Amgueddfa Blog

I took this picture in June 2011, underground at Aberpergwm Mine near Resolven. In the picture are three mineworkers who were showing me around the workings. The lady in the middle, Katherine Voyle, was the mine geologist. It was her job to study the coal seam and decide which direction to take the head of the mine to maximise the coal output.

I went to the mine to record a video interview with Katherine about her life and how she ended up in this job. Part of my work is to collect ‘real’ people’s history so that future generations can get the true picture of life now. I asked her if it was strange being the only female amongst 300 men. She told me that it was at first but she soon got used to it. The men also accepted her as ‘one of the boys’ now, especially when she was wearing overalls, but they had a real shock if they went into her office after she had changed back into ‘office wear’!

Aberpergwm is a drift mine, in other words it cuts into the side of a valley rather than a deep shaft. The mine actually dipped steeply as we walked over a mile to the face. There, a huge cutting machine was busy and the noise was deafening. After my tour and conducting an interview we walked back up to the daylight. Even though I hadn’t done any physical work my legs were aching just walking in and out!

Katherine, originally from Swansea, told me that before coming to Aberpergwm she had worked on oil rigs in the North Sea and also in Holland. Her real love was the environment and nature and she was busy setting up a nature trail on the land above the mine.

LINKS TO ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

An article by Ceri Thompson, Curator (Coal) about Katherine Voyle for Glo Magazine:

https://museum.wales/media/24679/GLO-Magazine-2012-web.pdf

Dear Bulb Buddies,

I’d like to say a big thank you for all of your hard work on the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation. I’ve enjoyed this year’s project, especially all of the comments that you have shared with your data. Some of your comments are listed at the end of this Blog.

As schools closed early this year many of you will not have had a chance to enter your data to the website. I understand that some schools may have had a few weeks worth of data still to upload before this sudden change. I am also working from home as the Museum I work at closed in the same week as most schools. It’s a big change; and I have been thinking of you all at this time and hope that you are all Okay.

I will still be Blogging and Twitting about the project. In the coming weeks I will highlight different resources and activities that you can do at home. This week my suggestion is that you draw pictures of daffodil and crocus plants and learn how to label the different parts of the plants. If you have done this activity before, maybe you could choose a different plant to draw this time? I’ve already been sent some fantastic images from St Mungo Primary that you can see to the right of this Blog. If you can, email a photo of your picture to your teacher or share it over Twitter with @Professor_Plant .

There are resources on the Spring Bulbs for schools website that you can access from home. I’ve attached outlines of a daffodil and crocus that you can colour and label and ‘The Life of a Bulb’ origami booklet (and instructions) that you can colour and fold.

There are also lots of activities on the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales website. You can choose between lots of different themes, from Romans and Celts to artists and dinosaurs! To find these visit the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales learning page. You will see a list of the seven different Museum sites. Click on your chosen Museum, then scroll to the ‘Resources’ tab. You’ll find different resources there that link to the Museum you’ve selected.

Some schools were able to take their plants home with them. That wasn’t possible for everyone because schools closed suddenly. If you weren’t able to take your plants home with you, don’t worry, they will be fine.

Thank you again for all of your work on the project, and remember to watch this space for more blogs Bulb Buddies.

Professor Plant

Your comments

Comments about schools closing:

YGG Tonyrefail: Diolch am y prosiect eleni. Thank you for the project this year. Stay safe and well in the coming weeks. Professor Plant: Diolch, I hope you will take part again next year.
Hudson Road Primary School: This is the last reading we are able to send. We have loved taking part in the Bulb project. Professor Plant: Thank you for sharing your data Bulb Buddies.
St Julian's Primary School: We all took our daffodil pots home today on our last day at school for a while. Thank you for letting us take part once again. Professor Plant: I’m glad you were able to take your plants home and hope you will take part again.
Gavinburn Primary School: Our school closed on the 20th March and only 3 flowers had appeared from our daffodils planted in the ground. Professor Plant: Thank you for the update Bulb Buddies, it’s helpful for us to know that plants hadn’t yet flowered.
Dalbeattie Primary School: School is now closed but we are trying to keep records best that we can although they may not be as accurate. Professor Plant: Thank you Bulb Buddies, great work.
Henllys CIW Primary: All the flowers opened except mine and a spare one . Everyone's opened over the same weekends too. There was another spare one that opened so I took that one home instead. Professor Plant: I’m sorry that your plant didn't flower but am glad that there was a spare one for you to take home. Thank you for all of your work on the project.
Arkholme Primary School: This is the last day we are in school before it closes. Some of the flowers were broken in the strong winds and will not flower. Our teacher is going to check the bulbs when he is in school. Professor Plant: I’m sorry to hear the wind damaged your plants. Thank you for taking the time to update me on your last day in school and for all of the work you’ve done for the project.
Arkholme Primary School: The mystery bulbs are just beginning to bud. The sunniest week so far this year. The crocus flowers have started to open out in the sunshine. This is the last day to look at the bulbs as school is closing for the virus. Professor Plant: Thank you for this final update and for checking on the plants for as long as you could. You paint a lovely picture of your school garden.
Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Hi, This will be my last time submitting the weather data! After 3 years on doing it has finally come to an end! It has been fairly cold this week with not much rain! We won't be submitting it next week because school is closed! Thank you for the last time! Riley. Professor Plant: Dear Riley, thank you so much for the work that you have done for the project over the years. I’ve enjoyed reading your regular up-dates and wish you all the best. Remember to keep following the Blog for links to resources and to the end of project report.
St. Robert's Catholic Primary: This is our last week of weather results as our school closes today. Professor Plant: Thank you for updating me Bulb Buddies, and thank you for all of the great work you’ve done.
Darran Park Primary: Our weather has been a bit dryer this week. Unfortunately our class attendance has dropped continuously throughout the week and these children have not been able to check their plants. We have done this as best we could. Thank you for enabling us to do this project, we do hope that we will be able to do this again. Professor Plant: Thank you for taking part in the project and for updating me. I’m glad you have enjoyed the project and hope that you will take part again.
Sanquhar Primary School: Bulb pots taken home by the children left in school. Professor Plant: Fantastic, thank you.
Ysgol Bro Pedr: Take care of yourselves! Professor Plant: Thank you, and you Bulb Buddies.
St Fergus' Primary School: Our flowers are not far away from opening, the tops are very yellow but no flowers yet. Our school is now closed due to the Corona virus. Professor Plant: Good observational skills and description Bulb Buddies. Thank you for updating me, it’s very helpful to know that some plants hadn’t flowered when schools closed.

Comments about plants:
Dalbeattie Primary School: Only green leaves- no flower formed - this is like several of our crocus bulbs. Professor Plant: I’m sorry to hear that not all of your plants flowered Bulb Buddies, this sometimes happens. I’m glad that the other bulbs flowered for you to enjoy.
St Fergus' Primary School: We have one crocus fully opened, a beautiful purple one, some more are just about to open. Professor Plant: Fantastic Bulb Buddies.
Carnbroe Primary School: 2020-03-05. The crocuses bloomed early March.We are still waiting on the other bulbs to flower. Professor Plant: Thank you for entering your data Bulb Buddies.
Sanquhar Primary School: We found our bulb bed had been burrowed into. We have replaced the bulbs. None of our bulbs in pots are showing anything yet. We have moved them to a sunnier position. Professor Plant: Thank you for the update Bulb Buddies. Do you have any ideas what might have been burrowing into your flower bed?!
Bryncoch CiW Primary School: I noticed a caterpillar on my daffodil. Professor Plant: Fantastic Bulb Buddies, do you know what type of caterpillar it was?

Llanedeyrn Primary School: I was shocked on how tall it had grown. Professor Plant: They do grow surprisingly tall!
Bursar Primary Academy: 3 of the planted crocus' never flowered. Numbers 1, 15 and 30. We believe this is because these were sheltered from sunlight and rainfall. The Crocus' opened between 24/02/2020 and 05/03/2020. The heights range from 31mm to 98mm. Professor Plant: Well done for thinking about why some plants might flower and others not. This can also be why some plants flower earlier than others.
Litchard Primary School: It shows the difference in temperature when we brought the crocus inside it opened within 10-15 minutes. Professor Plant: This is an interesting experiment to do, bringing one inside while the others are outside and comparing the flowering date.
Hudson Road Primary School: There were two flowers that had opened when I measured them they were both 90 mm tall. Professor Plant: Fantastic work Bulb Buddy!
Drummore Primary School: It is a small plant but its a step closer saving the world. Professor Plant: They are very small and delicate, but can teach us a lot about the natural world.  
Drummore Primary School: They take a long time to grow. Professor Plant: They do, and you’ve been very patient caring for it since October.

Comments about data input:
Our Lady of Peace Primary School: We are happy to send in data again. Professor Plant: Thank you for sharing your data Bulb Buddies.
Our Lady of Peace Primary School:  Sorry we missed out a few weeks and a couple of days. As we said we are super sorry. Professor Plant: That can’t be helped, thank you for letting me know and for inputting the data you can.
Saint Anthony's Primary School: It was really exiting to check the temperature and rainfall. Professor Plant: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the project Bulb buddies, thank you for all the work you’ve done.

 

As humans transport goods all over the planet we also unintentionally transport animals and plants to places that they do not belong. We call these animals and plants non-native or alien species. If conditions are right for the non-native species they can become established and outcompete our own native species for food and habitat. This is when they are called invasive species and could have a negative impact on our native species sharing the same habitat. This is bad news considering all the other pressures on our wildlife.

