Amgueddfa Blog

Our new role as marine curatorial assistants within the invertebrate biodiversity section of Amgueddfa Cymru has so far not disappointed in offering insights into the tremendous diversity of life in our seas. After the first ten weeks of working to curate and conserve a large set of marine monitoring collections donated to the museum by Natural Resources Wales, we’ve already managed to log over 5,000 records of predominately marine invertebrates from around the welsh coast. These records have included starfish, polychaete worms, bryozoans, molluscs and anemones, to name only a few. Monitoring collections are essential for research in understanding the complexity of the natural world and diversity at many levels. To understand evolution, genetics and the morphological variation of species for example, specimens from many years are often needed, something which is not usually possible with live animals. These voucher specimens also hold valuable information about when and where species live and can be used for verification when the identification of a species is in doubt. An important contemporary issue is that specimens held in collections offer a wealth of baseline information which can be used as a comparison against current observations. This is essential when looking at how climatic changes are impacting marine life. 

 

For research to happen, specimens must be properly cared for, with their information being easily accessible. Our role can be predominately split into two parts: office and laboratory work. Work in the office encompasses everything from sorting species vials into classification groups, the logging of each vial from analogue to digital formats into a database, where locality information (e.g. sediment type and depth) and method of collection is inputted, to printing new labels for the vials, each with a unique reference number. In the laboratory, the number of specimens in each vial must be counted to accurately record species abundance, vials are then topped up with ethanol, labelled and rehoused into larger jars according to their classification groups. This method of double tubing vials into larger containers acts as not only an accessible way for a particular species to be found, but also as a preventative to stop specimens drying out. These new specimens will be added to an already impressive collection of marine invertebrates at the museum, with over 750,000 specimens. Hopefully, they will be used for generations to come to compare what we know today about the unknowns of the future.

Skull of Dippy the dinosaur

Hi folks, Dippy here!

 

I’ve been having a wonderful time at National Museum Cardiff, everyone is so friendly and I have been the centre of attention at some very exciting events. With far too many stories to fit into one blog, here are my top five highlights from my time spent in Cardiff.

 

1) Dysgu Cymraeg | Learning Welsh

I arrived in Cardiff an absolute beginner, but thanks to the lovely Museum staff I quickly picked up the language. With plenty of opportunities to practice my Welsh with visitors, I have been writing bilingual tweets from my account @DippyOnTour.

 

2) Dippy-Themed Events

When I heard I would be sharing the grand hall with events such as silent discos and yoga I was worried I might get in the way. In fact I have become the star of the show and even attended my first Welsh wedding!

 

The happy couple

The happy couple

© Sadie Osborne Photography, sadie-osborne.squarespace.com

                                                                                                    

3) Exploring Nature

My mission on this UK tour is to encourage people to explore nature on their doorstep. That’s not a difficult task in Cardiff, which boasts more green space per person than any other major UK city. I have had a marvellous time discovering new parks every day! Check out my website for tips on exploring nature in your local area.

 

4) My New Friend

I didn’t know there were other dinosaurs in Wales, but I was soon introduced to Dracoraptor, a dinosaur discovered only a few miles away from Cardiff. At first I was jealous of Dracoraptor’s rather interesting name which means ‘dragon thief’. However, once we got to know each other we quickly became friends.

Model of Dracoraptor

Model of Dracoraptor

© Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

5) YOU!

By far the best thing about being in Cardiff has been all the amazing people I have met. I’m here until 26 January so please keep visiting and sharing your selfies using #DippyArDaith and #DippyOnTour.

Crowds around Dippy the dinosaur

 

It’s that time of year when the stress of Christmas countdown, the high expectations of the season and extended time spent indoors with family can make the best of us a little … well, stir crazy – and in dire need of a place to chill out. Of course, a museum visit is a perfect antidote whatever your age; we offer space, interesting things to see indoors, creative activities and workshops, a break from the everyday, and of course our national museums here in Wales offer free entry which won’t stretch the purse strings further!

