Amgueddfa Blog

Annelids or segmented worms as they are often called are a group containing earthworms, leeches and marine bristleworms. Each week at the museum we celebrate this fascinating group under the hashtag #WormWednesday with many others on social media.

This is an opportunity to highlight the importance and often spectacular beauty of these animals. We tweet specimens from our collections at National Museum Cardiff, as well as the research that goes on behind the scenes.

So why not delve into the fascinating world of segmented worms with this Storify of Awesome Annelids!

The collection at St Fagans National Museum of History includes numerous archives relating to the Welsh experience of the First World War. While working with colleagues to produce a digital database to commemorate the centenary of the conflict, I found an intriguing bundle of documents associated with a young soldier with connections to Penarth who died, serving with the Grenadier Guards, exactly 100 years ago today. His name was Oscar Foote and in this blog I have pieced together his last 24 hours from the archives we hold at the Museum.

On the night of 6 July 1917 an exhausted Oscar Foote had just returned from fighting in the trenches of Ypres for some well-earned rest and recuperation in a nearby camp. This camp was well within range of German artillery and on occasions they would shell the area. The morning of 7 July had begun like any other morning for Oscar. He had just put away his shaving kit when shells suddenly started bursting in the vicinity. A shell landed close to Oscar’s hut, creating murderous splinters in its aftermath. One of these splinters caught Oscar in the head and neck. Although his comrades desperately went to his aid, their efforts were in vain. He had been killed instantly. That afternoon, Oscar was buried by his comrades in Canada Farm British Cemetery, near Elverdinghe. A card dated 3 January 1918 includes a photograph of a simple wooden cross marking his resting place. 

The Oscar Foote archives came into the national collection in 1946 – a donation from a Mrs Maillard of Penarth who had been corresponding with him during the War. It appears that Mrs Maillard also donated material to the Imperial War Museum (IWM), possibly in response to the Bond of Sacrifice initiative. More research is needed to unpick how letters addressed to Mrs Maillard from the IWM came into our possession in 1946, but both institutions were actively collecting war memorabilia from soldiers and their families during and immediately after the conflict. Another blog for another day.

The digitisation of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ First World War collection is supported by the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme.

In part one I gave some background to the exchange programme with Jamtli museum and my experience of the galleries. In this blog I will focus on the shadowing opportunities we had.

Learning Department

Much of the week, Heulwen and myself shadowed members of the Jamtli learning department. The sessions we shadowed included a visit by a preschool class (6 year olds), a primary school prehistory session, adults learning Swedish and parents with preschool aged children (aged 0-5).

The highlight was the session for the preschool class as it had similarities with 2 of our sessions at St Fagans. The session was run by Pia who was playing a 19th century character. The children helped Pia prepare her house for a visitor by cleaning and doing some shopping. It was a very interactive session and kept the children engaged the whole time. It has given us some good ideas to make our school sessions more hands on. The buildings used for the preschool were perfectly set up for young children, with play areas designed to be child sized.

We also had the opportunity to visit the 1950s house and had a discussion about reminiscence sessions. It was very useful to find out how the sessions are delivered. Of particular interest was discovering that when groups from care homes visit the museum finds out where the participants are from. They then cater the information and images to the group by providing images from their home towns. The participants sometimes even recognise the people in the photos!

Carpentry

On the Wednesday, Heulwen, Pascal and myself had a tour of the timber buildings led by Jamtli’s head carpenter, Matts. The highlight of this tour was the timber church with painted walls on the inside. This was vividly painted and reminded me of our own St Teilos church here at St Fagans.

Afterwards we visited the wood workshop where we learnt how to make thin shingles and thick shingles (known as church shingles). I had a go at making both types but found the thin shingles much easier to make and was able to make several during my time. The thin shin shingles didn't require too much skill, whereas church shingles required skilled use of an axe. In my unskilled hands I found the axe work very tiring and I only made one church shingle.

Up next…

In the final instalment of my Jamtli visit blog I will discuss the highlights of visiting the historic buildings.

The team have been working hard in the last few weeks to get all of the new stock ready and looking lovely for the opening day on Friday 14th July. Our new shop will be full of lovely things from across Wales, Including hand carved lovespoons, tapestry blankets from Melin Tregwynt as well as blankets woven on site at the National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre.

The St Fagans shop during and after redevelopment.

Our new range of food and drink includes, Cheddar cheese from Blaenavon, Welsh Lady preserves from Pwllheli and a wide range of Penderyn Whiskey.

We also have a new range of exclusive souvenirs, including our cuddly new St Fagans teddy bears.

Visit us on the 14th July and say the word ‘Dragon’ at the checkout to receive 10% off! 

All the money raised in our shops supports the work of the museum.

I joined the museum team in June this year, as a design placement student from Brunel University, to begin the process of digitising parts of the Natural Sciences outreach collection. The project makes use of 3D scanning technology to create virtual versions of meteorite, rock and fossil specimens. Which can then be used to create a digital library of the collection.

The aim of this project is to create an online exhibit which is always accessible and available for everyone, developing it for outreach and education in a virtual environment. Digital scans will allow the public to get 360o views of specimens, meaning you could notice newfeatures and details not seen when specimens are behind a display case or shown in photographs.

Initially I will be working on the collection available in the Down2Earth loan boxes and designing the best environment for them to be displayed digitally. The objective is to create an environment that allows for exploration of specimens and the ability to see them in a whole new way, while also encouraging learning. Making the scans will be a useful resource both for those who are borrowing the boxes, as a source of information, and for those who are unable to borrow the boxes as a way to still interact with the specimens and learn about them.

The process of creating the virtual specimens uses an Artec 3D scanner, a rotating turntable and a computer. Placing the specimen on the turntable, several scans are made with it at different orientations. Once the whole specimen has been imaged computer software is used to align each scan, this can be a fairly fiddly job but once complete the software runs a process that removes any outliers and creates an accurate and precise representation of the specimen’s shape and surface texture. I then begin the post-processing steps of setting the material to look as realistic as possible along with setting it into a virtual scene and lighting it. The final stage is to add in the information that comes with the specimen and highlighting points of particular interest.

However not all specimens can be imaged using the scanner as they may be too shiny, in the form of slices or too delicate. The plan with these objects is to photograph them in high detail from multiple sides and in different settings (e.g. backlit), in the hopes that the user can still find ways to explore the specimen, by moving around, zooming in and changing the lighting.

Creating a virtual collection to go alongside the physical one could completely change the way the public engage with the collection. Opening up new avenues of user interaction and therefore adding to the user experience. The specimens scanned so far are being hosted on our Sketchfab account, sketchfab.com/museumwales, until the project page has been designed and developed. You can explore objects such as this cast of a Tyrannosaurus Tooth and many other fossils, meteorites and rocks there right now.