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Cymraeg

May 2014

Overcoming the Taxonomic Impediment in the Amazon

Posted by Adrian Plant on 28 May 2014

An undescribed Hemerodromiinae from the Amazon

Another undescribed Hemerodromiinae from the Amazon

It is well known that the Amazon rainforests are amongst the most biodiverse places on the planet. However, much of this biodiversity remains completely unknown having never been formally described and with absolutely no knowledge of the ecological and other conditions required for its survival. This profound lack of scientific knowledge arises from what is called the Taxonomic Impediment - there simply are too few taxonomists (people who can identify and describe living things) to get to grips with the magnitude of biodiversity. The Taxonomic Impediment is a world-wide problem as taxonomists themselves have become endangered species and few, if any, countries now devote sufficient resources to biodiversity research. There are many unfortunate knock-ons from this fact; for example designing rational conservation strategies is difficult without knowledge of the animals and plants that live in an area and some knowledge of why. It is only taxonomists who can deliver this knowledge.

In the Brazilian Amazon the situation is improving with a major research institute Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) now conducting extensive taxonomic research and training a new generation of taxonomists to lead in future biodiversity studies. One such trainee is Josenir Camara, a PhD student at INPA now spending 6 months as an intern at Amgueddfa Cymru under the tutelage of Dr Adrian Plant (Principle Curator, Entomology). Josenir’s research is describing the diversity of a group of aquatic flies (Hemerodromiinae). She has already discovered more than 50 new species, and using sophisticated cladistic techniques to understand more of their evolutionary relationships with related forms elsewhere in the world. The Museum’s extensive collections and taxonomic skills will be an invaluable aid to develop her research and the expertise and experience she develops will be lasting benefits she will take home to Brazil. A small but positive contribution to removing the Taxonomic Impediment in her own country.

 

 

 

Spring Bulb for Schools: Results 2005-2014

Posted by Catalena Angele on 27 May 2014

The ‘Spring Bulbs for Schools’ project allows 1000s of schools scientists to work with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales to investigate and understand climate change.

Since October 2005, school scientists have been keeping weather records and noting when their flowers open, as part of a long-term study looking at the effects of temperature on spring bulbs.

Certificates have now been sent out to all the 4,075 pupils that completed the project this year.

See Professor Plant's reports or download the spreadsheet to study the trends for yourself!

  • Make graphs & frequency charts or calculate the mean.
  • See if the flowers opened late in schools that recorded cold weather.
  • See how temperature, sunshine and rainfall affect the average flowering dates.
  • Look for trends between different locations.
     
Many Thanks

Professor Plant

www.museumwales.ac.uk/scan/bulbs

Twitter http://twitter.com/Professor_Plant

From Amazonian Rainforest to Welsh Rain!

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 23 May 2014

Collecting insects in the Amazon

Josenir Camara on the Javari River 

Mountains at Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira on the Rio Negro

Brazilian PhD student Josenir Camara is working with Dr Adrian Plant, Principle Curator of Entomology at Amgueddfa Cymru, on a three-year project to describe some of the diversity of Diptera (flies) inhabiting the rainforest of Brazil’s Amazon Basin. The two researchers have already made numerous collecting expeditions to remote parts of the Amazon, but now they are both back in Cardiff where Josenir will spend the next six months studying at the Museum. As a part of her research she will describe all the Amazonian species of a group of water-inhabiting flies known as Hemerodromia. She already has more than 50 species that are completely new to science and once these have been formally described, the next task is to construct an evolutionary tree showing how the Amazonian Hemerodromia have diversified in respect to Hemerodromia elsewhere in the world. This is where Amgueddfa Cymru comes in as our extensive collections will provide her with an invaluable resource she can use to compare how Amazonian species differ from others. By careful comparison of ‘characters’ of each species and using sophisticated computing methods, Josenir will construct a ‘phylogenetic tree’ to illustrate the sequence of evolutionary changes that have occurred. By comparing the evolutionary tree with the fossil record, geological and climatic history it is hoped that we start to learn more about the biogeography of the Amazon (biogeography is the study of how species and communities or organisms become distributed both geographically and through geologic time).

 

FIGHTING AGAINST FOXING

Posted by Maria del Mar Mateo on 22 May 2014
Close up foxing detail, before treatment. ‘Ready for sea’ by Muirhead Bone.

Close up foxing detail, before treatment. ‘Ready for sea’ by Muirhead Bone.

Close up foxing removed detail, after treatment. ‘Ready for sea’ by Muirhead Bone.

Close up foxing removed detail, after treatment. ‘Ready for sea’ by Muirhead Bone.

Do you want to know what happened after washing one of the lithograph prints??

So here you are, the before and after washing treatment where you can see that the foxing spots have disappeared completely over the paper surface.

