Amgueddfa Blog: Hanes Naturiol

When Dr Christian Baars, the Senior Preventive Conservator at National Museum Cardiff, contacted me to ask me take part in his project, I’d never really thought about the work going on behind the scenes at a museum. I’d been on a tour I mean, beyond the ticket desk, café staff, security guards and perhaps cleaners if you’re there right to the end of the day. But have you ever thought about the work that goes into maintaining collections and displays? I doubt it.

Conserving the historic exhibits is one of the largest behind the scenes jobs. There are many things that can damage the artefacts, such as light, air pollution and moisture. But for a big collection of stuffed animals, such as in Cardiff, one of the big problems is pest insects. Lots of different insects, such as carpet beetles and clothes moths, like to eat dead animals. Dr Baars showed me some of the pinned insect collection, which are falling apart or disappearing because one of the beetles has got in to eat them.

We wanted to show the visitors that fighting these insects is a huge job and so we set about making a video that showed the damage the beetles can do. Luckily, Dr Baars had a dead mouse in the freezer (as you do!) which would do just the job. I added some beetle larvae to the dead mouse and left it in a box to be eaten. I used a time lapse camera to film the process of the mouse being devoured by the beetle larvae.  

The resulting video is on the right hand side of this page. Evidently, the mouse is getting progressively smaller as the larvae munch through its body. Now imagine this happening to the woolly mammoth, or the foxes, or any other amazing object at the museum. This is what museum conservators work hard to prevent and this is why we wanted to spread the word.

Once the video was finished, I showed it to museum visitors and asked people to tell me what they thought it was about. Most people had not heard about conservation in museums before nor about the damage insects may cause, even though some had experience with moths or similar insects at home. One visitor described it as fascinating. Another reminded me that “dead things always make good exhibits!” People certainly enjoyed the “gross factor” of a video of a decomposing mouse!

Yet the most important result for me was the finding that everyone wanted to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at museums. Both adults and children understood the significance of the work. An adult visitor said “once it’s dead and in a case, you don’t really think about it about what happens after”, highlighting the need and the interest in what goes on to make a museum exhibit happen. And a younger visitor exclaimed “imagine you had a billion year old thing and it just got ate… I would very sad”. I couldn’t agree more.

While the purpose of this project was to educate museum visitors about pest management in museums, I think this experiment shows there is an enthusiasm for knowing more about the hard work of museum staff beyond those you see when you visit. In Cardiff visitors can come for free, but in a world where every institution is fighting for funding, we need to show the public that our work is vital and worth every penny. We showed that it is simple to raise awareness and that the work of conservators is worth an exhibit or two all of its own.

 

Charlotte @scicommchar undertook this project as part of a 'Learning Lab' placement while studying for a MSc degree in Science Communication at the University of the West of England. The University contact was Andy Ridgway, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication and Programme Leader MSc/PGCert in Science Communication, @AndyRidgway1.

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter.

 

Heather Pardoe from the Botany Section, Natural Sciences, has been working with the Museum Shop to provide a beautiful selection of Christmas themed botanical images for you to view.

The Museum holds a collection of over 7000 superb botanical prints and drawings.  Principle Curator, Heather Pardoe, has handpicked a seasonal range of exquisite botanical illustrations in order to reflect the  range of illustrations in the collection. 

This provides a ‘bird’s eye view’ of some of the illustrations that Botany holds behind the scenes; many are rarely on public display.

We have been working towards providing a series of collections for you to enjoy - we are currently focusing upon a spring collection. Watch this space for more news!

If you would like to see more of this beautiful Christmas collection, please follow the link below which will take you to the Print section of the online shop.  This will also provide you with the opportunity to purchase a reproduction of one of these beautiful images, as well as a wide range of other images from the Museum collections.

Online Shop

Don’t forget to follow the Shop blog and Natural Sciences blog for regular updates!

Nearing the four-month mark since I stepped into National Museum Wales for the first day of my Professional Training Year (PTY) placement from Cardiff University, my goal of achieving new experiences in the world of marine invertebrate research is definitely underway. This is now taking form in the way of the Magelonidae, the shovelhead worms, a family of polychaetes with many unanswered questions hovering around them in regards to their ecology, taxonomy and behaviour.

