Museum scientists pop up at Fairwater Library
Museum scientists were out and about during half-term week, when the I Spy…Nature pop-up museum paid a visit to Fairwater Library on 30th October. Curators from the Botany, Invertebrate Diversity and Palaeontology sections took along specimens from their collection areas to show the public, along with a microscope and quizzes to encourage them to look even closer.
Ingrid Jüttner challenged people to identify as many trees as they could, using beautiful displays of freshly-pressed leaves and fruits. This activity was a big hit with grown-ups, and it was very pleasing to see so many parents and grandparents encouraging children to learn more about these important plants, which bring our living spaces to life.
The library’s meeting room became temporary home to an impressive array of marine and mollusc specimens from the Invertebrate Diversity section. People were fascinated by the creatures on display, which evoked a range of reactions (including ‘they’re really gross!’) depending on how they felt about slugs and worms! Teresa Darbyshire showed some of the diversity of life found around our shores, with beautiful sea shells, lobster, starfish, and a pickled octopus and giant sea worm. Visitors tried their hands at identifying shells using a key, all good training for trips to the beach! Ben Rowson challenged people to identify mystery objects under the microscope, and introduced them to slug identification using his recently published book and life-like models.
Lucy McCobb showed visitors a range of fossils from different periods of the Earth’s history, ranging from an Ice Age mastodon tooth and horse’s leg bone, through Jurassic ammonites and ichthyosaur bones, to trilobites, which are among Wales’s oldest fossils. The ‘what’s in a name?’ quiz was popular with children, and asked them to use the meanings of scientific names to match up the name with the correct fossil.
This was I Spy..Nature's first venture into libraries, and showed that they have great potential as venues for taking the Museum’s collections and experts out into communities.
Top 10 Stocking Fillers
1. Taffywood Mugs
These Taffywood mugs from I Loves the ‘Diff always bring a smile to our faces with their mixture of witty puns and wordplay. They’re a fantastic present for those living in Cardiff as well as a wonderful reminder of the city for those who have moved away.
2. Welsh dinner kitchenware
Bara Brith, Welsh Cakes, Cawl and Laver Bread, this lovely range of homeware from Victoria Eggs gets ours taste buds going. Hand printed and decorated, the tea towel and apron are made from 100% organic cotton and the mug is bone china. Perfect presents for Welsh foodies.
3. Set of 3 mugs
Te, coffi, sicoled – which to choose? These earthenware mugs are great when you need a warming cuppa of any kind. If making a choice is too difficult, buy a set of all three. These mugs are exclusive to Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales.
4. Bird and butterfly necklaces
We love these pretty necklaces from Ladybird Likes. The illustrations are from vintage French nature books which have been applied to wood and laser cut. Ladybird Likes are a small jewellery company based in London founded by self-confessed craft geek Zoe Jade and her charming necklaces and brooches are both delicate and striking.
5. Colour & Carry Satchel Kit
Stand out from the crowd and get creative with this colour and carry satchel. This bag comes with fabric pens so that you can colour it in and craft your own unique bag. Seedling products are new to the UK and their kits are full of inspiring craft ideas to fire up children’s imaginations.
6. Welsh Alphabet Jigsaws
These gorgeous wooden Welsh alphabet jigsaws make learning fun. Brightly coloured and made from sustainable rubber wood, they look great as well as being educational and come in dragon, dinosaur and crocodile designs.
7. Scrabble yn Gymraeg
Scrabble is the most popular word game in the world and is now available in Welsh. This junior version includes two games, a simpler version for younger children on one side and a more challenging game for older children on the other. For more Welsh language games for children, visit our online shop.
8.St Fagans coaster and placemats
These brightly coloured melamine coasters and placemats will bring memories of St Fagans flooding back. We commissioned local artist Wayne Bedgood to come up with the design and we are amazed at how he has squeezed so many buildings in. See if you can spot your favourite. Exclusive to Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales.
9. 2015 Calendar
The 2015 Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales calendar contains twelve images that capture the majesty of the mountains of Wales. It includes works by Graham Sutherland, Peter Pendergrast, John Piper and Sir Kyffin Williams. . Exclusive to Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales.
10. Print on Demand
We love this painting by Pissarro of the Pont Neuf in Paris in the snow. You can own a reproduction of this beautiful work or one of over 250 others through our online print on demand service. From seascapes to castles and from Monet to mountains, browse out print on demand service.
Every purchase supports the work of the Museum.
A Window into the Industry Collections
During October we were fortunate to be donated this interesting gunpowder bag used at Curtis's and Harvey Ltd.’s gunpowder factory in Glynneath. Their monogram can be seen on the front of the cotton bag. It was used by the donor's great grandmother Elizabeth Thomas. She left school aged about 14 to work on a farm, but later began work at this gunpowder factory during the First World War. This timely donation allowed us to put this object on display at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea in the exhibition “Working for Victory: Welsh Industry and the First World War” which runs until 15th March 2015.
This month we purchased three share certificates to add to our important collection of Welsh share certificates.
The first is for five £100 shares for The Abercwmeiddaw Slate Quarry Company Limited and is dated 1898. It was a Liverpool based company registered in 1876 to acquire the slate quarry of the same name at Corris which had been opened in the 1840s. The company operated as a middle size quarry (in 1882 it employed 188 men producing 4,000 tons of slate) until it was wound up in 1905 as the Welsh trade declined. A new company of similar name was formed in 1911 and reopened the quarry on a smaller scale, until ceasing to exist in 1938.
The second certificate is for one £50 share in the Pen-y-Bryn Slate Company Limited, and is dated 1882. Registered in 1881 to acquire slate quarries at Nantlle that originated in the eighteenth century and which had been worked on some scale since the 1830s. The company was a typical mid-sized concern, operating four quarry pits serviced by Blondins in typical Nantlle style. In 1883 it employed 240 men and produced 5,000 tons of slate. The company failed in 1887 and the quarry closed until 1895 when it was reopened on a smaller scale until the 1940s.
The final certificate is printed on vellum and is a £50 share in the Blaenavon Iron & Coal Company, and is dated 8 September 1836. This company was an early joint stock company (with an enormous capital of £40,000) established to acquire the iron works and collieries from the Hill family and their partners. The new company considerably expanded the works and began a new works at Forgeside, built many houses, and introduced steam locomotives, making the works one of the leading UK iron producers. It became a limited liability concern in 1864.
On 26th August 1892 at explosion at Parc Slip Colliery killed 112 men and boys. This new accession is one of two booklets of letters for the Tondu Explosion Relief (Cardiff) Fund which would have been sent out to raise money for the relief fund. They are dated Town Hall, Cardiff 3rd September 1892.
We have a small collection of objects and photographs relating to this disaster including a commemorative mug which can be seen here
This brick was manufactured at one of the Hedley Brothers collieries, probably in the Bryncoch area. It was recovered from the building known as St. Peters Schoolroom on Brecon Road, Pontardawe. Amgueddfa Cymru holds the Welsh national collection of bricks, and this is an important addition.
The final object this month is a colliery official’s yardstick (also known as Deputy's stick). It was used by the last N.C.B. Manager at Big Pit before it closed as a working mine in 1979. A yardstick was carried by officials as an aid in the process of testing for gas. Before about 1960 there was a hole at the top of the stick into which the deputy could fit the hook of his lamp in order to raise it into the roof to test gas. More recently a special sampling valve could be fitted onto the ferrule at the other end of the stick in order that gas samples could be taken using a sampling bulb which is then injected into a Garforth type safety lamp.
Curator: Industry & Transport
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW
#popupmuseum - How did it all go?
The pop-up museum was created over two days at the Wales Millennium Centre as part of the Welsh Museums Festival and the Museums Association conference between 9-10 October 2014.
We set up the cases, table, boxes, screen and various cardboard structures on the Thursday before the conference.
It looked great, but we were all quite nervous. Would anyone turn up? Would people bring an object in response to our call outs on social media? Would people participate and share their Cardiff stories and memories? Would the huge table at its centre attract visitors or put them off?
Would Billy the Seal arrive safely?
We were about to find out if our experiment would work…….and thankfully it did!
- 1. The stuff we had already collected.
We were all really glad that we already had some material for the pop-up that provided hooks to show people how they could contribute. The story cards collected at previous workshops kicked things off. They gave people an idea of how they could contribute, and made the Cardiff theme obvious. The voxpops also provided people with another focus and showed that people had already shared their Cardiff story. This encouraged participants to be filmed sharing their story at the pop-up.
- 2. Taking photographs of participants
We took a photograph of all participants with an instant camera and pinned them to their story cards. This emphasised the personal aspect and made stories easier to find
- 3. The big table in the middle with plenty of chairs.
This space really worked. It became a social space where people came together and shared their Cardiff story and a space where strangers started talking to each other. We piled Perspex boxes on top of each other along the middle and gradually filled them with objects over the two days. We encouraged people to write their comments about other people’s stories on post-its and stick them on the boxes. This added another layer to the interpretation.
- 4. Using iPads to show social media content
We had built up interest around the pop-up on social media in the lead up to the pop-up itself, so it was good to continue this momentum. We used two iPads on the table as live labels that showed all tweets with the #popupmuseum #fflachamgueddfa hashtag. We used this as a way of highlighting interesting stories and providing information about what was happening at the pop-up over the 2 days. We also experimented with iBeacons and placed content about some of the objects on that so that people could access it using their hand held devices.
- 5. We invited the Media and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism!
To keep the buzz around the pop-up museum going, we managed to generate press interest in the pop-up. The experience was filmed by s4C for Heno and by Cardiff TV. Deputy Minister Ken Skates also came to the pop-up and contributed his Cardiff story. He was really interested in the fact that we had created a museum in 48 hours that anyone could contributed to.
- 6. Billy the Seal made it!
Thanks to the huge effort of conservation staff across Amgueddfa Cymru, Billy made it to the pop-up. Billy generated lots of interest and was definitely a big pull to the pop-up. It was useful to have one star object that attracted the curious. Those who knew about Billy’s story couldn’t believe that she was actually there and that it was part of the museum’s collections. And those who didn’t know the story were…confused but intrigued.
- 7. Working with Cardiff Story, HLF, and Youth Forum members
You can’t set up a pop-up museum without a team. The input from our Youth Forum members was invaluable, making sure that the processes of the pop-up ran smoothly and making sure that participants knew what to do. Staff members form the Heritage Lottery Fund provided guidance and support throughout the pop-up process. Working with Arran Rees and Lucy Connors from the Cardiff Story and was a great experience and we are already planning to create a pop-up together again in the future.
Make an Aria
What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.
So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.
The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.
The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.
We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.
Rosie Moriarty Simmonds at National Museum Cardiff
On Tuesday 14th October, Cardiff-born artist Rosie Moriarty Simmonds showcased her talent in the galleries at National Museum Cardiff, painting a version of La Parisienne – or the Blue Lady – by French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The event was part of a UK-wide roadshow organised by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). MFPA artists paint with a brush held in their mouth or foot where an accident, disability or illness means they are unable to use their hands. They have are 33 artists working in the UK, and over 800 worldwide.
Rosie, an MFPA student artist who paints holding a brush in her mouth, spent the afternoon in the galleries painting a version of La Parisienne and chatting to staff and visitors. ‘I like chatting to children the most’ she said. ‘They ask the questions adults are afraid to ask’.
Her passion for art goes back to her school days, although juggling family and career commitments has prevented her from devoting much time to it until recently.
Last year she was persuaded to submit a portfolio to the MFPA, and was awarded a 3-year scholarship which gives her financial support to develop her skills, buy art materials and pay for tutoring – although she said she has also learnt a lot from You Tube! She is currently mid-way through her scholarship.
Rosie described the experience as ‘a definite highlight of my career’, and that as a local girl growing up in Cardiff, Amgueddfa Cymru's art collection had always been a source of inspiration.
Her painting will be sent to the MFPA, who will then decide what to do with it and whether it will go on tour with other works. We will keep you posted!
Fanny Eaton, the Jamaican-born model in Millais' Jephthah
Last month we were given a fascinating insight into the life of Fanny Eaton, one of the models for John Everett Millais’ Jephthah (1867), which is currently on display in our Art in Victorian Britain gallery. Fanny is the figure at the far right of the painting, standing just before a curtain and wearing a yellow hood.
We were delighted to hear from Brian Eaton, Fanny’s great-grandson, who came with his wife Mary to see the painting. They first became interested in Fanny while researching their family tree, and since then have done a considerable amount of research into her personal history.
At the same time curators and art historians have become increasingly fascinated by Fanny, particularly following the exhibition Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900 at Manchester and Birmingham Art Galleries in 2005-6, and the accompanying catalogue written by the show’s curator Jan Marsh.
Fanny was born in Jamaica in 1835 but by 1851 was working as a servant in London where she lived with her mother Matilda Foster. Within a few years had begun to model for several Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic artists including Frederick Sandys, Albert Moore and Rebecca Solomon, probably to earn extra income. Her striking features made her a popular choice with 19th century artists. Dante Gabriel Rossetti compared her to the Pre-Raphaelite ‘stunner’ Jane Morris.
The earliest studies of Fanny that we know of are pencil studies drawn in 1859 by Simeon Solomon. These were used as studies for his Mother of Moses, now in the collection of Delaware Art Museum, US. When this painting was displayed in the Royal Academy in 1860, a reviewer for the Athenaeum thought her features represented 'an exagerated Jewish type’.1
This is one of the interesting things about Fanny. As Jan Marsh has pointed out in Black Victorians, although originally from Jamaica, she was described in her day as being of ‘mixed race’ and artists of the time used her distinctive features to represent a variety of different ethnicities or ‘types’. This is perhaps what attracted Millais to use her in Jephthah.
Jephthah seems to be the last painting to feature Fanny, although there may be more that are not yet identified. Brian and Mary Eaton are continuing with their research, and are particularly interested in finding out about Fanny’s early childhood in Jamaica and the circumstances that led to her moving to London with her mother.
We are grateful to Brian and Mary for sharing their findings, and hope that much more information about Fanny will come to light!
1. 19 May 1860, pages 688-90. Source: Simeon Solomon Research Archive
Unknown Wales 2014
Unknown Wales is a free annual public event organised by Amgueddfa Cymru’s Department of Natural Sciences in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales, to highlight the natural history treasures found in Wales. It allows the museum to tell a wide general audience about the collaborative efforts that we are a party to, fighting to protect the wildlife and its habitats across the country.
This year’s meeting, held on the 11th October in the Reardon Smith Theatre at National Museum Cardiff, had an audience of nearly 250 people. They heard talks about bank voles, diatoms (by the museum’s Ingrid Jüttner), sand lizards, dung beetles, fossil forests and rare fish. The meeting was rounded off by Stephen Moss of the BBC Natural History Unit, talking about conservation activities in Wales, such as the success story of the recovery of the red kite.
As in previous years, the event has been sponsored by one of our very generous Patrons.
Biology Rocks! at National Museum Cardiff
Biology rocked at National Museum Cardiff on Saturday 11th October, when over 3000 visitors joined scientists from Amgueddfa Cymru, Cardiff University and the Society of Biology to celebrate National Biology Week and Earth Science Week.
Visitors got the opportunity to see some of the specimens from our collections that aren’t usually on display and to talk to Museum experts about their work. Specimens from the Marine and Mollusca collections provided inspiration for a mural depicting life in the seas around Wales, which became more colourful and populated throughout the day!
As part of the Geological Society’s ‘100 Great Geosites’ campaign, Museum geologists displayed rocks, fossils and minerals from our collections, as well as stunning images of some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in Wales. Members of the public were invited to vote for their favourite site in Wales, with the dinosaur footprints from Bendricks Rocks, near Barry, emerging as the clear favourite on the day.
To mark the recent arrival of two hives on our roof, staff from the Entomology and Botany Sections gave visitors the opportunity to take a closer look at bee specimens from our collections and to experience a ‘bee’s eye view’ of the world by playing a pollination game, collecting ‘pollen’ and ‘nectar’ from various flowers.
Scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences and School of Earth and Ocean Sciences put on a variety of displays and activities throughout the Museum. Among the many activities on offer, visitors could try their hand at organ transplant using a life-size Operation game, race maggots, work out how big a dinosaur was from its footprint, discover first-hand how fungi get their spots, and learn the importance of reporting road kill with the Splatter Project.
Unlocking records from backlog collections
This week we were delighted to welcome our new intern, Seren Thomas, to the Department of Natural Sciences. Seren is already known to the department having volunteered for us in the Mollusca and Botany Sections whilst studying for her degree five years ago. Now, with her degree behind her, including a professional training year at Kew Gardens, and a Masters degree starting late next year, Seren was keen to work with us once again. So, what will she be doing…
There is so much useful information held in our collections that we are continually trying to make available and disseminate. Seren will be helping unlock data from our non-marine British backlog collections in Mollusca (primarily slugs and snails). These specimens date from before 1900 to the present, cumulatively spanning almost the whole of Britain and Ireland, representing many species and habitats. The project will involve repackage and re-labelling each species in turn, and extracting, verifying and georeferencing the species and site data. This will allow the data to be exported to the national environmental recording networks via the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. It will also help the material to be used more efficiently and widely in our research projects and other activities.
Watch this space to see how the project progresses over the next year and beyond.