Amgueddfa Blog

Amgueddfa Cymru is home to almost 1,400 paintings and drawings by Augustus John (1878-1961). A prolific portraitist, John painted many notable figures such as the poet and writer Dylan Thomas and the musician Guilhermina Suggia. He also made frequent sketches – in both pencil and oil paint – of unnamed people he encountered in everyday life. One such work in our collection has recently had its sitter identified thanks to the crowd-sourced resource Art Detective, where art lovers and experts can discuss artworks in public UK collections.

The work in question depicts a distinctive looking woman with cropped hair and a full fringe, sporting an inquisitive expression on her face. While the model’s dress and lower body is loosely sketched out, her face is richly detailed, suggesting that she was known to the artist.

A discussion about this painting was launched on Art Detective after Dr. Margot Schwass wrote in to share her research into Greville Texidor (1902-1964) and her belief that this is the “lost” Augustus John portrait of the author and world traveler. Schwass comments that: “When I chanced across an image of the portrait in the Amgueddfa Cymru collection, I knew straight away that it was Greville”. This prompted a lively and well-researched discussion among other Art Detective users, leading to our curatorial team being utterly convinced that this is in fact a portrait of Texidor, who, it was uncovered, worked as John’s secretary in the early 1920s.

We would like to thank Dr. Schwass for contributing her research and helping us learn more about this work in our collection. Her 2019 book All the Juicy Pastures is the first to tell the story of Texidor's extraordinary life.

You can read more about Art UK’s Art Detective Network here.

If you ask a primary school child what they did that day in school, they’ll often enthuse most about what they did at play time.  Play time is the time they get to decide what happens. They choose the games, the toys, even the players, within the safe parameters given them. And within these parameters, they are learning. Learning how to move and what they are capable of physically. Learning how to act socially, through sharing and caring. Learning how to deal with emotions when the game doesn’t always go their way. Playtime is vital.

And the learning starts long before school. Toddler Time is one of my favourite regular events that the museum runs. It’s a chance for parents to bring their little ones for some supervised play in a quiet, safe environment. We’re just there to assist, play a little, and give exhausted parents an extra pair of eyes on their little ones. The best part is that we get to use the resources the learning team has and put together a different themed experience every time.

If it’s jungle day, we set out the room with jungle themed soft play decorations.  Soft logs for toddlers to climb over, green fluffy rugs to crawl over. We can then bring out the animals: the tigers, the monkeys, the elephants. Children can play with them, making their own stories and adding their own sounds and movements. Even if a child isn’t talking yet, copying sounds and movements helps them learn.

Its not just movement and sound that children love. Touch is vital for early learning. Young children love to explore items with their hands, or even their mouths, so our toy boxes are filled with simple, easily cleaned blocks for them to examine. We have many thematic sensory boxes, filled with soft fake fur, rough leathery fabric, and all sorts of wonderful textures for the little ones to touch and feel.

When the children are played out, it’s time for a story. We have a huge collection of beautiful children’s books, related to our themes, which can be performed in a lively or calm manner, using audience interaction or not. The one thing we’ve learned is how to read a room.

While things are different at the moment, with certain parts of the museum still closed, we’ve managed to put together lots of online resources for the little ones. We’ve got stories, arts and crafts activities and lots of silly movement and rhyme in both Welsh and English to keep you going until we fully reopen.

 

National Wool Museum’s Exhibition of Hope… Exhibition Launch Date! 

We are very pleased to announce the Exhibition of Hope will open to the public at the National Wool Museum on the 2nd of October 2021 and will be on display until mid-January 2022. The opening will form part of the Museum Wales digital Celebration of Wool Event taking place between the 2nd and 3rd of October. Click here for more details about the event. Celebration of Wool | National Museum Wales 

The Exhibition will also be displayed at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea between July 2022 and October 2022. 

Thank you to all those who contributed to the creation of rainbow coloured squares. Contributions for the Exhibition of Hope closed at the end of March 2021. Since the initial call out for squares in April 2020 at the beginning of the nation’s Covid-19 lockdown, we have received nearly 2000 squares! Participants used any materials which were readily available to them at the time such as wool or acrylics to create their squares. From knitted squares to crocheted squares, the response has been fantastic!  

