Amgueddfa Blog

Mae’r tîm wedi bod wrthi’n ddiwyd dros yr wythnosau diwethaf yn paratoi’r holl stoc a silffoedd ar gyfer y diwrnod mawr ar ddydd Gwener 14 Gorffennaf. Ar gael i’w prynu bydd rhoddion o bob cwr o Gymru, gan gynnwys llwyau caru, blancedi brethyn Melin Tregwynt a blancedi wedi’u gwehyddu yn Amgueddfa Wlân Cymru yn Dre-fach Felindre.

Siop Sain Ffagan yn ystod yr ailddatblygu, a heddiw.

Bydd bwydydd newydd ar gael hefyd, o gaws Cheddar Blaenafon a chatwadau Welsh Lady o Bwllheli i ddetholiad o chwisgi Penderyn! A peidiwch anghofio ein cofroddion arbennig, newydd, yn enwedig eirth pert Sain Ffagan.

Galwch draw ar ddydd Gwener 14 Gorffennaf, a dweud y gair Draig wrth dalu i hawlio gostyngiad o 10%!

Mae holl elw’r siop yn mynd i gefnogi gwaith Amgueddfa Cymru.

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. 

Back in May I was very lucky to go to Jamtli museum on a staff exchange trip called Sharing and Learning. The visit was the last of a series of staff exchanges between St Fagans National Museum of History and Jamtli museum. The exchange programme was funded by Erasmus Plus.

Jamtli Museum

Jamtli museum is situated in the city of Östersund, the capital of Jämtland county in the centre of Sweden. The museum is an open air museum similar to St Fagans. Visitors have the opportunity to visit historic buildings as well as galleries exploring Jämtland’s history. In the summer months the historic buildings come to life during Historyland. During this time actors give visitors the opportunity to step back in time to the 18th – 20th Centuries.

Our visit was too early in the year to see Historyland in action but we still had the chance to see the great offer Jamtli has the rest of the year. Myself and my colleague, Heulwen, work in the learning department at St Fagans so our focus was to see what learning opportunities the museum has on offer.

The Galleries

Along with our colleague, Pascal, we started the week with a tour of Jamtli’s indoor galleries. The route down to the galleries provides an opportunity to take a less than traditional method of entering them. At the top of the stairs is a slide in the shape of the Great Lake Monster, Östersund’s equivalent of Loch Ness. Being the big kid I am, I decided to take the fun route down to the galleries. Personally, I think it’s a great way to make the experience of visiting a museum more appealing to children.

The main highlights were the temporary exhibition on hairstyles through the ages, as well as the Sami and Viking exhibitions. All of the exhibitions included some kind of interactivity to encourage children to engage with their history. The exhibitions struck a great balance between the ‘traditional’ museum experience and a more interactive experience.

Up Next…

In the next blog I will focus on the opportunities we had whilst shadowing. Before I go I thought I’d share an image of the horses at Jamtli enjoying the snowy weather in May!

Joseph Dalton Hooker was born 200 years ago on June 30th 1817 at Halesworth, Suffolk. When he was five years old, he would visit the botanical lectures of his father, Sir William Jackson Hooker, who was then Professor of Botany at the University of Glasgow. Tutored at home with his brother, Joseph eventually studied botany as part of a medical degree.

In 1839 his father's friend, Sir James Clark Ross, offered Joseph a wonderful opportunity to be assistant surgeon on his expedition to the Antarctic with the Government’s discovery ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. This was the beginning of an extraordinary botanical career spanning the entire Victorian era.

As a result of his many voyages , Hooker wrote seminal works on the floras of many distant lands, including The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage Ships Erebus and Terror in 1839–43 (1844 – 1860), Handbook of the New Zealand Flora (1864) and The Flora of British India (1872 – 1897). But perhaps his best known flora is The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya (1849), which was lavishly illustrated by the eminent Scottish lithographer Walter Hood Fitch (1817 – 1892) and is said to have sparked-off the Victorian craze for Rhododendrons; Amgueddfa Cymru holds 34 lithographs from this classic work in its Botanical Illustrations Collection, two of which we show here.

Joseph Hooker became one of the most important botanists of the 19th century. Together with George Bentham he wrote the seminal book Genera Plantarum (1862 – 1883) which is still one of the most important contributions to plant taxonomy. He was also interested in the geographical distribution of plants, giving birth to the science of phytogeography. He became a close friend of Charles Darwin, whose ideas about the evolution of species and natural selection he heavily promoted. Previously, botany had been regarded as a “gentleman’s pursuit”, but Darwinism opened the door to applying rigorous scientific laws to the subject, and helped raise its status in the eyes of the world.

Joseph Hooker became President of the Royal Society and Director of the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, and in 1877 was knighted for scientific services to the British Empire. He is now widely regarded as having been instrumental in the birth of the modern science of botany.
 

Storing and accessing many of the collections housed in the museum can be quite a challenge. Within the natural sciences we have over 4 million objects and specimens that exist in a huge range of materials, sizes and shapes. These range from frozen DNA samples to the full skeleton of a humpback whale!

In a recent project we had to consider how to improve the storage of our collection of large marine fossils of fabulous Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs.  This is a highly important collection but due to the large size, weight and nature of the specimens they are very difficult to store and access easily.

Over 30 years ago the geology team had come up with a clever solution using metal runners mounted on a commercially available heavy duty racking system. However over time this had started to become distorted, and accessing the fossils was becoming hazardous to both museum staff and the fossils themselves. We needed an effective long term replacement…

Fortunately the commercial world now has many more options available and we thus went through the process of obtaining quotes and potential design solutions to the storage of the fossils which ranged from refurbishing the existing racking to using heavy duty pull out shelfs.

In the end we went with the idea of adapting the roller beds used to move pallets along racking systems. Long span shelves covered with these rollers would provide a large surface area to spread loads, and enable easy movement of the fossils on and off the racking via a loading platform or pallet.

With a decision made, the challenge was now to safely remove the fossils off the existing racking, and to find somewhere where they could be temporarily stored – finding space is a huge challenge in an overstuffed museum like ours!

With careful planning space was found and it was time to move the fossils. None of the really big ones had been moved in a very long time so we weren’t sure of how they could be handled or the actual weight of the fossils. So to get started we chose to move one of the biggest and heaviest (i.e. most awkward) specimens, acquired a range of pallet trucks, lifts and dolley skates, and worked through the logistics of how to move this unwieldy specimen safely….

This first fossil was not easy to move and highlighted the key issues we faced in the relocation process. The second one went better, and by the third we had an efficient system going that minimised handling and lifting, reducing risks to both staff and our precious fossils! The temporary holding areas also had limited free space, thus how we subsequently stored and stacked the fossils required further creative thinking.

It took a few days, but all the fossils were safely moved. With the old racking cleared it was now a case of bringing in the contractors to replace the old system with our new shiny racking. Unfortunately this stage took longer than planned but eventually all was sorted and it was a case of moving the fossils all over again…. However the experiences of the initial move resulted in a rapid and efficient return of all the fossils to their new storage racking, with the new roller racking proving excellent for moving the fossils on and off the new units.

The result is we now have the collection in a much more accessible state. This will enable better access for both researchers and visitors but also enable us to put into place digitisation and conservation projects to ensure the long term protection of these historic fossils for science and society as a whole. In the end a job well done by an excellent team!