Cymraeg

The Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales organised the sixth Unknown Wales for the 8th October. The day to celebrate Welsh wildlife was funded by a generous donation from a museum patron. This year, Dr Richard Bevins, head of the Natural Sciences Department, welcomed a record 240 members of the public to the Reardon Smith lecture theatre at National Museum Cardiff. Attendees came from across South and Mid-Wales as well as from over the Channel in Bristol.

We had overwhelming feedback this time - 88 people have responded. A third of respondents were new to the event, but many people return every year:

“As usual superb presentations by passionate presenters, many thanks”

“Gwych unwaith eto – dw i’n dod pob blwyddyn, diolch!"

We always aim for a broad range of natural history topics delivered in an accessible way:

“A really enjoyable day and very well pitched at all generations and interests”

“John Archer-Thomson – very engaging speaker, made a potentially dry subject [limpets] interesting and informative. Lovely films of Pine Martens.”

A-level and University students felt the topics were relevant to their studies.

“The enthusiasm of the speakers for their subjects, the beautiful location and applying real ecological issues to my studies (I am a student at Cardiff Uni studying biology)”

“Fungi and colliery spoils were especially interesting and the limpets talk gave information that’s very helpful for A-level biology”

Our special guest was Prof. Mike Benton from Bristol University. He spoke about how the discovery of Wales’s newest dinosaur, Dracoraptor hanigani, tells us more about the origins of the dinosaurs.

“Good to see Palaeontology within context of contemporary talk…Fab.”

People have given us many suggestions for topics for next time; “foraging”, “bats” or “urban greening” are just some of the ideas that could be appearing in the future.

We sacrificed question and answer time to enable speakers to finish their talks. However, feedback showed many people missed the interactive aspect. There was some chance for people to talk to speakers informally alongside the displays in the Oriel Suite at lunch, but we acknowledge this is not a substitute for audience participation at the time of the talks.

The Storify article shows how people followed the event live on the day via social media: https://storify.com/CardiffCurator/unknown-wales-2016

For first time we have created a display using the museum collections to link into topics covered at the event. We have just incorporated some of the feedback we received into it. The display is at the top for the restaurant stairs in National Museum Cardiff and runs until 30th October 2016.

 

 

Today we have launched our ESOL (English as Second or Other Language) resources on the museum website. The resources were created by Kate Congdon of Cardiff and the Vale College as part of the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) redevelopment of St Fagans National History Museum. In my last blog I discussed how we had trialled the resources with around 300 students from Cardiff and the Vale College. As a result of the trial we had very positive feedback and some minor adjustments were able to be made. There are 6 different levels of resources starting with Lower Beginners up to Upper Intermediate. The 6 different levels focus on different buildings across the museum.

There's always a sense of achievement when finishing a project but on this ocassion there is also a feeling of sadness that I have finished working with Cardiff and the Vale college. Working with Kate and the ESOL students from the college has been a pleasure. I want to say a massive thanks to Kate and all the students that took part and I hope we can work together again on future projects.

The resources are freely available to anyone wishing to use them on a visit to St Fagans. The resources are currently PDF worksheets but in the coming months my aim will be to convert these resources into digitial worksheets such as on iBooks.

Hello Bulb Buddies,

There isn't long to go until planting day on 20th October! Are you ready? Here are some helpful resources to prepare you for planting your bulbs and for looking after them over the coming months! These are also on the Spring Bulbs for Schools website: https://museum.wales/spring-bulbs/

These resources will help you on planting day:

  • A Letter from Professor Plant (introduction to the project)
  • 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 how deep you need to plant your bulbs? Or how 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: https://twitter.com/professor_plant

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

Professor Plant & Baby Bulb

This week’s Youth Forum again made me think about museums and what they can do, and how they should be, in a different way.

While looking at art from the First World War had at times been a sensory overload, this time we were trying to understand what it would be like to come to a museum without one specific sense fully intact. How to make museum exhibits more accessible for the partially sighted?

