Amgueddfa Blog: Collections & Research

Celebrating Diversity in Sport

Fflur Morse, 30 September 2022

The 30th of September is National Sporting Heritage Day, and this year’s theme is diversity in sport. 

Today is an opportunity to celebrate the sporting heritage of under-represented communities and use the stories they hold to educate and inspire.

This blog will explore highlights from the collection at Amgueddfa Cymru to shine a light on diverse sporting stories in Wales.  

Cardiff Dragons FC shirt worn by Murray Harvey

Cardiff Dragons FC was founded in 2008 and is Wales' first and only LGBTQ+ football team. Their first match was held on Sunday 26 October 2008 where they beat the London Romans 5-4 at Caedelyn Park, Whitchurch, Cardiff. This football shirt was worn by the captain, Murray Harvey (a member of Cardiff Dragons from 2008 until 2018), at this first match. 

Swansea Vikings RFC shirt worn by David Parr

Swansea Vikings RFC are a gay and inclusive rugby team. Founded on 9 May 2015, they are the first ever created in Swansea and the second to be created in Wales. 

This is their first kit and was worn by David Parr who joined Swansea Vikings in January 2016. David stated that,

“Being part of an open, inclusive club that doesn't discriminate has been great for my self confidence, physical and mental health and has enabled me to make many lifelong friendships. I wore the kit on many occasions throughout 2016 and 2017 including against fellow LGBT team the Cardiff Lions in January 2017”.

Signed publicity photograph of boxer, Pat Thomas

Pat Thomas was born in 1950 on the island of Saint Kitts, and moved to Cardiff aged seven. In a career spanning fourteen years he won several titles in two weights, including British Welterweight (1975 & 1976), British Light Middleweight (1979 and 1980) and Welsh Light Middleweight (1977). He founded the Tiger Bay Boxing Club in 1984, and after retiring from professional boxing he worked as a trainer.

Flyer designed by Anthony Evans for the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement

Double sided Flyer designed by Anthony Evans for the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement (WAAM). The flyer was made to advertise a demonstration held in Cardiff on 16 April 1986 to protest against a rugby match between the British Lions and the Rest of the World. The Rest of the World squad included six Springboks from South Africa.

Inscribed: 'NO LINKS WITH SOUTH AFRICAN BLOOD SPORTS / 'Mae nhw'n chwarae â gwaed yn NE AFFRICA - dim cysylltiadau.

Olympic Games Blazer Badge worn by Eileen Allen

This is a blazer badge decorated with the Union Jack with the inscription: OLYMPIC GAMES 1952 The Olympic Games of 1952 was held in Helsinki, ten years later than intended due to the outbreak of World War II. 

The badge was worn by Miss Eileen Allen from Cardiff, a member of Team GB 1952, and one of two Welsh referees on the hockey panel of that year. 

This was a great achievement for a female referee, succeeding in a male dominated world, when only men could compete in hockey at the Olympic Games. 

Stonewall Rainbow Laces 

Lastly, these are a pair of Stonewall ‘Rainbow Laces’ in original packing. These laces were first launched by Stonewall in 2013, to promote LGBTQ+ equality and tackle homophobia in sport. This pair was given out to people attending a Stonewall Cymru Role Models Programme in Cardiff in November 2019.

The label reads:

MAKE SPORT EVERYONE’S GAME 

The people mentioned in this blog have made an immense contribution to Welsh sport, insuring that sport is inclusive to all. Their stories have become part of the national memory and will continue to inspire generations of people to follow in their footsteps.

It’s important that we continue to increase representation in the national collection, so that it is more representative of the contemporary diverse cultures of Wales.

Please get in touch if you have any objects you would like to donate to help build up the sports collection at Amgueddfa Cymru, so we can continue to diversify the collection and ensure that future generations will be able to learn about all of Wales’ sporting heritage. 

Finally, you can search and view objects from the collection on the Museum’s Collections Online catalogue. 

#NSHD2022

 

Queer Tours at St Fagans National Museum of History

Oska von Ruhland, 14 June 2022

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales is home to a growing collection of objects exploring Wales’ LGBTQ+ history. Like the other collections, they’re all available to view online in the Collections & Research tab on the Museum’s website. The Collections Online features objects both in store and currently on display.

