Amgueddfa Blog

It’s been a while since we introduced the art trolley as part of the Explore Volunteer fleet, but now it’s time to introduce you all to the evolution trolley. 

The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a much smaller trolley. As such it has a smaller – but no less interesting – number of exhibits for visitors to interact with. We position this trolley in the Evolution of Wales gallery, close to the ever-popular dinosaurs, providing visitors with an opportunity to touch real and replica fossils from the prehistoric world. 

So what do we have on the evolution trolley altogether? Aside from dinosaur teeth, we have a range of fossils from different prehistoric eras. In the video below, we explain each of the exhibits and how they illustrate the evolutionary timeline of earth.

Music credit: "Expeditionary" by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 International License.

Catch up with previous Explore Volunteer posts on our Blog page.

What do you do if you have minerals in your collection that have a tendency to react chemically? For our research student Kathryn Royce this means: growing minerals from a super saturated solution, then sticking the crystals in a climate chamber for a few weeks and forcing them to dehydrate.

Yes, you read right, some minerals can dehydrate. There is a good number of mineral species which are poly-hydrated, meaning, minerals that contain water molecules as part of their crystal structure. Many of these mineral species can, under certain conditions, lose some of these water molecules. This process actually turns the mineral into a different mineral – just one with a lower hydration status.

For example, the mineral melanterite (FeSO4 · 7H2O), which has 7 water molecules, may lose some water molecules if kept at a relative humidity below 57%. The resultant products include either the mineral siderotil (same chemical formula but only 5 water molecules) or rozenite (4 water molecules). In the context of wanting to preserve melanterite in a museum collection, the dehydration products siderotil and rozenite, whilst minerals in their own right, would be classed as deterioration products and, hence, their appearance be undesirable.

To understand this process, and define how we would characterise the concept of ‘damage’ to mineral specimens, Kathryn is now analysing the deterioration products using a combination of different analytical techniques, including X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and computerised tomography scanning. The results will help us develop a methodology for long-term monitoring of geological collections in museums and improve the care of such collections in museums.

This research is being undertaken at National Museum Cardiff in collaboration with the School of Geography and Environment at University of Oxford and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA), and kindly supported by OR3D, BSRIA, the Barbara Whatmore Charitable Trust, the National Conservation Service, and the Pilgrim Trust.

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter

Welsh Emergency Blankets by Daniel Trivedy

This is an age in which politics and public discourse have become increasingly and depressingly infected by xenophobia, government-sponsored hostility to refugees and asylum seekers, introspective nationalism and overt racism. In this context, Daniel Trivedy’s work can be seen as an encouraging gesture of resistance. It makes a statement about Wales as a welcoming, compassionate, inclusive nation, the first ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ that it aspires to be following the launch of the Welsh Government’s Nation of Sanctuary – Refugee and Asylum Seeker Plan in January 2019.

This is why Amgueddfa Cymru is very happy to have selected Daniel’s Welsh Emergency Blankets for its newly-instituted annual National Eisteddfod Purchase. These are silver- and gold-sided PET foil emergency blankets, so familiar from scenes of dehumanising treatment of immigrants from Mexico at the USA border or the rescue of migrants after the ordeal of crossing the Mediterranean Sea. However, they have all acquired a distinctive Welsh character after being printed on their gold (warmth-retaining) side with designs from traditional Welsh woven blankets. They are a wonderful example of the local and the global coming together.

Daniel understands that materials have a language, and that different materials have different associations which speak to us in particular ways. He wants to know what happens when these are mixed together. ‘Do they clash and collide, or sit in uncomfortable silence with each other? Do they merge and blend, starting a conversation with each other; perhaps even giving birth to new form?’

On the one hand, the mass-produced emergency blanket is designed to be cheap and effective and little more. In the minds of many us, it is associated with the pain and suffering of migrants enduring terrible conditions at sea or in refugee camps. As Daniel has said, it has associations of ‘elsewhere’ and ‘others’.

By contrast, the Welsh woollen blanket has associations of warmth, of tradition and memory, of safety and comfort. What happens when we bring these two characteristics together? I think the message is an optimistic one. We realise that ‘we’ and ‘others’ are one and the same. We can and should think and act both locally and globally at the same time. We can and should use our traditions not to separate ourselves from others but to come together in mutual support.

Daniel Trivedy (born 1975) is of Indian descent, grew up in south-east England and is now based in Swansea. In addition to working as an artist, he lectures at Coleg Sir Gar, Carmarthen, and is Regional Officer for the Arts Council of Wales, Carmarthen. Following a first degree in Geology with Palaeontology at Imperial College, London (1993-1996), he later studied Fine Art at Swansea College of Art (2010-2013).