As we said before, the foxing reddish-brown spots can appear in the paper surface due to different causes. For example, the print has been exposed to relative humidity and temperature fluctuations for a long period of time creating an environment for the growing of mould or another possibility, could be that during the paper making process were used raw materials infested with mould.

These micro-organisms can remain latent for months or years awaiting for the appropriate conditions for growth and there are a wide range of colour stains. In some of the lithograph prints we found basically small yellow spots in different areas of the paper surface.

Give and Gain Day 2014

Posted by Hywel Couch on 19 May 2014

Sharpening the posts

Sledge Hammer!

Building the hedge

The Volunteers!

» View full post to see all images

Last week, as part of Give and Gain Day 2014, we had 50 volunteers from the Lloyds Banking Group helping with a number of projects here at St Fagans. Some helped with the Gardening Department, some helped the Historic Buildings Unit while some assisted with a project alongside the Alzheimer’s Society. Myself and Bernice had the help of 11 volunteers to build a dead hedge in the woodlands near the bird hide.

We had been planning on building a dead hedge in near the bird hide for a while, for a number of reasons. A dead hedge would act as a screen for approaching the bird hide, meaning that birds on the feeders would be less likely to be scared by the approaching visitors. A dead hedge also acts as a wildlife corridor, giving cover to a wide variety of wildlife as they move through the woodlands. Visitors had also begun cutting through the woodland, and one section of the dead hedge was to act as a deterrent meaning visitors would be more likely to stick to the paths.

The first task of the day was the sharpening of the fence posts. The posts are needed for structure and need to be driven firmly into the ground. Creating the sharp end obviously makes this much easier. After creating pilot holes, the poles were then driven into the ground using a sledge hammer. Once the posts were in place, we could then begin to assemble the dead hedge.

A dead hedge is built up of dead woodland material. Over the past couple of weeks I have been asking the gardeners and farmers here to help by collecting any trimmings and off cuts and delivering these to the bird hide for use in this project. Everyone was incredibly helpful, and we ended up with a vast pile of material… or so I thought. Dead hedging takes a lot of material, so along with some of the volunteers I headed into the woods to do a bit of clearing to gain more material.

After lunch, we headed up into the woods near the site of Bryn Eryr, the Iron Age farmstead currently being built. This area has previously been cleared so there was a lot of cut material for us to collect. This was loaded into a trailer and taken over to the bird hide. The afternoon finished with us using this material to finish the dead hedge. As an artistic final touch, we used some lime cuttings to add extra height and a certain je ne sais quois to the finished hedge.

As these pictures show, the day was a huge success! The weather could not have been better and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. The 2 sections of dead hedge we wanted to build got done, and I’ve already earmarked some projects for future volunteers! The amount of work done in a day was incredible, it would have taken me and Bernice a lot longer to do without the help of the volunteers. A huge thank you to everyone who helped us and the other projects too!

Aurelian Society

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 13 May 2014

The following photographs are from the book, Twelve new designs of English butterflies, by Benjamin Wilkes [published in 1742]. This rare work consists solely of twelve engraved plates each depicting geometric arrangements of both butterflies and moths. Wilkes produced this profoundly beautiful work as member of the Aurelian Society. Aurelian is an archaic word for lepidopterist [one who is interested in butterflies]; the term is derived from aurelia, meaning chrysalis, and relates to the golden colour it may attain just before the butterfly emerges.

The Society of Aurelians [London], one of the oldest organized bodies of specialists in any branch of zoology. The group collected and documented insects from the 1690s but came to an abrupt end in March 1748. While members of the society were in a meeting in the Swan Tavern, a great fire broke out  in Cornhill and enveloped them. All the members escaped, but their entire collection, library, and records were destroyed. This event was documented by Moses Harris in The Aurelian; or, Natural History of English Insects (1765). The loss disheartened the group so much that they never managed to regroup again…Aurelian societies were formed several times in Britain [most notable 1762 and 1801], but each time they collapsed.

…Benjamin Wilkes was an 18th-century artist and naturalist whose profession was 'painting of History Pieces and Portraits in Oil'. When a friend invited him to a meeting of the Aurelian Society, where he first saw specimens of butterflies and moths, he became convinced that nature would be his 'best instructor' as to colour and form in art. He began to study entomology spending his leisure time collecting, studying and drawing the images larvae, pupae and parasitic flies of Lepidoptera, assisted by the collector Mr Joseph Dandridge. Wilkes' own collection was kept 'against the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street' London 'Where any gentleman or lady' could see his collection of insects [Wikipedia].