Through starting with live observations in the museum lab in July of Magelona alleni, a rather chunky species of magelonid, my project has developed into some exciting discoveries regarding not only the feeding of these amazing worms, but also how they poo, hence the title of the blog post! As boring as worm defecation sounds, this is not the case when you watch how these amazing animals decide to actually get rid of their dinner (there will be more about the details of this in my next blog post when we have finished working on this interesting behaviour).

These findings have led me down a road of using many new techniques to be able to present my work in a professional and scientific manner. This includes scientific drawing using a camera lucida attachment on a microscope, photography in the way of time-lapse captures, film and image stacking, image editing, reviewing relevant literature, statistical analysis, dissection and SEM (scanning electron microscopy) to name but a few.

In addition to these skills I have learnt much about day to day tasks the museum carries out, including learning methods of curation for an impressive collection of marine invertebrates, holding over 750,000 specimens and having the opportunity to partake in sampling trips to collect more animals for the further development of my project and other projects around the museum. I have also settled into the role of tank maintenance for not only the shovelhead worms, but also some of our resident anemones, hermit crabs, starfish, sea potatoes and prawns. I have even tried my hand at outreach on one of the museum’s stands during the evening event ‘After Dark at the Museum’ with Cardiff University, which saw nearly 2000 people (mainly families) enjoy a hands on experience.

One crucial advantage that I feel I have obtained over these last few months is that I am starting to enjoy a great appreciation for the diversity of life in our seas, from the very tiny, such as organisms like diatoms and foraminiferans to the impressively large, like the young humpback whale skeleton on display in the museum, which I get the pleasure of walking past most days. All in all, my experiences so far have been beyond valuable and who knows what the next few months of research here will bring.

Find out more about how I got on when I first started at the museum

Artist 'dwi, ac ar hyn o bryd dwi'n astudio gradd MA mewn dylunio a chrefft cyfoes. Fe ymwelais i â’r casgliad Molysga ar ôl darllen blog am strwythr mewnol cregyn ar wefan yr amgueddfa. Mi wnes gysylltiad rhwng strwythurau mewnol cregyn a sut y mae printwyr 3D yn gweithio ac yn creu siapiau. Ar y blog roedd rhif cyswllt ar gyfer Curadur Molysga, felly mi gysylltais â Harriet Wood, heb wybod beth i’w ddisgwyl.

Ffotograff o groestoriad o argraffiad 3D, sy'n dangod y strwythr mewnol
Strwythr mewnol argraffiad 3D © Matthew Day 2017

Pan esboniais fy ngwaith yn gyda prosthetau wrth Harriet, a’r cysylltiadau rhwng strwythr cregyn ac argraffu 3D, mi wahoddodd fi i ymweld â’r casgliadau, ac i fy nghyflwyno i’r person sy’n gyfrifol am sganio ac argraffu 3D yn yr amgueddfa.

Mynd 'tu ôl i'r llen'

Fuaswn i fyth wedi gallu dychmygu ymweliad gystal. Fe gwrddais â Harriet wrth ddesg wybodaeth yr amgueddfa ac yna mynd ‘tu ôl i’r llen’, ble cedwir y casgliad. Roedd cerdded trwy’r amgueddfa i gyrraedd yr ardal ‘cefn tŷ’ yn braf a modern. Roedd yn f’atgoffa o bapur academaidd y darllenais cyn ymweld, o The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum: ‘How Digital Artist Engagement Can Function as and Open Innovation Model to Facilitate Audience Encounters with Museum Collections’ gan Sarah Younan a Haitham Eid. 

ffotograff yn dangos cwpwrdd mawr llawn droriau sbesimen
Rhai o'r archifau yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

Mae gan ‘cefn tŷ’ yr amgueddfa naws arbennig – dyw’r cyhoedd ddim yn cael mentro yma heb drefnu o flaen llaw. Roedd yn fraint cael cerdded trwy stafelloedd yn llawn cregyn ‘mae pobl wedi eu casglu, ac wedi’u gwerthfawrogi am eu harddwch, dros y blynyddoedd. Beth oedd yn fwya diddorol imi oedd pa mor berffaith oedd y toriadau yn y cregyn. Roedd yn cregyn wedi’u torri yn edrych fel taw dyma oedd eu ffurf naturiol – roedd pob toriad yn gain iawn ac yn gweddu i siâp y gragen. Dyma beth oeddwn i eisiau ei weld.

