Amgueddfa Blog: Casgliadau ac Ymchwil

Lava medallions and coins in lava from Mount Vesuvius, Italy

The National Museum Wales Petrology (Rock) collection comprises 35,000 specimens, with many interesting rock samples from across Wales and the wider World. In the drawers of the Italian collection, alongside the pumice, volcanic ash and obsidian are these curious rocks.

They are called lava medallions or tablets, and along with coins embedded in lava they were probably first produced in the mid-18th Century when the ‘Grand Tour’ become fasionable among the wealthy elite of Europe.  Taking in European cities like Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples, the ‘students’ would travel with a tutor on a Grand Tour to learn about languages, geography, culture, art and architecture. When passing through Naples, the volcano of Mount Vesuvius (Vesuvio) became a must see stop on the tour. Forget postcards, fridge magnets and selfies, the take home souvenir of the day was the lava medallion!

People have long been fascinated by destructive power of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano had lain dormant for centuries before the famous eruption in 79 A.D. when the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed. Over the last two thousand years, the volcano has erupted many times. Between eruptions, Vesuvius can lie almost dormant for long periods of time before erupting violently once again. Volcanoes the world over that erupt in this explosive style after long periods of dormancy are known as Vesuvian eruption volcanoes.

To make a lava medallion, molten lava would have been retrieved (by some very brave individual with a long stick!) from a recent lava flow or lava close enough to the surface that was accessible and still hot enough to be malleable. It was then moulded, pressed with a stamp, or embedded with a coin, cooled in a bucket of water and sold to a passing grand tourist.

The French Revolution in 1789 marked then end of Grand Tours as they were known, but with the advent of the railways in the early 19th Century and the beginnings of mass tourism, these distinct souvenirs once again became popular take-home keepsakes, and they were produced in their thousands.

Over the years many of these medallions and lava coins have found their way into museum collections across the world. They often depict kings, Roman Emperors, famous scientists or events. All of the medallions and coins in the AC NMW collection date from the 19th Century, and originate from Mount Vesuvius, but examples in other collections have originated from Mount Etna, Sicily.

If you would like to know more about lava medallions, please contact Andrew Haycock via:

https://museum.wales/staff/665/Andrew-Haycock/




 

"If you asked me what a magelonid was 18 months ago, I would have looked at you with a somewhat muddled expression. Let me tell you, a lot has changed since then. Roll onto the present day, after a year at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales for my Professional Training Year (as part of my Zoology degree at Cardiff University), I could talk for as long as you are willing to listen about this fascinating family of marine bristle worms, commonly known as the shovel-head worms (Annelida: Magelonidae)."

            When my application was first approved from the Natural Sciences Department at the museum, I didn’t know what to expect. I had always loved anything marine and knew from the start this is the area I wanted to build a career around. This was a very broad declaration and beyond this, I was rather diffident in what I wanted to pursue. Therefore, my number one priority was to keep an open mind and make the most of everything the experience would offer. This view shaped a year filled with opportunities, that has not only been indispensable in developing my scientific skills in both hands on research and writing, but also in giving me a direction I am interested in for the future. 

            The majority of the placement involved both behavioural and taxonomic studies on European magelonid species, through the practicing of methods such as time-lapse photography, live observation, scanning electron microscopy, high definition photography using a macroscope, and taxonomic drawings using a camera lucida attached to a microscope. As a result of this work, some very interesting findings were highlighted for the Magelonidae, with important implications for furthering our understanding of these enigmatic animals. Perhaps the most fascinating arose through extensive time-lapse photography and observing animals in aquaria within the marine laboratory, in which an un-described behaviour emerged in the tube dwelling species Magelona alleni. Later termed as ‘sand expulsion’, this behaviour was a highly conspicuous method of defecation where M. alleni would turn around in a burrow network, raise its posterior region into the water column and excrete sand around the tank. Just knowing I was most likely the first person to ever witness this was a very rewarding experience in itself! To understand why this novel behaviour was exhibited, the posterior morphology of M. alleni was compared to additional European species. These findings have led onto my first publication in a peer-reviewed journal, of which two more papers and an article are due to follow as a result of working closely with my supervisor throughout the year.

