Fish! Conserving fluid preserved specimens for display
For October and November 2010 we have opened a small exhibition in our main hall celebrating the diversity of fish found around the UK. These fish are all from our collections, with the oldest specimens going back to 1904.
To get these specimens usable for display we have had to do some conservation work. This has been as simple as cleaning the glass jar or Perspex display tank, to working on the specimen itself and changing the preservation fluid. How the fish has been preserved can affect its overall appearance and condition, but unfortunately whatever method we use the colour will be lost.
Many of the fish have been preserved in an alcohol solution, usually ethanol, which does result in shrinkage and the fish becoming very stiff. The preserving fluid can also become a very dark amber colour. This is due to materials such as lipids in the fish tissue being extracted out by the alcohol solution. However we know ethanol based preserving solutions work as the practice has been going on since the 1600’s! In more recent years we have found that it can also preserve DNA that is usable in modern molecular studies.
Another common preservative is formaldehyde, commonly called formalin. A diluted solution, usually of around 4% formaldehyde, has been used for over a century now. Formaldehyde causes chemical cross linking reactions in the biological tissues and this is termed ‘fixation’. Unfortunately formaldehyde does have problems, being pungent and potentially toxic to work with.
Some of the fish have also been preserved in a fluid called ‘Steedmans’. This is a mixture of propylene glycol (often used in anti freeze), a phenol (an aromatic organic chemical) and formaldehyde. This can preserve fish shape very well but there are concerns over its long term preservation properties.
For the main hall display all the preserving fluids were checked. All the specimens in formaldehyde and ‘Steedmans’ were moved to a safer alternative. This uses a chemical called DMDM Hydantoin which replaces the use of formaldehyde in everyday products such as shampoos and cosmetics and is much safer to work with.
Some of the specimens themselves needed some cleaning and tidying up. After years in a jar many had a build up of old proteins and fats on their surface. Other specimens had corrosion products on them from old metal tags that had been used for labels. Many of the specimens were also moved to more suitable glass jars.
The end result is an intriguing display highlighting specimens with fishy stories from the museums collections. The aim has been to make the specimens as accessible as possible so that visitors can get a close look at the preserved fish. The exhibition also represents the ongoing work that is required to care for the museums natural history collections for both now and the future.
Opening up the Collections
Final Natural History Open day – Wednesday 27th October 2010
Members of the public will be given an intimate insight into the museum’s natural history collections next week. As part of the International Year of Biodiversity, the departments of Biodiversity and Systematic Biology along with Geology have been holding open days throughout the year to showcase the work that they do.
Museum experts in a wide range of fields, from bugs to beetles, dandelions to diatoms can all be found in the main hall along with a crazy array of critters from the national collections. Visitors can also sign up for a wide variety of behind the scenes tours where they will be able to find out more about the incredible collections that the museum holds and the research that we do.
I will be running tours of the large shell collection, showcasing some of the 2 million shell specimens that we hold as well as explaining some of the work that is carried out by our researchers. Other tours will take you round the Welsh National Herbarium, the amazing vertebrate collections with their primate skeletons and stuffed animals, the insect collections with butterfly specimens over a hundred years old, and the vast array of pickled animals in jars in our marine lab.
This is to be the final open day for this year, so don’t miss your chance! Come and meet the experts and take the opportunity for a unique trip behind the scenes. Book your tour place on the day - numbers are limited to 10-12 people on each tour. Tours are suitable for ages 8 and over, but unfortunately are unsuitable for people with limited mobility because of the stairs involved.
Wyneb yn wyneb â'r gorffennol - ailarddangos arch Rufeinig
Un o'r arddangosfeydd mwyaf poblogaidd yn Amgueddfa Lleng Rufeinig Cymru yw'r arch garreg sy'n dal sgerbwd gŵr Rhufeinig. Mae'r arch hefyd yn dal gweddillion nwyddau claddu fyddai'n ddefnyddiol iddo yn y bywyd nesaf, yn cynnwys gwaelod dysgl siâl a darnau o botel wydr fyddai'n dal persawr neu eli.
