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Museum conservators are responsible for the care of collections. This includes appropriate storage of objects, housekeeping, and maintaining the correct environmental conditions to stop, for example, books in library collections from getting mouldy. In addition, emergency preparedness is another aspect of collections care (or: preventive conservation). How important this is was recently demonstrated during a large fire that gutted an entire historic property.

The fire at Clandon Park in April 2015 was devastating. However, a large part of the objects on display in the house were rescued successfully. This was only possible because the National Trust, who owns Clandon Park, has in place extremely well organised emergency plans. When the fire broke out these plans kicked into action immediately, and a well-rehearsed cooperation with the fire service led to the salvage of hundreds of objects from the house.

The fire fighters risked their lives to salvage important cultural objects. In addition, the help from staff, volunteers and local people must not be forgotten. But the point I am trying to make is that without an emergency plan, all of those helpers may not have achieved very much.

The documentation handed over to the emergency services in case of a disaster in a historic property or museum includes information on what the most important objects are, where they are kept and how they are secured. This enables planning a salvage operation down to taking the tools required for object removal into the building; it avoids the situation where you stand in a burning room in front of the object that needs to be removed quickly only to find out you took a flat-head screwdriver, rather than the Phillips you actually needed.

Emergencies are not restricted to fires. Floods, storms, even earthquakes and acts of terrorism (for example, the attack on the Bardot, Tunisia’s National Museum) can all lead to cultural heritage being damaged. In Wales, the Assembly Government has set up an Emergency Planning Network for museums to help museums, archives and libraries prepare for emergencies. The development of a network response group provides heritage professionals to help museums, archives and libraries in the event of an emergency, and assist with salvage and recovery.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has its own emergency plans which we hope will never have to be used – but it is nevertheless important to be prepared. Disaster preparation is part of the role of preventive conservators; we attempt to limit damage occurring to cultural objects in our care to keep them safe for you and future generations. This involves risk assessments, minimising risks – and being prepared for the worst to happen.

If you would like to know more about disaster prevention in museums, and heritage preservation in general, follow our blog, or Cardiff University's “Heritage in Turbulent Times” blog, and come to our free event at National Museum Cardiff on 11th July with talks on why scientists shoot with guns at building stones, restoration/preservation/conservation, flint in Egyptian Pharaonic warfare, and war-damaged monuments.

"Heritage in Turbulent Times" is a joint project between Cardiff University and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.  

Every week on #FossilFriday we like to highlight specimens from the palaeontological collections of the Natural Sciences Department at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, via our @CardiffCurator Twitter account. Sometimes they are fossils on display at National Museum Cardiff, whilst at other times they form part of the collections behind the scenes.

Interested in trilobites, ammonites and dinosaurs? Then why not find out what we have been tweeting over the last year or so in the following two Storify Stories: ‘Friday is Fossil Time’ and ‘Fantastic Fossils’.

If you find these interesting why not follow us on Twitter.

Dros y chwe mis diwethaf, ceir sawl cyfeiriad gan @DyddiadurKate am bobi bara ceirch:

   23 Chwefror: “Pobi bara ceirch y boreu.”

   23 Mawrth: “Bobi bara ceirch y boreu.”

   26 Mai: ”Pobi bara ceirch y boreu.”

   7 Mehefin: “Pobi bara ceirch yn y boreu.”

Ddoe, bu hi’n “Pobi bara ceirch dros y cynheuaf.”

Mae gwneud bara ceirch yn hen grefft sy’n perthyn i’r  Alban, Lloegr, Cymru ac Iwerddon. Er bod ‘na fân amrywiaethau rhwng y gwledydd, a hyd yn oed rhwng siroedd ac ardaloedd o fewn yr un wlad, yr un ydi’r grefft yn ei hanfod – creu toes allan o gymysgedd hynod o syml o flawd ceirch a dŵr, ei lunio’n dorthau, a’u crasu.  Y gamp oedd creu torth denau, gron gyda’i hymyl mor llyfn â phlât. Eto i gyd, ni chyfrai Kate hyn yn grefft:

“oedde ni’m yn gyfri o’n grefft nag o’dd e nachos o’e ni ‘di ca’l y magu iddo fo doedden. Mi fydde Mam yn gneud y chi, ie, o Nain yn gneud, dene o’n i weld erioed ‘n te.”

