Amgueddfa Blog: Gwirfoddoli

The Craft group of volunteers had been “coasting” for some time waiting for our next assignment from the museum. We’d made rag rugs for the houses at Rhyd y Car, we made mediaeval costumes for the children visiting Llys Llewellyn and we’d used the lavender grown in the castle gardens to make lavender bags to sell in the shops. For a few other meetings we’d been doing our own crafting projects in Gweithdy, talking to visitors, showing them how we made our various quilts, rugs, throws, and tapestries, but we were ready for a new project.

None of us had been familiar with the term Tip Girls, or the work they did in the mining industry when Noreen and Ceri from Big Pit visited us to ask for help in setting up a new temporary exhibition at the big pit Museum.

We were asked to design and make an outfit suitable for a Tip girl as would have been worn in the Welsh coal fields. Little research has been done on these girls in Wales but some records were kept of those girls working in the coal fields of Nottinghamshire and Durham. There were similarities between the two but also some distinct differences; most notably the names: Tip Girls in Wales and Pit Girls in the north of England

We obviously needed to research these Tip Girls and the period in which they were working, to find out the type of clothes they wore in order to undertake our task.

Until 1842 women and children had regularly worked underground, but after a dreadful mining disaster in Barnsley, Queen Victoria demanded an enquiry. This resulted in the Mines and Collieries Act banning women, girls, and boys under 10 from working underground.

This was a blow to many women who earned their living, or supplemented their household income from working underground, but women who needed to work adapted. They worked at loading wagons or hauling tubs up from the pithead and some became Tip Girls, sorting rocks and stones from the coal when it had been brought up from the mines below ground.

In our research we found that Tip girls developed a distinctive style of dress and different areas develop their own distinctive styles

The work was cold and wet and very dirty and the girls’ dresses catered for this.  In Wales, W. Clayton had taken photographs of these women; although they were posed and in a studio setting we still get a good idea of how they were dressed.  They wore long flannel skirts or frocks covered by leather aprons. Some wore breeches under their skirts, but this was frowned on in some mines, although it was commonplace in the mines in the north of England. They clothed their heads in hats and scarves, ensuring all of their heads were completely covered to prevent the coal dust saturating their hair.

Several members of the Craft group luckily have experience in costume design and they shared their expertise with us, helping us to design the costume.

We needed to decide what fabric we could use for the costumes, and we were lucky to be allowed the opportunity to see the museum exhibits in storage that would help us in designing the costume. We saw skirts, aprons, petticoats, stockings, socks and even boots that were all being carefully conserved by the museum.


We had been given a shop-window mannequin to use as the Tip Girl and were expected to dress her. However, her solid hands and feet posed a problem in that we needed to give her gloves and boots, and her elegant pose made making her resemble the Tip Girl very difficult.                                                                 

It took some time to work out that she couldn’t be used and something else had to be sorted out. There was no other mannequin available from the museum, so our resourceful team got together and manufactured one from various sources. (It does help having costume designers in the group!)

We used the original mannequin as the basis to design the clothes and even used our own members as models.  The tip girls hats seem to have been of special interest to the girls. They were all decorated quite lavishly with beads, ribbons, bows, flowers, and even birds and cherries and other fruit.  This seems to have been their gesture to glamour in the midst of the grime of the pit head.

We were getting on nicely with the manufacture of the clothes when Covid hit and we were locked down. We carried on our monthly meetings over Zoom but the Tip Girl project was side-lined for a while, while we made masks and protective clothing for the NHS. Edwina however was still working on our model and when a year later we resumed, we were nearly there with our very own Tip Girl, who we had nicknamed Brenda, for some unknown reason!

In discussion with a friend who is also doing research on the Tip Girls of the Welsh mines, I discovered that these girls were not the lowly workers they seem to be from their photos. In fact, they were quite well-paid and regarded themselves as better off than girls who had to go into service at the local “big houses”. Photographers also wanted to take their photographs and make them into postcards to sell to the public which made some of the tip girls into minor celebrities.

During lockdown we have made headscarf, skirt, chemise and socks. We’d made hands (ready for gloves) hats, bloomers and a bodice.  On returning to face-to-face volunteering, we collected what we had been working on and found we had been quite productive during lockdown.

The home-made mannequin was coming along at pace and caused some hilarity when we first assembled the legs and body as they weren’t quite compatible. Caroline, our expert in period costume, had knitted a wonderful pair of stockings that fitted the homemade legs perfectly.



