Amgueddfa Blog

On Your Doorstep exhibition install to opening

Katherine Slade, Ben Rowson, Jody Deacon, Julian Carter & Alastair Willis, 24 Mai 2022

The On Your Doorstep exhibition is now open at Oriel y Parc in St. David’s, Pembrokeshire. This collaborative exhibition between the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Amgueddfa Cymru highlights natural history and archeological discoveries made across Pembrokeshire. It also features local wildlife, and you can use our spotter’s sheets to spot them.

This exhibition emerged from an idea formed during the early Covid lockdown in 2020. As nobody could travel far from home, we all started to notice and appreciate what was right on our doorsteps.

Our response at the museum was to create resources inspired by the museum collections to encourage people to explore the nature and archaeology where they live. Spotter’s guides, archaeology factsheets, puzzles and nature bingo were released under the On Your Doorstep banner during the restrictions.

But how did we prepare and transport the museum objects used in the exhibition and what was involved from a curator’s point of view?

Like many people across the UK, we had to find new ways of working during the pandemic to help keep everyone safe. Our team, working from homes across Wales, met virtually and brainstormed ideas online.

Following the design and planning phases, museum curators and conservators made sure the chosen museum objects were ready for display. Some of the specimens needed additional conservation and preparation work. This included adding extra fixings to pressed botanical specimens so that they were securely attached to their backing and moving preserved fish to new preserving fluids. A beautiful Corn Marigold wax model made in the 1930s required extensive work to remove a wax bloom covering the model as well as some stabilisation repairs. Special slug models were created for the exhibition by shell curator Ben, as it is difficult to show the beauty of these animals from fluid preserved specimens in our collections.

We wanted to show the specimens in a natural context, so we gathered together dressing materials such as dried plants, twigs and leaves. Stripy coastal snails were stuck onto a dried and painted Sea Holly, and eggboxes were needed to stage the moths around a moth trap. We used pebbles to hint at the Scaly Cricket’s shingle shore home, and a hand lens by the lichens suggests a way to spot tiny characters in the field.

Once everything was assembled, we started packing ready for transport from National Museum Cardiff to Oriel y Parc. With many delicate objects, this was no mean feat. Items were ticked off lists, object exit forms (to allow us to track where specimens are) were signed and we were ready to go!

Meanwhile the museum’s exhibitions and tech teams continued work to get cases, panels, labels in place, as well as commissioning construction of the central structure in the gallery, made in part to show off the impressive casts of early Christian monuments from Penally.

Once curators and conservators arrived at Oriel y Parc, and after a quick cuppa, we started to arrange cases into position with the Oriel y Parc team. We cleaned the insides of the cases thoroughly before placing objects.

Because of the wide variety of Amgueddfa Cymru’s collections, something we can do is combine very different objects and subjects. In this exhibition we mixed natural history and archaeology specimens. While Wales has many native plants and animals, some were brought to Wales by people, for example, for food, medicine or accidently. We placed a couple of non-native animals and plants into archaeology cases in the gallery. A poppy sits amongst prehistoric and Roman finds, as it was probably accidently introduced by farmers to Wales during the Iron Age.

A fun finishing touch was to hide Ghost Slug models around the gallery. Why? Ghost Slugs were first found in Wales in Cardiff in 2008. We want to track their spread and need everyone to look for them. Could you be the first to find one in Pembrokeshire? To get some practice you can search for them in the exhibition!

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The On Your Doorstep exhibition can be seen now at Oriel y Parc in St. David’s. There are accompanying digital resources, all accessible from the website. These include some new free spotter’s sheets created especially for the exhibition.

For more news around the exhibition take a look at @OrielyParc on Twitter and use the hashtags #OnYourDoorstep and #ArEichStepenDrws

For news on the archaeology, conservation and natural history teams at Amgueddfa Cymru follow @SF_Archaeology, @NatHistConserv and @CardiffCurator

Project datblygu'r wefan

Amgueddfa Cymru a One Further, 23 Mai 2022

Gwrando ar leisiau defnyddwyr digidol Amgueddfa Cymru

Rydyn ni yng nghanol cyfres gyffrous o brojectau fydd yn gweddnewid ein darpariaeth ddigidol i gwsmeriaid. Rydyn ni'n datblygu cyfeiriad ffres i'n strategaeth ddigidol, gan ailedrych ar y systemau sy'n galluogi pobl i ymwneud â ni, ac yn ailfeddwl sut y byddwn ni'n mynegi ein hunain ar-lein.