But for some of our community, having a place to chill out is not just a ‘nice to have’, rather it is an essential need which makes life and being out and about possible. The National Waterfront Museum has created a dedicated ‘chill-out room’ designed for autistic visitors but for use by anyone who needs it. Here, Ian Smith Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Industry at the Waterfront Museum explains how this special space came about.

“In October 2016 we had a staff training day in ‘Autism Awareness’. It opened our eyes to how they see the world and how we can support their needs. It showed us how even the simplest of environmental changes can affect a person with autism. Things like light and sound levels, the colour of walls and floors. In fact the general layout of a space which might be deliberately made stimulating and flashy might cause many autistic people to retreat within themselves.

It was around this time that we welcomed a new volunteer at the museum. Rhys, 17, has autism. His mother contacted us and asked if he could volunteer with us to help his confidence when meeting people and in a real work environment. Rhys helps to run an object handling session, usually with another volunteer or a member of staff, and he has taken to it really well. We have all noticed that he’s become more outgoing and will now hold conversations with total strangers.

With the growing awareness of autism the Museum decided to create an Autism Champion. Our staff member Suzanne, who has an autistic son, readily agreed to take up the challenge. She now attends meetings with our sister museums where issues and solutions around autism are discussed.

During our training session we discovered that some organisations have created ‘chill-out’ rooms. These are for anyone who is feeling stressed or disturbed to go to and relax and gather themselves together. These rooms are especially useful for autistic people. We put a small group together to look at creating a safe, quiet space somewhere in the Waterfront Museum. After considering options, we decided that a little used first aid room on the ground floor offered the best place.

Rhys came into his own. He offered us a number of suggestions on how we could change the space to make it autism friendly. These included making the light levels controllable and sound proofing the room so that gentle music or relaxing sounds could be played. Suzanne too came up with a number of ideas from her own experience of looking after her son. Additionally, a local special school, Pen-y-Bryn, with whom we had an established relationship also offered us their valuable expertise.

The room we’ve created is a very soothing space and we find it gets regular use by people with a range of needs, and is clearly much appreciated as shown by the comments in the visitor’s book:

“Fantastic resource! My daughter really needed this today – thank you!”

“Lovely place to get away from the hustle and bustle for a little one.”

“Lovely idea for people on the spectrum to come for quiet.”

“Really helped my son to have some time out.”

This has been a very big learning curve for most of us, but it has been made much easier by talking to people who have direct experience of autism. Their input as part of our team has been invaluable.”

“Lewis! Don’t touch anything and keep quiet!”

Those were the words of my history teacher, Mr Davies, as the bus from Cynffig Comprehensive School pulled up outside National Museum Cardiff in the autumn of 1966.

Fifty three years later, and since my appointment as President Amgueddfa Cymru earlier this year, I have heeded Mr Davies’s advice, as I have spent my time meeting and listening to the wonderful teams of people, staff and volunteers, around our eight sites, and hearing from our trustees, patrons, sponsors, government ministers and civil servants and to some of the millions of our visitors.

The overwhelming impact made upon me over these past six months is one of extraordinary passion and dedication to the work of Amgueddfa Cymru by everyone I have met. And everyone, quite rightly, is so proud of the remarkable achievements of Amgueddfa Cymru, especially with St Fagans matching the 2005 success of Big Pit by winning the Museum of the Year 2019 Award.

Nearly 1.9 million people visited our seven museums in the Amgueddfa Cymru family in this past year. Without doubt our national museums truly belong to the people of Wales, and thanks to the Welsh Government they are all free to visit.

Moreover, the support of our patrons, foundations and sponsors has allowed us to create a rich mix of events and exhibitions and to purchase a wide range of wonderous new things to display.

We are totally committed to the principles of cultural democracy and social inclusion which enables us as to engage with as many people as we possibly can from each and every corner of Wales. Working in partnership with as many diverse communities as possible, particularly those who are disadvantaged, to make a positive difference to the wellbeing of Wales and to secure our future for generations to come, underpinned by robust and considered research is our compass.

