Cymraeg

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.

 

To celebrate Pride Cymru coming to Cardiff this weekend, our homepage has had a little touch of colour applied to it. If you use Safari on the Mac, you may notice another special feature - your browser's toolbar itself is emblazoned with rainbow colours.

Museum Homepage

If you use Safari regularly, you'll be familiar with the visual effect that sees page colours slip behind the browser toolbar as you scroll. It's a neat effect but I hadn't heard of a site actively utilising it before and I wondered if, with a bit of HTML, CSS & JavaScript, we could fix a set of colours there. The vibrant rainbow colours of Pride seemed like the perfect fit. In this blog entry, I'll describe in tedious/fascinating* (*delete as appropriate) technical detail how we achieved it.

The Technique

At first I tried setting the margin of my element to a negative value to push it into the toolbar area. Unsurprisingly, this doesn't work - it's simply not displayed. The actual solution was almost as simple itself and we were pretty pleased with the result.

To start off, all we need are two divs.

<body>
    <div id="toolbar-colours">…</div>
    <div id="content-frame">…</div>
</body>

The first div will contain the colours we want to show in our toolbar. We give this a fixed height, 150px in this example.

The second div will contain our content. We give this a fixed width and height of 100vw and 100vh. This means it will neatly and seamless fill the browser viewport area.

#rainbow_toolbar
{
	background-color: #b20034;
	height: 2px;
	display: flex; /* We actually use Sass includes for cross-browser flex-box support */
	width: 100%;
	padding: 0;
	margin: 0;
}

#rainbow_toolbar.safari_trick
{
	height: 150px;
}

#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block
{
	flex: 1;
	height: 4px;
	padding: 0;
	margin: 0;
}

#rainbow_toolbar.safari_trick .colour_block
{
	height: 130px;
}

#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.violet { background-color: #9400d3; }
#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.indigo { background-color: #4b0082; }
#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.blue { background-color: #0000ff; }
#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.green { background-color: #00ff00; }
#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.yellow { background-color: #ffff00; }
#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.orange { background-color: #ff7f00; }
#rainbow_toolbar .colour_block.red { background-color: #ff0000; }

Using a little JavaScript, we can make sure that we're always scrolled past the first div, making it colour the browser toolbar.

$(window).scroll(function() {

    if ($(window).scrollTop() < 150) {
        $(window).scrollTop(150);
    }
});
$(window).scrollTop(50);

The only thing remaining is to sort out our scrollbars which are giving the game away. We hide the main browser scrollbar and give our content-frame a standard-looking scrollbar instead.

::-webkit-scrollbar
{ 
    visibility: hidden; 
    display: none;
}
				
#content-frame
{
	background-color: #e4e4e4;
	height: 100vh;
	width: 100vw;
	padding: 0;
	border: 0;
	overflow-y: scroll;
}
					
#content-frame::-webkit-scrollbar
{ 
	display: initial;
	visibility: visible;
	background: #f4f4f4;
	color: #ffffff;
}
		
#content-frame::-webkit-scrollbar-track
{
	background-color: #f4f4f4;
	border-radius: 8px;
}
		
#content-frame::-webkit-scrollbar-thumb
{
	width: 4px;
	border-radius: 8px;
	background-color: #b4b4b4;
	border: 3px #f4f4f4 solid;
}

There are few more JavaScript tricks we can use to tidy up our implementation. This includes managing the up arrow and page-up keys which create a visual glitch:

// disable page up and arrow up when at top of content
window.addEventListener('keydown', function(e) {
	
	if( $('#content-frame').scrollTop() <= 0 && [33, 38].indexOf(e.keyCode) > -1 ) {
		e.preventDefault();
	}
}, false);

The Caveats

It's a neat little trick but also somewhat of a hack. Putting your content in a scrolling div carries a small but noticeable performance penalty when scrolling and when using a touchpad to scroll you may get an occasional visual glitch. Finally, it is only available to Mac-based Safari users. No other combination of OS and browser has the translucent toolbar effect for us to take advantage of. For this reason, it's not something I'd want to use for a lengthy period of time. But for one weekend only, here it is.

