Amgueddfa Blog: Collections & Research

We often get asked what happens to the lambs from Llwyn-Yr-Eos farm once the lambing season is over.

The lambs are put out to graze in the fields in and around the museum and are regularly on to fresh grass.

We will pick out the best lambs and keep them for breeding at the farm. This year we are looking to keep around 50 of the lambs born here at Llwyn-Yr-Eos farm.

Most of the female lambs go on for breeding stock, and there’s the select few rams that we sell at the pedigree sales as breeding rams.

The other lambs get sold for meat.

 

Where are the lambs sold?

We tend to support the pedigree society sales at Raglan, Llanybydder and Talybont on Usk.

There are also Hill Radnor, Llanwennog and Black Welsh Mountain rare breed sales at Raglan market.

We do sell direct to some butchers and are hoping to tie in with the Museum restaurant at St Fagans so that in the future they will be using the lamb reared here at Llwyn-Yr Eos farm.

The lamb on your plate is anything from 4-12 months old.

 

Voices from the archive - Lambing in Radnorshire

In the early 1970s Museum staff set out to record older and retired farmers describing farming in Wales in the first half of the twentieth century, before the large-scale mechanisation and expansion from the 1950s onwards.

In 1977 James Albert Price was interviewed by John Williams Davies about the lambing process at Tipton farm, Willey, Radnorshire.

The lambs were reared on the farm would be kept for 12 months and sold as yearlings the following March. The best lambs would be picked for breeding and the others sold.

James Albert Price, Tipton farm, 1977

James Price mentions the ewe auctions in Knighton each September selling 10 – 12,000 ewes a day.

The ram lambs would be sold as yearlings in auction at Craven Arms, Leominster and Hereford with three or four ram sales at Craven Arms.

 

The Museum holds a very significant library collection of Molluscan books, known collectively as the Tomlin Library. They were donated to the Museum in 1955 by John Read le Brockton Tomlin (1864-1954), a founder member of the Malacological Society of London, along with his extensive shell collection and archives.

 

To celebrate the Year of the Sea, we are focusing on some of the books in the Tomlin Library, and highlighting some of its treasures.

 

First up is Historiae sive synopsis methodica conchyliorum by Dr Martin Lister (1639-1712). Dr Lister was a physician to Queen Anne, who also had an interest in natural history and communicated with other leading naturalists of the time such as Edward Llwyd, John Ray, and Robert Hooke. He is generally thought to be the founder of conchology in England.

 

He had created a small version of this book for circulation to friends in 1685, but almost immediately began work on an expanded version which was produced from 1685 to 1692. This copy had 490 pages, with 1062 engraved copper plates, showing 2000 figures of molluscs.

 

The illustrations were the work of two of his daughters Susanna (1670-1738) and Anna (1671–1704). Their father had encouraged their drawing abilities, and they would have used the shells in his collection, or those sent by friends such as Sir Hans Sloane, from which to make their drawings. They were also responsible for etching or engraving the plates on copper and it is generally assumed that the printing was done by the family at home, rather than taken to a professional printing firm.

 

The publication of the first edition of Historiae Conchyliorum was a lengthy and laborious undertaking, it is an impressive feat for anyone to be involved in, but even more so for Susanna and Anna as it is thought that they were between the ages of 13 and 15 when production began. It was initially published in four books, or parts, and then a second, complete, edition was produced almost immediately and became available in 1697.

 

In 1712 Lister bequeathed the original copper plates to the Ashmolean Museum, and in 1770, the curator of the Museum, William Huddesford, published a third edition of the book. He reprinted the illustrations from the original plates, included additional notes from Lister’s manuscript, and dedicated it to the famous shell collector, the Duchess of Portland.

 

A final edition was produced in 1823, which included an index by Lewis Weston Dillwyn (1778-1855), the porcelain manufacturer whose shell collection is now housed in the Museum zoology department. This edition includes the notes from the Huddesford version and identifications of the species and remarks by the compiler. It is technically the fourth edition but is known generally as the third.

 

The Tomlin Library contains a copy of the first edition from 1685-1692, a copy of the 1770 Huddesford edition and two copies of the 1823 Dillwyn edition. For the duration of Women's History Month the 1685-1692 version will be on display in the Main Hall of National Museum Cardiff, along with a variety of shells from the zoology department.

Wrexham Museum is currently hosting their Buried in the Borderlands community archaeology project, a project based around a hoard of Medieval silver and gold coins and a stunning sapphire and gold ring discovered by metal detectorists in Bronington.

Thomas and Leon are students working hard on the Bronington Hoard project at Wrexham Museum, learning about the value of the coins and archaeology. Read more about them here.

The duo have been keeping us updated of their work experience progress. Leon has been working on an information booklet about the hoard while Tom has been focused on making a craft session for the children who come to the museum.

“I’ve been looking into some ways to make coins out of clay or foam board and some paint. I’ve also been looking at ways to be able to print the patterns on the coins onto the craft coins,” explains Tom. All their effort has been paying off, as the boys are getting involved with events this Easter holiday time.

“We’ve recently decided what we’ll be doing in our craft session during the Easter holidays. We’ll be making coins! We’ll be introducing families to the hoard and get them to make their favourite coin out of clay. The clay and metallic paint we’ve ordered arrived this week! We look forward to seeing some of you at our ‘Make & Take’ craft session at the museum on Tuesday, April 3rd, 10.30am – 12.30pm.”

Leon explains that they are also excited to hosting a visit from History Matters, a 15th century re-enactment group who are visiting Wrexham Musuem on May 30th. “They’ll be showing us and our visitors all about everyday life when the hoard was buried,” explains Leon. “We’re looking forward to learning about what people and ate. It’d be great to see you there! You might even spot us in period dress.”

Meanwhile, Leon has been working on an information booklet for visitors for when the hoard actually goes on display at the museum in March. “It’s more difficult than I first thought!” he admits, “trying to write enough information and make it interesting without being too dull or boring. I’m getting great help from the museum staff though. My booklet will be translated, designed and printed so I’m looking forward to getting all the information written to share with you.”

Click here for a full list of events being held at Wrexham Museum

The Buried in the Borderlands Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund via the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project.

Spring.  A beautiful season which epitomises re-birth and optimism, the awakening of nature to provide us with an array of stunning colours.   The Museum holds a collection of over 7000 superb botanical prints and drawings; several depict plants synonymous with the new season.

Principal Curator, Dr Heather Pardoe, from the Botany Section, Natural Sciences, has handpicked a seasonal range of exquisite botanical illustrations to reflect the delightful spring plants that are coming into flower. The Spring Collection provides an exclusive view of some of the illustrations that Botany holds behind the scenes; many are rarely on public display.

If you would like to see more of this beautiful collection, please follow the link below which will take you to the Print section of the online shop.  This also provides an opportunity to purchase a reproduction of one of these attractive images, as well as a wide range of other images from the Museum collections.

Museum Wales Prints

We are working towards providing a series of collections for you to enjoy - watch this space for more news!

Don’t forget to follow the Shop blog and Natural Sciences blog for regular updates!

Amy Wyatt is a Professional Training Year Intern from Cardiff University, find out more about Amy's project this year

 

A herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens that have been stored appropriately, databased and arranged systematically to ensure quick access to students, researchers and the general public for scientific research and education. The Welsh National Herbarium contains vascular plants, bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), lichens, fungi, and algae. In the vascular herbarium, specimens are arranged by plant family/genus, and stored alphabetically.  Specimens are stored in tall cabinets within the herbarium which is kept cool at all times. Each cabinet usually contains one taxonomic group of plants, for example members of the genus ‘Rubus’ have their own cabinet/section within the herbarium. And within the ‘Rubus’ cabinet, you will find individual species of Rubus (Rubus occidentalis-black raspberry, Rubus aboriginum–garden dewberry), each with its own folder containing all specimens of that species.  Some specimens have been digitised and placed on an electronic system to make accessing records and ‘borrowing’ specimens to other institutions easier.

Herbaria are essentially the ‘home’ of historical plant records, containing information that would otherwise be lost in time. It is the curator’s role to ensure that all specimens are kept contamination free, are stored according to the correct guidelines, and are all stored systematically. The herbarium is checked regularly for infestations, and strict guidelines are put in place to ensure all specimens remain in pristine condition. Any loss or damage to specimens would be catastrophic because of the irreplaceable nature of collections. Herbaria also contain type specimens, individual specimens that an author based their description on when describing a new species. So, damage to these specimens has wide devastating impacts to not just museum collections, but science and taxonomy as a whole.

Who benefits from herbaria?

HISTORIANS: Specimens stored in the herbarium can give insights into the daily life of people in history. Collections like the economic botanic collection contain plants and botanical items that were of important domestic, medicinal, cultural use to society in the past. This collection contains herbs, dyes, textiles and culturally important items that are kept demonstrate their importance to world culture through displays, museum visits and exhibitions! Historians can also use herbarium collections for project collaborations, for record of discoveries and for exploration.

BOTANISTS: The most obvious field that benefit from herbaria is botany; botanists are scientists that exclusively study and perform experiments on plants. Some herbaria records span back hundreds of years, so this gives botanist a unique chance to look at how plant life has changed in this period of time. There are many studies that can be performed on herbaria entries, and usually depends on the specialist skills of the researcher looking at them. Botanists can look at changes in stomatal density, how a plant species has changed over time, when invasive species were first documented in the herbarium, what plant species are abundant at a particular period of time, flowering times of plants, if there are any gaps in plant records, amongst a whole host of other information

SCIENTISTS: It’s not exclusively botanists that benefit from herbaria, other branches of science can also use the collections in their research. Biologists, conservationists and ecologists can benefit from the specimens found in herbarium and frequently use collections for ongoing research. Specimens provide a detailed account of plant life, and this information can be used to look at diversity and abundance of certain plant species, patterns of plant distribution, record of rare plant sightings (e.g. here we have a very precious collection of ghost orchids, which were thought to be extinct until 2009 and have only been sighted a hand full of times since), environmental responses to changes in the climate or weather, to educate students, etc. Herbaria can also be an excellent source of collaboration between universitys and the Museum, providing networking potentials.

TEACHERS/PEOPLE IN EDUCATION: Herbaria and museums are a great source of outreach for education of the public. Collections like the economic botany collection provide historical context to important botanical items (e.g Indigo, cinnamon) that have part of our culture behind them. The herbarium also has active researchers working upon vascular plants, lower plants, and diatoms. This work is often used to educate the public at events like museum exhibits, guided tours of the herbarium, conferences, and shows like the RHS flower show. 

What can be found in herbaria?

Vascular plants - Vascular plants are essentially ‘higher plants’ and are composed of all individuals that have water conducting tissue in their ‘stems’; flowers, grasses, trees, ferns, herbs, succulents, etc. are all types of vascular plants. These types of plants are usually stored on archival herbarium sheets, but the method of preparation and storage may depend on the contents of the specimen. Plants that are easily pressed are mounted onto acid free herbaria sheets, with a descriptive label for each specimen. These herbaria specimens must contain reproductive and vegetative organs, which are critical for species identification in plants. Any plant parts that can’t be easily pressed, e.g. tubers, bulbs, fleshy stems, large flowers, cones, fruits, etc are usually dried and placed in boxes or paper bags that are associated with other parts of the specimen.

Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) - Bryophytes include both liverworts and mosses are generally described as ‘lower plants’ and represent some of the oldest organisms on earth. Both groups grow closely packed together in matts on rocks, soil or trees. These types of plant don’t have regular water conducting tissue, so rely heavily on their environment to regulate their water levels. Both mosses and liverworts are unsuitable for ‘pressing’ as key features used in identification would be damaged during the process. Instead, specimens are dried, decontaminated and placed in packets, boxes or paper bags to ensure their long-term storage.

Lichens - Lichens are unique in plant taxonomy because they are an organism composed of two separate organisms in a symbiotic relationship. A lichen is composed of a fungus, and either an algal cell or bacterial cell. The fungal portion of the organism extracts organic carbohydrates and nutrients from the environment, and the algal/bacterial portion of the organism undergoes photosynthesis to capture energy from the sun. Because lichen are difficult to extract from their environment, commonly they are collected still attached to their substrate (rocks, bark, soil crusts) and stored in boxes.

Fungi - fungi are filamentous, simple organisms that occupy almost every habitat on earth. Fungi are not plants and belong in their own kingdom, as they contain no chlorophyll and extract organic nutrients directly from their environment. Surprisingly, most fungi are totally microscopic and invisible to the naked eye dwelling deep in the ground connected by a network of hyphae. It is only a small portion of macroscopic fungi that produce fruiting bodies we know as ‘mushrooms’. Fungal bodies cannot be pressed, they must instead by dried thoroughly and stored in cases or boxes.

Algae - Algae are a very diverse group of non-flowering aquatic organisms that contain chlorophyll, so can photosynthesise to produce energy for themselves. Algae are very important to the earth, and it’s estimated that they produce 70-80% of the earths atmospheric oxygen. The term ‘algae’ covers wide range of organism including sea weed, kelp, ‘pond scum’, algal blooms in lakes or pools, diatoms, etc. These groups are not necessarily closely related and can exist in a huge range of different forms! Collecting and preserving algae can be done in two ways, storing them in liquid to preserve the specimen or dry preserving the specimen on herbarium paper or a microscope slide. What method is best usually depends on the species being collected and its properties.