At hyn, rydyn ni'n edrych ar rôl ein gwefan. Mae wedi bod yn gwasanaethu'r Amgueddfa ers blynyddoedd, ac er ei bod wedi esblygu yn yr amser hwnnw, mae'n amser am newid pellgyrhaeddol.

I ddechrau'r broses, byddwn ni'n gweithio gydag asiantaeth o'r enw One Further. Byddan nhw'n ein helpu i ddatblygu dealltwriaeth well o sut mae'n gwefan yn gwasanaethu ein defnyddwyr a ble mae cyfleoedd i wella. Bydd eu persbectif allanol o fudd, oherwydd o weithio gyda'r wefan o ddydd i ddydd, mae'n anodd i ni gael trosolwg diduedd ohoni.

Rydyn ni hefyd yn ymwybodol iawn y bydd yn rhaid i'r wefan newydd wasanaethu pobl Cymru a darparu platfform i ddenu'r cymunedau rydyn ni'n cydweithio â nhw (a chymunedau rydyn ni am weithio gyda nhw yn y dyfodol). Rhaid i ni felly glywed yn uniongyrchol gan y bobl a'r cymunedau hynny.

Dyma elfen fawr o waith One Further droson ni. Yma maen nhw'n esbonio rhai o'r dulliau rydyn ni'n eu defnyddio i gasglu barn ein defnyddwyr digidol.

Pwy sy'n ymweld â'r wefan a pham

I gasglu amrywiaeth eang o ymatebion rydyn ni wedi bod yn defnyddio amrywiaeth o holiaduron ar ein gwefan.

Mae holiaduron bwriad defnyddwyr yn gofyn i bobl beth yw diben eu hymweliad. Yw'r rheswm yn bersonol neu'n broffesiynol? Ydyn nhw am gwblhau tasg benodol?

Mae holiaduron defnyddio cynnwys yn gofyn i bobl fesur safon tudalen benodol ac awgrymu gwelliannau.

Mae holiaduron gadael yn ymddangos pan mae'n edrych yn debyg bod rhywun am adael y wefan. Dyma pryd fyddwn ni'n gofyn am ansawdd eu profiad a pa welliannau yr hoffen nhw eu gweld.

Wrth gwrs, gall yr holiaduron fod yn boendod o'u defnyddio'n ansensitif. Rydyn ni'n gwneud yn siŵr taw dim ond ar dudalennau priodol y byddan nhw'n ymddangos, ac nad ydyn ni'n tarfu ar rywun sydd ar hanner cwblhau tasg.

Mae mwyafrif y cwestiynau yn amlddewis er mwyn annog mwy o bobl i'w cwblhau, a fyddwn ni ddim yn dangos mwy nag un holiadur i bobl mewn un sesiwn.

Website screenshot showing Welsh feedback pop-up

Hwyluso taith defnyddwyr

Rydyn ni am ddeall pa mor hawdd a chyflym y gall pobl ganfod gwybodaeth ar y wefan. Yw'r dyluniad yn reddfol? Ydyn ni'n defnyddio'r labeli cywir i gyfeirio pobl?

I brofi hyn rydyn ni'n defnyddio rhaglen o'r enw Treejack. Mae'n ein galluogi i greu model o ddyluniad gwefan a gosod tasgau i bobl eu cwblhau. Mae'r rhain yn cynnwys gofyn iddyn nhw ble yn strwythur y wefan bydden nhw'n disgywl canfod gwybodaeth benodol.

Rydyn ni wedyn yn anfon dolenni at bobl ac yn aros i'r canlyniadau ddychwelyd.

Drwy ofyn i bobl gwblhau teithiau defnyddiwr cyffredin ar y wefan gallwn ni adnabod problemau, llwybrau seithug, a rhwystrau.

Os oes cyfran fawr o bobl yn mynd at adran anghywir o'r wefan, mae'n debyg bod angen i ni ailfeddwl pensaernïaeth y wefan. Os yw pobl yn cyrraedd yr adran gywir ond yna'n dilyn sawl opsiwn gwahanol, efallai bod angen ailfeddwl y labelu. Mae'r cyfan yn adborth defnyddiol.