Visual Audio Display Units (VADUs) still exist in the National Museum Cardiff galleries. We know, because with almost every finger touch on the touchscreen, it sends a little signal to the web server that includes a piece of information describing the last interaction (i.e. ‘please play the video’, ‘please display the menu list’). We record all those messages, firstly to make sure the kiosk is actually working day-to-day and secondly to find out which aspects are popular or not popular, knowledge that is useful to guide future kiosk development. 

Gallery Statistics (diagram)
Figure 1, a cartoon of kiosk development process - an attempt to show the separation from the web server, while maintaining rudimental communication from the gallery space (satellite to mothership).

Each message is sent as an AJAX call (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) from the kiosk, which is usually a standalone bundle of files running through a web browser (HTML, CSS & Javascript files). The main bulk of the kiosk development is carried out through our in-house web CMS (called Amgueddfa CMS) on a computer that mirrors the public web server, it’s only before the launch that all the necessary files are copied over to the computer in the exhibition space (wrapped up as an ‘App’), where it remains like a satellite away from its mothership (the web server). Beep beep, beep beep.

Patterns of Frequency

A single recorded kiosk command is not particularly exciting by itself but when there are greater numbers, patterns emerge. For instance, if we record each time a video is started on the kiosk we get a round number to how many people were interested in the subject matter of the video (information gathered before they had seen the video). If we also record when people stop playing the video we can start to distinguish patterns in their viewing behaviour. Judging by the average video length played the majority of the visitors saw less than 39% of the total video length, with the longest average being three minutes 17 seconds. Of course, there were also lots of visitors who watch the videos until the end; as you can tell by the 'happy-tail' patterns formed by visitors reaching the film credits at the end of the film (figure 2).  

Figure 3 shows all video stop points for five videos presented as scatter plots against the video length in minutes.
Figure 2 shows all video stop points for five videos presented as scatter plots against the video length in minutes. Judging by the average video length played, which is shown in green - the majority of the visitors saw less than 39% of the total video length, with the longest average being three minutes 17 seconds. Of course, the there were also lots of visitors who watch the videos until the end (as you can see by the 'happy-tail' patterns formed as they reach the film credits at the end of the video), but on the whole I wouldn't recommending placing feature length films on kiosks.

Figure 3 shows the raw data stored on a database table on the web server.
Figure 2 shows the raw data stored within a database table on the web server.

Overview of the Numbers

I signed-off my last blog with a promise of data relating to the Wi-Fi audio tour during the Chalkie Davies exhibition last year, which I’m including below. To placing the Wi-Fi statistics within the gallery space, I’ve also gathered data from the four large screen kiosks in the exhibition against the monthly visitor figures.

It is immediately clear that the four large kiosks were very popular - they contained a great deal of curated content which included a composite NME magazine, Chalkie Davies film, Youth Forum audio interviews, a comments section and What’s On calendar. I can imagine the relative attraction and easy access of the kiosks goes a long way to explain the comparatively lower figures of the Wi-Fi audio tour, but let us not be downbeat - the feedback received from the visitor survey about the Wi-Fi was positive. 

  • 93% of survey monkey results either felt they ‘learnt a lot about the exhibition’ or ‘it improved their experience as a visitor’ - it must be noted that the number of people who filled in the survey and used the Wi-Fi audio tour was extremely low compared to the overall gallery visitor figures (12 / 42,000), but the survey morsel is still very positive.    

However, I would be cautious in suggesting an Wi-Fi audio tour for short-run exhibitions, mainly due to the diminished numbers compared to the insitu kiosks - the Wi-Fi audio tour could gain popularity following a less exhibition-specific avenue (e.g. providing audio descriptions for the top ten popular objects), which would allow the audio catalog to be built gradually and remain available all year around throughout the museum.

