Amgueddfa Blog

Hi Bulb Buddies,

Thank you for all of your hard work collecting weather data over the last few weeks. The next week for weather records will be 4-8 January. When entering data to the website please enter 'no record' for the dates that you weren't in school to take readings.

There's no need to take your pots home with you over Christmas. So long as they are in a safe place in the school yard where they are unlikely to get blown over by the wind, they will be fine. The bulbs are insulated by the soil and can withstand the winter weather.

The weather has been mild in many places again this autumn/ winter, and it will be interesting to see how this effects our plants.

Have a lovely break Bulb Buddies.

Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year from

Professor Plant & Baby Bulb

Have you ever asked yourself the question “What’s behind the gallery doors of National Museum Cardiff”? Well, if you have then this blog might be for you. The specimens and objects you see in the galleries are just a fraction of those we have in the museum’s collections. So why do we have so many? Specimens in the galleries do suffer when exposed to light while on display, and occasionally from being touched by little sticky fingers! To help protect them, we regularly swap fragile objects on display with those in our stores. We also change objects round for the different exhibitions we produce. Objects behind the scenes are also used for a whole variety of different activities such as education and research. 

While we may not be able to put all of our specimens on display, we do like to share as many of them as we can via our social media channels. In the Natural Sciences Department, we do that via the @CardiffCurator Twitter account. Each week, we might share our worm highlights on #WormWednesday, some of our fantastic fossils on #FossilFriday and various other amazing specimens on other days of the week via various alliterations! 

Of course, the festive season is no different and each year we promote Christmassy objects via a #MuseumAdvent calendar. For 2020, our calendar has been inspired by the ‘Nature on your doorstep’ program which the museum has run throughout lockdown aimed at reconnecting people with nature. One of the main activities has been photo bingo, where we challenged people to find and photograph a number of objects. For winter bingo, we released a card at the end of November with 24 wintery things, such a robin, holly, frost and a sunset. Behind every door of our museum advent calendar, we included helpful tips and photographs from our collections, alongside live photos to help people find everything on the bingo sheet.

We are nearly half way through the calendar, but if you would like to join in why not follow the #MuseumAdvent hashtag over on @CardiffCurator and see if you can call “House” before the 24th December.

Cymru Anhysbys - Unknown Wales, our evening of talks about Welsh wildlife hosted by the Museum and the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales, was held on 29 October this year. It was special not just because it was entirely digital for the first time, but also because it was the 10th anniversary of the event. As part of the celebrations, we shared nature-related activities for families including a quiz which was set in our natural history collections, and a nature photo competition.

On the evening, our natural science curators gave quick-fire talks showcasing the museum collections and their work. We heard about sponges and sea squirts, 200 years of geology in Wales, Xylella and the meadow spittlebug, as well as alien molluscs rafting on plastics from the Caribbean!

We welcomed Roger Thomas, former director of the Countryside Council for Wales who asked us how we, Homo sapiens, can stay off the endangered list. Isabel Macho, biodiversity officer for Carmarthenshire Council, explained the high value of bogs in environmental engagement and in combating climate change. A call to arms for nature in Wales by Iolo Williams gained support on social media:

“Neges ysbrydoledig gan @IoloWilliams2 heno yn #CymruAnhysbys #UnknownWales Di-flewyn-ar-dafod, penderfynol, positif. RHAID i ni wneud hyn.” (Inspirational message from @IoloWilliams2 tonight at #CymruAnysbys #UnknownWales Outspoken, determined, positive. We MUST do this). @elenbendduen

With eight talks, and a special message from Iolo Williams, we had a record audience for the 10th anniversary of Cymru Anhysbys - Unknown Wales!

During lockdown our curators released weekly photo bingo cards for people to find and take photos of animals, plants and other things from nature. This #NatureOnYourDoorstep campaign was inspiration for the Unknown Wales photo competition. For the competition, we asked people to share their photos of nature taken during lockdown, and tell us the story behind them.

The entries we received have highlighted how nature has kept many of us going through the lockdowns and unsettling times of 2020. People appreciated nature during their daily exercise, and started noticing nature more as traffic and human noise decreased. Nature contributes to our daily sense of well-being, and lockdowns lead us to focus on what is close to home, especially the nature on our doorstep.

We received some amazing entries, however, 15 year old Edwyn Bywood’s photo of a Sparrowhawk was chosen as the winner by the judges. They said, this is literally ‘nature on your doorstop’! A very engaging photo with the Sparrowhawk looking straight at the viewer.

Edwyn shares his story: “One day I was in bed and heard a commotion, I looked out and there were feathers everywhere and a big female sparrowhawk holding its collared dove prey near the back doorstep. I took a lot of pictures but this is my favourite.”

Alan Underwood’s photo of Migrant Hawker dragonflies was highly commended, especially from a technical detail standpoint. “Late summer and down amongst the reeds at the pond’s edge Migrant Hawkers perpetuate the circle of life in their elegant mating wheel. It’s how dragonflies do it - if you are lucky enough to catch them at it!”

