Make an Aria
What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.
So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.
The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.
The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.
We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.
Rosie Moriarty Simmonds at National Museum Cardiff
On Tuesday 14th October, Cardiff-born artist Rosie Moriarty Simmonds showcased her talent in the galleries at National Museum Cardiff, painting a version of La Parisienne – or the Blue Lady – by French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The event was part of a UK-wide roadshow organised by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). MFPA artists paint with a brush held in their mouth or foot where an accident, disability or illness means they are unable to use their hands. They have are 33 artists working in the UK, and over 800 worldwide.
Rosie, an MFPA student artist who paints holding a brush in her mouth, spent the afternoon in the galleries painting a version of La Parisienne and chatting to staff and visitors. ‘I like chatting to children the most’ she said. ‘They ask the questions adults are afraid to ask’.
Her passion for art goes back to her school days, although juggling family and career commitments has prevented her from devoting much time to it until recently.
Last year she was persuaded to submit a portfolio to the MFPA, and was awarded a 3-year scholarship which gives her financial support to develop her skills, buy art materials and pay for tutoring – although she said she has also learnt a lot from You Tube! She is currently mid-way through her scholarship.
Rosie described the experience as ‘a definite highlight of my career’, and that as a local girl growing up in Cardiff, Amgueddfa Cymru's art collection had always been a source of inspiration.
Her painting will be sent to the MFPA, who will then decide what to do with it and whether it will go on tour with other works. We will keep you posted!
Fanny Eaton, the Jamaican-born model in Millais' Jephthah
Last month we were given a fascinating insight into the life of Fanny Eaton, one of the models for John Everett Millais’ Jephthah (1867), which is currently on display in our Art in Victorian Britain gallery. Fanny is the figure at the far right of the painting, standing just before a curtain and wearing a yellow hood.
We were delighted to hear from Brian Eaton, Fanny’s great-grandson, who came with his wife Mary to see the painting. They first became interested in Fanny while researching their family tree, and since then have done a considerable amount of research into her personal history.
At the same time curators and art historians have become increasingly fascinated by Fanny, particularly following the exhibition Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900 at Manchester and Birmingham Art Galleries in 2005-6, and the accompanying catalogue written by the show’s curator Jan Marsh.
Fanny was born in Jamaica in 1835 but by 1851 was working as a servant in London where she lived with her mother Matilda Foster. Within a few years had begun to model for several Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic artists including Frederick Sandys, Albert Moore and Rebecca Solomon, probably to earn extra income. Her striking features made her a popular choice with 19th century artists. Dante Gabriel Rossetti compared her to the Pre-Raphaelite ‘stunner’ Jane Morris.
The earliest studies of Fanny that we know of are pencil studies drawn in 1859 by Simeon Solomon. These were used as studies for his Mother of Moses, now in the collection of Delaware Art Museum, US. When this painting was displayed in the Royal Academy in 1860, a reviewer for the Athenaeum thought her features represented 'an exagerated Jewish type’.1
This is one of the interesting things about Fanny. As Jan Marsh has pointed out in Black Victorians, although originally from Jamaica, she was described in her day as being of ‘mixed race’ and artists of the time used her distinctive features to represent a variety of different ethnicities or ‘types’. This is perhaps what attracted Millais to use her in Jephthah.
Jephthah seems to be the last painting to feature Fanny, although there may be more that are not yet identified. Brian and Mary Eaton are continuing with their research, and are particularly interested in finding out about Fanny’s early childhood in Jamaica and the circumstances that led to her moving to London with her mother.
We are grateful to Brian and Mary for sharing their findings, and hope that much more information about Fanny will come to light!
1. 19 May 1860, pages 688-90. Source: Simeon Solomon Research Archive
Unknown Wales 2014
Unknown Wales is a free annual public event organised by Amgueddfa Cymru’s Department of Natural Sciences in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales, to highlight the natural history treasures found in Wales. It allows the museum to tell a wide general audience about the collaborative efforts that we are a party to, fighting to protect the wildlife and its habitats across the country.
This year’s meeting, held on the 11th October in the Reardon Smith Theatre at National Museum Cardiff, had an audience of nearly 250 people. They heard talks about bank voles, diatoms (by the museum’s Ingrid Jüttner), sand lizards, dung beetles, fossil forests and rare fish. The meeting was rounded off by Stephen Moss of the BBC Natural History Unit, talking about conservation activities in Wales, such as the success story of the recovery of the red kite.
