I Spy...Nature Exhibition is open
Dr Rhys Jones officially launching the I Spy...Nature Exhibition
Viewing specimens in the field zone
Viewing up-close historic microscope slides
Saturday 19th July saw the official launch of the 'I Spy...Nature' Exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. The exhibition was officially opened by BBC wildlife presenter Dr Rhys Jones and many families were able to experience the exhibition first hand. Natural Science curators were also on hand showing a plethora of specimens from the Museum's Natural History Collections, including insects, marine invertebrates, fossils, fungi, plants, minerals and much more. The public helped to create fantastic modern and prehistoric scenes with beautifully coloured pictures.
The BBC and the Arts In the Nations and Regions: Impartiality - and Equality?
I am a passionate supporter of a publicly-funded BBC. Along with the NHS, social care and the state education system, I regard it as one of the four vital pillars of public service on these islands - evidence that democracy works. If I ask questions, and challenge practice, it is because I want the BBC to survive and thrive at the centre of public life. It is a beacon of truths in a world of commercial interests. It provides a public space for debate that is vital for our democracy.
I was born in Northern Ireland, grew up in the industrial Midlands of England, and went to university in Scotland. For the last four years I have worked in Wales. I have lived in every nation of the United Kingdom.
The culture of any nation or region is an ecosystem, made up of a number of mutually dependent parts. As well as arts and cultural institutions, these also include the print and broadcast media, public and private funders, the education sector, the tourism industry and - last but not least - creative industries and individual professionals.
Also essential to all of this is the wider community, whose informed support and creative participation is the lifeblood of all cultural activity. A creative economy depends upon a creative society.
The nations and regions of the United Kingdom outside London - with the exception, arguably, of the central belt in Scotland - do not have all the elements that they need to ensure a thriving arts ecosystem.
Wales, for example, has very strong resources of talent and great national arts and cultural institutions. Through recent reports by Dai Smith on the role of the arts in education, and by Baroness Kay Andrews on the importance of cultural participation in overcoming barriers created by poverty, Wales has recognised the value of cultural education.
But, like much of the rest of the United Kingdom, we do not get our fair share of UK funding for our arts. Nor do we have the coverage from the UK media that its quality
deserves. This lack of recognition and publicity from the UK print and broadcasting media - with the credibility that comes with it - in turn makes it still harder for us to attract the private funding that we need so badly, to invest in our programmes and, for example, to provide match funding for Lottery bids.
Many of the key decisions that determine profile for the arts are made by publicly funded organisations based in London, such as the BBC and Visit Britain, which appear to have little knowledge or understanding of what is happening in the rest of the United Kingdom, and especially the devolved nations.
Funding of the arts, employment in the arts, public access to and participation in the arts, and control of the arts are also scandalously unequal. 71% of funding for the arts in the whole of the UK from trusts and foundations, corporate donors and private individuals goes to London institutions. The remaining 29% has to be shared out between all the other nations and regions.
We are in the second decade of the twenty first century, but we still retain the highly
centralised, nineteenth century, semi-colonial model that the arts should be concentrated in London, and that funding London is synonymous with serving the English regions and the nations of the UK. For Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this undermines the principle, embedded in law, that culture is a devolved responsibility. It is a constitutional tension that remains unresolved.
All the evidence shows that concentration of power and funding in London is, in policy terms, a failure. Despite investment of over £1 billion annually of public and private funds in arts institutions in just three boroughs in Central London (Westminster, Southwark and Kensington and Chelsea), public participation levels in the arts in London are slightly lower than those across England as a whole.
Within England, the Arts Lottery has operated as a highly effective mechanism to take money from poorer communities and invest it in arts provision in Central London. Just five national performing arts organisations in London have received more (£315 million) from the Arts Lottery since 1995 than the 33 English local authority areas with lowest participation, representing 6 million people, which between them were awarded just £288 million over that period. Arts Lottery players of County Durham have contributed £34 million since 1995, but the area has received just £12 million.
The policies and practices of the media can exacerbate these divisions. Within the last year, both Melvyn Bragg and Tony Garnett (director of Cathy Come Home) have accused broadcasters of misrepresenting and sneering at working class people in TV dramas and documentaries. Recent research by the Open Society Foundations suggests that this perception is shared by many working class viewers themselves.