 

 

Our  holdings of other Aurelian books include:

The English Lepidoptera: or, the Aurelian's pocket companion: containing a catalogue of upward of four hundred moths and butterflies ... / Moses Harris [1775]

 The aurelian. a natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also .../ Moses Harris [1766]

 English moths and butterflies… Benjamin Wilkes [1749] This work ran to three editions of which the last, incorporating Linnaean nomenclature, was published in 1824

 The British Aurelian:  twelve new designs of British Butterflies and Directions for making a collection, with an essay by R.S. Wilkinson / Benjamin Wilkes, R.S. Wilkinson [1982]

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

HOLBEIN WATERMARK

Posted by Maria del Mar Mateo on 9 May 2014
Holobein watermark shown using transmited light

Holobein watermark shown using transmited light

Example of a paper makers mould showing how might have looked.

Example of a paper makers mould showing how might have looked.

Horton Kirby Mill, South Darenth, Kent in 1872

Horton Kirby Mill, South Darenth, Kent in 1872

Hello again!

This week we are going to talk about the watermark found on the lithograph prints.

Do you know what a watermark is? Well, the watermark is a design or a pattern which is made during the paper production by the paper makers. The first paper mill which introduced a watermark in its papers was Fabriano, Italy in 1282. A watermark is made by attaching wire in a shape or letters to the mould, the sieve which catches the fibres making a sheet of paper. This then causes the paper to be thinner in this areas. Another way to make a watermark is impressing a water-coated metal stamp or dandy roll onto the paper during manufacturing. Watermarks can show us the manufacturer’s name, an animal, geometric designs, etc.

If you hold a bank note against the light you will be able to see a watermark!

During the lithograph prints conservation process we found in many thinner papers a Holbein watermark. After some research, we discovered that Holbein paper was a handmade printing paper sold by Spalding & Hodge, 145-7 Drury Lane, London WC. At the end of nineteenth century Spalding & Hodge were the owners of paper mills at East Malling in Kent also they bought Horton Kirby Mill, South Darenth, Kent in 1872.

Transforming Futures

Posted by David Anderson on 2 May 2014

Exactly one month ago to today, Amgueddfa Cymru launched two publications which set out how museums and other arts and heritage organisations can help achieve the essential goal of equity of opportunity for all children to develop their talents. In this blog, David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru, shares his views about both publications and why this work is important.

A few years ago, I was involved in a project run jointly with a children's charity to offer creative design projects for children in care. Their work was exhibited in the galleries of a museum. One girl made a quilt that I still vividly remember. On it she had sewn the words, "Why does he get everything and I get nothing?”. I never learnt the story behind the words on that quilt, and perhaps it was too personal to share.

The earliest evidence of a child in Wales is the teeth of a girl aged 9 years, one of a group of Neanderthal humans whose remains had been washed into a cave in Pontnewydd, along with the bones of hyenas and other wild animals of that period. They have been dated to around 240,000 BC. Before her early death, this girl would have learnt her culture - making tools, cooking food, hunting, gathering flowers and burying her dead - from her parents and others in the group.

In a series he wrote and presented for Ulster Television in 1987-8 Professor John Blacking, the ethno-musicologist, said, "Every individual as a baby has thought in movement before thinking in words". Creativity is a movement of the body, he said. We are moved into thinking. For him, culture exists only in performance - for children as well as adults.

Not so long ago, children in Wales worked in workshops, factories and mines. They have always been makers of culture as well as recipients. Even today, children across the world make their own toys. Children in Western Asia still make carpets. The collections of museums are full of beautiful things made by children.

The extraordinarily fine Ardebil Carpet, that so awed and inspired William Morris, is believed by many to have been produced by the hands of children. The hardships endured by working children - in the past and today across the world - tell us what skills and creativity children are capable of, even under conditions of privation.

True creative cultural participation for children is not - or at least should not - be an option. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to participation in the cultural life of the community as one of the five fundamental rights. Who are we to deny that right to children?

In 1942, the Beveridge report identified squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease as five giant evils that Britain should slay, and the Post-War Labour Government set out to do this. But Beveridge should have added a sixth giant to his list: cultural exclusion. In our own time, Kay Andrews and Dai Smith have between them written a modern Beveridge report for the cultural lives of children in Wales.

Among their many key messages are that we should commit to provide:

            (i) full ongoing creative participation - not just occasional access;

            (ii) as a right - not just an option;

            (iii) for every child - not just the few.

The cultural sector is Wales' second education sector. It compliments and enriches the school, college and higher education system. Each year, the seven museums of Amgueddfa Cymru alone serve approximately 250,000 schoolchildren and 750,000 children and adults in family groups. The creative, experiential learning that museums can offer has been shown time and again over the years to inspire children who, for the school system alone, are hard to reach.

Museums and other arts and heritage organisations have a vital role in inspiring, extending and developing each child's engagement with their cultural offer. But children's cultural lives are far wider than than can be found even in our national and local cultural institutions.