As in previous years, the event has been sponsored by one of our very generous Patrons.
Biology Rocks! at National Museum Cardiff
Biology rocked at National Museum Cardiff on Saturday 11th October, when over 3000 visitors joined scientists from Amgueddfa Cymru, Cardiff University and the Society of Biology to celebrate National Biology Week and Earth Science Week.
Visitors got the opportunity to see some of the specimens from our collections that aren’t usually on display and to talk to Museum experts about their work. Specimens from the Marine and Mollusca collections provided inspiration for a mural depicting life in the seas around Wales, which became more colourful and populated throughout the day!
As part of the Geological Society’s ‘100 Great Geosites’ campaign, Museum geologists displayed rocks, fossils and minerals from our collections, as well as stunning images of some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in Wales. Members of the public were invited to vote for their favourite site in Wales, with the dinosaur footprints from Bendricks Rocks, near Barry, emerging as the clear favourite on the day.
To mark the recent arrival of two hives on our roof, staff from the Entomology and Botany Sections gave visitors the opportunity to take a closer look at bee specimens from our collections and to experience a ‘bee’s eye view’ of the world by playing a pollination game, collecting ‘pollen’ and ‘nectar’ from various flowers.
Scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences and School of Earth and Ocean Sciences put on a variety of displays and activities throughout the Museum. Among the many activities on offer, visitors could try their hand at organ transplant using a life-size Operation game, race maggots, work out how big a dinosaur was from its footprint, discover first-hand how fungi get their spots, and learn the importance of reporting road kill with the Splatter Project.
Unlocking records from backlog collections
This week we were delighted to welcome our new intern, Seren Thomas, to the Department of Natural Sciences. Seren is already known to the department having volunteered for us in the Mollusca and Botany Sections whilst studying for her degree five years ago. Now, with her degree behind her, including a professional training year at Kew Gardens, and a Masters degree starting late next year, Seren was keen to work with us once again. So, what will she be doing…
There is so much useful information held in our collections that we are continually trying to make available and disseminate. Seren will be helping unlock data from our non-marine British backlog collections in Mollusca (primarily slugs and snails). These specimens date from before 1900 to the present, cumulatively spanning almost the whole of Britain and Ireland, representing many species and habitats. The project will involve repackage and re-labelling each species in turn, and extracting, verifying and georeferencing the species and site data. This will allow the data to be exported to the national environmental recording networks via the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. It will also help the material to be used more efficiently and widely in our research projects and other activities.
Watch this space to see how the project progresses over the next year and beyond.
More I Spy Competition Winners
We were joined this Saturday by two more of our I Spy…Nature drawing competition winners and their families. The winners were shown around the mollusc (shell), marine invertebrate and vertebrate collections as part of their special behind the scenes tour by museum curators Katie Mortimer-Jones and Jennifer Gallichan. The visitors were able to select draws from the mollusc collections to look in and saw a Giant Clam and a cone shell known as Glory of the Seas (Conus gloriamaris), a once sort after shell found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to name but a few. Next onto the fluid store, where we keep our fluid preserved specimens such as marine bristleworms, starfish, crabs, lobsters and fish specimens. Lastly the tour finished up in the Vertebrate store where we keep some of the Museum’s taxidermy and skeleton specimens. After the tour, the winners were given their prizes of natural history goodies from the Museum Shop.
World Octopus Day
Today is a very special day…it’s World Octopus Day! So, what better opportunity to celebrate the life of the eminent Cephalopod expert Dr William Evans Hoyle. Here at Amgueddfa Cymru Hoyle has a particularly special place in our hearts as he was our first Director and donated part of his Cephalopod collection to our museum containing some 463 jars of specimens.
So, who was this man…?
Born in Manchester in 1855, Hoyle followed a varied and interesting career but his passion was always for science and nature. From an Oxford degree in Natural History to a diploma in medicine; from writing Challenger Reports to being Keeper and Director of the Manchester Museum; whatever the challenge, Hoyle took it on with energy, enthusiasm and a great sense of humour.
