Amgueddfa Blog

Hi Bulb Buddies!

I hope you all enjoyed your half term holidays!

I want to say a big thank you for all your hard work on planting day. You helped to plant over 17,000 bulbs across the country! And from the photos I’ve seen, it looks like you all had a great time doing it!

Weather records started on 5th November. There is a resource on the website with more information on weather records. I’ve attached this here in case you haven’t already seen it! This resource helps you to answer important questions, such as ‘why rain fall and temperature readings are important to our investigation into the effects of climate on the flowering dates of spring bulbs’!

Use your Weather Chart to log the rain fall and temperature every day that you are in school. At the end of each week, log into the Spring Bulbs website to add your weekly readings. You can also leave comments or ask questions for me to answer in my next Blog!

Let me know how you get on! You can share photos with me via email or Twitter.

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!

Professor Plant

Lava medallions and coins in lava from Mount Vesuvius, Italy

The National Museum Wales Petrology (Rock) collection comprises 35,000 specimens, with many interesting rock samples from across Wales and the wider World. In the drawers of the Italian collection, alongside the pumice, volcanic ash and obsidian are these curious rocks.

NMW GR.206 - Lava medallion with stamp of unknown figurehead, Vesuvius, 1871. (front)

They are called lava medallions or tablets, and along with coins embedded in lava they were probably first produced in the mid-18th Century when the ‘Grand Tour’ become fasionable among the wealthy elite of Europe.  Taking in European cities like Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples, the ‘students’ would travel with a tutor on a Grand Tour to learn about languages, geography, culture, art and architecture. When passing through Naples, the volcano of Mount Vesuvius (Vesuvio) became a must see stop on the tour. Forget postcards, fridge magnets and selfies, the take home souvenir of the day was the lava medallion!

People have long been fascinated by destructive power of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano had lain dormant for centuries before the famous eruption in 79 A.D. when the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed. Over the last two thousand years, the volcano has erupted many times. Between eruptions, Vesuvius can lie almost dormant for long periods of time before erupting violently once again. Volcanoes the world over that erupt in this explosive style after long periods of dormancy are known as Vesuvian eruption volcanoes.

To make a lava medallion, molten lava would have been retrieved (by some very brave individual with a long stick!) from a recent lava flow or lava close enough to the surface that was accessible and still hot enough to be malleable. It was then moulded, pressed with a stamp, or embedded with a coin, cooled in a bucket of water and sold to a passing grand tourist.

The French Revolution in 1789 marked then end of Grand Tours as they were known, but with the advent of the railways in the early 19th Century and the beginnings of mass tourism, these distinct souvenirs once again became popular take-home keepsakes, and they were produced in their thousands.

Over the years many of these medallions and lava coins have found their way into museum collections across the world. They often depict kings, Roman Emperors, famous scientists or events. All of the medallions and coins in the AC NMW collection date from the 19th Century, and originate from Mount Vesuvius, but examples in other collections have originated from Mount Etna, Sicily.

If you would like to know more about lava medallions, please contact Andrew Haycock via:

https://museum.wales/staff/665/Andrew-Haycock/


NMW GR.206 – Lava medallion with stamp detailing date and place of collection, Vesuvius, 1871. (back)

NMW 15.133.GR.1 - Vesuvius, 1834. ‘note with specimen 'medallion struck in lava when it was in a hot and pasty condition’ (front)

NMW 15.133.GR.1 - Vesuvius, 1834. Note with specimen 'medallion struck in lava when it was in a hot and pasty condition’.

NMW 15.277.GR.6 – Lava with embedded coin (Victor Emmanuel II), Vesuvius. (1860s?)

NMW 15.277.GR.3 – Stamped tablet with [S]ALVATOR MADONNA one side and 1844 on other. (front)

NMW 15.277.GR.3 – Stamped tablet with [S]ALVATOR MADONNA one side and 1844 on other. (back)

NMW 24.113.GR.6 – Lava with image of Galileo, Vesuvius, 1879. (front)

NMW 24.113.GR.6 – Lava with image of Galileo, Vesuvius, 1879. (back)

NMW 15.133.GR3 – Lava with embedded coin (corroded), Vesuvius.



 

Hello Bulb Buddies,

It's planting day for schools in Wales, England and Northern Ireland! Schools in Scotland will be planting next Friday.

Click here for activities and resources that will help you with this part of the project and with looking after your bulbs over the coming months! 

These resources will help you on planting day:

  • Adopt your Bulb (an overview of the care your Bulbs will need)
  • Planting your Bulbs (guidelines for ensuring a fair experiment)

And these activities are fun to complete:

  • Bulb Adoption Certificate
  • Make Bulb Labels

It's important that you read these as they contain important information! For example, do you know to label your pot so that you know where the Daffodil and Crocus are planted?

Remember to take photos of your planting day to enter the Planting Day Photo Competition!

Keep an eye on Professor Plant's Twitter page to see photos from other schools.

Best of luck Bulb Buddies! Let us know how you get on!

Professor Plant & Baby Bulb

The medieval court, Llys Llywelyn, has finally opened its doors. The hall transports us back to a day in the 13th century when Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Prince of Gwynedd is in residence and about to hold court. The recreated sumptuous decoration, furnishing and ornament reflects both his wealth and status, most of the portable items travelled with him as he progressed around his kingdom so were only present when the prince was in residence.