I also got the opportunity to participate in tasks that are essential to the upkeep of the museum, such as curation, specimen fixation and preservation, along with invertebrate tank maintenance. Additionally, I participated in sampling trips, including a visit to Berwick-upon-Tweed and outreach events, such as ‘After Dark at the Museum’, which saw over 2,000 visitors, and the RHS show Cardiff.   

            Overall, the museum is a very friendly, intellectual and dynamic environment that has more to offer than perhaps meets the eye. This is why anyone who wants to study the small, whacky and wonderful world of marine invertebrates should not pass up an opportunity to undertake a placement here. Spend any prolonged amount of time amongst the hundreds of thousands of specimens kept in the fluid store, and I guarantee you will not be able to escape a visceral appreciation of the natural history of our world. With this comes a feeling of preservation for all we have and a reinforcement of why museums are such a crucial component of our society today, something that is too easily forgotten. 

Read more about Kim's journey through her PTY Placement at National Museum Cardiff:

https://museum.wales/blog/2017-08-04/A-new-world-of-worms---beginning-a-Professional-Training-Year-at-the-museum/

https://museum.wales/blog/2017-11-15/A-tail-of-a-PTY-student/

https://museum.wales/blog/2018-02-07/The-early-bird-catches-the-worm/

 

 

Over the past few months the museum has been working closely with colleagues at the beautiful Oriel y Parc gallery in St Davids to bring together an exhibition celebrating Wales ‘Year of the Sea’ called ‘Coast’.

The exhibition fuses artworks and natural science specimens specially selected by the Oriel y Parc team from Amgueddfa Cymru’s collections, and displays these alongside some of the recent museum activisim work of Amgueddfa Cymru’s 'Youth Forum Group' highlighting the issues of plastic pollution.

The multidisciplinary nature of the display explores how the sea has inspired artists for centuries, highlights the biodiversity of the Pembrokeshire coast, and how plastic now impacts on the environment and our everyday life.

Centre piece to the art works is Jan van de Cappelle’s masterpiece ‘A Calm’, surrounded by sea and coast inspired paintings from a selection of other artists including Cedric Morris and John Kyffin Williams. Amongst these works are specimens from the natural science collections capturing the richness of Pembrokeshire's wildlife, including the skeleton of a leatherback turtle found dead on Skomer Island in 1988.

The turtle had in the past been on display at the visitor centre on Skomer, but was removed a number of years back when the buildings on the Island underwent redevelopment. In need of some repairs and cleaning, the specimen became an excellent project for one of our conservation student placements at the museum, Owen Lazzari. The end result has enabled us to bring the specimen back to Pembrokeshire to form one of the centrepieces of the exhibition.

Other highlights from the natural science collections include one of our historic Blaschka glass models dating from the late 1800s, and a Goose barnacle covered builder's helmet found off the Welsh Coast.

Further information can be found on Oriel y Parc's website: https://www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales

 

Hi, I’m Thea, a sixth form student from Shropshire who decided to create this short video as part of my work experience at the National Museum Cardiff.

I had heard about Who Decides? before I became involved in the exhibition, so I was very eager to find out more. After working with the public opinion cards, speaking to the people involved in the museum and doing some short interviews, I created an animation that I thought would best reflect the aims of exhibition and the feedback it had received.

I am passionate about art and against the idea that art and museums are ‘elitist’ or should be for the ‘privileged’ rather than the majority, so I wanted to focus on this issue in the video.

Working with the Wallich

The exhibition itself was incredibly eye opening for me; the museum had decided to work with the charity The Wallich to involve people with experience of homlessness in the process of designing and creating the exhibit and gives the public the chance to choose some of the artwork on display. I haven't seen an exhibition that has ever taken this kind of approach, so I found it intriguing to see how others reacted to the idea.

I hope this refreshing approach to curation will be an archetype for future exhibits and museums because it challenges what we usually connote with galleries and exhibits and hopefully encourages more people to visit exhibitions and museums.