The figure of the mannequin at the beginning caused much hilarity, and the arms and legs both had to be considerably altered. Having it made by different people in different places had its difficulties!

Our next meeting was at Big Pit, when we collected the disparate pieces of the costume and put them on the model. Our home-made model was not in use, and the museum was using another mannequin that was being altered to fit the brief. It was rather tall for the display case, but the staff intended shortening it discreetly.

The main reason for visiting Big Pit was to make the costume look as realistic as possible for the exhibition. They all looked newly made and pristinely clean, and we had to make them look as grubby and dirty as possible. So, after dressing up the model, we then undressed her again, and took the clothes over to the Forge where we had a good time rubbing them into the dirtiest and most filthy parts of the machinery.


It’s finished now, and we are waiting eagerly for the opening of the exhibition. We’ve left the clothes with the museum, along with both models, and it depends on which model best suits the display cabinet. When we visit the exhibition we will be very interested to find out more about the Tip Girls, and proud to see the small contribution we made to the exhibition on display. 



The next steps in a Professional Training Year

It’s been a little while since my last blog post and since then there has been a lot of exciting things happening! The scientific paper I have been working on that describes a new species of marine shovelhead worm (Magelonidae) with my training year supervisor Katie Mortimer-Jones and American colleague James Blake is finished and has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal. The opportunity to become a published author is not something I expected coming into this placement and I cannot believe how lucky I am to soon have a published paper while I am still an undergraduate.

There are thousands of scientific journals out there, all specialising in different areas. Ours will be going in the capstone edition of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a journal which covers systematics in biological sciences, so perfect for our paper. Every journal has its own specifications to abide by in order to be published in them. These rules cover everything from the way you cite and reference other papers, how headings and subheadings are set out, the font style and size, and how large images should be. A significant part of writing a paper that many people might not consider is ensuring you follow the specifications of the journal. It’s very easy to forget or just write in the style you always have!

Once you have checked and doubled checked your paper and have submitted  to the journal you wish to be published in, the process of peer reviewing begins. This is where your paper is given to other scientists, typically 2 or 3, that are specialists in the field. These peer-reviewers read through your paper and determine if what you have written has good, meaningful science in it and is notable enough to be published. They also act as extra proof-readers, finding mistakes you may have missed and suggesting altered phrasing to make things easier to understand.

I must admit it is a little nerve wracking to know that peer reviewers have the option to reject all your hard work if they don’t think it is good enough. However, the two reviewers have been nothing but kind and exceptionally helpful. They have both accepted our paper for publication. Having fresh sets of eyes look at your work is always better at finding mistakes than just reading it over and over again, especially if those eyes are specialists in the field that you are writing in.

As you would expect, the process of peer-reviewing takes some time. So, while we have been waiting for the reviews to come back, I have already made great progress on starting a second scientific paper based around marine shovelhead worms with my supervisor. While the story of the paper isn’t far along enough yet to talk about here, I can talk about the fantastic opportunity I had to visit the Natural History Museum, London!

We are currently investigating a potentially new European species of shovelhead worm which is similar to a UK species described by an Amgueddfa Cymru scientist and German colleagues. Most of the type specimens of the latter species are held at the Natural History Museum in London. Type material is scientifically priceless, they are the individual specimens from which a new species is first described and given a scientific name. Therefore, they are the first port of call, if we want to determine if our specimens are a new species or not.

The volume of material that the London Natural History Museum possesses of the species we are interested in is very large and we had no idea what we wanted to loan from them. So, in order to make sure we requested the most useful specimens for our paper, we travelled to London to look through all of the specimens there. We were kindly showed around the facilities by one of the museum’s curators and allowed to make use of one of the labs in order to view all of the specimens. The trip was certainly worth it. We took a lot of notes and found out some very interesting things, but most importantly we had a clear idea of the specific specimens that we wanted to borrow to take photos of and analyse closer back in Cardiff. 

Overall, I can say with confidence that the long drive was certainly more than worth it! I’m very excited to continue with this new paper and even more excited to soon be able to share the results of our first completed and published paper, watch this space…

Thank you once again to both National Museum Cardiff and Natural History Museum, London for making this trip possible.

How to Name Nature

My Professional Training Year placement in the Natural Sciences Department at National Museum Cardiff has been going for a few months now and we are making great progress! We have gotten to the stage where it is time to name the new species of shovel head worm (Magelonidae) that we have spent many months describing and drawing. Shovel head worms are a type of marine bristle worm.