Treejack feedback example

Profi defnyddioldeb wyneb yn wyneb

Mae'r ddau ddull uchod yn ein galluogi i gasglu gwybodaeth eang. Ochr arall y glorian wedyn yw profi defnyddioldeb ar raddfa bersonol, a hynny gyda sgyrsiau unigol dros Zoom.

Rydyn ni'n gofyn i unigolion rannu eu sgriniau ac yn gosod cyfres o dasgau cyffredin i'w cwblhau.

Gyda'r person ar ochr arall y sgrin, gallwn ni ofyn cwestiynau pellach i ddeall yn well y penderfyniadau a'r rhagdybiaethau a welwn ni. Pan fydd rhywun yn mynd ar goll, mae'n anodd weithiau ceisio peidio eu rhoi nhw ar ben y ffordd!

Rydyn ni'n gwneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n siarad â sampl cynrychioliadol o bobl, a defnyddiwyd holiadur sgrinio ar y wefan cyn trefnu sesiwn ar amser oedd yn gyfleus iddyn nhw.

Cyn y pandemig bydden ni'n aml yn cynnal y profion yma mewn canolfan brofi defnyddioldeb arbennig, neu yn swyddfeydd ein cleient. Ond rydyn ni wedi gweld sawl budd o brofi o bell, yn enwedig:

  • Mae'r person yn gallu defnyddio eu hoffer eu hunain, mewn lleoliad cyfarwydd, sy'n gwneud iddyn nhw ymlacio,
  • Does dim angen teithio, felly gallwn ni brofi pobl fyddai ddim wedi gallu gwneud hynny fel arfer, ac
  • Nid yw'r gymaint o broblem os oes yn rhaid i berson ganslo ar y funud ola.

Defnyddio'r wybodaeth newydd

Mae casglu adborth uniongyrchol gan gynulleidfaoedd y wefan yn gynnar yn y broses yn hynod ddefnyddiol i lywio ein dealltwriaeth o sut mae pobl yn gweld y wefan. Mae hyn wedi arwain at sgyrsiau mwy deallus gan bobl mewn gwahanol adrannau.

Bydd yr adborth hwn hefyd yn llywio gwelliannau i'r wefan. Mae rhai gwelliannau yn hawdd i'w cyflwyno, ond byddwn ni'n defnyddio ein dealltwriaeth newydd i awgrymu gwelliannau ehangach wrth lywio cyfeiriad y wefn i'r dyfodol.

 

Pride 2022

Zoe Gealy, 6 Mai 2022

After remembering how to pull together such a big event after such a long break, National Waterfront Museum hosted PRIDE on the weekend 30th May and Mini PRIDE on 1st June.  It was a huge team effort with staff from Community Engagement and Learning, Events and youth Engagement working in partnership with Swansea PRIDE, Swansea City Council and South Wales Police.  Not to mention our fabulous Front of House, Tech team, Cleaners (there was quite a bit of Glitter!!!), Marketing and Elior (sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone – we were all involved a bit).

PRIDE has been the largest ever event at the Waterfront in the past with well over 4000 people attending. We opted this year to focus on being the Community zone for PRIDE with a modest entertainment package, compared to the main stage out on Museum Green which also hosted food stands, merch stalls and drinks vans. 

Inside we had info stands, crafts and community sellers with partners ranging from YMCA Swansea to OXFAM Book swap, Swansea Vikings gay and inclusive rugby team (a popular stand!) Proud councils and Mid and West Wales Fire Service (also strangely popular!) Outside, the GRAFT garden saw a range of fun activities including Circus Skills with Circus Eruption, African drumming, an identity workshop and chalk drawing.  Inside hosted True colours inclusive choir, Mermaids walkabout, Zumba flashmob amongst other things. In the speakers corner we saw a packed out talk and demo lead by Welsh Ballroom, followed by Christopher Anstee’s book launch of his new memoir ‘Polish the Crown’ followed by a thought-provoking Q+A panel discussion, looking at growing up LGBTQ+ and the impact of section 28.

As always, we started the day showing our support as an organisation by joining the parade through town, fortunately the sun shone for us all and the crowds were supportive and very vocal.