 

How do they travel such great distances?

Mytilopsis leucophaeta, native to Gulf of Mexico, found in Roath Docks, Cardiff in 1997

One of the major transporters of marine non-native species are the large goods ships that travel from one side of the planet to the other, taking on ballast water in various ports and ejecting the water at their destination. Ballast water aids the huge ships to balance. At ports, as containers are removed from the ship, ballast water is taken on to keep the whole vessel evenly balanced. The problem is that the water in ports often contains tiny floating animals that are the offspring (or larvae) of mussels, crabs, clams and other invertebrates. These larvae get sucked into the ballast tanks and survive onboard until ejected at the destination port, which is sometimes on the other side of the planet. These animals would not normally have reached these far off destinations naturally. 

 

The Manila Clam originally from the western Pacific Ocean  

Aquariums and aquaculture, or the farming of aquatic plants and animals, are another two major contributors towards the invasive non-native species spread. Shellfish farms import juveniles to grow and breed from but these can often escape captivity or have other species attached to them. The Manila clam (Tapes philippinarum) from the Indo-Pacific region was introduced for farming in the south of England in 1989, but has since escaped! Of all mollusc farming in the world, the Manila clam makes up an astounding 25% and this is because the species can grow quickly and reproduce in great numbers. It is also very hardy and has started to spread in the south of England and is breeding with one of our own native species. To learn more about Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) in Wales check out the Wales Biodiversity Partnership INNS pages.

Caribbean Chama sarda - the Cherry Jewelbox - attached to ropes washed ashore in Ireland

A third, less well-known method of transportation of non-native species is by rafting – or attaching to floating items. Numerous bivalves (eg. mussels, cockles, oysters) have crossed the Atlantic Ocean attached to bait buckets, buoys, crates and other sturdy plastic items. They wash ashore usually after particularly violent storms and are then stranded with the rest of the marine litter.  We call these bivalves ‘rafting bivalves’. They attach to their ‘raft’ using byssus threads or cement, depending on the kind of bivalve. Byssus threads are produced by a special gland in the foot of the animal to allow the shell to anchor onto hard surfaces such as rocks. You may have seen this with mussels on our rocky shores. Oysters and other similar bivalves use a special cement to glue themselves onto hard surfaces and so they are also able to attach to the plastic rafts. I am especially interested in learning more about marine bivalve shells that attach to ocean plastics and then wash ashore on our beaches and have started to add them to our Marine Bivalve Shells of the British Isles website.

To find out more about Rafting Bivalves check out next week's blog.

The Historic Buildings Unit (HBU) at St Fagans National Museum of History have recently welcomed a new member of the team - Jen Farnell.

Jen joined HBU in January 2020 on a placement with The Prince's Foundation Traditional Building Skills Programme to learn traditional carpentry skills.  The bursary programme provides 8 months training in traditional skills for tradespeople already qualified in their field, but who want to train in traditional techniques.

Jen had completed her NVQ level 3 in Site Joinery and worked her apprenticeship with Persimmon Homes in south east Wales, when she heard about The Prince's Foundation Programme from a friend who had completed it and gained his NVQ level 3 in Carpentry Traditional Skills. The first 4 months of Jen's training were spent at Dumfries House with 11 other students, building an arbour in the grounds with a curved hip roof. Previously, Jen has volunteered in Swaziland teaching local women carpentry skills and worked for Wild Creations and NoFit State Circus.

At St Fagans, Jen has been working with Ben Wilkins (HBU Senior Traditional Carpenter) and Tom James (Apprentice HBU Traditional Carpenter) on the windows for The Vulcan Hotel. 

For the Castle Gardens, Jen has repaired the Mulberry Garden gate using traditional scarfing techniques to replace damaged sections of timber with new. She is also making a new gate for the Rosery replicating the trellis pattern from the Mulberry Garden gate.

Jen is originally from Aberystwyth and is a first language Welsh speaker. She is enjoying her time at St Fagans with the HBU team and said that “it is such a thrill to be at St Fagans, the home of Welsh culture, working with hand tools learning traditional techniques”.

Today is National Autusm Day, a chance to spread awareness and increase acceptance of Autism. Here at Amgueddfa Cymru National Museums of Wales, we believe passionately in making our museums and galleries accessible to everyone, and more than that to creating welcoming, comfortable spaces for all. To that end, a couple of years ago, with the support of autistic volunteers and family members, the National Waterfront Museum created a 'chill-out-room', and began offering 'quiet hours' each month. 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.”

The Museum is of course, closed right now, but for those of you interested, the times for our 'quiet hours' are posted on our events pages each month. We look forward to welcoming you all back in the coming months.