Crisis charity (South Wales), which supports homeless people, shared the Exhibition of Hope information on their Facebook pages and created physical packs including wool and instructions to send to services users to support them to take part. The Exhibition of Hope was featured in Adult Learners’ Week 2020 and two videos were released of National Wool Museum Craftsperson Non Mitchell giving a demonstration on how to create a felted and woven square. A collage of photographs documenting the Exhibition was submitted as part of the Connect to Kindness Art Project, a project which is run in partnership with the Connect to Kindness Campaign and Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services, which aims to capture community kindness and support during the pandemic.  

Nothing about this past year has been predictable and we have all had to adapt to huge changes. While we had originally planned to create one giant rainbow blanket from the squares, we have, on reflection, decided to create a number of smaller blankets instead. This is because we have received such an amazing number of squares and due to Covid-19 restrictions volunteers were unable to meet at the Wool Museum. National Wool Museum Volunteers and Museum Wales staff have therefore been joining the squares from home, creating wonderful unique blankets.   Following the Exhibition, we still plan on donating the blankets to charities to be used as they wish, whether that be for example, as blankets or as pieces of artwork. More blankets mean more flexibility for display, and we are working on some exciting display plans! 

Whilst our wonderful volunteers and staff have been busy creating the blankets, we have also been working on another aspect of the project. Over the past year we have received so many varied and beautiful squares from people up and down the country and it has been lovely to hear from many who have found that creating the squares has helped during the unprecedented and challenging times. We have therefore decided to capture some contributors’ experiences of taking part in the project. ‘Stories behind the Squares’ will be a brief interpretation video within the Exhibition and available online, documenting the thoughts and feelings of those taking part in the Exhibition. 

We are thankful to Ysgol Penboyr, the local school in the village of Dre-fach Felindre, where the National Wool Museum is located who have created a beautiful rainbow handprint artwork which will be displayed in the Exhibition too. 

Rainbows are often used as a symbol of peace and hope and as we know, they often appear when the sun shines following heavy rainfall. They serve to remind us that following dark times, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The Exhibition aims to reflect spirit, hope and community during these challenging times. It is designed to be an immersive experience, a symbolic hug of kindness of the love that has been placed into every stitch and is created as a tangible embodiment of hope. 

As part of the Exhibition, there will be an online page on the Museum Wales website. The page will include, amongst other things, the Exhibition of Hope ‘Stories behind the Squares’ video and an Exhibition set up time-lapse video as well as a brief walk ‘round of the exhibition itself. 

We look forward to welcoming you to the Exhibition very soon. In the meantime, here is a brief video about the Exhibition of Hope, documenting some of the photographs that have been taken since the Exhibition was launched. 

Keep an eye out on our social media pages to find out the latest information. 

Thank you to The Ashley Family Foundation and Community Foundation Wales for their support with this project. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Llantwit Major beach in the Vale of Glamorgan is a popular, rocky beach, backed with impressive cliffs.  With views across the Bristol Channel towards Minehead on a clear day, it is a stunning and inspiring location.  However, more importantly to you & me, Llantwit Major beach is one of the best places in Wales to find Jurassic fossils and is a treasure trove of undiscovered delights for fossil and nature explorers alike.  So, on a cloudy afternoon, armed with my kit and sketchbook, I visited my favourite beach, to see what I could find…

The cliffs at Llantwit Major experience regular rockfalls which have sadly resulted in fatalities, so although it may be tempting to look for fossils within the recent rockfalls, it essential that all fossil hunters stay well away from the cliffs!  As I walked towards the beach, this rockfall was out of sight, but within a few yards, there it was. A timely reminder to stay clear!

So, what did I take with me? Well you certainly don’t need a truck load of scientific equipment or a palaeontological assistant when fossil hunting! This is something that everyone can do with simple kit and a keen eye.

Before heading out hunting however, here are some things to consider:

  • Check the tide times before you visit.  It is safest to start your fossil hunting on a falling tide so that you don’t get cut off as the tide rises.
  • Wear suitable footwear and clothing. Good, sturdy footwear is essential on this rocky terrain and be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions.
  • Fossil hunting can be thirsty work so it’s a good idea to bring some snacks and fluids to keep your energy levels up.  The nearest café could be some distance away!

My kit

  • Sturdy shoes.
  • Drinking water.
  • Kitchen roll to help carefully clean interesting finds.
  • Things to document my experience, such as a sketchbook, a notepad, my phone (for the camera function), a ruler, pen and pencils.

I decided to walk to the left, at a safe distance from the cliff. The landscape here is varied and rocky, perfect for rock pools and fossil hunting.

I had a quick scan of the shale before looking at the boulders.  The most common fossils found on this beach are likely to be molluscs such as ammonites and bivalves, although you might spot fish remains or even ichthyosaur bones if you’re lucky!  You might also see beautiful examples of more modern shells.  As I approached the larger boulders, I spotted some markings that looked like an ammonite, so I decided to investigate further.

I drew a simple sketch of my find and measured its size with my ruler.  I also used my phone to take a photo of the locality with my finger pointing toward the fossil.  This is a very simple way of documenting the location of interesting specimens so you can easily find them again if needed.                                      

Eager to find more, I headed further down the beach.  The boulders here become more fragmented and a particular one caught my eye.  I’d found another ammonite impression! However, I decided not to risk hammering the rock around my find as this often damages fossils rather than removing them nicely.  Imagine the feeling of accidentally destroying something that has been preserved for millions of years in a second with a wayward blow – it’s too much to bear!  I decided to leave this fossil exactly where I found it. Llantwit Major is sadly becoming over collected, and I believe that this example should be left for others to enjoy. I hope you find it if you visit!

If you find any fossils or items of interest, please contact us at the museum via our website.  We love seeing your discoveries and our team of experts will happily help you identify your finds and provide further information.

Remember - everybody can be a palaeontologist!

Happy hunting!

To find more resources to help you with your exploring why not check out 

On Your Doorstep: Nature, geology and archaeology in Wales | National Museum Wales 

The next steps in a Professional Training Year

It’s been a little while since my last blog post and since then there has been a lot of exciting things happening! The scientific paper I have been working on that describes a new species of marine shovelhead worm (Magelonidae) with my training year supervisor Katie Mortimer-Jones and American colleague James Blake is finished and has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal. The opportunity to become a published author is not something I expected coming into this placement and I cannot believe how lucky I am to soon have a published paper while I am still an undergraduate.

There are thousands of scientific journals out there, all specialising in different areas. Ours will be going in the capstone edition of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a journal which covers systematics in biological sciences, so perfect for our paper. Every journal has its own specifications to abide by in order to be published in them. These rules cover everything from the way you cite and reference other papers, how headings and subheadings are set out, the font style and size, and how large images should be. A significant part of writing a paper that many people might not consider is ensuring you follow the specifications of the journal. It’s very easy to forget or just write in the style you always have!

Once you have checked and doubled checked your paper and have submitted  to the journal you wish to be published in, the process of peer reviewing begins. This is where your paper is given to other scientists, typically 2 or 3, that are specialists in the field. These peer-reviewers read through your paper and determine if what you have written has good, meaningful science in it and is notable enough to be published. They also act as extra proof-readers, finding mistakes you may have missed and suggesting altered phrasing to make things easier to understand.

I must admit it is a little nerve wracking to know that peer reviewers have the option to reject all your hard work if they don’t think it is good enough. However, the two reviewers have been nothing but kind and exceptionally helpful. They have both accepted our paper for publication. Having fresh sets of eyes look at your work is always better at finding mistakes than just reading it over and over again, especially if those eyes are specialists in the field that you are writing in.

As you would expect, the process of peer-reviewing takes some time. So, while we have been waiting for the reviews to come back, I have already made great progress on starting a second scientific paper based around marine shovelhead worms with my supervisor. While the story of the paper isn’t far along enough yet to talk about here, I can talk about the fantastic opportunity I had to visit the Natural History Museum, London!

We are currently investigating a potentially new European species of shovelhead worm which is similar to a UK species described by an Amgueddfa Cymru scientist and German colleagues. Most of the type specimens of the latter species are held at the Natural History Museum in London. Type material is scientifically priceless, they are the individual specimens from which a new species is first described and given a scientific name. Therefore, they are the first port of call, if we want to determine if our specimens are a new species or not.

The volume of material that the London Natural History Museum possesses of the species we are interested in is very large and we had no idea what we wanted to loan from them. So, in order to make sure we requested the most useful specimens for our paper, we travelled to London to look through all of the specimens there. We were kindly showed around the facilities by one of the museum’s curators and allowed to make use of one of the labs in order to view all of the specimens. The trip was certainly worth it. We took a lot of notes and found out some very interesting things, but most importantly we had a clear idea of the specific specimens that we wanted to borrow to take photos of and analyse closer back in Cardiff. 

Overall, I can say with confidence that the long drive was certainly more than worth it! I’m very excited to continue with this new paper and even more excited to soon be able to share the results of our first completed and published paper, watch this space…

Thank you once again to both National Museum Cardiff and Natural History Museum, London for making this trip possible.