Having always gone to museums with my sight in (near enough) tip top condition, I and probably others tended to presume it was a pretty necessary requirement. If I had trouble seeing the paintings/sculptures/artefacts, then I don’t think I’d want to go. Because if seeing is believing, and I couldn’t see what I was supposed to be learning about, then surely I wouldn’t learn very much and would end up feeling quite left out, even though this obviously shouldn’t be the case.

And it doesn’t have to be! The paintings and sculptures that we looked up were a bit of a mix, ones that more well-known and some that were completely new. Among the ideas that we came up with, for example, involved the painting Bad News, by James Tissot, incorporating the playing of military marching music alongside the painting to evoke the solemnity and sorrow of leaving your family to go off and fight in another corner of the world.

Similarly, for Entrance to Cardiff Docks by Lionel Walden, lighting effects could imitate the lights of the port and the surrounding buildings, with sound effects of ships coming into port, water slapping against the quay, sailors shouting to each other. We could have smells to add to the experience (although maybe not the fish!). Instead of rough sailors accompanying Manet’s San Maggiore by Twilight, it would be the gentle, joyful peel of Italian church bells.

In front of a painting of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, Thomas Apperly and Edward Hamilton by Pompeo Batoni there could be a table with the objects and chairs laid out exactly as they are in the picture, as if the subjects had just finished the sitting and left only a few moments ago. David Nash’s intriguing sculpture Multi-Cut Column could have smaller imitations made of it, that people could actually pass around and touch, something rarely allowed in any exhibit. 

I realise there would be some technical issues in making sure it wasn’t distracting or taking away from the other exhibits, and that maybe not all these ideas will actually become a finished product, but I hope that at least some of them do work out. Because who wouldn’t want to experience this? It might be a bit like theatre, the art being brought to life, stepping into the painting. While I’m definitely thankful I’m not visually impaired in any way, I’m also thankful I took the time to try and understand the experience of those who are. 
 

  • Our next Audio Description Tour will take place on 8 December and will be of our Natural History collections.

‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’ is the first Community Archaeology project funded by the HLF project Saving Treasures, Telling Stories. Run by Swansea Museum, the project is inspired by a collection of finds made by a local metal detectorist on Swansea Bay, which has also been acquired for the museum by Saving Treasures.

Blades and Badges

It includes some mysterious items, such as a Bronze Age tool with a curved blade which has had archaeologists scratching their heads. Ideas about its purpose range from opening shellfish to scraping seaweed off nets or rocks or carving bowls.

Among the other items found on the Bay are a number of medieval pilgrim badges, including one brought back from the important shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. Pilgrim badges are usually made of lead or pewter and were often bought at shrines as a souvenir and worn on the pilgrim’s hat or cloak.

It is thought that those found in Swansea Bay were probably thrown into the sea by pilgrims returning to south Wales by boat as a thanks offering for their safe return. It seems like a curiously pagan thing for a medieval Christian to do, but it’s similar to the modern practice of throwing coins in wells, which is itself a survival of an ancient religious ritual.

The Archaeology of the Bay

The new collection is just a tiny fraction of the objects discovered on the Bay, which has a rich and varied – as well as sensitive – archaeology. This includes fragments of Bronze Age trackways and prehistoric forests, Roman brooches, ceramics, shipwrecks and the remains of World War Two bombs.

Community Involvement

Each one has a tale to tell and together they are helping archaeologists build the story of human activity in the Bay over thousands of years. Helping to interpret the finds, their significance for the history of Swansea Bay and for the people of modern Swansea are representatives from Swansea community groups, including the Red Café youth group, the Dylan Thomas Centre’s Young Writers Squad, Community First families and the Young Archaeologists Club.

The project’s first activity, a Big Beachcomb, took place on the Bay itself on Saturday 17 September, but to find out about that you will have to wait for the next blog in this series…