Ffotograff du a gwyn yn dangos amrywiaeth o dafelli cregyn
Tafellau o gregyn yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

Doedd gen i ddim geiriau i fynegi fy hun pan welais i’r casgliad yma o gregyn – yn enwedig gweld y darn o’r gragen na fyddwn ni’n cael ei weld fel arfer. Rodd yn gyffrous gweld y strwythr mewnol, am ei fod yn ychwanegu gwerth asthetig i’r cregyn. Roedden nhw’n fy atgoffa o waith cerflunio Barbara Hepworth, artist dwi’n ei hedmygu yn fawr.

Ffotograff du a gwyn yn dangos cragen siâp côn wedi'i dorri i ddangos strwythr troellog y gragen
© Matthew Day 2017

Rydym ni’n gweld cregyn ar y traeth drwy’r amser, a mae’n nhw’n fy nghyfareddu – yn enwedig cregyn wedi torri ble gellir gweld y tu fewn i’r gragen. Mae hwnnw fel arfer yn doriad amherffaith, yn wahanol iawn i’r toriadau bwriadol yn y casgliad, sydd wedi’u gwneud yn bwrpasol i ddangos ini beth sydd ar y tu fewn. Caf fy atynnu at ffurfiau naturiol sydd wedi eu siapio gan berson.  

Sganio 3D: Celf a Gwyddoniaeth

Cyn archwilio’r cregyn fy hyn, cynigiodd Harriet i fynd â fi i lawr i weld Jim Turner, a dyna ble buom ni’n trafod am rhan helaeth fy ymweliad, am fod ei waith mor ddiddorol.

Mae Jim yn gweithio mewn labordy sy’n defnyddio proses ffotograffig o’r enw ‘Stacio-z’ (neu EDF, ‘extended depth of field’), sy’n cael ei ddefnyddio yn aml mewn ffotograffeg facro a ffoto-microscopeg.

Ar hyn o bryd, mae'n creu archif o wrthrychau wedi’u sganio mewn 3D ar gyfer gwefan yr amgueddfa, ble all bobol ryngweithio gyda’r sganiau yn defnyddio cyfarpar VR – gan greu profiad hollol newydd i’r amgueddfa.

Gallais ddeall yn syth beth oedd Jim yn ei wneud o fy mhrofiad i. Esboniodd y broses a roedd nifer o elfennau technegol tebyg. Roedd yn bleser cael siarad gyda rhywun sy’n defnyddio sganio 3D mewn ffordd wahanol imi. Mae Jim yn defnyddio sganio 3D mewn ffordd dwi wedi ei weld mewn papurau academaidd. Er nad yw’n gwneud gwaith creadigol gyda’r cregyn, mae e dal yn rhoi gwrthrychau mewn cyd-destun newydd, ble all pobl ryngweithio â nhw yn defnyddio technoleg ddigidol fel cyfarpar VR neu ar y we trwy sketchfab.

'Fel bod ar y traeth...'

Pan ddes i ‘nôl at y casgliad molysga, mi ges i amser i ymchwilio’r casgliad ar fy liwt fy hun a doedd dim pwysau arna i i frysio – felly ces gyfle i edrych yn graff ac archwilio’r cregyn. Roedd fel bod ar draeth a chael oriau i archwilio’r holl wrthrychau naturiol.

Ffotograff du a gwyn yn dangos cragen siâp côn wedi'i dorri i ddangos strwythr troellog y gragen
© Matthew Day 2017

Cafodd yr ymweliad effaith wych ar fy mhrosiect MA – a mawr yw’r diolch i Harriet a Jim am eu hamser. Trwy’r ymweliad, fe fagais hyder i gysylltu ag amgueddfeydd eraill, fel Amgueddfa Feddygol Worcester, ‘ble bues i’n gweithio gyda soced prosthetig o’u casgliad. Mi sganiais y soced, ac wedi fy ysbrydoli gan gasgliad molysga Harriet, mi greais gyfres o socedi prosthetic cerfluniol, wedi’u hysbrydoli gan strwythurau mewnol cregyn, oedd yn darlunio croestoriadau rhai o’r cregyn mwya atyniadol yn y casgliad.