Every child has their own talents and potential. Is it bringing people together and making friends,  identifying plants, writing a diary, caring for older people, dancing, diagnosing faults and repairing machines, bee-keeping, telling stories, taking photographs, designing electronic circuits, playing sport, to studying birds and animals, shaping metal, writing and performing music, exploring, making others laugh, seeing patterns others miss, testing water quality, sharing skills, carving in wood and stone, and a thousand other ways to make the world a better place? Any of these, and a mind that is always curious, critical and open to new ideas and experiences.

Some children want to become Billy Elliott and they should be supported in doing so . But most want to be something else.

The industrialist John Harvey-Jones said that everyone has talent; it is the job of the educator to help them to find it. And it is particularly the role of museums and other arts and cultural organisations to help children to find their talents in the sciences, arts and humanities, in a welcoming and social environment.

If we limit ourselves to telling children what we ourselves know, we do them, and future society, a great disservice. That would be not education but counter-education. Yet far too often - through a conservative and anti-intellectual mis-appropriation of our historic public purpose - it is counter-education that we offer.

These two publications on Transforming Futures set out these new agendas for museums and other arts and heritage organisations in achieving the essential goal of equity of opportunity for all children to develop their talents. Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales began work on them in 2012. But they very much compliment and support the recommendations of Kay Andrews' and Dai Smith's reports.

But whereas those reports were - quite rightly - principally concerned with national policy and infrastructure, the Transforming Futures publications are intended more to support cultural institutions on the ground. Among the recommendations of the Transforming Futures reports are proposals for:

            (i) fundamental changes in the work of cultural institutions themselves

            (ii) new research on effective practice by cultural organisations

            (iii) a new code of ethics for cultural organisations with principles to guide our work.

 

Poverty and exclusion in Wales - and across the UK - is growing year by year. We have an ethical responsibility to respond.

It is our task to create something new: a National Cultural Service for Children. Like health, education, housing and every other universal service, children's cultural participation must be developed locally, if it is to be effective, but within a national framework. 

We should not say we cannot afford it. When the Beveridge Report was completed in 1942, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer tried to prevent its publication, saying that it was unaffordable. Yet, a few years later, the post-War Attlee Government implemented the most radical programme of equality that Wales and the UK has ever seen.  

But decade by decade, as the NHS has provided health services free at the point of delivery, and comprehensive schools have given every child free education, the giant of cultural exclusion has continued to stalk the nation unchallenged.

We can change this. So that no child should need to say, "Why does he get everything, and I get nothing?".

Renewed Hope?

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 2 May 2014

The nest of Peregrine falcons in the clock tower appears to have failed, due to unknown causes sometime during the last week or so. However, after an absence of several days, both birds are showing renewed interest in the nest-site. Today has seen considerable activity with one bird visiting the nest several times and apparently busying itself tidying the interior while the other bird of the pair watched from close by. Although peregrines only have one brood each year, if the first brood is lost at an early stage they sometimes re-lay a second clutch, either in the original nest, or perhaps more often, at a nearby site. We now watch, wait and hope that a new clutch of eggs will be laid sometime in the near future and that these magnificent falcons will have more success the second time around.

Adrian Plant

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 1 May 2014

One major acquisition that entered the industry collection this month was a collection of 76 film negatives of collieries in South Wales. 61 of these film negatives show the reconstruction at Hafodyrynys Colliery in 1956. Two images showing the ongoing work are shown here :- 

 

 

Another object to enter the collection this month is this receipt is from the Dinas Steam Colliery Co. Ltd. to Mrs Thomas of the Graig Ddu Inn, Dinas, and is dated 3 December 1887. The Graig Ddu Inn was 100 yards from the colliery, and the tram of coal would have been delivered direct to the house.

 

This set of five British Coal South Wales Area rescue and fire fighting plans are for Marine/Six Bells Colliery. They are dated 23 September 1988. The five plans are stapled together, and the top one is shown here.

 

These two paintings are an important addition to our art collections relating to the coal industry in Wales. They were donated recently and are both oils on canvas. The first is dated January 1862 and is a portrait of Thomas Powell aged 81. Thomas Powell founded the Powell Duffryn Coal Company. In 1840 Powell sunk the first deep mine at Cwmbach, Aberdare. This was followed by further deep mines in Aberdare (Cwmdare, Abernant, Abergwawr, Middle Duffryn and Cwmpennar) and in the Rhymney Valley. At their peak these collieries produced over 400,000 tons of coal each per annum. Thomas was the world's first coal millionaire, and he died in March 1863.

 

The second painting shows Thomas Powell's eldest son, Thomas Powell Junior (1827-1869) with his wife Julia and son John, and dates to about 1862. The family along with the entire safari party they were part of were killed in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1869 whilst elephant hunting.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curatorial Assistant (Industry)

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW