Amgueddfa Blog: Digital Media Blog

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.

We invited some Big Pit Miner guides - Barry Stevenson, Richard Phillips and Len Howells - to share their memories of working underground.

These films include photos from the Cornwell Collection, and were originally made for the 'Bernd and Hilla Becher: Industrial Visions' exhibition, along with this guide to the workings of the headgear:

A technology first for UK museum

This week sees the launch of Museum ExplorAR; a brand new experience at National Museum Cardiff, bringing some state-of-the-art (and never seen before) technology into our galleries allowing you to witness our spaces as never before.

Using a handheld device available to hire from the shop you can explore the following self-led experiences:

  • Underwater life:  See our collection of sea creatures come to life in the Marine Gallery, be awed by our humpback whale as it would have looked swimming in the ocean... but watch out for the shark!

  • Monet’s Waterlily Garden: Explore the inspiration for Monet’s waterlilies in our Impressionist Gallery. Look out for Monet, and the Davies Sister who collected most of what you see in the gallery.

  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures: Discover the lives of dinosaurs from 220 million years ago; see their skeletons brought to life and swim with the prehistoric creatures that once swam in our seas.

The project has been developed as a pilot in order for us to evaluate how we best approach and employ new and emerging technologies in our Museum spaces. Our permanent galleries may have been static for some years, but augmented reality can offer new and exciting opportunities to refresh narratives and explore new storylines in our Museums.

At this stage, we envision the devices to be available for hire for about 20 weeks over which time we will be evaluating popularity, ease of use, navigation, interpretative approach and overall enjoyment. A huge bonus of the system is despite the experiences offering a geographically aware tour, there is no requirement for any connectivity or data transfer requirements (i.e. we are not dependant on WiFi or networks), overcoming many connectivity obstacles in a complex and busy public space.

As this coincides with our Kizuna exhibition, Museum ExplorAR is available for you in three languages: Welsh, English and Japanese.

Top of the range graphics

The experience has been developed by Jam Creative Studios, an innovative, creative agency based in Cowbridge, south Wales. Thanks to their hard work and hours of dedication, they have delivered us a superb (yes, I am biased) new technology that offers a perfect synergy between exhibition interpretation and amazing jaw-dropping graphics and effects. They have come up with new and novel ways to showcase some of our most difficult-to-interpret collections - for instance our pavement of dinosaur footprints from south Wales where most visitors are unable to make sense of the plethora of footprints going in all different directions. Jam Creative Studios have skilfully isolated and superimposed these dinosaur trackways for us to be able to witness clearly the marks made by these extinct creatures.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)

AR, or Augmented Reality allows people to use (typically) a handheld device to view superimposed content onto the scene before them. The benefits of this technology is that you are able to experience the effects only when looking at the screen you are holding, thus still being able to interact fully with the real world around you. You may have heard of VR (Virtual Reality) which is a technology that is completely immersive and requires a full headset, cut off from the real world. We have chosen augmented reality, obviously as our visitors are walking around the gallery, we don’t want them blind to their surroundings, or each other!

This approach also means families or groups can share the experience together, something initial feedback confirms

Amgueddfa Cymru are proud to be the first place to showcase this augmented reality technology. 

The system uses a combination of area learning with augmented reality. Essentially it means that, rather than having to rely on traditional AR triggering methods (such as image tracking within your camera view or markerless AR-which requires the user to place their own virtual content within a scene) the ExplorAR can tell exactly where the user is within the gallery and can trigger appropriate content accordingly. This makes for a much more immersive experience giving users the freedom to explore all around the virtual content with no restrictions. It’s also really intuitive to use.

Testing and Evaluation

Evaluation will be key factor of the pilot, with a survey built in at the end of each tour. In addition to qualitative evaluation, this technology allows for detailed analytics on its usage, including such things as: Visitor flow, dwell time for each exhibit, most popular exhibits and average visit duration.
 
We will test and seek comprehensive feedback with a variety of users and groups, with advice from the Learning Department to gain feedback on content approach and overall concept design. We will also review our internal workflows and lessons learnt from delivering such a project, helping build a knowledge base for the organisation on best practices for future technologies we may wish to implement.

This is just the beginning...

The launch of Museum ExplorAR is the start of our investigations into how best we employ technology into our public spaces. We will be using visitor feedback to analyse where we go from here, of course the possibilities are endless, so before we go any further we need first hand accounts of what you, our visitors like, want, and expect, before we develop anything further.

Come and give it a go and let us know what you think, but remember, you saw it here first!

Plan your visit

 

I am an artist, studying for an MA degree in contemporary design craft, specifically the sculptural potential of prosthetic limbs. My visit to the Mollusca collection occurred after I came across a blog about the interior structure of shells on the museum website, and I made the connection between the interior structure of shells and how 3-D printers work and correct form. On the blog there was a contact number for the Curator of Mollusca, so I contacted Harriet Wood, not knowing what to expect in response.

Photograph of cross-section of 3D printed cube, showing internal supporting structure
Internal structure of 3D printed object © Matthew Day 2017

Looking inside shells - shell sections

When I explained my work on prosthetics to Harriet, and the connections with the interior structure of shells and 3-D printing she seemed very excited and invited me to come down, and also offered to introduce me to the person who runs a photography lab who uses 3-D printing and scanning for the museum.

Going Behind the Scenes

I could not have imagined it could have gone as well as it did. I met Harriet at the information desk of the museum and we then headed behind-the-scenes, where the collection is kept. Walking around the museum to get out back was really nice and modern. It reminded me of an academic journal I read not long before my visit, from the International Journal of the Inclusive Museum: ‘How Digital Artist Engagement Can Function as an Open Innovation Model to Facilitate Audience Encounters with Museum Collections’ in the  by Sarah Younan and Haitham Eid. 

photo showing a large cabinet full of specimen drawers
Some of the archives at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

Behind the scenes at the museum was quite a special environment - generally the general public are not allowed access unless arranged. It was a great privilege to be walking through rooms and rooms full of shells that people over the years have discovered and appreciated for their beauty. What was really fascinating was how the shells had been cut so perfectly. The cut shells looked almost as if this was their natural state – the way they were cut blended in so well with the form of the shell. This is what I wanted to see.

Black and white photograph showing a selection of shell sections
Shell sections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

I was speechless when I saw these collections of shells – especially seeing that part we’re not supposed to see. It was really exciting to see interior structure revealed by the cut, as it added a whole new value to the shells. They really reminded me of work by the the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, whose work I really admire.

black and white photograph showing a single conical shell, cut to show its internal spiral structure
© Matthew Day 2017

We see shells all the time on beaches and they just fascinate me, especially the broken ones which reveal part of the interior. It’s a very imperfect break, very different to the quality of the shell which has been sliced purposely to reveal what is inside. A natural object sculpted by man: I feel that this is what I am drawn to.

3D Scanning: Art and Science

Before examining the shells myself, Harriet offered to take me down to see Jim Turner, where we ended up spending most of my visit because what he did was just very interesting. Jim works in a lab which uses a photography process called “z-Stacking” (or extended depth of field – EDF) which is used extensively in macro photography and photo microscopy.

Jim is also creating an archive of 3D scanned objects for the museum website, where people can interact with scanned objects using VR headsets - bringing a whole new experience to the museum.

I understood what he was doing immediately from my own work. He explained the process and I understood the technicalities. It was a real pleasure to speak to someone who is using 3-D scanning in a different way to me. Jim is using 3D scanning in a way that was described within academic texts I had read - and even though he wasn’t doing anything creative with shells, he was still putting the objects into a context where people could interact with them using digital technology such as VR headsets, and on the web via sketchfab.

'Like being on a beach...'

When we got back to the Mollusca Collection I was able to take my own time and was under no pressure - so I got to have a good look and explored the shells. It was like being on a beach spending hours of exploring all wonderful natural objects.

black and white photograph showing a single conical shell, cut to show its internal spiral structure
© Matthew Day 2017

This visit had an amazing impact on my MA project - and I cannot thank Harriet and Jim enough for their time. This visit also gave me the confidence to approach other museums, such as Worcester Medical Museum, where I worked with a prosthetic socket from their collection. I 3D scanned the socket and, with the inspiration from Harriet’s collection of Mollusca, I created a selection of Sculptural Prosthetic sockets, drawing inspiration from the internal structures of shells, and illustrating sections of the shells that I was most drawn to. 