Darganfuwyd yr arch ym 1995 ar safle mynwent Rufeinig ychydig y tu allan i Gaerllion. Mae'r fynwent bellach yn rhan o Gampws Caerllion Prifysgol Cymru Casnewydd. Mae wedi cael ei harddangos yn Amgueddfa Lleng Rufeinig Cymru ers 2002, ond yn Haf 2010 dechreuwyd ar y gwaith o ailarddangos yr arch mewn modd fyddai'n adlewyrchiad gwell o'r gwreiddiol diolch i nawdd Cyfeillion Amgueddfa Cymru.
Mae'r arch wedi'i gwneud o flocyn solet o garreg Faddon ac yn dyddio o tua 200OC. Gan ei bod oddeutu 1800 mlwydd oed ni fyddai'r arch yn medru dal pwysau y caead gwreiddiol sydd mewn dau ddarn mawr. Mae ochrau a gwaelod yr arch yn cael eu hatgyfnerthu a bydd y caead yn gorwedd ar orchudd Persbecs gyda gofod fel eich bod yn gallu gweld y sgerbwd oddi mewn.
Bydd gwaith pellach yn cael ei wneud i ganfod mwy am ein gŵr Rhufeinig oedd oddeutu 40 mlwydd oed pan fu farw. Diolch i nawdd yr Ymddiriedolaeth Ymchwil Rufeinig, caiff dadansoddiad Isotop ei gynnal ar ei ddannedd a ddylai ddangos ble cafodd ei fagu a pa fath o fwyd a fwytai. Byddwn hefyd yn ceisio ailadeiladu ei wyneb fel y gallwn beintio portread ohono gan ddefnyddio'r un technegau a deunyddiau a ddefnyddid gan y Rhufeiniaid.
Dilynwch y gwaith wrth iddo fynd rhagddo yn ystod y flwyddyn nesaf.
Ein nod yw cwblhau'r gwaith ailarddangos erbyn diwedd 2011 fel eich bod yn medru dod wyneb yn wyneb â'r gorffennol!
Mae'r arch, y sgerbwd a'r nwyddau claddu, wedi cael eu harddangos ers 2002.
Ers hynny mae wedi dod yn un o arddangosiadau mwyaf poblogaidd yr oriel.
[delwedd: Discarded items]
Roedd bylchau yn yr arch yn galluogi i bobl wthio pethau i mewn iddi.
Dyma rai o’r pethau a gafodd eu gadael, dim beth fyddai Rhufeiniwr am ei ddefnyddio yn y byd nesaf debyg iawn.
[delwedd: Work begins]
Gwaith yn dechrau. Rhaid tynnu’r sgerbwd a’r nwyddau bedd yn gyntaf a’u storio’n ofalus.
Tra’u bod o olwg y cyhoedd bydd y sgerbwd yn cael ei brofi ymhellach i ganfod mwy am y gŵr yn yr arch.
Rhaid i bob deunydd modern a ychwanegir i wrthrych allu cael ei waredu. Mae hyn yn ei gwneud yn haws i waredu gwaith cadwraeth heb achosi niwed i’r arteffact gwreiddiol.
Yma, mae mur y gellir ei waredu yn cael ei beintio ar yr arch. Bydd hyn yn gwahanu’r garreg wreiddiol a’r deunydd a ddefnyddir i lenwi’r bylchau a lefelu’r ymyl.
Roedd yn rhaid cyrraedd y mannau mwyaf lletchwith hyd yn oed!
[delwedd: Lid of the coffin]
Rhaid i gaead yr arch orffwys ar arwyneb gwastad!
Yn anffodus mae mwyafrif ymyl wreiddiol yr arch wedi erydu, felly gyda chymorth sbwng, tâp â dwy ochr ludiog a chaead gwydr yr arddangosfa wreiddiol, gobeithiwn greu lefel newydd i ymyl yr arch.
[delwedd: Layers of foam]
Gludwyd haenau o sbwng i’r caead gwydr gwastad. Pan cyrhaeddwyd rhan uchaf yr arch, defnyddiwyd hyn fel y lefel ar gyfer yr ymyl newydd.
[delwedd: Mixing up the fill material]
Roedd y rhan nesaf yn llawer o hwyl...cymysgu’r deunydd llenwi.
Rhaid i’r deunydd hwn weithio fel pwti a setio’n galed wedi sychu. Mae’n rhaid iddo fod yn ddiogel i’w ddefnyddio yn yr oriel agored hefyd ac yn debyg mewn lliw a gwead i’r garreg Faddon wreiddiol.