So, the big question is, how exactly do scientists name the new species they discover? 

All species are named using a system called binomial nomenclature, also known as the two-term naming system. This system is primarily credited to Carl Linnaeus in 1753 but there is evidence suggesting the system was used as early as 1622 by Gaspard Bauhin. You will know them as the Latin names for organisms or scientific names. These names are firstly formed of a generic name, identifying the genus the species belongs to and a specific name, identifying the species. For example, the binomial name for humans is Homo sapiensHomo is the genus, which also includes our ancestors like the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) but if you want to specifically refer to modern humans you add the species name, sapiens. So, Homo sapiens is what you get.

Today, binomial nomenclature is primarily governed by two internationally agreed code of rules, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICNafp). Across the two codes the rules are generally the same but with slight differences. As my work focuses on naming animals, I will focus on the rules set out by the ICZN.

The first step in naming a new species is figuring out exactly what to name it after. There are generally 3 main ways to pick a name.

Firstly, you can pick a physical trait of the animal. This trait usually makes it stand out from the other species in its genus. This is my preferred method of naming because it gives people an impression of what it is like just by its name. For example, European robins are given the binomial name Erithacus rubecula and rubecula is derived from the Latin ruber, meaning red which emphasises the robin’s iconic red breast.

An example of a shovel head worm with a name like this is Magelona cepiceps, translating from the Latin cepa for onion and ceps referring to the head. This relates to the shape of the ‘head’ (prostomium) of the worm resembling an onion!

Secondly, you could name the new species after the place it was discovered. It’s not as descriptive as naming the animal after a physical feature but tells you where you may find it. The binomial name for the Canada Goose is Branta canadensis, displaying that although the bird is a common sight in many places thanks to its introduction, it is originally from Canada.

A shovel head worm with a regional scientific name is Magelona mahensis, indicating that it is from the island of Mahé in the Seychelles.





Lastly, you can name it after someone. Of course, a person’s first instinct might be to try and name a species after themselves. The ICZN doesn’t have a rule explicitly against this but it is seen as a sign of vanity. But perhaps if you name enough species in your field, eventually someone may name a species after you. This is my least favourite way to name species because it may not tell you anything about the species at all, but it is nice to give honour to those that are important to us or those who have put in a lot of work in the field. For example, in honour of Sir David Attenborough’s 90th birthday a dragonfly was named after him, taking the name Acisoma attenboroughi. Attenborough has inspired so many scientists that he has around 34 species named after him currently. There is a shovel head worm named Magelona johnstoni which is named after Dr George Johnston, one of the first scientists to describe shovel head worms.

While the names can be taken from words in any language they must be spelt out in the Roman alphabet, ensuring they can be universally read. Many binomial names are formed of words from ancient Greek but have been Latinised. Typically, if you have selected a physical feature it is translated into Greek or Latin. There are several books specifically written for helping scientists translate and create new species names.

To Latinise the name, you have selected you have to make sure it follows the rules of Latin grammar. This is where it gets a little complicated as you have to start considering the genus name of the species. Latin has masculine, feminine and neutral words, you can tell this by how the word ends. The gender of the genus name will affect the ending and gender of your species name.

And with that information you are just about ready to name your species!

It might seem like a lot of things to consider when you are naming a new species, believe me I never expected to know this much about Latin grammar! But these rules are incredibly important to ensure we can orderly name and keep track of each of the fascinating organisms that are discovered and allows everyone to universally understand which animals scientists are talking about. Especially when you consider that there are over 12,000 known marine bristleworms globally and that number is increasing.

Once all of the drawings and descriptions are complete, the scientific paper goes through a peer-reviewed process where other experts in the field consider your decision to describe and name the new species. If the reviewers agree the species is formally described and those that were involved are now the species authorities. In scientific journals the species name will be written down followed by the names of those who described it and the year it was described. So, while you might not name a species after yourself, whenever the species is mentioned you will get recognition for the work you have done.

So, what will our new species be called?........Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out........