One way to reflect your wealth and status in the medieval period was through the use of colour. There were a wide range of artist's pigments available from which paint could be make, some were natural minerals like the bright red vermilion and others where man-made such as Verdigris, a green-blue colour created by suspending copper plates over vinegar or the waste from the wine making process.

Our mission, along with the painters from the Historic Buildings Unit and volunteers from our Preventive Conservation Group, was to recreate the painted interior of the 13th century court. All was to be authentic including the pigments and paint medium we used. The wooden columns and arches were still drying out so whatever we applied had to be breathable, but also robust enough to cope with the thousands of visitors we welcome each year.

Paint is made up of two elements, a coloured pigment and a glue referred to as the paint medium. There were a variety of traditional mediums we could use such as gelatin, extracted by boiling up scraps of parchment made from the skin of sheep, calves or goat. Other options included egg and also casein derived from milk.

As you can see the options available were very 'organic' and certainly not familiar. Our only guides were the few remaining texts on the subject and analytical evidence from surviving paintwork.

Which paint mediums did we choose in the end?

Egg was an option, but it would have taken an awfully large number of eggs and been a bit smelly while the egg off-gassed sulphur during the paint setting process!  We therefore started to trial gelatin in combination with the white pigment calcium carbonate for the background and red ochre pigment for the chevrons. This proved very successful for the white background but less so for the red chevrons. The next option was casein, this produced a much more robust finish and therefore was chosen in combination with the red ochre pigment for the chevrons.

One thing we learnt during this process was that our work had to be slow and methodical, traditional materials can't be rushed. We developed a huge respect for the medieval painter and the skill required when using these tricky materials to create decoration or works of art.

Finally I wish to thank all our volunteers for their help to deliver this project. We could not have done it without them and yes we spent a lot of time watching paint dry, praying it wouldn't flake off!

"If you asked me what a magelonid was 18 months ago, I would have looked at you with a somewhat muddled expression. Let me tell you, a lot has changed since then. Roll onto the present day, after a year at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales for my Professional Training Year (as part of my Zoology degree at Cardiff University), I could talk for as long as you are willing to listen about this fascinating family of marine bristle worms, commonly known as the shovel-head worms (Annelida: Magelonidae)."

            When my application was first approved from the Natural Sciences Department at the museum, I didn’t know what to expect. I had always loved anything marine and knew from the start this is the area I wanted to build a career around. This was a very broad declaration and beyond this, I was rather diffident in what I wanted to pursue. Therefore, my number one priority was to keep an open mind and make the most of everything the experience would offer. This view shaped a year filled with opportunities, that has not only been indispensable in developing my scientific skills in both hands on research and writing, but also in giving me a direction I am interested in for the future. 

            The majority of the placement involved both behavioural and taxonomic studies on European magelonid species, through the practicing of methods such as time-lapse photography, live observation, scanning electron microscopy, high definition photography using a macroscope, and taxonomic drawings using a camera lucida attached to a microscope. As a result of this work, some very interesting findings were highlighted for the Magelonidae, with important implications for furthering our understanding of these enigmatic animals. Perhaps the most fascinating arose through extensive time-lapse photography and observing animals in aquaria within the marine laboratory, in which an un-described behaviour emerged in the tube dwelling species Magelona alleni. Later termed as ‘sand expulsion’, this behaviour was a highly conspicuous method of defecation where M. alleni would turn around in a burrow network, raise its posterior region into the water column and excrete sand around the tank. Just knowing I was most likely the first person to ever witness this was a very rewarding experience in itself! To understand why this novel behaviour was exhibited, the posterior morphology of M. alleni was compared to additional European species. These findings have led onto my first publication in a peer-reviewed journal, of which two more papers and an article are due to follow as a result of working closely with my supervisor throughout the year.

I also got the opportunity to participate in tasks that are essential to the upkeep of the museum, such as curation, specimen fixation and preservation, along with invertebrate tank maintenance. Additionally, I participated in sampling trips, including a visit to Berwick-upon-Tweed and outreach events, such as ‘After Dark at the Museum’, which saw over 2,000 visitors, and the RHS show Cardiff.   

            Overall, the museum is a very friendly, intellectual and dynamic environment that has more to offer than perhaps meets the eye. This is why anyone who wants to study the small, whacky and wonderful world of marine invertebrates should not pass up an opportunity to undertake a placement here. Spend any prolonged amount of time amongst the hundreds of thousands of specimens kept in the fluid store, and I guarantee you will not be able to escape a visceral appreciation of the natural history of our world. With this comes a feeling of preservation for all we have and a reinforcement of why museums are such a crucial component of our society today, something that is too easily forgotten. 

Read more about Kim's journey through her PTY Placement at National Museum Cardiff:

https://museum.wales/blog/2017-08-04/A-new-world-of-worms---beginning-a-Professional-Training-Year-at-the-museum/

https://museum.wales/blog/2017-11-15/A-tail-of-a-PTY-student/

https://museum.wales/blog/2018-02-07/The-early-bird-catches-the-worm/