Yn ôl y dystiolaeth a gasglwyd, mae’n debyg fod ‘na ddau ddull gwahanol o lunio bara ceirch yng Nghymru – un oedd dal yn bodoli yn sir Feirionnydd yng nghyfnod gwaith maes Minwel Tibbott (ac oedd yn nodweddiadol o ogledd Cymru), a’r llall oedd yn perthyn i siroedd Caerfyrddin ac Aberteifi.

Dyma rysáit o ardal Y Bala a gofnodwyd gan Minwel yn ei chasgliad o ryseitiau traddodiadol, Amser Bwyd:

llond cwpan wy o ddŵr claear

hanner llond llwy de o doddion cig moch

tua thri llond dwrn o flawd ceirch

Toddi’r saim yn y dŵr a gollwng y blawd ceirch iddo yn raddol gan dylino’r cymysgedd yn does meddal.

Taenu ychydig o flawd ceirch ar fwrdd pren, rhoi’r toes arno a’i foldio rhwng y ddwy law i ffurf ‘cocyn’ bychan.  Yna ei ledu â chledr y llaw a’i ffurfio’n dorth gron o dua maint soser go fawr.

Yn awr defnyddier rholbren i yrru’r dorth, ac wrth ei gyrru ei lletroi bob hyn a hyn, sef rhoi rhyw chwarter tro iddi ar y bwrdd, gan wasgu ymyl y dorth â blaen bysedd y llaw dde i’w rhwystro rhag cracio.

Rhoi’r dorth derfynol (o’r un maint â phlât cinio go fawr) o’r neilltu i galedu rhyw gymaint cyn ei chrasu.

Crasu’r dorth ar radell weddol boeth a’i throi i’w chrasu’n gyson ar y ddwy ochr.  Yna rhoi’r dorth i sychu a chaledu mewn lle cynnes.

Paratoid ail fath o fara ceirch yn siroedd y Gogledd, sef bara caled. 'Doedd y rhain ddim yn cynnwys saim, dim ond dŵr a blawd ceirch. Prif reswm gwneud y bara ceirch yma ym Meirionnydd oedd i baratoi siot. Yng ngeiriau Kate: “Ca’l y bara a’i falu o’n te ac wedyn ca’l y malwr ‘te – peth pwrpasol o’ hwnnw eto’n te yn Tŷ Hen. Rhywbeth fel rholbren ond bo ne ricie yn ‘o fo er mwyn i’r bara dorri’n fân wychi’n te … A roi o yn y fywlen a llaeth enwyn am i ben o a’i gymysgu o. Ma’ rhai’n licio fo ‘di adel o am dipyn ‘te a lleill yn licio fo’n syth.” Byddent yn ei fwyta “o flaen ‘i te bob amser bron … ‘im yn geua w’rach ‘n te ‘chos o rai chi dw’mo llaeth enwyn yn gûa’n bydde.”

Yn ystod misoedd yr haf arferid ei gario allan i'r caeau adeg y cynhaeaf fel byrbryd rhwng prydau i'r gweithwyr, ac roedd plant yn hoffo'i gario i'r ysgol ar gyfer eu cinio yn yr haf. Yn ôl tystiolaeth y gwragedd a holwyd, ‘doedd dim yn well i dorri syched ar ôl treulio oriau yn y cae gwair. Atega Kate, “pan fydde c’nûa [cynhaeaf] yn ‘i anterth o ni’n mynd â ryw tamed chwech i’dd n’w’n ‘te. ‘Dyn welish i gal siot ne fynd ag uwd w’rach ‘n ‘te.”

