Amgueddfa Blog

 The numbers of specimens in geological collections in the UK alone reach into the tens of millions. These collections are important for research, education and also commercially. Museums hold collections, but so do individuals and companies; exploration companies keep rock core samples which can be as valuable as £1,000 per meter.

There is now sufficient evidence to dispel the myth that geological collections are inherently stable and require fewer resources to preserve them than other areas of museum collections. In fact, a proportion of geological collections demand a level of attention and maintenance comparable with archaeological metal collections. This includes similar environmental and pollution-related considerations.

About 10% of known mineral species are sensitive to changes in temperature or humidity, or may react with air pollutants. One such mineral is pyrite – common in geological collections and one that is particularly troublesome. However, despite centuries of research on pyrite decay there is a dearth of knowledge in subjects that would help museums improve the effectiveness of their care of geological collections. This includes the categorisation of damage to specimens, methodologies for objective routine condition assessment, the definition of an adequate storage environment, and successful conservation treatments.

Currently available methodologies are not suitable for routine collection monitoring, results are not necessarily replicable, and, in the absence of guidance on suitable storage conditions, triggers and the suitability of conservation actions are difficult to determine. We need a more robust approach to the delivery of preventive conservation of geological collections.

We have now teamed up with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA) at University College London, University of Oxford and University of Brighton to investigate these aspects of preservation of geological collections. A four-year studentship has been advertised which will be based at Oxford University but spend a considerable amount of time working at National Museum Cardiff. If you are interested in this subject, and have a background in, ideally, geology, chemistry or engineering, please do get in touch.

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

 

Archaeologists have made a significant Bronze Age discovery in the Torfaen area of south Wales, which will help people to understand communities living in Torfaen around 3,000 years ago.

A Bronze Age hoard was discovered by local metal detectorist, Gareth Wileman, in November 2014 while metal-detecting in the area of Trevethin, Torfaen. The hoard consists of five Bronze Age artefacts, including three socketed axes and two spearheads; this discovery was subsequently declared as treasure in 2016 by H.M. Coroner for Gwent.

The Bronze Age artefacts, which date back 3,000 years, were the first of their kind to be displayed in Pontypool Museum after being presented as part of the Torfaen Treasure Day on Friday, 7 April 2017.

The Rt. Hon Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen, President of the Torfaen Museum Trust, opened the event, followed by guest speakers from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and local MP, Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds.

The Bronze Age hoard has sparked media interest and you can read articles from the BBC, ITV and South Wales Argus to name a few.

We sent our journalism students who were on a two week work placement with the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project to Pontypool Museum to interview the finder; Gareth, and find out how he feels about his discovery.

This is Gareth Wileman, he is a metal detectorist who found Bronze Age treasure in Torfaen

Metal detectorist talking about his Bronze Age treasure discovery

He said:

“I’m glad they’re being displayed somewhere smaller like Pontypool, especially as it provides new information on what life could have been like here thousands of years ago. Everyone knows about the mining times and that’s what Pontypool is known for, the Big Pit.

“Obviously this will now show that 3,000 years ago there was more happening up here than what people thought, and I think now Pontypool could be known for having Bronze Age artefacts and an older history.”

Gareth started metal detecting after coming across a YouTube video, he said:

“I had done a bit of metal detecting when I was a lot younger. I had found small cheap things like 20 pence when I used to do it in the garden.

“I started reading more about metal detecting and metal detectors. Then I went and bought one and started going out with it.”

His first find was a 1927 silver Florian coin, which inspired him to pursue his hobby. One aspect Gareth was keen to encourage was the need to report your findings as soon as possible to the museum or your closest Finds Liaison Officer. He wants others who take up metal-detecting to let the museum know if they find something as it could have historical importance.

“Anything you find then you should just let the museum know otherwise it could end up anywhere. The worst thing about it is when people find stuff that others would love to see, but it ends up being sold or put into a private collection.

“Not necessarily everything is interesting, but it’s good to know that it has been found and where it was found and then museums can take it from there.”

 

“The Trevethin hoard is a significant Bronze Age discovery in this area of Wales, where little was previously known. The quick reporting to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales by Gareth enabled us to carefully excavate the find-spot and ensured that we can now better understand these communities living in the Torfaen area 3,000 years ago.” -Mark Lodwick Co-ordinator of the Portable Antiquities Scheme for Wales (PAS Cymru)

 

The hoard is being acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project. This project, funded via the Collecting Cultures programme of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is acquiring archaeological objects discovered by members of the public for public museum collections across Wales. The project is also encouraging communities to engage with their pasts and portable archaeological heritage, by funding a programme of community archaeology projects led by staff in museums throughout Wales.

 

 

 

Museum displays get dusty, inevitably, but this dust won’t be there for long. Armed with a paintbrush and a portable vacuum cleaner the Preventive Conservation team is ready to move through the museum galleries, cleaning as we go.

