Amgueddfa Blog: Collections & Research

BBC broadcasting in Wales began on 13 February 1923, with the first public radio broadcast from Cardiff. Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales in partnership with BBC Wales are planning an exhibition to illustrate how the BBC has played a part in the everyday lives of people in Wales ‘informing, educating and entertaining’ over the last 100 years. 

We will be delving into the BBC’s extensive archive and trawling through our stores at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales for images, film clips and objects, but we need more.

We want to hear YOUR stories and memories. What are the BBC moments that have stayed with you and why? What channels or radio stations do you most enjoy? What are your memories of BBC TV and radio over Christmas?

As well as your stories, we’d like to hear from you if you have any BBC memorabilia; toys from your favourite TV programmes, stickers, badges, posters, T-shirts.

Get in touch by emailing -

How to Name Nature

My Professional Training Year placement in the Natural Sciences Department at National Museum Cardiff has been going for a few months now and we are making great progress! We have gotten to the stage where it is time to name the new species of shovel head worm (Magelonidae) that we have spent many months describing and drawing. Shovel head worms are a type of marine bristle worm.

Shovel head worm 

So, the big question is, how exactly do scientists name the new species they discover? 

All species are named using a system called binomial nomenclature, also known as the two-term naming system. This system is primarily credited to Carl Linnaeus in 1753 but there is evidence suggesting the system was used as early as 1622 by Gaspard Bauhin. You will know them as the Latin names for organisms or scientific names. These names are firstly formed of a generic name, identifying the genus the species belongs to and a specific name, identifying the species. For example, the binomial name for humans is Homo sapiensHomo is the genus, which also includes our ancestors like the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) but if you want to specifically refer to modern humans you add the species name, sapiens. So, Homo sapiens is what you get.

Today, binomial nomenclature is primarily governed by two internationally agreed code of rules, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICNafp). Across the two codes the rules are generally the same but with slight differences. As my work focuses on naming animals, I will focus on the rules set out by the ICZN.

The first step in naming a new species is figuring out exactly what to name it after. There are generally 3 main ways to pick a name.

Firstly, you can pick a physical trait of the animal. This trait usually makes it stand out from the other species in its genus. This is my preferred method of naming because it gives people an impression of what it is like just by its name. For example, European robins are given the binomial name Erithacus rubecula and rubecula is derived from the Latin ruber, meaning red which emphasises the robin’s iconic red breast.

A robin, Erithacus rubecula from our collections

An example of a shovel head worm with a name like this is Magelona cepiceps, translating from the Latin cepa for onion and ceps referring to the head. This relates to the shape of the ‘head’ (prostomium) of the worm resembling an onion!

Shovel head worm, Magelona cepiceps

Secondly, you could name the new species after the place it was discovered. It’s not as descriptive as naming the animal after a physical feature but tells you where you may find it. The binomial name for the Canada Goose is Branta canadensis, displaying that although the bird is a common sight in many places thanks to its introduction, it is originally from Canada.

Canadian Goose, Branta canadensis (photo: Cindy Howells)

A shovel head worm with a regional scientific name is Magelona mahensis, indicating that it is from the island of Mahé in the Seychelles.

Shovel head worm, Magelona mahensis

The Island of Mahé in the Seychelles where Magelona mahensis was first described





Lastly, you can name it after someone. Of course, a person’s first instinct might be to try and name a species after themselves. The ICZN doesn’t have a rule explicitly against this but it is seen as a sign of vanity. But perhaps if you name enough species in your field, eventually someone may name a species after you. This is my least favourite way to name species because it may not tell you anything about the species at all, but it is nice to give honour to those that are important to us or those who have put in a lot of work in the field. For example, in honour of Sir David Attenborough’s 90th birthday a dragonfly was named after him, taking the name Acisoma attenboroughi. Attenborough has inspired so many scientists that he has around 34 species named after him currently. There is a shovel head worm named Magelona johnstoni which is named after Dr George Johnston, one of the first scientists to describe shovel head worms.

Shovel head worm, Magelona johnstoni named after George Johnston (Photo: Andy Mackie)

While the names can be taken from words in any language they must be spelt out in the Roman alphabet, ensuring they can be universally read. Many binomial names are formed of words from ancient Greek but have been Latinised. Typically, if you have selected a physical feature it is translated into Greek or Latin. There are several books specifically written for helping scientists translate and create new species names.

Brown's Composition of Scientific Words - a book used when deciding on names for species

To Latinise the name, you have selected you have to make sure it follows the rules of Latin grammar. This is where it gets a little complicated as you have to start considering the genus name of the species. Latin has masculine, feminine and neutral words, you can tell this by how the word ends. The gender of the genus name will affect the ending and gender of your species name.