Though the collection is always available to freely view and people may read through the information about each object and learn in their own time, it is a shared view that it is important to celebrate and uplift the stories and lives of marginalised communities and bring forward hidden aspects of Welsh history. In doing this work we hope to normalise queer lives in Wales, and solidify the important role of diverse identities as part of Welsh culture.

To give an idea of the sort of objects we will be discussing in the Queer Tours projects, we would like to invite you to look through Collections Online, and consider not only contemporary queer icons who make our variety of Pride events so unique, or even famous historical figures who have secured a place in mainstream Welsh heritage, but the lives of the everyday person who may have had to live in secret, or whose activism was never properly recorded. Here we want to bring forward all of these lost stories, in the hopes that by sharing them we will continue to uncover more.

In an effort to bring attention to the LGBTQ+ Collection, we have developed the Queer Tours project to encourage the public to explore the variety of objects and better understand Wales’ queer heritage. This project has been developed by Amgueddfa Cymru Producers on behalf of the museum for the Pride season.

For the ever-growing variety of objects in the collection, and a want to reflect as many important aspects of this heritage as possible, several parts of this project have been developed or are in the process of being developed:

  • A series of social media posts highlighting a selection of objects in the collection and their role in queer Welsh heritage that will be available on the Bloedd AC Instagram account.
  • A digital tour video of St Fagans National Museum of History exploring objects currently on display and the way we can interpret the history of queer everyday life.
  • A self-guided tour for visitors of St Fagans National Museum of History to follow the route themselves and become immersed in history themselves.
  • A  special one-time-event in-person led tour is being developed so that attendees may enjoy hearing about the work at St Fagans National Museum of History and the continuing effort being put into the LGBTQ+ Collection.

It is our hope that this project be useful and educational to people not just during this Pride season, but will leave a lasting impact and change views of what queer heritage means in Wales.

All of this work is possible thanks to the Hands on Heritage support fund.

Nature Finds a Way

Alyson Edwards, 3 May 2022

The Recolonisation of Invertebrates on Restored Grassland:

I’m Alyson, a Professional Training Year placement year student from Cardiff University (School of Biosciences), currently working within the Entomology department at National Museum Cardiff under the supervision of Dr Michael R Wilson (researchgate.net). My interest in ecology, conservation and zoology ultimately led me here, and with no prior specialist knowledge in entomology (the study of insects) I jumped in at the deep end. Within a few months I was sampling in the field and identifying leaf- and planthopper species from Ffos-y-Fran (an open cast colliery site near Merthyr Tydfil). This  is currently undergoing the process of restoration so that it is converted from a colliery site to reseeded grassland.

Sampling in the field at Ffos-y-Fran in July 2021

Samples were then frozen and analysed along with samples taken in 2017-2019

Sorting invertebrate samples using a microscope and forceps into labelled tubes of ‘Hemiptera’, ‘Coleoptera’, ‘Diptera’ and ‘Assorted’ before storing specimens in 80% alcohol for preservation

Identifying and analysing over four years of invertebrate samples, involved looking at 195 samples.  This took a fair amount of time but allows the rate of recolonisation over a 5-year period, total species diversity, richness, and population dynamics within the fields across the years and seasons to be calculated. Leaf- and planthoppers (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha) were chosen as models within this study as they are frequently common within grassland environments and can be used as an indicator of recolonisation progress on man-restored environments and ex-colliery spoil sites. Colliery sites are a common landscape visible across the UK, especially in the south Wales valleys. Their ecological importance and possible biodiversity are often overlooked, however work by Liam Olds (formerly Natural Talent apprentice at Amgueddfa Cymru), continues to highlight this through the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative (https://www.collieryspoil.com/about).

The 195 samples were sorted into tubes labelled as ‘Hemiptera’, ‘Coleoptera’, ‘Diptera’ and ‘Assorted’

Further sorting of the Hemiptera samples to species level in order to record population and gender numbers

I am currently in the process of analysing this huge data set and creating a report to show the findings. However, in summary, the data has shown a trend of increasing diversity of hopper species within the field since it was reseeded. In total, 33 species were identified from the site – highlighting the ecological importance these habitats hold. Interestingly, grassland species generally uncommon to the area such as the planthopper Xanthodelphax flaveola and the leafhopper Anoscopus histrionicus, were abundant across the site leading to interesting discussion points as to why this environment encourages their colonisation. Other observations and discussions have also arisen from different wing-morphologies (shapes) seen in specimens of the same species. For example, the discovery of long-winged females of Doratura impudica, which are commonly a brachypterous species (short or rudimentary wings) encourages thought on arrival and colonisation methods of certain species, which could potentially help analyse other environments under recolonisation and ‘rewilding’ programmes. 