Once upon a time, gallery maintenance was an activity hidden behind closed doors, only undertaken when there were no visitors in the building. But things are changing, and what we once did behind closed doors now happens whilst the museum is open. Everyone can see what happens behind the scenes and Preventative Conservation becomes a temporary display itself. By working in front of an audience we can explain what we do and why we do it, after all it may look strange carefully dusting a painting. If it looks as if we smudge the paint on a painting: we don't - we are actually cleaning finger prints off the protective glass.

So why do we have to do this in the first place? Firstly dust doesn’t look very good, especially when you notice the frame and even the protective glass has dust on it – things like that would give a museum an air of neglect. But this is not the only reason; dust also has the potential to damage our museum’s collections. Dust can become sticky and attracts water (hygroscopic), which can cause mould. Dust can also attract pests, leaving museum collections vulnerable to damage from insects. By cleaning museum collections we can prevent dust build up, reducing risks to collections.

Museum collections will always need to be looked after, and removing dust is one simple way we can prevent multiple forms of damage to our heritage. Keep a look out for us in the museum galleries brushing a sculpture, we are always happy to talk about what we are doing!

P.S. Look out for the other activities we are doing in the galleries, we may be repackaging museum collections to reduce the risk of pest damage, checking pest traps, or cleaning the Natural History and Geology displays. There is always Preventative Conservation to do in the museum!

This guest blog was written by our volunteer Will Tregaskes who is giving a talk on this subject at the 'Conservation Matters in Wales' conference on Thursday 8th June 2017 at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea.

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

Whether you love L. S. Lowry, Lucian Freud or Richard Long, you know that when you visit Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales you can always see outstanding examples of international modern and contemporary art. What you might not know is that a significant part of that collection is here thanks to The Derek Williams Trust, which lends Amgueddfa Cymru over 260 of its most important works of twentieth and twenty-first century art.

This week sees the launch of The Derek Williams Trust website, a fantastic resource for anyone interested in exploring this collection. The site will enable you to search for art works and artists, and discover more about the Trust and its work with Amgueddfa Cymru.

Derek Williams was a Cardiff-based chartered surveyor and art lover, who had a particular interest in mid-twentieth century British art. He collected a large number of works by John Piper and Ceri Richards, which were supported with works by major figures such as Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, David Jones, Ivon Hitchens and Josef Herman. Following Williams’ death in 1984, his collection and the residue of his estate were left in trust. Since that time, The Derek Williams Trust has undertaken the care, enhancement and public display of the collection, and in turn lends the collection to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. The generous support of Trust has transformed the Museum’s collection of twentieth century art and parallels the great bequests of French Impressionist art made by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies a generation earlier.

Since 1992, The Derek Williams Trust has also been working with Amgueddfa Cymru to build its own collection of modern and contemporary art, and recent purchases include work by Howard Hodgkin, George Shaw, Anthony Caro and Clare Woods. The Trust also provides financial support for Museum purchases, and funds the biennial Artes Mundi Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award – recent recipients include Tanja Bruguera, Ragnar Kjartansson and Bedwyr Williams.

For the latest news from The Derek Williams Trust collection, why not follow us on Instagram and Twitter?

 

There are lots of amazing things at National Museum Cardiff, but if we had to choose the one that’s most popular with our visitors it would probably be the dinosaurs. The Evolution of Wales gallery is often the first place people visit, and our dinosaur-themed school sessions are constantly in demand.

That’s why Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales is launching its new dinosaur eBook Dinosaur Detectives. Aimed at visitors between 7 and 11, the interactive resource allows users to become virtual palaeontologists and explore real fossils from our collections. The eBook contains photographs of specimens as well as Frank Duffy’s illustrations from our dinosaur children’s book, Albie The Adventurer.

You can unearth a dinosaur fossil, find out if T. rex had big feet, and discover what dinosaurs liked to eat, through a variety of puzzles, games and interactives that put the user in charge of their own learning. There is also the chance to meet Wales's newest dinosaur Dracoraptor hanigani.

Meet the Welsh dinosaur, Dracoraptor hanigani in the Evolution of Wales gallery
Model of Dracoraptor hanigani, the small theropod dinosaur found near to Penarth in 2014 and now on display in the Evolution of Wales gallery

Download the eBook onto your iPad or other Apple device and start finding out more. You can use it at home, or bring it to the museum and use it as you explore the galleries. Look for this symbol to find more dinosaur facts in the museum’s Evolution of Wales galleries. 

Let us know what you find out! Share your favourite dinosaur facts from the eBook or the museum on Twitter, by tagging us at @Museum_CdfLearn. Don’t forget to play the design-a-dinosaur game, and share that with us on Twitter too!

Download the Apple version from the iTunes store, or a PDF resource from our website.

If that’s not enough dinosaurs for one day, why not visit our new exhibition, Dinosaur Babies? Opening on the 27th of May, this is the first chance to see this exciting family-friendly exhibition in Wales. It includes full size dinosaur skeletons, touchable models of dinosaur embryos and eggs, and even a huge 2.5 metre model dinosaur nest! Visit our What’s On page for more information.