Amgueddfa Blog

The Carers Wales report State of Caring 2019 estimated that last year there were 400,000 carers in Wales. The 2011 Census gave the overall figure as 370,000 or 12% of the population, with 30,000 of those carers under the age of 25 and it noted that Wales has the highest proportion of carers under 18 in the UK. These figures all refer to unpaid carers, who are supporting an adult or child with a disability, physical or mental illness, or affected by substance misuse. It does not include those working in paid caring roles.

It is estimated that most of us, three out of five, will become a carer at some point in our lives.

Given these huge numbers and the fact that most of us are, or will be, affected why don’t we hear more about carers? One reason could be that carers are too busy being carers. I have been a carer myself and before joining Amgueddfa Cymru I spent 30 years working in health and social care services, in which time I would estimate that I worked with a few thousand carers. My experience and extensive studies show that many carers experience loneliness and social isolation, poor mental or physical health themselves, and financial pressure, as a result of their caring role.

So what does this mean for Amgueddfa Cymru? One of the goals for our 10-year strategy, due to be published in spring 2021, is that we are relevant to everyone and accessible to everyone; another is a focus on health and wellbeing for all. Our community engagement programme has a very wide range of ways for people who have support needs (due to health, disability or other circumstances) to get involved in museum activities as a visitor or through our volunteering and learning programmes. We certainly welcome carers via these initiatives and there are many carers who have got involved, but as yet we don’t have very much that is specifically designed around the needs of carers.

Looking ahead to next year, the Volunteering team want to provide some opportunities designed specifically for carers. This may involve recruiting volunteers who can support carers in visiting our museums, or, it may mean designing volunteering opportunities for carers that work around caring demands. At the moment we imagine a mix of attendance options – some opportunities for carers to attend or join something on their own, others where carers can do so with the person they provide care for. 

The usual image of carers is of someone older, caring either for an elderly parent or for their spouse or partner. There are many who fit that description, but there are also more young adult or child carers than most people realise and the demands of caring risk an adverse impact on their education, development, and overall quality of life. We are therefore planning to include some opportunities that are specifically aimed at young carers.

People from all communities face caring responsibilities, which may in some cases be made even harder by systemic discrimination and disadvantage. My own experience of caring for my Iraqi grandmother was that the support services available genuinely intended to welcome everyone but were nearly all set up around the habits, lifestyles and life experiences of a White British population. The food and activities offered, and life events discussed (for instance in Reminiscence therapy), held no relevance or comfort for her whatsoever. I’m not suggesting this gives me any insight into another person’s experience, it doesn’t, but it does give an insight into the limitations of a single approach. 

So we know we will need a nuanced and varied approach, and this is where we would like your help. We have created a survey which sets out some of our ideas so far, but we also need to hear from you if you are a carer or have been a carer in the past. If you’re not, we’d be grateful if you could help us by sharing this with carers you know.

The survey launches on Carers Rights Day, 26 November, and on the same day we’re also planning a live online discussion (with a free event ticket for every carer who joins us). You can find the details of how to participate, and also the ‘taster’ sessions on the same day, via this web page: https://museum.wales/getinvolved/carers

Hi Bulb Buddies, 

I hope that planting day went well and that you are enjoying documenting weather data for our investigation. 

I want to say a big thank you to you all for your hard work on planting day. Together we planted over 18,800 bulbs across the UK! Your fantastic planting day photos show that you had a great time.  

Weather records started on 2 November. There is a resource on the website with more information on keeping weather records. I’ve attached this here in case you haven’t already seen it. This resource helps you to answer important questions, such as why rainfall and temperature readings are important to our investigation into the effects of climate on the flowering dates of spring bulbs.  

Use your Weather Chart to log the rainfall and temperature every day that you are in school. At the end of each week, log into your Spring Bulbs account on the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales website to enter your weekly readings. You can also leave comments or ask questions for me to answer in my next Blog. 

Let me know how you get on and remember that you can share photos via email or Twitter. 

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies, 

Professor Plant 

 

Comments shared with the first weeks weather data:

Planting bulbs

St Patrick Primary School: We planted the bulbs on 3 November 2020 as it was a sunny day. We had so much fun planting the bulbs, it was a great experience for our class. Professor Plant: I’m glad you enjoyed planting your bulbs Bulb Buddies. I hope you enjoy taking weather records too! 