Future Beeps

To conclude, we have been collecting kiosk statistics since 2011. The storage method may change, we could additionally store the data on Google servers via Google Analytics, but however the beeps are stored the way visitor interact with museum kiosks will continue to guide the future kiosk development. 

 

Table showing all the touchscreen events for the Chalkie Davies exhibition with visitor figures for the gallery:

Large touch screen x 4

 
 

Language

7 May

2015

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

7 Sept

2015

Video (film plays)

 

1717

1085

1735

2833

352

7722

Chalkie Interview

EN

1280

1044

1362

1953

338

5977

Chalkie Interview

CY

124

123

164

237

38

686

NME magazine

EN

1209

961

1205

1841

355

5571

NME magazine

CY

60

56

72

148

17

353

NME Next Page

 

1974

2119

2099

2324

530

9046

NME Previous Page

 

1303

1025

1098

1666

463

5555

NME Zoom Photograph

 

985

681

909

1317

430

4322

Music Memories

EN

1409

1076

1464

2311

378

6638

Music Memories

CY

71

60

95

138

17

381

Music Audio (track plays)

 

1766

1583

1806

2410

486

8051

Comments

EN

881

702

840

1383

230

4036

Comments

CY

71

54

78

105

11

319

Comments submitted

 

124

131

168

260

30

713

What's On

EN

783

684

847

1335

241

3890

What's On

CY

55

50

63

126

12

306

Totals

 

12509

10409

12907

18721

3465

63,566

 

Wi-Fi Audio Tour

Using their own mobile devices

 
 

Language

7 May

2015

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

7 Sept

2015

Audio (plays)

EN

316

212

262

394

124

1308

Audio (plays)

CY

10

3

4

4

1

22

Totals

 

326

215

266

398

125

1,330

 

Number Gallery Visitors

 

7 May

2015

June 2015

July 2015

Aug 2015

7 Sept

2015

 

Totals

 

9108

7107

10688

14130

1961

42,994

 

This is a void appreciation post.

It's not often that we have a lot of time to reflect on what we do, because there's always so much to do. So, before I jump into venue hire revamps; finishing off a piece of prep for this Women's Archive Wales conference and helping with new 'suggest an event' pages, let's look into the murky abyss and just take a minute to breathe.

The Sea's Edge

Nice, no? [The Sea's Edge, Arthur Giardelli]

Since 'keeping busy' is the other Welsh national sport, it's not for everyone - but I'm a firm believer in taking stock, staying still for a minute, and listening. There'll always be a call: an email that's fallen down the back of the sofa, a book you've been meaning to pick up, or a colleague you'd like to make more time for will pop upstairs and say hi.

Evaluation and Taking Stock

We're in transition as a department - welcoming two new team members this week - and have been working, quite separately and like the clappers recently, on various projects, on web, galleries, social, governance, research and planning.

Graham, who heads the Content Team (and who I will now be calling Captain Content if he lets me), has been taking part in a cross-sector project looking at evaluation and taking stock, called Let's Get Real. Last week, he braved their Crit Room in Brighton, where he presented our work for open criticism and questioning. Curiously scary.

The results of the crit have been a real encouragement - I had been worrying about the size of our twitter network, since the time cost of keeping everyone trained up is ever growing for me. But, we were encouraged to see it as a sign that we're a healthy, tweeting organisation.

I am really trying to believe them.

Feedback from the Crit Room

Self-deprecation aside, I'm quietly happy with how we're working as a network, and really chuffed to see people really run with the new skills they've acquired on social media. In fact, while totting up some numbers for an unrelated report last week I saw we'd passed a great milestone - as a network, we now have over 125,000 followers on twitter alone. I know it's not just a numbers game, but there's something reassuring about those great, neat, empty 000s in a row.

The Crit Room also had great words of encouragement for Chris, who's built all the foundation for the website redesign (and much more besides), and the rest of the team - namely that our digital offer was 'highly rewarding, rich and satisfying'. I can't stop thinking of coffee when I read those words. Speaking of which: time to stop blogging about stopping now, and start stopping for a cuppa.