Gwnaeth adroddiad State of Caring 2019 Gofalwyr Cymru amcangyfrif fod 400,000 o ofalwyr yng Nghymru y llynedd. Roedd Cyfrifiad 2011 yn gosod y ffigwr llawn fel 370,000 neu 12% o’r boblogaeth, gyda 30,000 o’r gofalwyr hynny o dan 25 oed a nodwyd fod gan Gymru y gyfradd uchaf o ofalwyr o dan 18 oed yn y DU. Mae’r ffigurau hyn i gyd yn cyfeirio at ofalwyr di-dâl, sy’n cefnogi oedolyn neu blentyn gydag anabledd, salwch corfforol neu feddyliol, neu sydd yn cael eu heffeithio drwy gamddefnyddio sylweddau. Nid yw’n cynnwys y rheiny sy’n gweithio mewn swyddi gofal am dâl.

Amcangyfrifir y bydd y rhan fwyaf ohonom, tri allan o bump, yn dod yn ofalwr ar ryw bwynt yn ystod ein bywydau.

Wrth ystyried y rhifau anferthol hyn a’r ffaith fod y rhan fwyaf ohonom eisoes naill ai’n cael ein heffeithio, neu’n mynd i gael ein heffeithio, pam nad oes mwy o sôn am ofalwyr? Un rheswm efallai yw bod gofalwyr yn rhy brysur yn gofalu. Rwyf innau wedi bod yn ofalwr, a chyn ymuno ag Amgueddfa Cymru treuliais 30 mlynedd yn gweithio mewn gwasanaethau gofal iechyd a chymdeithasol, ac yn ystod yr adeg honno rwy’n amcangyfrif fy mod wedi gweithio gydag ychydig filoedd o ofalwyr. Mae fy mhrofiad a’m hymchwil helaeth wedi dangos fod nifer o ofalwyr yn profi unigrwydd ac ynysu cymdeithasol, yn dioddef o iechyd meddyliol neu gorfforol gwael eu hunain, a phwysau ariannol, o ganlyniad i’w rôl fel gofalwyr. 

Felly beth mae hyn yn ei olygu i Amgueddfa Cymru? Un o’r amcanion ar gyfer ein strategaeth 10 mlynedd, a gaiff ei chyhoeddi yng Ngwanwyn 2021, yw ein bod yn berthnasol i bawb ac ar gael i bawb; un arall yw ein bod yn canolbwyntio ar iechyd a lles i bawb. Mae gan ein rhaglen ymgysylltu gymunedol ystod eang iawn o ffyrdd i bobl sydd ag anghenion gofal (yn sgil iechyd, anabledd neu amgylchiadau eraill) fod yn rhan o weithgareddau’r amgueddfa fel ymwelydd neu drwy ein rhaglenni gwirfoddoli ac addysg. Croesawn ofalwyr drwy gyfrwng y mentrau hyn ac mae nifer o ofalwyr sydd wedi cymryd rhan, ond nid oes gennym eto lawer iawn o adnoddau sydd wedi’u cynllunio o gwmpas anghenion gofalwyr. 

Wrth edrych ymlaen at flwyddyn nesaf, mae’r Tîm Gwirfoddoli yn awyddus i ddarparu cyfleoedd sydd wedi’u cynllunio’n benodol ar gyfer gofalwyr. Gall hyn gynnwys gwirfoddolwyr sy’n gallu cefnogi gofalwyr wrth ymweld â’n hamgueddfeydd, neu, gall olygu cynllunio cyfleoedd gwirfoddoli i ofalwyr sy’n gweithio o amgylch gofynion gofalu. Ar hyn o bryd rydym yn dychmygu cymysgedd o opsiynau o ran presenoldeb – rhai cyfleoedd i ofalwyr fynychu neu ymuno â rhywbeth ar eu liwt eu hunain, eraill lle y gall gofalwyr wneud hynny gyda’r person y maen nhw’n gofalu amdanynt. 

Y darlun arferol o ofalwr yw rhywun hŷn, yn gofalu naill ai am riant oedrannus neu bartner. Mae sawl gofalwr yn gweddu’r disgrifiad hwnnw, ond mae yna hefyd fwy o bobl ifanc a phlant yn gofalu nag y mae’r rhan fwyaf o bobl yn ymwybodol ohono, ac mae gofynion gofalu mewn perygl o gael effaith andwyol ar eu haddysg, eu datblygiad ac ansawdd eu bywyd yn gyffredinol. Rydym felly yn cynllunio i gynnwys rhai cyfleoedd sydd wedi’u hanelu’n benodol at ofalwyr ifanc.   