And with that information you are just about ready to name your species!

It might seem like a lot of things to consider when you are naming a new species, believe me I never expected to know this much about Latin grammar! But these rules are incredibly important to ensure we can orderly name and keep track of each of the fascinating organisms that are discovered and allows everyone to universally understand which animals scientists are talking about. Especially when you consider that there are over 12,000 known marine bristleworms globally and that number is increasing.

Once all of the drawings and descriptions are complete, the scientific paper goes through a peer-reviewed process where other experts in the field consider your decision to describe and name the new species. If the reviewers agree the species is formally described and those that were involved are now the species authorities. In scientific journals the species name will be written down followed by the names of those who described it and the year it was described. So, while you might not name a species after yourself, whenever the species is mentioned you will get recognition for the work you have done.

So, what will our new species be called?........Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out........

It's National Storytelling Week!! To mark it, we're inviting you to create and tell us a story....about this wedding dress! We'll tell you more about it's real story at the end of the competition, as we don't want it to limit your creativity or influence your ideas, but you might be interested to know that it is made from fine flannel cloth, purchased in 1974, when our museum was still a working woolen mill known as Cambrian Mills.

The winner will receive a beautiful double Welsh wool blanket, made on our museum site by Melin Teifi. A number of colour choices are available.


The best story weaver will win a beautiful, traditional double Welsh blanket, made by Melin Teifi on our museum site. These blankets were traditionally given as a wedding gift, and continue to be valued and collected the world over.


The art of storytelling is an ancient one here in Wales. It was practiced by Cyfarwyddion, storytellers at the courts of kings and lords as well as at forge fires and in parlours by the fire. To honour this tradition, for storytelling week, we're asking you to TELL us a story, rather than write one down. You are welcome to submit your entry in Welsh or Englisng. So,

1. Dream up, imagine and think through a short, original story inspired by this wedding dress from our collection. You may find it easy to jot down a few notes to help you get a bit of a structure.

2. Practice TELLING the story out loud, and time yourself to make sure it's UNDER 2 MINUTES IN LENGTH. We will not accept stories that go over time.

3. When you feel confident, film yourself telling the story in under 2 minutes. It doesn't need to be fancy, just a film using a phone camera will do. Alternatively, you could record yourself speaking the story (no more than 2 minutes in length) and send us the recording. However, please do not just READ us a story. There's a big difference between spontaeously speaking a story and reading it.

4. When you've got a film / audio recording you're happy with, email it to us at:

These blankets were traditionally given as wedding gifts, and continue to be heirlooms and collectors items worldwide.

COMPTETITION CLOSING DATE: WEDNESDAY 10 FEBRUARY at 15:00. For competition terms and conditions, see below

We'll be sharing the top 5 stories through our social media channels on Valentine's Day, and announcing the winner that afternoon.






- Use natural light: outside or beside window with the light on your face.

- Avoid backlighting, e.g. window, lamps, TV behind you.


Framing and Positioning 

- Film in landscape, not portrait, position.

- Keep your phone as still as you can by using a tripod or resting it on a steady surface. Avoid hand-held filming.


Recording on Laptop or Desktop

- Start up Zoom, Teams, Skype, FaceTime etc and ensure you can see yourself, then start QuickTime Player.


Using screen capture with QuickTime Player

- Within the application: File, “New Screen Recording”, press red record button to start capture.

- Press stop button to end the recording.

- Saving the file: File, “Export As”, 1080p, title the video, select file location, “Save”.

Terms & Conditions
· The Promoter is: Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru / the National Museum of Wales (Charity Registration number: 525774) whose registered office is at Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NP.
· Employees of the National Museum of Wales or their families, or anyone else connected in any way with the competition, shall not be permitted to enter the competition.
· There is no entry fee to the competition and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
· The promoter will only consider one entry per participating email, Facebook or Twitter account.
· Entries which put entrants, staff or any other persons at risk will not be eligible for this competition
· The Promoter is not responsible for any physical injury or harm to entrants or any other persons in the course of participating in this competition
· It is the Entrant’s responsibility to ensure that they take necessary precautions to guard their own safety, and the safety of any other persons present, while participating in this competition
· Closing date for entry will be Wednesday 10 February at 15.00. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
· No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for any reason. 
· The Promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of any event outside of the Promoter's control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the Promoter.
· The Promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
· No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
· Winners will be chosen on merit by a representative of the Promoter.
· The winners will be notified via email Facebook or Twitter by 15 February. If the winners cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 72 hours of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
· The Promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected, or to where it should be posted
· The Promoter's decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
· The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by UK Law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the UK.
· By entering this competition, an entrant releases Facebook and twitter from any or all liability in connection with this contest
· All entrants agree that National Museum of Wales can display and share their entries on their website and social media channels, with name credit where the information is available. Submitted entries will remain the intellectual property of the entrants.
· Winners agree to post an acknowledgement Facebook or twitter, mentioning @amgueddfacymru in their message.
· The winner agrees to the use of their name, likeness and entry in any publicity material.
· Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant's prior consent.
· Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
· This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or any other social network. You are providing your personal information to the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and not to any other party. The information provided will be used in conjunction with the Data Protection Act.