Who Decides? is on show at National Museum Cardiff until 2 September 2018. You can also contribute to Who Decides? by voting for your favourite work to be ‘released’ from the store and placed on public display.

Caiff Cadair Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Caerdydd 2018 ei noddi gan Amgueddfa Cymru, i nodi 70 mlynedd ers sefydlu Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru.

 

Mae Sain Ffagan wedi bod yn hyrwyddo crefftwaith Cymru ers agor ym 1948, ac mae noddi Cadair yr Eisteddfod yn ffordd addas o ddathlu hyn. Chris Williams gafodd y fraint o ddylunio a chreu'r Gadair eleni.

Mae Chris yn gweithio fel cerflunydd ac mae'n aelod o'r Royal British Society of Sculptors. Mae'n byw yn Pentre, ac mae ganddo weithdy ac oriel yn Ynyshir, Rhondda.

Cafodd elfennau o'r gadair eu creu yn Gweithdy, adeilad newydd cynaliadwy yn Sain Ffagan, sy'n dathlu sgiliau gwneuthurwyr ddoe a heddiw - a lle mae cyfle i ymwelwyr o bob oed droi eu llaw at grefftau o bob math. Yno, bu Chris yn arddangos ac yn rhannu'r broses o greu'r gadair gydag ymwelwyr – y tro cyntaf i hyn ddigwydd yn hanes Cadair y Genedlaethol.

Tapiwch ar y cylchoedd isod, wrth i Chris esbonio'r broses o greu cadair eiconig Eisteddfod Caerdydd:

  • O'r Aelwyd i'r Orsedd

    Cadair Eisteddfod 2018 trwy lygad y saer

  • Yr Ysbrydoliaeth

    Mae cadair Eisteddfod 2018 wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gadeiriau ffon Cymreig, fel hon yn Ffermdy Cilewent, Sain Ffagan

  • Dathlu Crefft Cymru

    Dewiswyd y garthen hon am ei phatrwm manwl - a ddaeth yn briff nodwedd y gadair

  • Y deunydd crai - pren llwyfen ac onnen - yn cyrraedd y gweithdy yn Pentre

  • Dyluniwyd y gadair fel model cywir ar Rhino 3D. Galluogodd hyn i mi fesur yn fanwl er mwyn creu jigiau a thempledi ar gyfer y breichiau a'r coesau

  • Mae sedd a chefn y gadair o'r un goeden lwyfen. Rhaid oedd sandio'r pren er mwyn datgelu'r graen - a gweld a oedd nam ar y pren sydd angen ei ystyried

  • Fe wnes i'r gwaith siapio yn Gweithdy, oriel grefft newydd Sain Ffagan. Roedd yn braf gallu rhannu'r broses o greu'r gadair gyda'r cyhoedd

  • Addurnwyd y cefn a'r sedd yn defnyddio laser Co2 - mawr yw'r diolch i gyngor Caerffili am gael defnyddio'r engrafwr! Ysbrydolwyd y patrwm cain gan garthen a wehyddwyd ym Melin Esgair Moel yn 1960. Mae'r felin (a'r garthen) 'nawr yn Sain Ffagan.

  • Roedd clampio'r pren ar gyfer yr uniad yn broses gymhleth, a roedd angen nifer o glampiau hir i reoli'r pwysau

  • Cafodd y testun hefyd ei engrafu â laser. Gwnaed hyn ar ddarn fflat o onnen, a gafodd ei lamineiddio i'r fraich gyda nifer fawr o glampiau

  • Gludo'r coesau yn eu lle

  • Bron â gorffen... Morteisio'r cefn yn ei le

  • Troi'r breichiau o gwmpas y cefn i greu uniad unigryw, a'i ludo yn ei le. Caiff y coesau bychain eu hychwanegu, a'u gosod gyda lletemau

  • A dyma hi yn ei holl ogoniant - cadair Eisteddfod 2018. Pob lwc i'r holl gystadleuwyr!