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Following on from Sioned’s blog about our work with Mat Fraser in 2014 and the anonymous ‘invalid chair’ she found in the collection, in this blog I’ll be discussing another object which featured in Mat’s performance – an 18th century woollen suit from the Llantrisant area.  

Unlike most of the disability-related collections in the Museum, the suit in question comes with a personal story and a file bulging with snippets from local history books. Worn by Hopkin Hopkins – better known as ‘Hopcyn Bach’ [Little Hopcyn] – the frock coat and matching breeches are among the oldest items of clothing in the collection. They were acquired by the Museum in 1920, before it was common practice for curators to document their reasons for accepting artefacts into the collection.

Hopkin Hopkins (1737 - 54) was born with a growth restricting condition. His physical appearance became a source of income for his family. It may seem repugnant to us today, but at the age of 14 he was taken to London by his parents and shown publically for money. Billed as “the wonderful and surprising Little Welchman”, his perceived ‘freakishness’ was a source of entertainment in polite society. In 1751, Hopkin was presented to the Royal Family who gave him a gold watch, an annual pension and ten guineas for each appearance he made at Court.

In the same year, he was also ‘on display’ in Bristol. This vivid account of the visit is taken from a letter sent by John Browning in September 1751:

I am just returned from Bristol where I have seen an extraordinary young man, whose case is very surprising; he is shewn publicly for money, and therefore I send you the printed bill, which is given about to bring company… I went myself to view and examine this extraordinary, and surprising but melancholy subject; a lad entering the 15th year of his age, whose stature is no more than 2 feet and 7 inches, and weight 13 pound, labouring under all the miserable and calamities of old age, being weak and emaciated, his eyes dim, his hearing very bad, his countenance fallen, his voice very low and hollow; his head hanging down before, so that his chin touches his breast, consequently his shoulders are raised and his back rounded not unlike a hump-back, he is weak that he cannot stand without support. [Letter from John Browning to Henry Baker, 12 September 1751. Quoted in Sem Phillips, The History of the Borough of Llantrisant, 1866.]

How did Hopkin feel about being an object of curiosity? We simply don’t know. Although we have numerous descriptions of his body, his voice is missing from the narrative.     

Mae’r flwyddyn yn dod i ben a dw i’n adlewyrchu ar ddwy ran o fy ngwaith sy’n gorffen fuan. Mae @DyddiadurKate (1915) yn gorffen yn mis yma, a fy ngwaith ar Chynllun Addysg Y Rhyfel Byd yn Cyntaf dod i ben yn Mawrth 2016.

Mae Cynllun Addysg y Rhyfel Byd yn brosiect rhwng Amgueddfa Cymru a’r Llyfrgell Genedlaethol, sy’n cynhyrchu adnoddau ar gyfer ysgolion. Ni'n defnyddio deunyddiau o gasgliadau’r ddau sefydliad i greu adnoddau dysgu digidol am Gymru yn ystod y Rhyfel. Trwy’r flwyddyn, gweithiais gyda chydweithwyr o’r curaduron i’r archif i ddewis y deunyddiau gorau i fynd gyda phob thema yn y cynllun. Y themâu y gweithiais arnynt yw ‘Bywyd ar Ffrynt y Gorllewin’, ‘Meddygaeth’, ‘Cymru ar draws y Byd’ a ‘Straeon Personol’.

Ar y prosiect @DyddiadurKate, dwi’n casglu'r ystadegau o Twitter a ‘di creu dau flog, un ar recriwtio yn y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf ac un ar alcohol a dirwest. Trwy’r flwyddyn mwynheais y gweithgareddau dyddiol ar y blogiau gahanol gan y curaduron a’r archif, oedd yn rhoi mwy o wybodaeth am y prosiect.

Yn Hydref ces y cyfle i ddod â’r ddau brosiect at ei gilydd, yn yr adnodd ‘Straeon Personol’. Mae’r adnodd yn edrych ar bobl dros Gymru yn y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf ac effaith y rhyfel arnyn nhw. Roedd stori Kate Ellis yn rhoi cyferbyniad i straeon milwyr a nyrsus, i ddangos bywyd sifiliad. Un peth sy’n ddiddorol imi yw fod pobl yn ymladd yn y rhyfel, ac ar yr un pryd, roedd llawer o’r gweithgareddau dyddiol Kate yn cario ‘mlaen heb lawer yn newid.

Dyw’r adnoddau ‘Straeon Personal’ a 'Cymru ar Draws y Byd' ddim ar yr HWB eto, ond mae llawer o’r adnoddau arall lan nawr. Dilynwch y linc i HWB i ddefnyddio’r adnoddau am ddim.