Our commitment to play our part in addressing the climate change emergency, based upon our special scientific insight, is critical to us all. And our horizons stretch beyond Wales. We are determined to make a dynamic contribution to Wales across the world, playing our part in creating a prosperous country for all.

As someone who is a beneficiary of Wales’s post-war vision of education being a right, not a privilege, and a son of parents who both left school at fourteen years of age, Amgueddfa Cymru’s commitment to learning is simply breath taking. Over two hundred thousand school children and students visited our museums in 2018/19. We are the largest learning provider outside of the classroom in Wales – this is outstanding.

Without doubt, Mr Davies would be mightily impressed with Amgueddfa Cymru today, and with our goal to remove as many barriers as possible, so that even more people immerse themselves in our inspirational galleries and spaces which ignite the imagination, it is creativity which will touch the hearts and minds of all.

We are now embarking on a 10-year plan to take our museums to even greater heights, welcome even more visitors, involve even more people, and be bold in our ambition to inspire people and change lives. Our desire to celebrate the very best of Welsh endeavour across a spectrum of disciplines inspires us all! I look forward to seeing what the new decade brings to Amgueddfa Cymru.

Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful new year to you all!

Roger Lewis

President, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

 

One of the things I love about working at National Museum Cardiff (apart from the wonderful collections and exhibitions of course!) is taking a wander in the Museum gift shop. At the moment I am spoilt for choice as there is an extra shop for the Dippy exhibition filled with dino delights!

I’ve had a look at the goodies on offer at the moment, so sit back, relax and enjoy my top seven gift ideas.

 

1) Meet the Artists 3D Paper Folding Figures (£8.50)

 

These are so cute and fun, what an interesting stocking filler!

It’s the gift that keeps on giving as you have the fun of crafting your own mini artist and then can enjoy your handiwork.

 

 

 

 

 

2) Dippy: the tale of a museum icon (£6.99)

 

 

A really interesting little book, perfect for any dinosaur fan!

https://museum.wales/shop/item/3397/Dippy-the-tale-of-a-museum-icon/

 

 

 

 

3) Materia Rica Flower Necklace and Earrings (£28 and £20)

 

 

This earring and necklace set caught my eye because I’ve never seen anything like it.

I love the floral theme and the colours really stand out.

 

 

 

 

4) Fruits of Nature Original Remedies Bath Essence (£14.99)

 

A bath is the perfect way to relax after a busy day and to keep warm in this cold weather.

Whether you’d like to treat yourself or a friend, you can’t go wrong with a bit of bubble bath!

 

 

 

 

 

5) T-Rex Travel Mug (£8.99)

 

 

Do your bit for the environment and give the gift of this eco-friendly dinosaur-themed travel mug.

https://museum.wales/shop/item/3372/T-Rex-Travel-Mug/

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Make Your Own Pteranodon (£12.99)

 

 

Another crafty option for someone creative, you get to assemble this fun automaton and can paint it any colour you like!

https://museum.wales/shop/item/3371/Make-Your-Own-Pteranodon-Wooden-Automata-Series-/

 

 

 

 

7) Special Edition ‘Martin Parr in Wales’ Set (£300)

Bear with me, but if you have a little money to spare this is a fantastic gift for someone who loves photography! This is a unique opportunity to own a signed, limited edition print by one of the most influential photographers around - snap this up before they sell out! 

https://museum.wales/shop/item/3391/Martin-Parr-in-Wales---Special-edition/

And if you love the idea but don’t have as much spare, you can pick up the book ‘Martin Parr in Wales’ for just £19.99: https://museum.wales/shop/item/3367/Martin-Parr-in-Wales/

 

 

So that’s my top seven from National Museum Cardiff, though there are many more gift ideas to be found in our shops across Amguedddfa Cymru. Please do check out our online shop too: https://museum.wales/shop/

Nadolig Llawen! | Merry Christmas!