The challenge of Challenger:
It was in 1882 that he was invited to be a naturalist on the editorial staff of the “Challenger” Expedition, under the supervision of Sir John Murray. This was to be the start of his life-long love for cephalopods. All of the cephalopods collected over the four years of the expedition (1872-1876) were passed through his hands. His skills in dissection and anatomy meant he was an excellent candidate to carry out their thorough examination. He produced diagnoses and descriptions of these creatures which were compiled into a preliminary report in 1885 and a final report in 1886.
His tenure with the Challenger team lasted six years but for the remainder of his life he studied and analysed cephalopods from all over the world and produced numerous publications. Examples of some of his studies are those collected by Herdman from Ceylon (1924); Stanley Gardiner from the Maldives and Laccadives (1905); those collected on the National Antarctic Exhibition (1907); and the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1912). Hoyle was a meticulous worker and drew many of his own beautiful illustrations for these publications, some of which now reside in the archive at Amgueddfa Cymru. He quickly became recognised as a chief authority in the subject.
Director of the National Museum of Wales
After 20 years of working at the Manchester Museum, including a period as Director, Hoyle took his final career change in 1909 when he was appointed Director of the National Museum of Wales (now Amgueddfa Cymru). By this time he was already considered the most prominent science museum director in Great Britain. For Hoyle this was the perfect job and represented the fulfilment of a life long ambition. It allowed him to be involved in the development of a museum, both as a building and a concept, from the beginning. The museum was chartered in 1907 but Hoyle joined the team at a time when he could participate in the architectural discussions and was responsible for some major changes in the design of the building. As part of his research he visited many museums in both Europe and America so he could learn from their mistakes and find the best methods of development. He noted particularly that often not enough space was allocated for collections and their future growth.
A place for exploration and discovery
Hoyle applied great energy to his work and with his exceptional organisational skills and knowledge he pushed this museum forward. With such a strong scientific background, and experience of working with material from expeditions, he was a strong promoter of the museum as a science and research institute. He promoted it as an arena for exploration and discovery of the world. Hoyle also had good acquaintances with fellow natural historians, especially as a member of the Cardiff Naturalist Society, and so encouraged them to donate their collections. His years at NMW put this museum on the scientific map and made it a place where eminent scientists were proud to bequeath their collections.
As a concept Hoyle was a great believer that museums should be “Schools for learning” as well as store houses for interesting objects. He was very well known as a popular lecturer in a great many subjects and his sense of humour and enthusiasm brought his talks alive. He was also known to have a wonderful ability to interest children and pass this enthusiasm onto them.
He was Director through the First World War which proved a great difficulty at times and caused frustrating delays in the development of the building. Sadly, Hoyle retired due to ill health in 1924 and was never to see the completion of the museum as he died on 7th February 1926 in Porthcawl.
Are E-cigarettes harmful to museum collections?
Re-visiting no smoking policies to include non-tobacco replacement products.
AC-NMW has recently banned the use of e-cigarettes from its galleries. E-cigarettes are considered a less harmful version of conventional cigarettes – do they really need to be banned from museums?
What's the problem?
An electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, is an electronic inhaler that vaporizes a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes use a rechargeable battery to power the vaporizer.
Many people use e-cigarettes as a way of quitting smoking and while this is deemed a positive development, the act of using an e-cigarette does look like smoking which is disconcerting to other people. Users of e-cigarettes should be sensitive to the impression that using the substitute may give to others. For example, there are questions surrounding the appropriateness of smoking e-cigarettes in public, especially around children.
Smoking ordinary cigarettes violates established museum policies and therefore, for the sake of consistency, the use of e-cigarettes has been prohibited at AC-NMW on health and safety grounds (and in line with existing legislation covering smoking in public places) since May 2014.
In addition, there are good conservation reasons against ‘vaping’ in museums. Electronic cigarettes work in a similar way (with a chemical carrier, such as propylene glycol, nicotine and a cocktail of flavouring chemicals) to scent and smoke machines that historic houses and museums have rejected in the past to protect collections from damage.
What is the effect on museum collections?
What does the science say about the effects of e-cigarettes? A summary report recently reviewed 29 studies on the chemistry of e-cigarettes and found that refill solutions and aerosols contain nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), flavours, solvent carriers and tobacco alkaloids (Cheng 2014). However, not all of those chemicals are necessarily emitted by a user exhaling vapour from an e-cigarette. In fact, the average nicotine concentration in e-cigarette vapour is considerably lower than the amount found in tobacco smoke (Czogala et al. 2013).
