Amgueddfa Blog

I began volunteering for Amgueddfa Cymru while I was studying at Cardiff University. I took part in a Family Learning Placement with the Learning Department in The National Museum Cardiff. I had already decided that I wanted to work in the Museum Sector and I was already pretty certain that I wanted to work in museum learning from volunteering at other organisations.

The aim of the placement was to create and deliver drop-in craft activities for the summer holidays. Although I had volunteered in other museums, this placement allowed me to develop new skills and showed me the diverse jobs done by a Museum Educator.

In pervious volunteer roles, I had facilitated activities for school groups before but never designed them. This placement gave me the opportunity to create activities. I also had the opportunity to look around some of the stores, meet the Curators and learn about preventative conservation.

This placement was great because it gave us clear learning objectives and an outcome. We had organised sessions, which taught us about designing family activities and gave us the chance to try out the activities the Museum already had.

Volunteering with Amgueddfa Cymru helped me develop skills, which I still use today as an Education Officer. It was my first glimpse into the diversity of the work of a Museum Educator and I have spoken about it a lot during interviews.

I now work in the Egypt Centre: Museum of Egyptian Antiquities as the Education and Events Officer. I organise and run the Museum’s Learning Programme.


Follow me on twitter @H_Sweetapple @TheEgyptCentre

With light and warm days of Summer being now a sweet memory we invite Autumn in with all its glory and grandeur. The leaves of the trees turning gold, orange and red create a feeling of warmth within comforting us and adapting our minds to the colder months ahead.

This year has been particularly different to me. I have been spending more days outdoors working in the garden, going for walks and being close to nature. This lifestyle change has been so beneficial both physically and mentally that I now welcome Autumn with different eyes. I remember when I used to dread this time of the year and would close myself into my cocoon thinking why don’t humans hibernate? But Autumn has so much to offer if we only challenge ourselves to spend more time in contact with nature.

The crispness of the air, the fallen leaves on the floor, the golden hues of the trees and the soft and delicate light can be only appreciated if we venture ourselves out of our comfort zones.

The St. Fagans Museum is a wonderful place to visit at this time of the year. The magnificent variety of trees changing colour and creating a crunchy carpet of leaves is the perfect invitation for a long walk.

There is one garden located on the terraced path near the ponds that was specifically designed with Autumn colours in mind. There you can find the bright red Euonymus alatus known as “Winged Spindle” or “Burning Bush”, the oriental Acer palmatum, the beautiful red berries of the Cotoneaster horizontalis and other amazing varieties in a beautiful display of colour. This garden is embraced by the gigantic Fern-leaved Beech (Fagus salvatica ‘Aspleniiflora’) one of the oldest trees planted in the Museum dating back to 1872.

If you enjoy gardening there are plenty of tasks that will keep you warm and busy at this time of the year. The joys of planting bulbs with great expectations for Spring or the meditative task of sweeping leaves and gathering them to make leaf mould. Also the perfect time for planting trees as they will have plenty of moisture available to get established.

So wrap up warm, get your wellies or winter boots on and explore the wonderful natural sites that bless the Welsh land.

In the mid-1960s Play School was one of the few programmes available for pre-school children.  In the middle of every show, you were transported through one of three windows, leaving the studio for somewhere exciting in the real world. I loved the programme and remember watching it at home on our rented black and white television. One day they showed us the Natural History Museum in London and the huge skeleton of an extinct creature – a Diplodocus.  This was the first time I had ever heard of fossils or dinosaurs, and I was amazed by what I was seeing.

A year or two later, my parents took me on a trip to London and the one thing I wanted to see was the Diplodocus.  Dippy did not disappoint and I spent all my pocket money on two postcards to stick into my scrapbook.

Fifty years on those old postcards are reunited with Dippy in Cardiff.  I wish I could say that seeing Dippy inspired me to become a palaeontologist, but back then I had no idea that was even possible. However, my visit did spark a lifelong interest in the natural world which led to me eventually becoming a palaeontologist at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales.  I work on fossil bryozoans, small colonial marine animals – less obviously spectacular than dinosaurs but (I think) equally as fascinating.   Even so, I will always have an affection for Dippy.

Dr Caroline Buttler

Head of Palaeontology

A photo of Caroline Buttler's scrapbook
Dr Caroline Buttler with her scrapbook in National Museum Cardiff's main hall with Dippy in the background
Bryozoans

Our conservation volunteers are helping once again to carve the traditional swede lanterns for Halloween. Each year we try and do more than the last so we’re aiming for 70 this year! Our gnarled little friends will be covering every available surface and hiding in every nook and cranny in Abernodwydd farm house this Halloween.

Pumpkins from America have now replaced the humble swede and turnip, but the story behind the Jack O Lanterns, as they were known, is definitely home grown.  To avoid going to Hell, a man called Stingy Jack believed he had out-witted the Devil with his tricks! But when Jack died his trickery back-fired and he ended up wondering the dark space between heaven and hell with only the light from his lantern for company.

It’s believed that Halloween is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, so beware, Jack may be about!  But don’t worry the light from your own lantern will protect you.

At first glance, The Tomlin Archive helps us to explore the life of John Read le Brockton Tomlin (1864-1954), one of the most highly-respected shell collectors of his time. Alongside Tomlin's extensive shell collection, his correspondence archive holds documents he sent, received and collected, dating from the early 1800’s through to the mid 1900’s. They provide an in-depth look into Tomlin’s life, along with the lives of those he knew.