A Radical Collection

I'm content when I'm rummaging through old records, photographs or documents. Gleaning through 'stuff' is an unusual pleasure now that I work in the Digital dept, my day-to-day work mostly bereft of bits of paper.

I love the feel of ruffling through collections; whether it's a pile of vinyl, a card catalogue, or a box of old letters and tickets from the last century (it's scary to say that: "I went to a Levellers gig in the last century".)

Nearest and dearest to me are the Screen and Sound Archive at the National Library (where my Father worked until his retirement), and the Archives at St Fagans National History Museum. At St Fagans, the history of those early, radical curators, the background noises they capture, the dialects and the voices have had me in awe for almost a decade now.

It's also a relatively egalitarian collection, that notes the value of women's histories and makes space for us to tell our stories in our own words, to share our songs, recipes, beliefs and superstitions. Paper history doesn't match up somehow, where our voices oftentimes get squished to the margins and footnotes. It must be said that it isn't a completely intersectional collection, though efforts have been made in recent years to address this, for example, in recording stories from LGBT people.

My Grandmother's Voice

I will never forget finding my Grandmother's voice in the archive. She died when I was very young and so I don't remember very much about her, apart from what I've picked up from photos and from her poetry.

Nancy Hughes Ffordd Deg Bach © R I Hughes
My Grandmother in 1926 © R I Hughes

She was an excellent storyteller, and it was a privilege to receive a CD of her telling a few tales. Her voice had been there, kept safe all along - and I was bowled over, not just by her turn of phrase and sense of humour, but by the noises my Grandfather was making in the background as he tinkered around. His voice was not as deep as the one I'd committed to memory, and unlocked a drawerfull of memories besides.

This encounter further convinced me that archives deserve to be recognised as inherently meaningful collections, to be treated not as a supporting cast, but as whole collections which deserve pride of place alongside archaeological objects and artwork in our museums.

The Archive Today

I've been working with the team for a while - Richard (@archifSFarchive) who is part of the @DyddiadurKate team, and now with Lowri and Meinwen, who look after the manuscripts and sound archive. I've been showing them how to use our blogging platform, so hopefully we'll see a bit more of the life of those collections online soon. 

Within the digital department, we're busy revamping our pages on Welsh traditions and folksongs. While that work is going on, I've been looking in more detail at how we could potentially reach a wider audience by sharing sound clips on social platforms.

Sharing Sound Socially

The platforms we currently run - twitter, facebook and tumblr - seemed too ephemeral somehow.

Tweets don't live long enough, especially since we have so many accounts running in St Fagans; and the data shows us that our facebook fans are more interested in our events programme than our collections. Something as focussed as oral history or folk music could easily get lost or miss its mark.

So, I asked Gareth and Rhodri about their experiences of sharing music on soundcloud, bandcamp etc. I decided to create a package our of existing digitised material using bandcamp, and to release them all in one go, father than drip-feed them on the blog or on twitter.

One of the lovely things about bandcamp is the ability to add more information, like sheet music, lyrics and the history of the recording, and that I'm able to package things in an 'album' style. I was also really keen to use the 'pay if you like' function to see if we could open up a small donations stream that could be evaluated in the future.

Download 'O'r Archif'

Here it is then, a selection of folk songs, recorded from 1960 onwards by our archive at St Fagans: O'r Archif: Caneuon Gwerin

Most of the recordings were made by Roy Saer. The sheet music and sound was arranged by Meinwen Ruddock-Jones in the archive, and additional research carried out by Emma Lile. The cover for the collection is held in our art department, and is attributed to the travelling artist W J Champan.

I used Canva to tie together the older scans of the sheet music, and to add a word or two about the archive's history. If there are any errors, therefore, they are mine! Enjoy, share, sing, donate and experiment - and if you have any feedback, please pop it in the comments!