Uncommon species of grasslands in the area, leafhopper Anoscopus histrionicus (male specimen) were observed frequently at Ffos-y-Fran.

Uncommon species of grasslands in the area, planthopper Xanthodelphax flaveola (male specimen) were observed frequently at Ffos-y-Fran.

Long-winged morphs of Doratura impudica, a brachypterous species (short or rudimentary wings), were observed infrequently across the site

Studying the recolonisation of hoppers at Ffos-y-Fran has allowed me to develop and gain numerous skills which I will take with me into my final year of university and beyond. Not only have I been able to improve on existing skills such as report writing and data analysis, but I’ve also had the opportunity to gain new skills such as invertebrate identification, mounting specimens and taxonomical drawing. I’ve also had the chance to use the Scanning Electron Microscopy and sputter coating, and I have also used the imaging equipment at National Museum Cardiff to create a ‘species guide’ of the 33 observed at Ffos-y-Fran to supplement the report and provide a visual aid. Within my first few months at the museum, I was also able to get involved in a data collection project run by Dr Alan Stewart (University of Sussex), analysing specimens within the Auchenorrhyncha collections to create spreadsheets for the eventual creation of species distribution maps as part of the UK Mapping scheme for this insect group. There are so many opportunities and experiences to be had within the museum!

Looking through the collections and understanding the role of a collections manager

Gaining experience in imaging by photographing Fijian spittlebugs in preparation of redescribing and describing new species

My time with Amgueddfa Cymru has been amazing, conducting research and joining the Natural Sciences team, and has solidified my desire to pursue a career in research. I believe my placement has given me a great start for a future career with the skills I’ve gained and developed through my work on Ffos-y-Fran and my secondary research project. The second project I am currently working on in collaboration with Dr Mike Wilson will provide an up-to-date redescription and description of new species of Fijian spittlebugs with the aim of publication of my first peer-reviewed scientific paper. Watch this space to find out more on the latter project …. 

Taxonomy- A dying science?

Abbie Taylor, 29 April 2022

As a Biological Sciences student I am very familiar with the concept of classification and evolution, having been taught about it from primary school level. The idea of using a filing system to organise species became common place at secondary school level. Constantly reciting the Linnean system and its eight levels of taxa (domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species) for exams and coming up with rhymes and mnemonics to remember it in class. 

Museum scientist in the DNA lab

Due to this I was vaguely familiar with taxonomy, I knew what it was and why it was important, as I describe below. However, we never truly explored taxonomy in any great detail, especially in a modern context, and so I never thought about it as a career many still do today. That was until February of 2020 when I was searching for placement opportunities for my Professional Training Year as a part of my degree at Cardiff University, and I came across an opportunity to undertake at National Museum Cardiff exploring taxonomy. I now have a much greater understanding of taxonomy’s importance and unfortunately the crisis it might be facing.

What is taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the science of naming, describing and classifying species, including species new to science. It is the foundation stone of biological science. The first step in understanding how many species we have, where they live, and what they look like so others can identify them. For example, it can be an early indicator of evolution, and in seeing how the morphological characteristics of species may help in adapting and surviving in their environments. 

Some tools for taxonomic drawing for a species of shovelhead worm (Magelonidae)

Why is taxonomy important?

To understand the great diversity of the world we must know what is in it, and so taxonomy is essential in beginning to describe distributions and habitats of species. This will help scientists determine for example, whether a species is under threat, or the presence of an invasive species that can threaten other species and as a result their ecosystem. Scientists need to know all of the species in an environment, all described in a standardised manner that can be understood by those from around the world no matter the language spoken. This is so that they can begin to understand how to help preserve biodiversity and help the planet. 

Taxonomy is essential in aiding communication between scientists by giving a species a binomial scientific name. Many species will have many differing common names, for example Puma concolor, also known as the puma, cougar, panther, mountain lion, catamount, etc. in fact, P. concolor has over 40 common names in English alone. A binomial name (often in Greek or Latin) reduces confusion by surpassing language barriers and avoiding differing common names.

Puma concolor CC BY 2.0

Taxonomy is also the first step in identifying species that have the potential to help people, to that end, the species related to them which may possess similar qualities. 