'Cerflun ynddo'i hun': fy nghasgliad o gerflunwaith brosthetig

Ffotograffau cyfochrog yn dangos hosan brosthetic a thafell gragen. Mae'r hosan brosthetig wedi'i chynllunio i gynrychioli siâp mewnol y gragen
Prototeip cysyniadol o hosan brosthetig wedi'i ysbrydoli gan y casgliadau molysga yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

ffotograff yn dangos hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol ddu gydag addurn melyn
Prototeip o hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gasgliad Molysga Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017
ffotograff yn dangos hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol lwyd gydag addurn melyn
Hosan brosthetig wedi'i hargraffu mewn 3D a'i llifo, wedi'i ysbrydoli gan y casgliadau Molysga yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

ffotograff yn dangos hosan brosthetig gerfluniadol gydag addurn mawr siâp cragen gron
Hosan brosthetic wedi'i hargraffu mewn 3D a'i lifo, wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gasgliad Molysga Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

 

Be’ Nesa?

Mae fy ngwrs MA nawr ar ei anterth, a dwi’n edrych ymlaen at ddechrau’r prif fodiwl dros yr haf.

Ar gyfer y rhan olaf o’r cwrs, hoffwn i gymryd yr hyn dw i wedi ei archwilio a’i ymchwilio hyd yn hyn, a’i ddefnyddio i greu darn prosthetig a allai fod yn rywbeth all rhywun ei wisgo, ond sydd yn gerflun ynddo'i hun – a mae’r gwaith yn mynd yn dda.

darlun 3D o gynllun ar gyfer cynllun coes brosthetig, gydag addurniadau wedi'u hysbrydoli gan strwythr mewnol cregyn
Darlun cysyniadol o goes brosthetig gerfluniadol, wedi'i ysbrydoli gan gasgliad Molysga Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd © Matthew Day 2017

Hoffwn i greu rhywbeth wirioneddol syfrdanol yn defnyddio argraffu 3D, gan ymgorffori asthetig wedi’i ysbrydoli gan y casgliad cregyn a’i uno gyda’r cerflunwaith prosthetig a welwch yma ar y blog.

Gallwch weld mwy o fy ngwaith ar fy ngwefan: Matthew Day Sculpture

Walking up to the stunning building that is the National Museum of Wales on the first day of my placement in July, I readied myself for new experiences in the world of marine invertebrate research! I am a Cardiff University student studying zoology and have always been fascinated with the sea, from giant whales to microscopic plankton. However, the weird and wonderful world of marine invertebrates particularly sparked my interest after being offered the chance to study a family of mysterious bristle worms (polychaetes) called Magelonids; perhaps fittingly, commonly called shovelhead worms because of the presence of their flattened heads.

The intention of this year is to learn more about these burrowing animals so a better understanding of their behaviour, ecology and anatomy can be reached. Hopefully, with these aims, a relatively unknown organism can become more accessible and recognised to everyone.

There are many questions to explore, for example, some species of Magelonidae possess abdominal pouches, which the function of is unknown. Why would they need these conspicuous structures? Also, very little is known about how these worms reproduce. It is unknown as to whether they reproduce once (semelparity) or have multiple reproduction events (iteroparity). Furthermore, do they reproduce at the same time in a kind of mass-spawning event?

 I will tackle these kinds of questions by observations of live specimens in the museum lab with the aid of time-lapse photography for overnight observations. By examining the worms in a tank with conditions similar to in their natural environment, variables such as movement in tubes, responses to food, timings of different behaviours, and hopefully, with a bit of luck, reproduction or pouch function can be reviewed.

Additionally, I will use previous research in conjunction with museum specimens of the family to help me not only try to answer these uncertainties, but also to develop other skills, such as scientific drawing and taxonomy. By viewing specimens under the microscope, a camera lucida can be used to help draw an outline of the desired subject. This template can then be utilized to fill in details of the species, which is helpful to get a clear and simple view of the animal’s morphology.

It has been an interesting and exciting first few weeks here and I am eager to carry on observations and delve deeper into gaining a better understanding of the marine world. Thus, opening up opportunities for us to perceive these secretive and fascinating animals in a different light entirely.