There is a challenge in all of this for the BBC, our publicly-funded UK national broadcaster. As funding for the arts from diverse public sources remains concentrated in one small area of England's capital city, and (as research by the Sutton Trust has shown) those employed in senior positions in broadcasting are recruited increasingly from men and women with privileged backgrounds, and the narrow circle of private support shrinks ever closer to central London, will the BBC's coverage of the arts shrink with it? And can this coverage now truly be described as impartial?
Within Wales, there is a much greater sense that culture in the broadest definition is a communal resource and belongs to everyone. At Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, 28% of visitors to our seven museums across South, West and North Wales are from social classes C2DE. At a typical London national museum such as the National Gallery the figure is around a third of this, at 10%.
The BBC is a hugely important part of the arts ecosystem in Wales. The BBC's investment in Roath Lock in Cardiff with its drama productions has given a massive boost to our creative economy, and has made Cardiff a hub for related creative industries. The BBC has also made Wales a centre for music programming. There is a wealth of artistic talent and arts production of an international standard in Wales, yet the BBC in Wales - unlike England and Scotland - does not have a Centre of Excellence in the arts. As a result coverage of the richness of artistic activity within Wales is very limited, and on Network BBC it is almost non-existent.
Why does the Tate's Turner Prize - widely perceived in the contemporary art world to be tired and outdated - continue to get blanket coverage on Network BBC, when the critically more highly regarded Artes Mundi Prize in Wales has never in 12 years had any Network coverage? Research by the BBC itself shows that this lack of impartiality in its coverage of the arts in the nations and regions of the UK is the norm rather than the exception.
Even if it wins the vote on Scottish independence, Westminster has been revealed to have lost the hearts and minds of a substantial minority of its citizens in Scotland, the second largest nation in the United Kingdom. An article in the Guardian, published in early July, examined how the BBC was reporting on the referendum, and said that even a no vote should challenge the BBC 'to examine afresh how successfully it relates to constituent parts of the UK - and whether a more flexible, less monolithic notion of the future of the corporation ought to be embraced.'
Tony Hall, in a recent speech at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff, invited his audience to imagine Wales without the BBC. It is a fair challenge, but we existed long before the BBC with our languages and cultural identities. Some of us in Wales might ask him, in turn, to imagine a BBC that is not dominated by a London-centric perception of the world, and that better reflects the diversity of our nation's arts and cultures, our values and our debates. Without us - we who are outside London - not just the BBC but democracy itself will suffer, if we continue down the road we are on.
What are the solutions for the BBC? There should be a Centre of Excellence at BBC Wales, as there is in Scotland. We need devolved governance of the BBC in Wales through the BBC Trust, as recommended by the Silk Commission. This should be
underpinned by a separate extension to Charter agreement for Wales, and mechanisms to ensure fair representation of our arts on BBC Network. We need BBC Network to recognise that speakers of Welsh and other minority languages have a right to be heard in their own language on UK media. The BBC should monitor and publish annual data on its achievement of impartiality across the nations and regions. We need the Network BBC to be pro-active in overcoming a culture of inequality within the organisation.
And we need the BBC, with headquarters in London, to remember the importance of
geography, of the connections between culture and place. The nations and regions of the UK need the BBC to give us equality and parity of respect, and to free us to represent ourselves, in our own places and across the nations within the UK and abroad.
We want to commission London, not London (when it chooses) to commission us. Our nation’s share of the BBC budget should be devlolved in full to Wales.
As Hugh McDiarmid said, "You cannot light a match on a crumbling wall."
Let's build a better and more solid one.
*This is a summary of a more detailed paper I wrote, which can be found here:Impartiality-and-the-BBC---July-2014.pdf
 Four Nations Impartiality Review Follow-up: An analysis of reporting devolution’ – Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University – March 2010: http://cardiff.ac.uk/jomec/research/researchgroups/journalismstudies/fundedprojects/followupaccuracyandimpartiality.html
Welsh Super Scientists
Welsh Super Scientists from Ysgol Clocaenog at the National Slate Museum
‘Little birds’ in the nest they built
Ysgol Clocaenog in Denbighshire was awarded first place out of sixty nine Welsh schools taking part in the Museum's Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation this year.