Mae pobl o bob cymuned yn wynebu cyfrifoldebau gofal, a allai mewn rhai achosion fod yn fwy heriol yn sgil gwahaniaethu systemig ac anfantais. O’m profiad innau yn gofalu am fy mam-gu Iraci, gwelais fod y gwasanaethau cymorth oedd ar gael â bwriad gwirioneddol i groesawu pawb, ond bod bron pob un ohonynt wedi eu trefnu o amgylch arferion, ffyrdd o fyw, a phrofiadau bywyd poblogaeth Gwyn Prydeinig. Nid oedd y bwyd a’r gweithgareddau a gynigiwyd, a’r pynciau a drafodwyd (er enghraifft mewn therapi Atgof), yn berthnasol nac yn cynnig cysur iddi hi mewn unrhyw ffordd. Nid wyf yn awgrymu fod hyn yn rhoi dealltwriaeth i mi o brofiad rhywun arall, nid ydyw, ond mae yn rhoi dealltwriaeth i mi o gyfyngderau gweithredu un dull yn unig. 

Felly rydym yn ymwybodol y bydd angen i ni weithredu mewn modd amrywiol a gofalus, a dyma lle hoffem ofyn am eich cymorth. Rydym wedi llunio arolwg sy’n amlinellu rhai o’n syniadau hyd yma, ond hoffem hefyd glywed oddi wrthoch chi os ydych chi’n ofalwr neu wedi bod yn ofalwr yn y gorffennol. Os nad ydych yn ofalwr, byddem yn ddiolchgar pe baech yn medru ein helpu drwy rannu hwn gyda gofalwyr yr ydych yn eu hadnabod. 

Mae’r arolwg yn lansio ar Ddiwrnod Hawliau Gofalwyr ar 26 Tachwedd, ac ar yr un diwrnod rydym yn trefnu trafodaeth fyw ar-lein (gyda thocyn digwyddiad am ddim i bob gofalwr sy’n ymuno â ni). Gallwch ddod o hyd i fanylion ynglŷn â sut i gymryd rhan, a hefyd gweld y sesiynau ‘blasu’ ar yr un diwrnod, drwy gyfrwng tudalen Gwirfoddoli ar ein gwefan:

How a Distanced Professional Training Year Can Still Be Enjoyable and Successful

As an undergraduate, studying biosciences at Cardiff University, I am able to undertake a placement training year. Taxonomy, the study of naming, defining, and classifying living things, has always interested me and the opportunity to see behind the scenes of the museum was a chance I did not want to lose. So, when the time came to start applying for placements, the Natural Sciences Department at National Museum Cardiff was my first choice. When I had my first tour around the museum, I knew I had made the right choice to apply to carry out my placement there. It really was the ‘kid in the candy shop’ type of feeling, except the sweets were preserved scientific specimens. If given the time I could spend days looking over every item in the collection and marvelling at them all. 

Of course, the plans that were set out for my year studying with the museum were made last year and, with the Covid-19 pandemic this has meant that plans had to change! However, everyone has adapted really well and thankfully, a large amount of the work I am doing can be done from home or in zoom meetings when things need to be discussed.

Currently, my work focuses on writing a scientific paper that will be centered on describing and naming a new species of shovel head worm (Magelonidae) from North America. Shovel head worms are a type of marine bristle worm and as the name describes, are found in the sea. They are related to earth worms and leeches. So far, my work has involved researching background information and writing the introduction for the paper. This  is very helpful for my own knowledge because when I applied for the placement I didn’t have the slightest clue about what a shovel head worm was but now I can confidently understand what people mean when they talk about chaetigers or lateral pouches!

Part of the research needed for the paper also includes looking closely at species found in the same area as the new species, or at species that are closely related in order to determine that our species is actually new.

Photos for the paper were taken by attaching a camera to a microscope and using special imaging stacking software which takes several shots at different focus distances and combines them into a fully focused image. While ideally, I would have taken these images myself, I am unable to due to covid restrictions, so my training year supervisor, Katie Mortimer-Jones took them.

Then I cleaned up the backgrounds and made them into the plates ready for publication. I am very fortunate that I already have experience in using applications similar to photoshop for art and a graphics tablet so it wasn’t too difficult for me to adjust what I already had in order to make these plates. Hopefully soon, I will be able to take these images for myself.

My very first publication in a scientific journal doesn’t seem that far away and I still have much more time in my placement which makes me very excited to see what the future holds. Of course, none of this would be possible without the wonderful, friendly and helpful museum staff who I have to express my sincere thanks to for allowing me to have this fantastic opportunity to work here, especially my supervisor, Katie Mortimer-Jones.