The first runner up was Megan Williams, aged 12 for her photo of a buttercup. Megan tells a story that may be familiar to many of us: “In lockdown my family and I went on family walks in the area around my house. We never went far but I discovered loads of places we never knew were there.  We were too busy before with my mum and dad’s jobs and our activities to appreciate what was on our doorstep.  We have decided as a family to make sure that we carry on going on these walks and spending family time when this horrible pandemic is over so at least something good will have happened from it.”

Saharah Uddin, aged 11, was the second runner up for her photo of a family of ducks she has been keeping an eye out for since the start of lockdown. “The photo shows her favourite duckling (named Daisy Duck) shaking water off after diving into the river to join her family. Daisy was originally the smallest duckling in the family so Saharah made a point of going out every evening with some food. And now she is a very healthy little duckling with a feisty personality.”

Below are further stories and images of nature from lockdown that were shared with us for the competition. If you wish to share your stories, follow @CardiffCurator on Twitter and use the hashtag #NatureOnYourDoorstep. For those who missed the evening of talks for Cymru Anhysbys-Unknown Wales, you can take a look back at the tweets from the evening via the Twitter Moment.

Ruth Jones: “Roedd y falwen yma yn amlwg yn hoff iawn o'r car tegan oedd wedi'i adael allan yn yr ardd gefn dros y cyfnod clo.  Efallai ei bod eisiau gwybod sut deimlad oedd teithio ar 100 milltir yr awr tra fod pawb arall ar "lockdown", ond ar ol cael y profiad mae'n amlwg wedi troi ei chefn arno a phenderfynnu mai bywyd hamddenol malwen ydi'r bywyd gorau wedi'r cwbwl.”

Jo Jones: “With the New Lock Down starting today I couldn`t believe my good luck when this beautiful Sparrow hawk decided to sit and have a rest on a log in my garden. What was so unbelievable was being able to grab my camera and take the picture before the Sparrowhawk flew away! These birds nested nearby during the first Lock down which gave so much of our Wildlife the peace and space to thrive.  Every cloud does have a Silver Lining and there will be better days to come in the future.”

Sarah Phelps: “Lockdown did give us the opportunity to embrace what outdoor space we did have, however small, and we planted vegetables and wildflowers in whatever pots we could find. We loved to see the bees, butterflies and other insects that the wildflowers attracted. The photograph gives a little snapshot of the beautiful flowers that came out of our small pot and I love how I have caught the old coal mining tip in the background. Our flowers are still growing strong and new colours are emerging every week even during these cold Autumn days. They have definitely brought colour into our lives when we needed it the most.

Willem van de Koot: “During one of my fieldwork trips at a site called Tyn y Bryn I spotted this beautiful patch of Bristly Haircap (Polytrichum piliferum) in the morning sun. Just the way it caught the sunlight, combined with the lovely highlights provided by the striking red newly forming sporophytes makes this one of my favourite pictures I have ever taken. Also the fact that its thriving in such a rough environment between the slate rocks shows how tough these often overlooked plants really are, something they have in common with the Welsh people.”

Ruth Symes: “An Orb Weaver spider emerging from its retreat at Garn lakes Blaenavon. During lockdown I became interested in macro photography and explored the area photographing insects.”

 

 

As it’s time to hang up Christmas stockings once more, we thought we’d delve into our archives and ask Mark Lucas, Curator Woolen Industry at the National Wool Museum, about the history of the humble stocking here in Wales. As it happens, there’s quite a lot to tell, and if you find yourself inspired to have a go at knitting your own Christmas stocking, we’ve got an easy-peasy pattern to help you do so.

Stocking knitting in Wales

Wales has a long tradition of stocking knitting, in the 18th and 19th centuries, stocking knitting contributed to the domestic economy in rural Wales. The knitting of stockings would be done around the hearth in the winter months with the whole family involved. In fact, Noson Weu (Knitting Evening) was a tradition in rural Wales, when neighbors would gather together to knit as a social gathering listening to an old tale some ancient songs or the harp.

Bala and Tregaron became the main areas for stocking knitting and held large markets 3 times a month. In 1851 there were 176 hosiers in the district around Tregaron

Gwlana Wool Gathering is another old Welsh Custom. Groups of women would follow drovers or walk along routes known as llwybrau gwlana, woollen paths. They gathered the scraps of fleece from the fields and hedge groves, constantly bending, reaching and plucking every piece of precious wool. The women would stop at farms along the way exchanging shelter, food and local news for odd jobs. If they were lucky, the farmer would have saved a fleece f

Gwlana Diorama

or the women.  The right to gather the wool was valuable and young women who were employed as servants would make sure that they were given the two weeks off for wool gathering each year.  The women would return home with their heavy sacks of wool, they washed and spun the yarn to use for knitting stockings and other garments.

Due to lack of transport in rural wales if people had to travel, they would walk and while walking

Yarn hook

women would knit using a yarn hook. A yarn hook is in S shaped with one end attached to the waist band and a ball of yarn attached to the other allowing for both hands to be free to knit while walking. In 19th century Cardiganshire women would carry peat from the mountains to use for fuel, they carried up to 27kg of peat in baskets on their backs leaving their hands free to knit as they walked. Women were also known to knit on the way to chapel but would stop before they entered sacred ground.