The Super Scientists won a fun-packed trip to the National Slate Museum where they learnt about the Story of Slate, looked for mini-beasts and built giant nests in the quarry!
Professor Plant: “Ysgol Clogaenog did really well in the Spring Bulbs investigation and sent in the most weather data out of all the schools in Wales! This really was an achievement as schools are getting better and better at recording and sending their data. It was lovely to meet the Super Scientists from Ysgol Clocaenog, we had lots of fun building nests and pretending to be little birds! We also learnt lots about Slate and I especially enjoyed watching the slate splitting!”
If you would like to take part in this project next term please complete the on-line application form:
RESEARCHING FIBRES IN THE MICROSCOPE!
[image: First image]
[image: Close-up image taking a fibre sample]
Close-up image taking a fibre sample
[image: Third image]
[image: Working with the microscope at painting department]
Working with the microscope at painting department
Now it is time to research the fibres used during the paper making process in the different papers of ‘Effort and Ideals’ lithograph prints.
There are several methods to identify fibres such as the staining technique. The most common is Hertzberg’s Reagent which is used for paper fibres are based on iodine and zinc chloride. This type of stain is formulated to dye different groups of fibres differing colours. However, there are many disadvantages using this system because the specific colours stated for particular fibres are difficult to reproduce.
So, in this case we decided to take some samples of fibres of the prints and identify them under the polarising microscope.
In the first image, we are taking a small sample of fibres from one of the prints. We are using an invasive and destructive technique for that reason we have to be extremely careful taking the sample. Just shaving a little bit the very bottom edge we will be able to get enough fibres to analyse in the microscope.
In the third picture we are leaving the fibre sample on the microscope slide. After that, we will cover the sample with a cover slip and sealing with Meltmount (is a thermoplastic: it is fluid when heated and functionally a solid at room temperature; the appearance of the prepared slide will remain unchanged after the slide is returned to room temperature).
Once the sample is ready, we will work with it in the microscope. We took photos applying different magnifications.
In the fifth image, you can observe a detail of a linen fibre through the microscope. The term ‘linen’ covers a wide variety of material described as flax or linen. In both Europe and China flax has been used as a textile material since at least 4,500 BC.
The raw material after cutting and removing the seed head is retted in still or slow running water to slow process of bacterial decomposition. In some areas the process is carried out in a damp atmosphere only.
Linen is a bast fiber. Flax fibers vary in length from about 25 to 150 mm (1 to 6 in) and average 12-16 micrometers in diameter. Flax fibers can usually be identified by their “nodes” which add to the flexibility and texture of the fabric.
Other samples taken from the thinner prints revealed cotton as a main material. So in both cases we are talking about good quality paper fibres.
A Window into the Industry Collections
Amongst the new accessions we received in June was a 14” Sony ‘Trinitron’ colour teletext television set with remote control. This was manufactured by Sony at Pencoed, Bridgend, in 1995. If you look back to the December blog you will see another television set we acquired recently.
This slate sample originates from Maenofferen slate quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is a sample slate sent out to potential customers to show the colour and quality of the slate produced in the quarry. There are a number of slate veins in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area, all of which have their own name, such as New or Deep Vein, the Old Vein, Back or Middle Vein, and North Vein. This particular sample is from the middle vein of Maenofferen Quarry.
We have been donated a lovely collection of 91 photographs, the majority of which show the redevelopment work carried out by the National Coal Board at Glyncorrwg Colliery during the 1950s. I have illustrated three views here. The first photograph shows the colliery as it looked on 11 September 1951 before the reconstruction work started. The view is looking north up the valley.
The following two photographs show the reconstruction work. The first showing a circuit gantry on 1 November 1955 and the second shows the reconstruction work progressing on the headgear, and was taken on 6 Feb 1957.
On the 17th May 1965 an explosion caused by firedamp occurred at the Cambrian Colliery, Clydach Vale killing 31 miners. The colliery had been winding down to closure, and many of the workforce had been transferred, otherwise the fatalities might have been even greater. This image is of the front cover of the brochure commemorating a memorial service held on 17 May 2014. It shows the headgear preserved within a memorial garden.
Curator: Industry & Transport
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Out with the old, in with the new
[image: The Agricultural Gallery emptied and ready for its transformation.]
