridge Road. On the way he stopped at a local fish shop and ordered ‘no chips, just the haddock thanks.’ He then made his way to the Admiral Napier for a pint, ‘half a dark’ to be precise, but was captured and taken back to the lake.

We don’t know if these events actually happened, but many local residents swear the story is completely true.

Follow this blog to find out if Billy can escape again!

Further information

Next pop up museum workshop:
27 September 11.00-1.00pm, Cardiff Story

For more on setting up your own pop up museum follow this link:

http://popupmuseum.org/pop-up-museum-how-to-kit/

Is Content still King?

Posted by Graham Davies on 20 September 2014
The King of Hearts as represented in a deck of playing cards
The King of Hearts as represented in a deck of playing cards

Graham Davies, Digital Programmes Manager, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

"Content is King". The phrase is strong, infallible, sitting proud on his pedestal, a little like the Queen Mother, or the National Health Service. Sacrosanct. But has the time come to question some of our long held adages in the world of digital content and web design? Is content actually 'King' anymore?

Fresh back from an energising few days with the fab team at Culture24 at the Let's Get Real workshops and conference, I am determined not to let the enthusiasm and momentum get buried by the squillions of things in my inbox that greet me now that I am not 'Out of Office' anymore.

The discussions of the last few days have left me pondering over our constantly evolving digital landscape.

Which direction, and how high do we have to throw our digital content ball to get it successfully into the constantly moving net of engagement?

Jessica Riches, in her talk on 'Learning from Brands' seemed very surprised that she was the first of the day to mention the phrase ‘Content is King’

This made me think. And think again. About the shift in focus to be more about platforms, the importance of audiences and what channels those audiences use and reside in.

So has the time come to update or even rewrite the rulebook?

1. Content is King?

Surely it's not just raw content that is king anymore. Who your content is intended for significantly alters how it should be written and where it should be published. What is the intent of those people reading it? (as apposed to the intentions of those writing it). So I give you rule rewrite number 1:

Content, Intent and Purpose are the new King, Queen and Jack

By thinking of it this way, you are reminded that content on its own doesn't stand any more. It's equally important to also think of why you are writing it and where the people are who want to read it?

2. Build it and They Will Come?

This fell off its pedestal a long time ago, but if we were to prop it back in place the stonemasons would need to re-carve the plinth to read: 

Write it and take it to where they are. Or perhaps better still: Go pay them a visit and have a chat

This helps reinforce the idea that we can't be institutional broadcasters anymore, we should be working with our audience to help them answer what they want to know, rather than what we want to tell them.

To demonstrate this, Shelley Bernstein provided us with a superb keynote speech at the Let's Get Real conference on how the Brooklyn Museum are trusting the audience and developing a wholly user-centric approach to their new responsive museum.

3. Design Responsive Websites

Great, Yes, very good. Although a revision of this phrase can encompass web design by default whilst primarily focussing on content:

Optimise your content to be platform independent

4. Think Mobile First

Yes, we must, and we should make this behaviour ingrained. By turning this rule upside-down, our new banner proclaims (and by its very nature automatically assumes mobile first):

Remember to check the desktop

Think back to those good old days where everything had to be retrofitted to work in IE 6. Who now retrospectively checks that everything reads and works well on a desktop? Not many I'm guessing.

But beware. Herein lies the paradox: Remember, people looking to visit one of our venues are more likely to be looking us up through a mobile device. However, people looking at in-depth long-form curatorial and academic material are predominantly still using desktops.

This is where headline metrics can be misleading, if your website as a whole shows a rise in mobile, that doesn't mean that all the content on the site is being accessed through mobiles. This is why metric analysis is so crucial before we apply blanket statements based on overall trends.

This brings me onto to something bigger I have been mulling over recently...

"Can we put it on the website please"?

Quite frankly, I dislike the term "Website". I often ask what section or area people are actually referring to, for websites these days have come to contain many distinct areas and functions, serving completely separate and different audiences and requirements. Maybe this is the crux of the problem? At the moment we are all busy working on a 'one solution fits all approach'. Shouldn't we be thinking of applying separate templates and content strategies based on different audience requirements within our own websites?

Going back to our rewritten rule number one, and this should be applied within (and throughout) our own organisational websites too.

All this can help us ensure that we consistently put the users needs at the centre of our goals and ambitions. Just by thinking a little differently about our assumptions, we have the ability to take a quicker, more direct route to successful engagement.

Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit

Posted by Gareth Bonello on 17 September 2014
Hendre'r Ywydd Uchaf Farmhouse

Elan volunteers with the St Fagans Youth Forum and spent some time with the Museum's Historic Buildings Unit and has blogged about her experience below;

Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit

As part of the Historic Buildings Demonstrations at Sain Ffagan, I visited Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf to see a carpenter at his work. When I arrived, he was busy working on a head of a door frame for the new Iron Age Village with wood that was sourced on site and freshly cut that morning. The work had to be done by hand without any aid from machines. He was more than happy to talk to us about his work and answer any of our questions. He talked about how he has done an NVQ in Historic Carpentry and that he has just finished his apprentiship after working at the museum for five years. His admiration towards the knowledge of the more experienced craftsmen was clear and he was aware that this knowledge came from experience not from qualifications.

He later explained how they brought buildings to the museum desribing the finished result as ‘flatpack buildings’ as they numbered the bricks around the sides before taking the building down and rebuilding it in Sain Ffagan using the Havorfordwest House and the Raglan Train Station as examples of this. The importance of conservation in this process was evident as he talked of only taking away what you needed whilst repairing historic buildings in order to keep their authenticity. He explained how the new developments happening in Sain Ffagan would lead to new work such as the Prince’s Palace from Anglesey where they would need to handle 480kg of timber! This was time well spent in order to understand how the building happens in Sain Ffagan.

blog gan Elan Llwyd

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    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

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  • National Wool Museum

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  • National Roman Legion Museum

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  • National Slate Museum

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    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

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    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

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