'A sculpture in its own right': my collection of sculptural prosthetics

Side by side photographs showing a sculptural prosthetic sock and a shell section. The prosthetic is shaped to emulate the internal structure of the shell.
Prototype conceptual prosthetic sock sculpture inspired by National Museum Cardiff's Mollusca collection © Matthew Day 2017

photo showing a black sculptural prosthetic socket with a yellow decoration
Prototype prosthetic sock sculpture inspired by National Museum Cardiff's Mollusca collection © Matthew Day 2017
photo showing a grey sculptural prosthetic socket with a yellow decoration
3D printed, fabric dyed prosthetic sculptural socket, inspired by the Mollusca collections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

photograph showing prosthetic socket with a large yellow decoration shaped like a round shell
3D printed, fabric dyed prosthetic sculptural socket, inspired by the Mollusca collections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

 

What’s next?

My MA is now reaching a climax, and I am starting the final major project module after the summer, which I am very excited about.

For the final part of my studies, I want to take all that I have explored and incorporated into my research to date, and use it to create a concept prosthetic limb which would be wearable, but also a sculpture in its own right – work which is now on track.

3D illustration of a design for a prosthetic leg, with decorations inspired by the internal structure of shells
Concept design of prosthetic sculptural leg, inspired by the Mollusca collections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

I aim to create a really spectacular prosthetic limb using 3D printing, further incorporating the shell-inspired aesthetics you see in this blog.

More of my work can be found on my website: Matthew Day Sculpture

 

Towards the end of last year, staff members from the Amgueddfa Cymru took part in a research ‘Roadshow event’ held at Swansea University.   The event gave a chance to meet academics with shared research interests and discuss potential collaborations between our two institutions, and already the event seems to have nurtured some promising links.

At the event Teresa Darbyshire, our Senior Marine Invertebrate Curator, made contact with Dr. Rich Johnston who is co-director of Swansea University's brand new Advanced Imaging of Materials Centre (AIM), a £9M EPSRC/Welsh Government funded integrated scientific imaging facility for Wales. Following this contact, the opportunity arose for myself, Teresa and Dr. Jana Horak (Head of Mineralogy & Petrology) to visit the centre and see the facilities first hand.

To say we were a little overwhelmed by the centre would be quite an understatement. The centre offers state-of-the-art advanced imaging facilities including including transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Ion beam nanofabrication, X-ray Diffraction (XRD), X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Energy-Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS), and micro and nano X-ray computed tomography (microCT). Not to mention a full suite of optical imaging and teaching microscopes.

AIM is primarily focused towards engineering and material science, and you may be wondering why they would be keen to collaborate with the Natural Sciences department here at the Museum. Well, part of their research is looking at the structures of biomaterials to learn how naturally occurring materials are formed, and with over 3 million specimens in our Natural Science collections we offer a huge reference library of material, along with the specialist knowledge of our curatorial staff, right on their doorstep. In return, we can benefit from access to their facilities to help us investigate our collections further for our own research and outreach needs, perhaps helping us to discover new species or identify historic conservation work that may have been undertaken on our specimens.

In fact, we are already utilising their MicroCT scanner to digitise a Whelk shell in order to produce a 3D printed replica in transparent material so that we may see how hermit crabs and a species of marine worm co-habit in these shells.  As you can see below, we’ve already digitally scanned the external of the shell here at the museum, but AIM’s MicroCT Scanner will enable us capture all the internal structures as well. We'll post the results when we get the scan back.

 

 

Whilst there, we also had the chance to visit the Virtual Reality (VR) lab to see how digital models produced by microCT or our own 3D scanning facilities could be developed for outreach and learning in a virtual environment. We had the chance to "visit" a virtual museum and see digitised objects in this environment. Although a little disconcerting to start with, once we got familiar with the VR world it really did offer a unique way to visualise objects that otherwise may not be possible. In the future, this technology really could open up new ways for the public engage with our collections.