The Agricultural Gallery emptied and ready for its transformation.
[image: Working with Event on designs for the new space. ]
Working with Event on designs for the new space.
[image: Working with Event on designs for the new space. ]
Working with Event on designs for the new space.
[image: Elen Phillips exploring the Suffrage collection with children from Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd]
Elen Phillips exploring the Suffrage collection with children from Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd
By: Sioned Hughes, Head of Public History
It’s difficult to imagine that over the next couple of years the old Agricultural Gallery, largely unchanged at St Fagans for 20 or more years will be transformed as part of the Making History project. It will become a space that celebrates the fact that history belongs to everyone. It will be a platform where the museum shifts from being the provider of history to supporting and providing opportunities for others to explore meanings around diverse objects and make their own histories through participation and community curated displays.
Currently called by its working title Wales Is… we aim to display 17 moments in Welsh history using objects from the national collections. It will be a space where we encourage visitors to use historical skills to find out what the national collections can tell them about different moments in Welsh history.
The past few months have seen the Making History core content team work intensively with designers from Event Communications to develop this space. It’s an exciting, creative and intense process that involves looking in depth at our object selection and testing them against this exciting new concept.
To aid our current thinking and to generate discussion, we have stopped thinking about this space as a gallery and have started referring to it as a 3D social media account. Over the next few weeks we will be developing the idea of using social media as a conceptual framework for how the space works and how visitors will behave in it.
So far, we have identified that we would like the space to have followers and that it will follow other institutions or spaces that share relevant collections and opinions. We would like to ask visitors to Like, Share and Comment on what they see and provide opportunities to do this digitally and non-digitally, both in the space and remotely. We would like the space to have its own social media account and we would like its digital identity to develop as the content and the space itself develops – not as an add-on once it is open. We are looking at the possibility of tagging displays and objects so that content generated around them can be gathered and used as layers of interpretation. We want each display to have a social media feed on a screen as part of its interpretation.
The Public History Unit
Key to testing and delivering this space is the establishment of a new Public History Unit within the History and Archaeology Department. As a unit we have already facilitated workshops that support groups to develop historical skills to discover what objects can tell them about the past. These sessions have generated diverse, sometimes surprising, often emotional and occasionally controversial content that adds layers of rich and relevant interpretation to our storytelling.
In the space, we see the content generated around the displays, both digitally and non-digitally, as information that will be curated by museum staff. It will also be part of curatorial practise to manage social media campaigns around displays so that targeted audiences are reached. These campaigns will be supported by a programme of events and pop-up activities that can be used to generate interest and debate.
Suffrage Participatory Workshops
As part of the process for testing the content for Wales Is…the Public History Unit took the national suffrage collection to two schools in the Newport area as part of the Bird in a Cage project with Winding Snake. Within a few hours, over a hundred pupils from Lewis Girls School and Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd had seen and participated in a debate around the collections and suffrage movement in Wales. This is an example of how objects can generate content that is as interesting as the objects themselves. It demonstrates how groups and individuals can construct their own meanings around what they see. It also showed how social media can be used to generate interest and debate around a subject area.
The next challenge
The challenge will now be to work with Event to develop a design that can deliver this concept so that the outcomes of a participatory workshop can translate into a gallery context using the framework provided by Social Media. The questions we are asking ourselves at the moment are: is this workable? How can we use the information generated? What would a social media campaign linked to one of the displays look like? How can we create a framework and strategy to help develop the digital identity of the space? And most important of all, is this approach future proof? The Agricultural Gallery was popular at St Fagans for over 20 years. This new space will also have to stand the test of time and the changing behaviour patterns of our visitors in the future.
TIME FOR PUTTING THE PRINTS IN MOUNTS!
[image: Finished mount, the window and backing hinged together]
Finished mount, the window and backing hinged together
[image: Hinge glued onto the back of the print]
Hinge glued onto the back of the print
[image: Pasting the hinges with an adhesive]
Pasting the hinges with an adhesive
[image: Reinforcing the hinge]
Reinforcing the hinge
Here we are again with more news about the lithograph prints conservation process. Now is time for mounting each print in its own conservation mount to be ready for the exhibition opening 2nd August in gallery 18 at the National Museum Cardiff.