The evening showcased The Welsh Ballroom do their thing with their fantastically choreographed, all inclusive, body positive catwalk, with the opportunity for the audience to join in at the end of the show. 

Sunday was all about the little people with another action-packed sparkly day of fun.  There were My Little Pony and Troll Walk Abouts, Crafts and Glitter galore, a packed out Drag Queen Story Hour, What is PRIDE? Q+A for Kids hosted by Good Vibes teens, and culminating in a very fun and very cute mini PRIDE parade through the main hall.

It was such a fantastic weekend, seeing so many familiar faces in REAL LIFE after SO long.  One community partner, on walking into the museum to set up and seeing all of the LGBTQ+ flags and umbrellas had a little cry and said ‘Thank you, I feel like I’ve come home, it’s so nice to feel like I can be me’.

Here’s to 2023…

Nature Finds a Way

Alyson Edwards, 3 Mai 2022

The Recolonisation of Invertebrates on Restored Grassland:

I’m Alyson, a Professional Training Year placement year student from Cardiff University (School of Biosciences), currently working within the Entomology department at National Museum Cardiff under the supervision of Dr Michael R Wilson (researchgate.net). My interest in ecology, conservation and zoology ultimately led me here, and with no prior specialist knowledge in entomology (the study of insects) I jumped in at the deep end. Within a few months I was sampling in the field and identifying leaf- and planthopper species from Ffos-y-Fran (an open cast colliery site near Merthyr Tydfil). This  is currently undergoing the process of restoration so that it is converted from a colliery site to reseeded grassland.

Identifying and analysing over four years of invertebrate samples, involved looking at 195 samples.  This took a fair amount of time but allows the rate of recolonisation over a 5-year period, total species diversity, richness, and population dynamics within the fields across the years and seasons to be calculated. Leaf- and planthoppers (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha) were chosen as models within this study as they are frequently common within grassland environments and can be used as an indicator of recolonisation progress on man-restored environments and ex-colliery spoil sites. Colliery sites are a common landscape visible across the UK, especially in the south Wales valleys. Their ecological importance and possible biodiversity are often overlooked, however work by Liam Olds (formerly Natural Talent apprentice at Amgueddfa Cymru), continues to highlight this through the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative (https://www.collieryspoil.com/about).

I am currently in the process of analysing this huge data set and creating a report to show the findings. However, in summary, the data has shown a trend of increasing diversity of hopper species within the field since it was reseeded. In total, 33 species were identified from the site – highlighting the ecological importance these habitats hold. Interestingly, grassland species generally uncommon to the area such as the planthopper Xanthodelphax flaveola and the leafhopper Anoscopus histrionicus, were abundant across the site leading to interesting discussion points as to why this environment encourages their colonisation. Other observations and discussions have also arisen from different wing-morphologies (shapes) seen in specimens of the same species. For example, the discovery of long-winged females of Doratura impudica, which are commonly a brachypterous species (short or rudimentary wings) encourages thought on arrival and colonisation methods of certain species, which could potentially help analyse other environments under recolonisation and ‘rewilding’ programmes. 

Studying the recolonisation of hoppers at Ffos-y-Fran has allowed me to develop and gain numerous skills which I will take with me into my final year of university and beyond. Not only have I been able to improve on existing skills such as report writing and data analysis, but I’ve also had the opportunity to gain new skills such as invertebrate identification, mounting specimens and taxonomical drawing. I’ve also had the chance to use the Scanning Electron Microscopy and sputter coating, and I have also used the imaging equipment at National Museum Cardiff to create a ‘species guide’ of the 33 observed at Ffos-y-Fran to supplement the report and provide a visual aid. Within my first few months at the museum, I was also able to get involved in a data collection project run by Dr Alan Stewart (University of Sussex), analysing specimens within the Auchenorrhyncha collections to create spreadsheets for the eventual creation of species distribution maps as part of the UK Mapping scheme for this insect group. There are so many opportunities and experiences to be had within the museum!

My time with Amgueddfa Cymru has been amazing, conducting research and joining the Natural Sciences team, and has solidified my desire to pursue a career in research. I believe my placement has given me a great start for a future career with the skills I’ve gained and developed through my work on Ffos-y-Fran and my secondary research project. The second project I am currently working on in collaboration with Dr Mike Wilson will provide an up-to-date redescription and description of new species of Fijian spittlebugs with the aim of publication of my first peer-reviewed scientific paper. Watch this space to find out more on the latter project …. 