Knitting needle sheaths

Knitting Needle Sheaths were worn on the right side of the body at an angle to hold the bottom of the knitting needle, leaving the left hand free to work the yarn on the other needle. The sheath would hold the weight of the wool and prevent the hooks falling off the knitting needles.

A Welsh custom is to give knitting sheaths as love tokens. These were skilfully and elaborately carved by a suitor to give to their sweetheart. They are generally carved from wood but there are examples made of ivory and metals.

Stocking knitting machine details 

In Victorian times hand operated stocking machines became popular that could knit stockings much faster than by hand.

The North Wales stocking industries supplied 300,000 pairs of socks to the allies during World War One

In 1966, Dreifa Mill in Cwm Morgan owned and operated by David Oliver could produce 7 pairs of stockings an hour and regularly made 250 pairs a week using electric operated stocking knitting machines.

An example of Corgi socks

Corgi Hosiery’s factory in Ammanford keep this tradition alive today, producing woollen socks using traditional skills and modern machinery. They have a global reputation for making luxury socks and stockings and their customers include the royal family.

Knit your own christmas stocking

Stockings on display at the National Wool Museum.

We have some very fine knitted stockings in the National Wool Museum collection, but if you'd like to try your hand at something simpler, we've got a very simple knitting pattern for a Christmas stocking that you should be able to get ready just in time for Father Christmas' visit. While we can't guarantee it will be filled, our shops at St Fagan's Museum and at The National Slate Museum in Llanberis (see their website for opening times and details) are offering a 10% discount on items to fill the stocking, for any who bring in a hand knitted Christmas stocking made from this pattern. So, ready.....steady.....knit!

 

Download our easy-peasy christmas stocking knitting pattern here

 

 

 

 

The Carers Wales report State of Caring 2019 estimated that last year there were 400,000 carers in Wales. The 2011 Census gave the overall figure as 370,000 or 12% of the population, with 30,000 of those carers under the age of 25 and it noted that Wales has the highest proportion of carers under 18 in the UK. These figures all refer to unpaid carers, who are supporting an adult or child with a disability, physical or mental illness, or affected by substance misuse. It does not include those working in paid caring roles.

It is estimated that most of us, three out of five, will become a carer at some point in our lives.

Given these huge numbers and the fact that most of us are, or will be, affected why don’t we hear more about carers? One reason could be that carers are too busy being carers. I have been a carer myself and before joining Amgueddfa Cymru I spent 30 years working in health and social care services, in which time I would estimate that I worked with a few thousand carers. My experience and extensive studies show that many carers experience loneliness and social isolation, poor mental or physical health themselves, and financial pressure, as a result of their caring role.

So what does this mean for Amgueddfa Cymru? One of the goals for our 10-year strategy, due to be published in spring 2021, is that we are relevant to everyone and accessible to everyone; another is a focus on health and wellbeing for all. Our community engagement programme has a very wide range of ways for people who have support needs (due to health, disability or other circumstances) to get involved in museum activities as a visitor or through our volunteering and learning programmes. We certainly welcome carers via these initiatives and there are many carers who have got involved, but as yet we don’t have very much that is specifically designed around the needs of carers.

Looking ahead to next year, the Volunteering team want to provide some opportunities designed specifically for carers. This may involve recruiting volunteers who can support carers in visiting our museums, or, it may mean designing volunteering opportunities for carers that work around caring demands. At the moment we imagine a mix of attendance options – some opportunities for carers to attend or join something on their own, others where carers can do so with the person they provide care for. 

The usual image of carers is of someone older, caring either for an elderly parent or for their spouse or partner. There are many who fit that description, but there are also more young adult or child carers than most people realise and the demands of caring risk an adverse impact on their education, development, and overall quality of life. We are therefore planning to include some opportunities that are specifically aimed at young carers.

People from all communities face caring responsibilities, which may in some cases be made even harder by systemic discrimination and disadvantage. My own experience of caring for my Iraqi grandmother was that the support services available genuinely intended to welcome everyone but were nearly all set up around the habits, lifestyles and life experiences of a White British population. The food and activities offered, and life events discussed (for instance in Reminiscence therapy), held no relevance or comfort for her whatsoever. I’m not suggesting this gives me any insight into another person’s experience, it doesn’t, but it does give an insight into the limitations of a single approach. 

So we know we will need a nuanced and varied approach, and this is where we would like your help. We have created a survey which sets out some of our ideas so far, but we also need to hear from you if you are a carer or have been a carer in the past. If you’re not, we’d be grateful if you could help us by sharing this with carers you know.

The survey launches on Carers Rights Day, 26 November, and on the same day we’re also planning a live online discussion (with a free event ticket for every carer who joins us). You can find the details of how to participate, and also the ‘taster’ sessions on the same day, via this web page: https://museum.wales/getinvolved/carers