Wel dyna ni, dim ond cwpl o ddyddiau sy’n weddill nes bod @DyddiadurKate 1915 yn dirwyn i ben. Ceir ei chofnod olaf ar y 15fed o Ragfyr, ac mae’n rhaid i mi gyfaddef, â hithau ‘di bod mor selog yn ysgrifennu, ro’n i’n siomedig nad oedd hi wedi rhoi pen ar bapur dros gyfnod y Nadolig. Ro’n i wedi edrych ymlaen cael darllen am baratoadau’r Nadolig a’r Flwyddyn Newydd, ac wedi bod yn dyfalu p’un â’i gŵydd yntau asen o gig eidion fyddai’r wledd? Pwy fyddai’n galw heibio? A fyddai’r teulu’n mynychu gwasanaeth y Plygain? A fyddent yn addurno Tŷ Hen? Ac a fyddai Kate yn “gwneud cyfleth” neu’n “mynd i noson gyflaith”? Yn anffodus, nid oedd i fod, ond rhaid diolch iddi am y gwledd a roddodd i ni dros y flwyddyn.

Cyd-ddigwyddiad llwyr oedd i mi dderbyn copi mis Hydref 2015, o bapur bro Bala a’r cylch, Pethe Penllyn ac ynddo erthygl, ‘Noson Gyfleth Coed y Bedo, Cefnddwysarn’. Roedd cyfeiriad ynddo at deulu Yr Hendre, sef cartref genedigol mam Kate, yn ymuno yn yr hwyl. Felly, dyma fanteisio ar y cyfle i sôn am arfer hwn, oedd yn draddodiadol mewn rhannau o ogledd Cymru dros gyfnod y Nadolig a'r Flwyddyn Newydd. Byddai teuluoedd yr ardal yn cymryd eu tro i gynnal nosweithiau o’r fath, gan wahodd eu ffrindiau i'w cartrefi fin nos. Wedi gwledda, byddai pawb yn mwynhau rhyw fath o ‘noson lawen’, cyfle i sgwrsio, chwarae gemau, adrodd straeon, canu a thynnu coes, ond canolbwynt y noson fyddai tynnu cyflaith.

Dyma rysáit o’r Archif yn Sain Ffagan a gasglwyd o ardal Pennant, Trefaldwyn:

3 phwys o siwgr llwyd, meddal

½ pwys o fenyn hallt (wedi’i feddalu)

sudd 1 lemwn

¼ peint o ddŵr berw (neu ragor os bydd y siwgr o ansawdd sych)

  • Tywallt y siwgr a’r dŵr i’r sosban. Toddi’r siwgr yn araf uwchben tân gloyw, a’i droi'n gyson â llwy bren nes iddo doddi'n llwyr (gall gymryd ryw ugain munud).
  • Tynnu’r sosban oddi ar y tân, ychwanegu’r sudd lemwn a'r ‘menyn, a'u cymysgu'n drwyadl.
  • Berwi'r cymysgedd yn weddol gyflym am ryw chwarter awr heb ei droi o gwbl.
  • I brofi os yw’n barod - gollwng llond llwy de o'r cymysgedd i gwpaned o ddŵr oer. Os bydd yn caledu ar unwaith, mae’n barod.

Dyma gychwyn yr hwyl! Rhaid oedd tywallt y cyflaith ar lechen, carreg fawr neu garreg yr aelwyd oer wedi'i hiro â ‘menyn – dwi’n gwybod o brofiad pa mor danbaid boeth yw’r gymysgedd. Byddai pawb yn iro'i dwylo ag ymenyn (er mwyn arbed llosgi eu dwylo ac i ychwanegu at y blas a’r ansawdd) ac yn cymryd darn o'r cyflaith i'w dynnu tra byddai'n gynnes. 'Roedd hon yn grefft arbennig a’r gamp oedd tynnu'r cyflaith nes ei fod yn raff melyngoch. Byddai'r dibrofiad yn edmygu camp a medrusrwydd y profiadol, tra bo methiant ac aflwyddiant y dibrofiad yn destun hwyl i bawb. Gwyddom pa mor gymdeithasol oedd cymuned @DyddiadurKate, ac mae’n hawdd ei dychmygu’n rhan o’r hwyl a’r sbri!

Diolch i bawb sydd wedi dilyn y dyddiadur yn ystod 2015. Cofiwch ddilyn hynt a helynt Kate o’r 1af o Ionawr 2016 ymlaen, wrth i ni agor cyfrif newydd i drydar cynnwys dyddiadur arall o’i heiddo, a roddwyd ganddi i Archif Sain Ffagan ym 1970. Dyddiadur 1946 yw hwn, gyda Kate bellach yn briod, yn fam ganol oed, sy’n cofnodi ei bywyd ar ddiwedd yr Ail Ryfel Byd.