Andrew Renton
Keeper of Art

Hi all, I’m Pip Diment from the Exhibitions team, and I'm one of a group of museum staff volunteering to care for the six live snakes we are housing as part of the 'Snakes’ exhibition at National Museum Cardiff.

Our exhibition is now open and runs to the 15th September 2019. I was part of the team who cared for the snakes for the second two weeks of the exhibition run. We were trained by Guy Tansley from Bugsnstuff and he showed a group of us volunteers how to check on the snakes safely and provide basic care.

Guy Tansley from Bugsnstuff.

We are not required to feed the snakes – we have Dr. Rhys Jones generously helping us with that. Our tasks are to change the water daily, remove any poo, ureic acid crystals (wee!) and calcium plugs, also to remove any shed skin and to check the snakes are not too cold or hot and that they are ok. These checks are all done daily by a team of two or three volunteers.

Some of our volunteer snake care team.

On my first day volunteering I worked with Melissa Hinkin (from Artes Mundi, who is a snake enthusiast) and Vic le Poidevin (from our Events team). There was great excitement the first morning as Prestwick, the Jungle Carpet Python had shed her skin and had an enormous poo!  She’s a fairly large snake so it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was huge! Like a large dogs! The skin itself came off in two parts and is now being used as part of the handling collections (not too much handling as it is fragile!). Underneath all that shed skin Prestwick has now emerged even more beautiful with her skin a stunning iridescent effect. And this was still only day one.

On day two I worked with Christian Baars (from Conservation) and Robin Maggs (from Photography). Once again, much excitement as Keith, the Royal Python shed his skin overnight. Much smaller poo – smaller snake, so made sense! He also looked much more beautiful after shedding his skin.

Days three and four were not as eventful – only water changing and general checks required. Everyone seems very healthy and happy, and we are following their care instructions meticulously to ensure they stay that way. 

I admit I have an unhealthy interest in snake poo – and for the end of my first week we’ve had another poo! This time, again, from Keith. I am not the only one now excited by snake poos – see Robin and Christian admiring Keith’s offering (look closely it has substrate on it which makes it looks like it has eyes!)

I’m so glad I agreed to volunteer. I’ve held snakes before, but never spent so much time with them. I love that they all have great names and their own characters:

Prestwick, Jungle Carpet Python (Morelia spilota cheynei), female, approx. 10ft


Keith, Royal python (Python regius), male, approx. 3.5ft.


Mela, Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), male, approx. 6ft


Kibblesworth, Hog nose (Heterodon nasicus), female, approx. 2ft


Carlos, Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli), male, approx. 3.5ft


Seren, Corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus), female, approx. 4.5ft

Thanks for reading. You can read some of our other snake blogs here, here and here.

The exhibition runs till 15th September 2019, entry charges do apply, and all your contributions go towards bringing you even bigger and better exhibitions in the future.

Please note that there is no live handling of the snakes within the exhibition. In August we’ll be having snake handling sessions for the public – see here for details of booking.

Also, make sure you come and visit us this saturday (10th August) for our Venom Open Day!

One of the best reasons for housing heritage collections inside buildings is that the building keeps the weather out. Paintings, fossils, books and skeletons are best kept dry, and walls and roofs protect our collections (as well as staff and visitors) from the elements.

In addition, many of the objects in our collections also need specific temperature and humidity ranges to prevent them from suffering damage. Too high a humidity can cause swelling of wood, for example, initiating cracks in objects, or, if humidity gets even higher, mould growth. Therefore, National Museum Cardiff has a complicated air conditioning system. This system is more than 40 years old and has been maintenance-intensive and inefficient for some time.

We are happy to report that, after several years of planning, we have just completed the installation of new chillers and humidifiers at National Museum Cardiff. The purpose of chillers in the museum is to provide cold water – for lowering the temperature of galleries and stores in the summer, and for dehumidifying stores and galleries if there is too much moisture in the air. Humidifiers achieve the opposite effect: they increase humidity in stores and galleries if it is too low. Low humidity is usually a problem during the winter months – you may have experienced your skin drying out at home when you have the heating on in winter. To prevent our collections drying out we cannot apply skin cream; instead, we maintain a minimum level of humidity in stores and galleries.

The chillers and humidifiers have been commissioned now, and are working well. They have already proved that the control of our indoor environments is better than it was before. A very positive side effect of the new technologies is that they are much more efficient than the old equipment. In fact, they are so efficient that we are anticipating to shave almost 50% off our annual electricity bill for National Museum Cardiff, saving the planet more than 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. That is the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road, or the average energy a family home uses in 38 years.

By investing in such new technologies, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales continues to ensure the safe storage and display of the nation’s heritage collections, whilst at the same time making a massive contribution towards the National Assembly’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 (Environment Wales Act 2016).

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter. Follow the progress of the maintenance works during the coming months in 2019 on Twitter using the hashtag #museumcare.