Carved cow’s horn, 1758
Carved cow’s horn, 1758

Today in Wales we celebrate Santes Dwynwen, the patron saint of friendship and love.

With Valentine’s day also on the horizon, what better time than now, to explore some of the objects in our collection which were given as tokens and symbols of love. Most of us are familiar with the concept of love spoons and their significance to Wales, and you can learn more about their history and designs here.

But in this blog, I would like to focus on some of the lesser-known objects related to love in the collection, starting with the Knitting Sheath.

Knitting needle sheaths were often carved as love tokens. Sheaths were worn by knitters to hold one of their needles while they worked. This allowed them to use their free hand to manipulate the yarn. The sheath was either tucked into the knitter’s waistband or tied around their waist.

This knitting sheath is inscribed with the date 1802, with the name ‘Thomas Smith’. It was probably made as a present and love token, like several others in our collection. It is decorated with a flower, heart, and fish motif.

Top: Carved knitting needle sheath, 1802 Bottom: Carved knitting needle sheath, 1754

The example below it is of an earlier date and was made in 1754.

Like many of the lovespoons in the collection at St Fagans, both sheaths feature balls carved within a cage – this was commonly thought to represent the number of children desired by the carver.

Another popular love token was the Staybusk. This was a piece of wood which was inserted into the front of a woman’s stays to keep the torso upright. They were usually made from whalebone, wood or bone. A busk was often given to a woman as a love token from a suitor because they were positioned close to the heart. Many were carved or painted with inscriptions and motifs, such as hearts, initials and flowers.

Below is a carved wooden staybusk from Llanwrtyd, Powys. It is inscribed with the initials RM and IM.

Carved wooden staybusk from Llanwrtyd
Carved wooden staybusk from Llanwrtyd

The symbol of the wheel features heavily on this staybust, and it was said that this represented a vow by the carver to work hard, and to guide a loved one through life.

Tokens such as knitting sheaths, staybusts and lovespoons were available to people of all classes. Made with affordable materials that were readily available, each token was completely unique and driven by the emotion and passion of the carver.

Carved love tokens encompassed a wide variety of styles and designs, and came in all shapes and sizes, such as this cow horn; beautifully carved in 1758 in the Aberystwyth area, as a gift by Edward Davis for his sweetheart Mary.

Carved cow’s horn, 1758
Carved cow’s horn, 1758

These tokens shed a unique light on the emotional experiences of the receiver, and those who loved them. They were cherished objects of ordinary people, who’s stories are so often hidden from history. Through the beautifully carved symbols and motifs on the love tokens, we can learn a little about their hopes and desires and gain a glimpse into their very own love stories.

Have you ever asked yourself the question “What’s behind the gallery doors of National Museum Cardiff”? Well, if you have then this blog might be for you. The specimens and objects you see in the galleries are just a fraction of those we have in the museum’s collections. So why do we have so many? Specimens in the galleries do suffer when exposed to light while on display, and occasionally from being touched by little sticky fingers! To help protect them, we regularly swap fragile objects on display with those in our stores. We also change objects round for the different exhibitions we produce. Objects behind the scenes are also used for a whole variety of different activities such as education and research. 

While we may not be able to put all of our specimens on display, we do like to share as many of them as we can via our social media channels. In the Natural Sciences Department, we do that via the @CardiffCurator Twitter account. Each week, we might share our worm highlights on #WormWednesday, some of our fantastic fossils on #FossilFriday and various other amazing specimens on other days of the week via various alliterations! 

Of course, the festive season is no different and each year we promote Christmassy objects via a #MuseumAdvent calendar. For 2020, our calendar has been inspired by the ‘Nature on your doorstep’ program which the museum has run throughout lockdown aimed at reconnecting people with nature. One of the main activities has been photo bingo, where we challenged people to find and photograph a number of objects. For winter bingo, we released a card at the end of November with 24 wintery things, such a robin, holly, frost and a sunset. Behind every door of our museum advent calendar, we included helpful tips and photographs from our collections, alongside live photos to help people find everything on the bingo sheet.

We are nearly half way through the calendar, but if you would like to join in why not follow the #MuseumAdvent hashtag over on @CardiffCurator and see if you can call “House” before the 24th December.