Preparing the mounts where the prints will be housed for the next 100 years hopefully! The mounts are cut to the museum standard size, using 100% cotton alkaline buffered museum board (the most expensive available – but the highest quality). The back board is hinged to the mount using water based adhesive tape.
In the following photos you will be able to see how I attach the print to the backing of the mount. First of all, we attached the hinge to the back of the print on the top edge. The hinge is made with Japanese tissue. (Second Photo)
Then, in third photo I am applying an adhesive over the surface of the hinge. This then folds back over and stick to the back board of the mount.
To reinforce the hinge we will glue another hinge over the top, creating a T hinge. This then allows the print to hang within the mount.
After one week making mounts for the prints we have already done 30 mounts.
Another 36 more to do and just 7 weeks to go… But we still need to make the frames and put them in…
Flower Drawing Competition 2014
1st - Abbey, Coppull Parish Church School
2nd - Louise, SS Philip and James CE Primary School (Pink 3)
3rd - Amelie, Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School
Congratulation to the winners of the Flower Drawing Competition 2014! Here are their excellent botanical illustrations.
- 1st: Abbey – Coppull Parish Church School
- 2nd: Louise – SS Philip and James CE Primary School (Pink 3)
- 3rd: Amelie – Stanford in the Vale CE Primary School
In this competition I was looking for botanical illustrations – these are pictures of plants drawn in a scientific way. This means I was looking for beautiful pictures but they also needed clear labels to show the different parts of the flower.
All of the drawing sent in were really fantastic, so I have put them all on our website for you to see! Well done to all of you.
Click here to view all the drawings.
A Window into the Industry Collections
Amongst this month’s new accessions was an aluminium prop withdrawer, known as a 'buller', manufactured by Parsons. It consists of handle and rack, and was used in coal mines for pulling out roof supports (as well as other tasks). This one is unusual in that it is made of aluminium for lightness. However the use of aluminium was later banned (because of its tendency to induce sparking) after the Horden Colliery explosion in 1953.
We have been donated the following four badges manufactured in 2014 that relate to the 1984/85 miners’ strike. These include two limited edition badges to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1984/85 miners’ strike. The inscription on reverse reads “Forget not the / lessons of / our past”.
This badge with the slogan ‘Coal Not Dole’ issued by The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign which included ex-miners, Trades Unionists, activists and others determined to get justice for miners.
The final badge in this collection is in the shape of a miners flame safety lamp. WAPC-NUM stands for Women Against Pit Closures - National Union of Mineworkers, and was manufactured for their 30th Anniversary.
We are currently working on documenting an important collection of approximately 150 film negatives taken by E. Emrys Jones in the 1950s and 1960s. The negatives show the slate industry in north Wales, concentrating on the Dinorwig slate quarry. Many images are of the Dinorwig quarry workshops (Gilfach Ddu) which is now the Welsh Slate Museum, and part of Amgueddfa Cymru. Below are three images taken from this collection.
A general view of Dinorwig Quarry, 1950. It shows the ‘Wellington’ section of Dinorwig Quarry, with the Muriau Shed in the foreground, and the Ceiliog Mawr in the background.
This view shows loaded slate wagons outside Gilfach Ddu (now the National Slate Museum) in the 1950s or early 1960s.
This group of quarrymen are probably at Dinorwig Quarry.
This model of an opencast coal truck was manufactured from South Wales anthracite coal. It is inscribed OPEN CAST / EXECUTIVE.
With 2014 being the centenary of the start of the First World War it is poignant that we have acquired a collection of photographs and documents relating to Captain Anthony Starkey of Bristol. Capt. Starkey was master of the S.S. Torrington which was torpedoed and sunk off the Scilly Isles in April 1917. 34 members of the crew were killed, and Capt. Starkey was the sole survivor. He was taken from the ship and held as prisoner aboard the U-boat for 15 days. He was then held in four different prisoner of war camps in Germany (including Brandenburg, Holminden and Strohenmoor).
This view shows the S.S. Torrington with an inset portrait of Capt. Starkey.
This photograph shows Capt. Starkey during his internment in Germany. It will have been taken in one of the four prisoner of wars camps in Germany that he was held in.
Curatorial Assistant (Industry)
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Overcoming the Taxonomic Impediment in the Amazon
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.