Truthfully, it is not known how many species share the planet with us. The most commonly cited number is 8.7 million species, however, this number ranges from five to ten million species. Either way taxonomists have only identified and described around two million species. Unfortunately, there will be many species that become extinct before we even know they existed. Scientists are unable to determine the rate of species extinctions or truly understand changes in biodiversity on a global scale because of the frightfully little knowledge of the species we share the planet with.

Importance of taxonomists

As mentioned, I mostly knew taxonomy as science undertaken in the past and if I did think of it in a modern context it was through modern techniques such as DNA barcoding. As a career opportunity for new biologists, taxonomy barely crosses the mind. It has been suggested that funding in taxonomic research is also on the decline, and that traditional taxonomy is too slow in producing research papers. 

Museum scientist in the DNA lab

But while using DNA to aid in identifications and for evolutionary relationships is no doubt useful, it is dangerous to remove all of the other “old-fashioned” techniques used for looking into morphological characteristics. Techniques such as drawing, AutoMontage imaging, scanning electron microscopy, written descriptions from observations, notes on habitat and distribution to name but a few. DNA analysis should be used to supplement the more traditional techniques, not replace them. There have been numerous examples in papers of errors in conclusions being made due to scientists looking at species from only a genetic point of view but having misidentified the species. To that effect integrative taxonomy has recently become a popular choice. It includes multiple perspectives such as phylogeography, comparative morphology, population genetics, ecology, development, behaviour, etc., so as to create the best descriptions and knowledge of species. 

After all, without taking the time to properly observe and describe a specimen you won’t truly know what the species looks like and how it uses its features to survive. How shall keys and field guides be properly constructed so that non-experts can identify species too? Without taxonomists how can the irreplaceable and valuable collections in our natural history museums be properly maintained and organised?

Imaging software used to image specimens, in this instance, the abdomen of a new species of shovel head worm

As I have experienced in my research on a relatively understudied family, mistakes have been made in identifications leading to false conclusions to be drawn, which has dangerous consequences for example in determining biodiversity. These false identifications may be enhanced by a purely DNA route into taxonomy. If taxonomy starts to die and fewer experts who truly understand a species exist who shall correct these mistakes and continue to document the rich biodiversity of the world?

 

Mourning Wear and why it’s due a revival

Lowri Kirkham , 29 March 2022

About the Author - Lowri is one of the Freelance Young people Programme makers, working with Amgueddfa Cymru on the Winter of Wellbeing project. 

Portrait of a woman in mourning clothes

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Situation 

I’m standing at the Supermarket checkout bagging up copious amounts of nibbles, cakes and booze. The checkout lady says ‘ Ooh are you having a party! You lucky thing!’ 

Here’s what I should have said: 

 ‘Actually my Dad just died and all of this is for my family and me (mainly me) to drown our sorrows after the funeral. I don’t need to be doing this but I need something to keep me busy or else I would have to deal with my feelings.’ And then I would make a scene by ugly crying while swigging from one of the wine bottles.  

And what I actually said: 

‘Yes, I’m having a party.’ And then I went back to my car and cried. 

This exchange would never have happened if Mourning dress was still a social convention. Of course, I could wear all black but that wouldn't necessarily convey that I had recently suffered a loss, it would just convey that I am chic… or a vampire… or a chic vampire. There aren’t too many old school social conventions that I would want to revive; however, certain parts of formal mourning are, in my opinion, due a revamp.  

So, what is traditional Mourning? 

After the death of a close family member or friend it has been a tradition for centuries in many parts of the western world to wear black for varying periods of time, to communicate that they have suffered a loss. However, during the Victorian period, Mourning and all the social conventions that went with it, were at their peak. This was for several reasons but the high death rate, rise of the middle classes and the wider availability of reliable Black clothing dyes contributed heavily to its popularity. Queen Victoria herself, was the poster girl for Mourning, famously remaining in mourning and seclusion for many years after her husband, Prince Albert's death. 

Mourning conventions varied and were dependent on class, location, religion and relationship to the deceased. For example, an upper class widow could stay in Mourning clothing for several years whereas a working class widow who had not the means for Mourning wear may show no outward grieving at all. The Mourning period also limited which social occasions the Mourner could attend. Dancing and other frivolities were a no go. Those who disregarded the expected conventions could become social outcasts. 

What is Mourning wear? 

Picture of a black mourning dress