Bu’r grefft o yrru bara ceirch bara tan hanner cyntaf yr 1900au. Ond erbyn y cyfnod hwn, moethyn i’w fwyta yn achlysurol oedd o, yn hytrach na bara bob dydd. Y dull mwya cyffredin o fwyta’r bara ceirch hwn yn siroedd gogledd Cymru oedd rhoi darn o dorth geirch unai rhwng dwy frechdan wen neu wyneb yn wyneb ar un frechdan wen.  Amrywiai’r enwau a roddid ar y rhain, e.e., ‘brechdan gaerog,’ ‘brechdan linsi,’ brechdan fetal,’ ‘piogen’ a ‘pioden’. I gloi gyda geiriau  Kate unwaith eto: “Fydde ar y bwr’ bob pryd yn yr amser o’n i’n bodoli amser honno ‘te a’u bwyta o fewn brechdan … bechdan geurog … ‘s’licio cal un heno …”

On the 5th June undeterred by his previous stinging incident Nigel ventured up to the rooftop hives, this time accompanied by Sally.  The weather was much better for this visit, a nice sunny warm day with temperatures about 17 °C and very light winds.  The pair started checking the hives, the weaker colony was its usual slightly depressed self, it was noted that there were reserves of honey and a reasonable number of capped brood on the central frames of the hive. The beekeepers went through the frames one at a time and inspected the bees and despite there being far fewer bees in this hive the queen couldn’t be spotted! She’s unmarked and really quite a small queen bee compared to our other one, so it’s not unsurprising that she’s hard to spot even if there are only a few bees!

The strong colony was thriving and incredibly busy as usual. The small frames in the super are getting heavy with honey and some of the frames are almost full and the bees are sealing them with a cap of wax. Looking through the large Deep National brood box frames it was clear that there were more queen cells being produced. Sally and Nigel removed 11 cells – some which were definitely queen cells and some others were suspect drone or play cells (cells where the bees test building queen cups but never lay any eggs), clearly our bees are intent on producing a new queen but why? Queen cups/cells can be several different types: Emergency Queen Cells- produced when the queen is dead or lost; Swarm Cells, produced around the bottom of the frames and are completely vertical and lastly and the type we seem to have most of, are Supersedence Cells. These long vertical cells are produced mid frame on the face of the comb. The intention of these cells is to produce a replacement queen, usually when the existing queen is old or is running out of sperm. Really there should be no need to remove these Supersedence cells but with a young queen, bred last year, and lots of healthy brood being produced, removal of these cells seems like a wise precaution. In the next few weeks we’ll be bringing our bee keeping mentors from Natures Little Helpers to advise on how best to deal with them in the long term. 

There was more pain for Nigel this inspection, although he was wearing a smock and veil over the top half of his body he only had thin suit flannel trousers on!

Over many of the past inspections it has seemed like the bees are preferentially attracted to or angered by male beekeepers. The guys have been stung with far greater frequency than our female beekeepers. This time Nigel must have really aggravated them – he was stung 6 times through his thin trousers! Six times! That must have really hurt- I bet there was some choice language used!

St Brigid’s primary in Denbighshire won a trip to The National Slate Museum in Llanberis and a day of nature based activities as their prize for participating in the Spring Bulbs in schools project 2014-15. St Brigid’s year 6 class worked very hard on the project this year, taking daily weather readings and sending these in weekly to the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales website. Each pupil cared for their plants and entered their individual flowering dates and heights to the website.

It was very hard to choose winners this year, as many schools had complete or near complete weather records. To make the decision fair the top schools were entered into a hat and a winner picked out at random for Wales, England and Scotland. Those that were not picked out became the ‘runners up’ who each received £40 gift vouchers to spend on gardening resources for their schools. The ‘highly commended’ schools received meadow resource packs, meadow seeds and sunflower seeds. The ‘special recognition’ schools received meadow resource packs and meadow seeds. All schools who entered data were awarded Super Scientist certificates and pencils in recognition of the fantastic work they have done for National Museum Wales through taking part in the investigation. 

St Brigid’s visited Llanberis on 22 May, where they were greeted by Dafydd Roberts the Museum’s Keeper and myself, the Spring Bulbs Project Co-ordinator. We began by discussing the project results for 2014-15 and comparing these to previous years. You can study the report summary 2005-2015 for yourself here.

Next, we were escorted to the Quarrymen’s Cottages at Fron Haul and given a fascinating overview by Wyn Lloyd-Hughes of how life for the inhabitants would have changed over the course of 100 years. This was a fantastic way of bringing the stories and lives of the families associated with the local slate industry alive and the group enjoyed exploring the houses and discussing differences in décor and possessions between 1861, 1901 and 1969.

Following Fron Haul, we rushed over to the yard for a short introductory film about the history of the North Wales slate industry; ‘To Steal a Mountain’. This was very atmospheric, with the class falling silent as the lights dimmed and gasping at dramatic (or loud) intervals in the film. This was followed by a slate splitting demonstration by Carwyn Price, who split and dressed slate in front of the group. We watched as he split slate tiles and dressed slate into the shape of a heart. He showed us other examples of art that could be created with these methods, such as fans and love spoons. Carwyn offered the audience a chance to try their hand at slate splitting and the class nominated their teacher Mr Madog! He did a great job and was cheered throughout by the class.

Next, Peredur Hughes took us for a tour of the Museum’s working water wheel and explained the process that turned it and how this power was harnessed to operated machines in the Gilfach Ddu workshops. This is the largest water wheel on the British mainland with a diameter of 15.4 meters, and was used between 1870 and 1925 when it was replaced by a Pelton wheel. Standing under the wheel as it sprays water, gently groans and continually turns is quite an experience, especially when you begin to comprehend the engineering skills needed to design and build it. As part of the Spring Bulbs project schools are provided with resources to aid discussions around climate change and different energy sources - seeing a massive water wheel in motion added a level of understanding to these investigations.

A quick break for lunch and we were off up to the quarry for our nature activities. To begin with we discussed the smells, textures, sounds and sights of the woodland. We then went on a mini-beast hunt which led to discussions on how to classify different species and the different habitats our mini-beasts favoured. After making our own ‘perfumes of the forest’, finding out how many legs a woodlice has and that boys are just as squeamish as girls – we moved on to our next activity and built a nest! The group were very enthusiastic, as you can tell from the pictures and the size of the branches/ trees they managed to move with their makeshift beaks (I think there may have been a little cheating here!). It was a fantastic photo opportunity and great fun.

Peredur met us at the Vivian Quarry and gave us an insight into it’s history, including a closer look at the cliffs of slate and an insight into how the Quarrymen worked and interpreted the face of the Quarry. He discussed the rock man’s terms used to differentiate sections of slate, the geology behind their make-up, and how being able to tell a ‘trwyn’ from a ‘cefn crwn‘ helped Quarrymen interpret the slate, manipulate it to the results they wanted, and lessen the risk to their lives through making it possible to predict the results of their work. This was fascinating, the Vivian Quarry provided a beautiful setting, and it was a lovely way to end our day.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting year 6 St Brigid’s and being able to thank them personally for their contribution to the Spring Bulbs in Schools project. It was a fantastic day, and I would like to thank the staff at the National Slate Museum for their hospitality and the time and effort they gave to make the trip such fun.

Applications are now open for schools in Wales to participate in the Spring Bulbs Project 2015-16. The winners will receive an action packed class trip full of nature activities to their closest Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales site.

Apply here!


Applications are now closed for schools in England and Scotland, but these schools can find information on next years project (2016-17) on the Edina Trust website.