Taxonomy- A dying science?

Abbie Taylor, 29 Ebrill 2022

As a Biological Sciences student I am very familiar with the concept of classification and evolution, having been taught about it from primary school level. The idea of using a filing system to organise species became common place at secondary school level. Constantly reciting the Linnean system and its eight levels of taxa (domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species) for exams and coming up with rhymes and mnemonics to remember it in class. 

Due to this I was vaguely familiar with taxonomy, I knew what it was and why it was important, as I describe below. However, we never truly explored taxonomy in any great detail, especially in a modern context, and so I never thought about it as a career many still do today. That was until February of 2020 when I was searching for placement opportunities for my Professional Training Year as a part of my degree at Cardiff University, and I came across an opportunity to undertake at National Museum Cardiff exploring taxonomy. I now have a much greater understanding of taxonomy’s importance and unfortunately the crisis it might be facing.

What is taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the science of naming, describing and classifying species, including species new to science. It is the foundation stone of biological science. The first step in understanding how many species we have, where they live, and what they look like so others can identify them. For example, it can be an early indicator of evolution, and in seeing how the morphological characteristics of species may help in adapting and surviving in their environments. 

Why is taxonomy important?

To understand the great diversity of the world we must know what is in it, and so taxonomy is essential in beginning to describe distributions and habitats of species. This will help scientists determine for example, whether a species is under threat, or the presence of an invasive species that can threaten other species and as a result their ecosystem. Scientists need to know all of the species in an environment, all described in a standardised manner that can be understood by those from around the world no matter the language spoken. This is so that they can begin to understand how to help preserve biodiversity and help the planet. 

Taxonomy is essential in aiding communication between scientists by giving a species a binomial scientific name. Many species will have many differing common names, for example Puma concolor, also known as the puma, cougar, panther, mountain lion, catamount, etc. in fact, P. concolor has over 40 common names in English alone. A binomial name (often in Greek or Latin) reduces confusion by surpassing language barriers and avoiding differing common names.

Taxonomy is also the first step in identifying species that have the potential to help people, to that end, the species related to them which may possess similar qualities. 

Truthfully, it is not known how many species share the planet with us. The most commonly cited number is 8.7 million species, however, this number ranges from five to ten million species. Either way taxonomists have only identified and described around two million species. Unfortunately, there will be many species that become extinct before we even know they existed. Scientists are unable to determine the rate of species extinctions or truly understand changes in biodiversity on a global scale because of the frightfully little knowledge of the species we share the planet with.

Importance of taxonomists

As mentioned, I mostly knew taxonomy as science undertaken in the past and if I did think of it in a modern context it was through modern techniques such as DNA barcoding. As a career opportunity for new biologists, taxonomy barely crosses the mind. It has been suggested that funding in taxonomic research is also on the decline, and that traditional taxonomy is too slow in producing research papers. 

But while using DNA to aid in identifications and for evolutionary relationships is no doubt useful, it is dangerous to remove all of the other “old-fashioned” techniques used for looking into morphological characteristics. Techniques such as drawing, AutoMontage imaging, scanning electron microscopy, written descriptions from observations, notes on habitat and distribution to name but a few. DNA analysis should be used to supplement the more traditional techniques, not replace them. There have been numerous examples in papers of errors in conclusions being made due to scientists looking at species from only a genetic point of view but having misidentified the species. To that effect integrative taxonomy has recently become a popular choice. It includes multiple perspectives such as phylogeography, comparative morphology, population genetics, ecology, development, behaviour, etc., so as to create the best descriptions and knowledge of species. 

After all, without taking the time to properly observe and describe a specimen you won’t truly know what the species looks like and how it uses its features to survive. How shall keys and field guides be properly constructed so that non-experts can identify species too? Without taxonomists how can the irreplaceable and valuable collections in our natural history museums be properly maintained and organised?

As I have experienced in my research on a relatively understudied family, mistakes have been made in identifications leading to false conclusions to be drawn, which has dangerous consequences for example in determining biodiversity. These false identifications may be enhanced by a purely DNA route into taxonomy. If taxonomy starts to die and fewer experts who truly understand a species exist who shall correct these mistakes and continue to document the rich biodiversity of the world?