Our Lady of Peace Primary School: Thank you for sending us bulbs we really enjoyed planting them from K and A. Professor Plant: You are more than welcome Bulb Buddies, thank you for taking part in the project.  

Arkholme Primary School: We planted our bulbs before the half term holiday. The rain gauge and thermometer are set up and we enjoyed collected the information. Professor Plant: Fantastic work Bulb Buddies, it sounds like you have everything under control. Thank you for sharing your weekly data. 

Livingston Village Primary School: We had lots of rain over the weekend so that is why our rainfall was so high on Monday. We have had some of our bulbs dug up so we used our night vision camera to watch and see what was happening. We saw a squirrel and a bird digging at our bulbs! Professor Plant: I’m sorry to hear your bulbs were dug up, but what exciting detective work to find the culprit! I'd love to see the video footage if you are able to share it. It’s likely that the bird was making the most of the newly turned soil to look for food. Squirrels do eat some spring bulbs , but they are also known to dig up bulbs when looking for somewhere to store their food for the winter! If you find that your bulbs are dug up again, apparently sprinkling chilli flakes or powder in the area will deter squirrels.  

Coastlands School: Our professor plant has been wondering if the frosty mornings might effect the growth of our bulbs! Professor Plant: Hi Bulb Buddies, that's a good question. We expect that the weather will affect the growth of our plants and that they will flower earlier if we have a mild winter. Your bulbs will be nice and warm in the soil for the winter. You might like origami booklet resource on the Spring bulb website, this looks at the secret life of a bulb and what your bulb does in winter. 

Collecting weather data 

YGG Tonyrefail: Helo Athro'r ardd. Dyma ein canlyniadau cyntaf ni o YGG Tonyrefail. Rydw i'n falch o gael gweld yr heulwen!!! Professor Plant: Diolch Cyfeillian y Gwanwyn, daliwch ati gyda'r gwaith da. 

Steelstown Primary School: Our first week of weather watching was good fun. We had to set an alarm to remind us to do it at the same time every day. Professor Plant: Setting an alarm is a great idea Bulb Buddies! Thank you for sharing your data. 

Pearson Primary School: The children loved going down to the garden every day to check the temperature and to see if their plants are growing yet. As yet we have had no rain here, so hopefully we will get some over the weekend and the children can measure the rainfall next week. Professor Plant: I’m glad that the class are enjoying the project. I love that they are hoping for rain so that they can take rainfall readings! Fantastic work Bulb buddies. 

Pil Primary School: There was a lot of rain on Monday! We liked recording the results. Professor Plant: I’m glad you are enjoying taking weather readings. Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies. 

Sheuchan Primary School: Very wet start to week. Monday's rainfall figure includes from 2pm Friday to 2pm Monday. Professor Plant: Thank you for emptying the rain gauge on the Friday Bulb Buddies, keep up the good work. 

Carreghofa Primary School: It hasn't rained much this week but on Monday Mr Roberts empty the funnel out so mondays results was not accurate. Professor Plant: Thank you for letting me know Bulb Buddies, keep up the good work. 

St Mary Primary School (Co Down): Hello Professor Plant. We are the eco ambassador and the science champion in our class. We ae going to help our class observe the rainfall and the temperature this year to see the flowers grow. Professor Plant: Thank you for taking on leading roles with this project Bulb Buddies. I look forward to your updates on how the investigation is going at your school. 

St Peter Primary School (Plumbridge): We enjoyed our first week recording. Professor Plant: Fantastic Bulb Buddies, thank you for sharing your data. 

Weather observations 

Professor Plant: Thank you to the following schools for the detailed weather observations they have shared with their weekly data. Keep up the great work Bulb Buddies. 

Oystermouth Primary: Very dry end to the week in Mumbles. Temperatures appear high but it was much colder in reality. 

Porthcawl Primary: After loads of rain for the whole of half term and the start of the week it has been amazing sunshine since Wednesday 

Moffat Academy: At the weekend it was so rainy it filled up the rain-gage. The rest of the week was pretty dry. It felt very cold, though it was considerably warm temperature wise. Mostly cloudy through the week, with a bit of sun. Frost on the fifth, and mist or fog on the sixth. 

Newbuildings Primary School: The sun has been shining brightly in Newbuildings today! Monday and Tuesday have been very wet Thursday has been the hottest day of the week. Our bulbs are snug asleep in their little plant pots! 

Litchard Primary School: It's been frosty every morning with some ground frost. All the temp and rainfall has been the same and its sunny every afternoon. 

High Cross Primary School: We have noticed it has got colder this week. 

Ysgol Bro Pedr: It's been quite a cold week, but it's been really sunny towards the end of the week. 

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: We observed our first frosts this week - its been a cold week! 

How a Distanced Professional Training Year Can Still Be Enjoyable and Successful

As an undergraduate, studying biosciences at Cardiff University, I am able to undertake a placement training year. Taxonomy, the study of naming, defining, and classifying living things, has always interested me and the opportunity to see behind the scenes of the museum was a chance I did not want to lose. So, when the time came to start applying for placements, the Natural Sciences Department at National Museum Cardiff was my first choice. When I had my first tour around the museum, I knew I had made the right choice to apply to carry out my placement there. It really was the ‘kid in the candy shop’ type of feeling, except the sweets were preserved scientific specimens. If given the time I could spend days looking over every item in the collection and marvelling at them all. 

The 'candy shop' moment of seeing the museum's collections

Jars of preserved specimens in the collections at National Museum Cardiff

Of course, the plans that were set out for my year studying with the museum were made last year and, with the Covid-19 pandemic this has meant that plans had to change! However, everyone has adapted really well and thankfully, a large amount of the work I am doing can be done from home or in zoom meetings when things need to be discussed.

Currently, my work focuses on writing a scientific paper that will be centered on describing and naming a new species of shovel head worm (Magelonidae) from North America. Shovel head worms are a type of marine bristle worm and as the name describes, are found in the sea. They are related to earth worms and leeches. So far, my work has involved researching background information and writing the introduction for the paper. This  is very helpful for my own knowledge because when I applied for the placement I didn’t have the slightest clue about what a shovel head worm was but now I can confidently understand what people mean when they talk about chaetigers or lateral pouches!

Part of the research needed for the paper also includes looking closely at species found in the same area as the new species, or at species that are closely related in order to determine that our species is actually new.

Photos for the paper were taken by attaching a camera to a microscope and using special imaging stacking software which takes several shots at different focus distances and combines them into a fully focused image. While ideally, I would have taken these images myself, I am unable to due to covid restrictions, so my training year supervisor, Katie Mortimer-Jones took them.

Camera mounted on a microscope used to take images of the worms

Then I cleaned up the backgrounds and made them into the plates ready for publication. I am very fortunate that I already have experience in using applications similar to photoshop for art and a graphics tablet so it wasn’t too difficult for me to adjust what I already had in order to make these plates. Hopefully soon, I will be able to take these images for myself.

Getting images ready for publication

My very first publication in a scientific journal doesn’t seem that far away and I still have much more time in my placement which makes me very excited to see what the future holds. Of course, none of this would be possible without the wonderful, friendly and helpful museum staff who I have to express my sincere thanks to for allowing me to have this fantastic opportunity to work here, especially my supervisor, Katie Mortimer-Jones.

Shovel head worm 

Did you know that, on average, we publish around 1,000 messages per month across our social media channels? These messages are created to provide you with a flavour of what goes on in the museums each day, and there’s a lot that goes on!

What underlines all the content that’s shared with you is the museums’ values. As an organization we believe our differences should be recognized, acknowledged and celebrated. We want all our platforms to be a safe environment where you can share your views and opinions together, to have respectful dialogue where each person is treated with dignity and respect. We want our social media content to not only inform but to give you the opportunity to engage with us. We are always pleased to witness your interactions on our accounts and enjoy responding to comments and taking part in interesting discussions.

Unfortunately, however, we have received a few hate messages and have experienced some trolling lately. Any message that goes against or challenges our values we take seriously. So, we’ve been discussing how best to respond and what steps to take in order to underline our stance on specific topics, and also to support the colleagues who have to read these hateful messages.

The first step we’ve taken is to update our social media policy as we felt it was important to define trolls and our stance on dealing with hate or negative comments officially. We won’t tolerate or condone messages that support or instigate hate, we will not engage with trolls and will take action to block and remove any person who seeks to cause upset or insight hate on any of our accounts.

These messages of hate are luckily a minority and will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, however we wanted to clarify our stance on receiving such messages. Please read our social media policy to learn more. It is available on the website. In the meantime, please continue to check out our content and continue to enjoy all that our accounts have to offer.

Halloween Traditions

Halloween is fast approaching and no doubt that many children across Wales will be deciding on what scary character they’d like to dress up as, and preparing their pumpkins for carving. Some of these traditions have been adopted from our American friends, but in this blog I’d like to give a flavour of other ways that this time of year was marked in the Welsh calendar.

Harvest and Winter’s Eve marked the period in the calendar where the last of the major agricultural tasks had come to an end, particularly bringing in the harvest before the winter time and marked the end of the old Celtic year referred to as Nos Calan Gaeaf or ‘the eve of the winter kalend’ which signified the end of summer and the beginning of winter. To mark this a feast was often held to thank neighbours for their help with the harvest, music and food would be provided. Calan Gaeaf was also associated with the slaughter of farm animals for the winter.

It was on Nos Calan Gaeaf or All-Hallows Eve that the strangest things were said to occur. Not only were spirits said to roam freely but it was believed that the ghosts of the dead were to be seen at midnight on every stile. In different parts of Wales these ghosts took on different characters but two of the most common were the ladi wen [white lady], and mainly in North Wales the tail-less black sow [hwch ddu gwta] and was associated with lighting bonfires after dark, as the fire died down they feared the appearance of the black sow and would chant verses such as:

Adref, adref am y cynta’, Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r ola’

Be sure you are the first at home, the tail-less black sow is sure to roam.

And also

Hwch Ddu Gwta a Ladi Wen heb ddim pen

Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r ola’

Hwch Ddu Gwta nos G’langaea

Lladron yn dwad tan weu sana.

The black sow and headless white lady,

Will try and catch the last to leave,

Thieves abound knitting stockings,

Beware the tail-less black sow on winter’s eve.

Superstitions

Much superstition was also attributed to this time of year especially in a fortune telling capacity. The main questions to be answered were who was to be married and who was to meet an untimely death. The types of fortune telling practices depended on the area. In Montgomeryshire they created a mash of nine ingredients which included potatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, parsnips, leeks, pepper and salt and mixed with milk and in the centre was placed a wedding ring. Each participant would try a bit of the mash and if they were lucky enough to find the ring it would indicate an imminent marriage! 

Another fortune telling was peeling an apple without breaking the skin and thrown over the shoulder. The letter created would indicate the initial of your future spouse. In the Llandysul area three bowls would be filled. One with soil, one with water containing sediment and one with clean water. The participant would be blindfolded and would be asked to touch one of the bowls. The first prophesised death before marriage, the second a troubled marriage and the third a successful marriage. Games were also played such as apple bobbing or the more dangerous version was trying to grab a dangling apple with your teeth which also had a candle attached!

Frightening objects in the collection

There are a number of unusual objects in the collection. One of these is a charm doll from Belgium from the Lovett collection, collected by Edward Lovett (1852-1933) who had a fascination for charms – lucky or otherwise. It’s a doll made of wax and could be used to hurt people by having pins and sharp object inserted into it. By melting the wax doll slowly in a chimney, it could even bring about someone’s painful lingering death.

Also in the collection is a witchcraft bottle with a charm inside. It’s never been opened and it’s thought that bottles such as this were placed inside walls and buildings to guard against evil spirits.

Ghost Stories from the Oral History Archive

Many thousands of people have been recorded by the staff at St Fagans over the years and among these recordings are ghostly stories and experiences remembered by interviewees or told to them by past generations. Some of these have been put on People’s Collection Wales. Click on the links below and listen to a selection. The lady in the second clip remembers talk of the Hwch Ddu Gwta or Tail-less Black Sow as mentioned above. Below is also an image of The Conjuror, Evan Griffiths talked about in the third clip.   

McClaren Colliery Ghost 

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/606763

Hwch Ddu Gwta   

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/606778

Y Crinjar/ The Conjuror

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/606781

If you’re looking for fun Halloween activities to do at home, why not download our activity sheets? You can decorate a pumpkin or write your own spell.

 

Decorate a Pumpkin

 

Write a Spell