John Read le Brockton Tomlin (1864-1954)

One letter remains to me, a volunteer helping to record the archive, particularly poignant. The letter in question was written by Professor Dr. Phil Franz Alfred Schilder, a malacologist from Naumburg in Germany.

Schilder wrote the letter to Tomlin on July 11th, 1946. Within this letter, Schilder describes his anxieties surrounding his German heritage in a post-WW2 world, fearing ‘whether any Englishman ever will take notice of any German’ again, because of his nation’s ‘unbelievable barbarism’. Schilder further shares his assumption that Tomlin had been killed in the German bombings of the English South East Coast and Hastings, before it was revealed that the destruction of the English Coast had been falsely exaggerated by Nazi Germany’s official records. This helps us to understand a little more about what life was like for German citizens living in Nazi Germany during the War; Schilder felt very much a victim of Hitlerism, not just through being lied to by figures of authority, but a victim too in the tense and intolerant political and social climate Hitler created in Nazi Germany. Schilder, having a half-Jewish wife, describes their suffering under the Gestapo, living a constant struggle to prevent his wife from being taken to a concentration camp, and being treated himself as a ‘“suspicious subject”’ in Germany.

Schilder describes how he lost his job, Assistant Director of a Biological Institute, for ‘political reasons’ in 1942, and that he only regained his position once the War had ended. Once appointed Professor of Zoology at the University of Halle in November 1945, he delivered a course of lectures, but Schilder reveals how, in the bombings of Germany during the conflict, he lost all of his property. He also describes how his statistical paper on the development of Prosobranch Gastropods during geological times, was ‘destroyed by bomb shells at Frankfurt’. Losing all of his research and property seems, to Schilder, the end of Tomlin’s and his relationship: ‘I can hardly think to see you once more’, and he regretfully states he is sorry to be cut off from a country he spent many ‘fine holidays’ with ‘noble-minded scientific friends’ in.

Schilder can be seen sat on the left in this photograph, also part of the Tomlin Archive collection. ‘June 1932, on downs near Falmer’

This letter’s tone is overwhelmingly one of pain and loss. The Second World War was a truly catastrophic event that claimed millions of lives, and in this letter we are able to understand how the conflict ripped apart the lives of survivors too. It destroyed Schilder’s livelihood, years of pain-staking work, his career, and even many friendships he once had. This letter may first and foremost provide an insight into Schilder’s life, but it also tells us so much more about the unforgiving and intolerant social climate created by Hitler which still exists, in part, to this day, the vast number of victims that were affected, and the sheer scale of destruction and loss it had on so many lives.

 

Transcription of the letter dicussed from F. A. Schilder to J. R. le B. Tomlin:

Naumburg, Germany

July 11 th, 1946.

Dear Tomlin,

Several weeks ago, I wrote to Mr. Winckworth and to Mr. Blok, wondering whether any Englishman ever will take notice of any German, even if he knows that he was far more a victim of Hitlerism than responsible for the unbelievable barbarism of his nation. I did not write to yourself, because I could hardly think you still alive after the stories concerning the total destruction of the English South East coast by the German artillery across the Channel.

Now I learned from an extremely kind answer of Mr. Blok, that the destruction of Hastings was a lie as well as all the other official German records during the war, and that you are well at St. Leonards as before. I was very glad to learn that you are evidently staying in your fine home, in which I enjoyed your and Mrs Tomlin’s kind hospitality several times; and that you recovered from your long life’s first illness just now and visit the British Museum as before. I congratulate you to your recovering, and hope that your illness was not caused, though indirectly, by the events of the war.

I suppose that you know, from my letter to Mr. Winckworth, our personal fate during these last years - - the bloodstained harvest of “Kultur” (as Mr. Blok characterizes them in a very fine way), for a similar letter of mine to Mrs. van Benthem Jutting seems to circulate among my scientific friends in the Netherlands. As Mrs. Schilder is “halfcast jewish”, we had rather to suffer under the Gestapo, and I could hardly prevent her to be taken off into a concentration camp. But on the other side, by the same reason to be a “suspicious subject” I was not obliged to join the army, and possibly to be killed for a government which brought only mischief upon ourselves and upon many friends of ours both in Germany and abroad.

Now, since the American troops occupied Naumburg on my very birthday, last year, all danger both from the Allied Air Force-shells and from the Nazis is over, and we feel much more secure under the Soviet Government than we ever did under the German one during the last twelve years. I have become Assistant Director of our Biological Institute once more - - I had lost this position since 1942 by political reasons - -, and besides I was appointed honorary professor of zoology at the university of Halle, where I now deliver a course of lectures, since November 1945. But we have lost all our property, so that I can hardly think to see you once more, even if travelling to England would be permitted in future - - and I am really sorry to be cut off from a country, in which I spent so fine holidays among noble-minded scientific friends.

During the war, I published a lot of papers on Cypraeacea, even in Tripolis and in Stockholm, but the printing of a big statistical paper on the development of Prosobranch Gastropods during geological times was destroyed by bomb shells at Frankfurt. I wonder, when special scientific MSS. Will be printed again in Germany. I shall send you separate copies of all my papers as soon as such mails will be allowed.

I should be very glad to learn from yourself that you escaped the greatest catastrophe of the white race, and that you recovered fully from your recent illness.

Please tell my kind regards to Mrs. Tomlin.

Yours sincerely

F. A. Schilder