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd, ac os ydych am roi cynnig ar wneud cyflaith – cofiwch beidio llosgi eich dwylo!

What do our museum scientists do out ‘in the field’? One of our museum scientists, Ray Tangney, has just returned from the Falkland Islands. See what he got up to.

"There are 3 of us, myself, Matt von Konrat from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA, and Juan Larrain from the Universidad Catolica de Guayaquil, Santiago, Chile; and we were in the Falklands as part of a Darwin Initiative funded project, recording and conserving the lower plants. This means we were searching for plants such as mosses and liverworts (small, low growing plants that do not produce flowers).

We spent most of the time in ‘Camp’ (the name for the hinterland beyond the capital, Stanley), visiting locations in a 4 wheel drive on East and West Falkland, and on Pebble Island to the north. We estimate we found 14 plants that had never been found growing on the Falkland Islands before; 8 mosses and 6 liverworts.

I gave a talk about the project to the Falklands Conservation AGM. We also ran a school activity session at Fox Bay School. The children collected and created their own herbarium specimens, making them accessible for scientists in the future. They looked at mosses under a microscope and observed details they would never usually have been able to see in the wild. Image 1 shows the children being asked by Juan whether the plant is a moss or a liverwort! It’s a silver coloured moss we also have in Wales called, rather unsurprisingly, Silver-moss (scientific name, Bryum argenteum). In January, the Lower Plants Project Officer, Dafydd Crabtree, ran a similar activity session about lichens with the children. Have a look at some more photos from the Falklands Conservation Facebook page here.

We found a number of new records of mosses for the Islands during this trip. Image 2 shows a misty Mount Donald on West Falkland at about 600 metres above sea level. The moss Bucklandiella pachydictyon growing on rocks here was a brand new record for the Falklands. It wasn’t all sunshine. The next day on Mount Adam we had rain, sleet, hail and snow, along with strong winds!

A characteristic feature of the Falklands are sea inlets. Streams that feed into these inlets are an important habitat for mosses and liverworts. One moss (Blindia torrentium) that only grows in the Falklands is commonly found on rocks in these streams.

Tiny plants such as mosses are such a big feature of the Falkland Isles landscape. School activity sessions, as well as talks, are crucial to increase local knowledge of, and interest in, the unique natural environment of these fragile, beautiful islands in the Southern Hemisphere."

Linking Collections is a project that unites the natural science collections found in the museums across Wales. Put together these make up a distributed natural history collection for the whole of Wales, forming a part of our shared cultural and scientific heritage.

As part of this project a touring exhibition entitled ‘Stuffed, Pickled & Pinned: 50 Wonders of Nature in Welsh Museums’ has been developed. Formed from a selection of objects and specimens from across the regional museums the exhibition will visit 18 museums over the next three years!

In preparation for the tour the chosen specimens and objects were brought together at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. Here the Natural Sciences conservation team prepared them for their three year journey by creating packaging to protect them in transit, minimise the need for handling and, where necessary, provide an easy form of display.

The exhibition contains a very diverse range of natural history specimens and objects with many different packaging and display requirements. For a number of the specimens specific support mounts were made from a conservation grade of inert foam called Plastazote.

For other specimens it was possible to create a display mount that also provides support when in transit. A good example is the puffer fish. This has been mounted on black Plastazote that slides out of a Correx box that opens from the side. For extra support when travelling a thin strip of Plastazote is placed diagonally across the puffer fish and secured to the base with entomology pins.

A pickled (fluid preserved) adder from Llandudno Museum required some creative packaging to protect it when travelling. Two plastic tubs were cut to shape and Plastazote padding placed at each end. The specimen jar is then placed inside and empty space filled with acid free tissue. The plastic tub is then placed tightly within a thick black Plastazote box. 

An option for some of the fossils was to package them so that they could be displayed in their box. Plastazote with cut outs support the specimen and they can be presented as they are or at an angle on a Perspex support.

Old entomology boxes have also been put to good use as a way of creating a display case for collections of small specimens such as eggs and shells.

The Linking Collections Exhibition “Stuffed, Pickled & Pinned; 50 Wonders of Nature in Welsh Museums” opened at Powysland Museum on October 20th 2015. Further information can be found on the People’s Collection Wales website - http://www.peoplescollection.wales/collections/475828

Ruth Murgatroyd, Masters Student in Conservation at Cardiff University