In addition, e-cigarette vapour does not appear to contain some of the other toxic products found in cigarette smoke. VOCs, including acetone and formaldehyde, are seemingly not emitted at all (Czogala et al. 2013), or at levels considerably lower than from conventional cigarettes (Schripp et al. 2013) – the slightly different results depend on the analytical methods used. Crucially, acetic acid is emitted by e-cigarettes (Schripp et al. 2013).
Acetic acid is very problematic in museum galleries and collections stores. Airborne acetic acid leads to destructive corrosion of metals and minerals, including calcitic bivalve shells and fossils. And while the levels emitted by each individual e-cigarette may be small, many museum conservators and curators have first-hand experience at dealing with damage caused by airborne indoor pollutants.
Pre-cautionary principle applies in museums
We have a duty to maintain our fantastic heritage, and to care for the collections of Wales to ensure their continued and future preservation. It is best to put the objects first and limit the chemical and aerosol exposure of museum collections by prohibiting the use of both conventional and e-cigarettes in museums.
Cheng, T. 2014. Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes. Tobacco Control 23: ii11-ii17.
Czogala, J., Goniewicz, M.L., Fidelus, B., Zielinska-Danch, W., Travers, M.J., Sobczak, A. 2013. Secondhand exposure to vapors from electronic cigarettes. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, doi:10.1093/ntr/ntt203.
Schripp, T., Markewitz, D., Uhde, E., Salthammer, T. 2013. Does e-cigarette consumption cause passive vaping? Indoor Air 23: 25-31.
Wel, mae'r wythnos wedi cyrraedd. Ar ôl misoedd o gynllunio a thrafod, yn hwyrach yr wythnos hon, bydd y #fflachamgueddfa yn cael ei wireddu. Er bod gennym eisoes rhai straeon yn barod i rannu fel rhan o'r #fflachamgueddfa a rhai gwrthrychau o’r amgueddfa i arddangos, fel Billy y Morlo, y gwir yw, nid oes gennym unrhyw syniad beth fydd ffurf derfynol yr amgueddfa hon gan ei fod yn llwyr ddibynnol ar bobl sy'n dod i Ganolfan y Mileniwm ar ddydd Iau a dydd Gwener (9 a 10 Hydref) gyda'u straeon a / neu wrthrychau sy'n ymwneud â, neu ‘n eu hatgoffa o Gaerdydd.
Dyma sut y bydd yn gweithio. Bydd y #fflachamgueddfa yng nghyntedd Canolfan y Mileniwm, a bydd rhywun yno o 9:00-17:30 ar y ddau ddiwrnod. Gallwch naill ai roi gwrthrych a'i adael gyda ni, gyda disgrifiad ysgrifenedig neu sain ohono, neu gallwch gael eich llun wedi'i dynnu gyda'r gwrthrych. Os byddwch yn dewis gadael unrhyw beth gyda ni, bydd yn cael ei dychwelyd atoch ar ôl i’r #fflachamgueddfa ddod i ben! Fel arall, os oes gennych stori, gallwch naill ai ei hysgrifennu i lawr neu gael eich ffilmio yn adrodd yr hanes ni, a bydd yn cael ei ddangos fel rhan o'r #fflachamgueddfa.
Dal i fod gyda mi? Da iawn...
Bydd popeth yn wych os yw pobl yn troi fyny. Felly, dyma pam mae angen eich cymorth chi arnom. Wnewch chi os gwelwch yn dda ledaenu'r neges, drwy siarad am y prosiect gyda ffrindiau a theulu a’n helpu i hyrwyddo trwy gyfryngau cymdeithasol. Nid oes rhaid i wrthrychau fod yn rai gwerthfawr neu'n nodweddiadol o amgueddfa. Gall fod yn ddoniol, od, rhyfedd, difrifol, syfrdanol- yn wir, unrhyw beth dan haul cyn belled â bod ganddo stori ynglÅ·n â Chaerdydd. Gall olygu rhywbeth i chi yn bersonol neu gall fod yn rhan o'r stori sefydliad neu gwmni yng Nghaerdydd. Dyma eich cyfle i greu math gwahanol o amgueddfa.
Am ragor o wybodaeth, e-bostiwch firstname.lastname@example.org neu @heleddfychan