Defnyddiwyd cyfuniad o glai sy’n sychu mewn aer, a thywod i atal crebachu ac i roi gwead gwell. Defnyddiwyd paent acrylig i’w liwio ac fel glud naturiol. Roedd y gwaith yma braidd yn anniben ac fe gymrodd hi beth amser i gael y gymysgedd yn gywir!
[delwedd: Filling the gaps]
Pan oedd y gymysgedd yn barod llenwyd y bwlch rhwng y sbwng ac ymyl yr arch...
[delwedd: Filling the gaps]
...gan ofalu peidio cael cymysgedd lenwi dros yr arch i gyd.
[delwedd: Filling odne]
Mae’n edrych yn dda, gobeithio y bydd yn sychu heb grebachu gormod.
Mae’r lliw braidd yn olau ac nid yw mor euraid a’r garreg Faddon wreiddiol. Credwyd bod y garreg wedi dod o chwarel Rhufeinig i’r de o ddinas hynafol Caerfaddon. Mae’r garreg yn feddal ac yn hawdd i’w cherfio pan yn wlyb, ond yn sychu’n galed.
[delwedd: Inspecting the day's work]
Arolygu gwaith y diwrnod! Gobeithio y bydd y llenwad yn wastad pan gaiff y gwydr a’r sbwng ei dynnu.
[delwedd: Side of the coffin]
Mae’n rhaid llenwi’r bylchau yn ochr yr arch er mwyn atal pobl rhag cyffwrdd y sgerbwd pan gaiff ei ailarddangos.
[delwedd: Glass top and foam removed]
Caiff y caead gwydr a’r sbwng eu tynnu gan ddatgelu’r ymyl newydd. Mae’r llenwad wedi sychu’n llawer goleuach na’r disgwyl felly bydd yn rhaid ei beintio er mwyn iddo asio’n well.
Bydd mwyafrif y llenwad yn cael ei guddio gan y caed sy’n ymestyn tu hwnt ac i lawr yr ochrau. Arferai’r ochr hon sy’n gorgyffwrdd orffwys ar gefnen a amgylchynai ymyl uchaf gwaelod yr arch.
Gellir gweld gweddillion y gefnen hon ar ochr dde’r llun ychydig islaw’r llenwad.
Dadorchuddiwyd yr arch gan beiriant cloddio a’i torrodd yn sawl darn. Arbedwyd mwyafrif y darnau, ond cafodd un darn gymaint o niwed fel na ellid arbed y darnau.
Yn hytrach na llenwi’r bwlch i gau’r ochr, penderfynom osod ffenestr arsylwi fel y gallai ymwelwyr byrrach weld y sgerbwd y tu mewn hefyd.
Mae’r arch yn aruthrol o drwm ac ni ellid ei symud o’r oriel yn ddiogel. Roedd yn rhaid i’r gwaith cadwraeth gael ei wneud yn yr oriel allai fod yn sialens ar brydiau.
Os ydych yn ein gweld ni yno yn ystod eich ymweliad, dewch draw i ddweud helo. Byddwn ni’n fwy na pharod i ateb cwestiynau am y project.
'Biodiversity - Who cares?' exhibition now at Cardiff
[delwedd: Plant models going on display]
We’ve just finished setting up the exhibition ‘Biodiversity - Who Cares?’ in the Main Hall at National Museum Cardiff. It’s been a great opportunity for us to show off some more of the beautiful botanical models from our stored collections. The models have been skilfully crafted from beeswax, but you might mistake them for real plants when you first look at them. With around 1000 models in the collection to choose from, our only problem has been deciding which ones to display!
The exhibition has been created by the BioSyB Dept as a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity. The exhibition looks at some of the ways in which we can help reduce the loss of biodiversity. Look out for this touring exhibition at other Amgueddfa Cymru venues during the rest of the year.
St Teilo's Church - the blog
[delwedd: BBC journalist Garry Owen]
We had a fabulous event at St Fagans yesterday. The weather wasn't quite with us - damp and overcast - but luckily lots of people were, and very many of them bought copies of the book!
I didn't catch the whole service as I was flitting around with boxes of books, but what I saw was very moving, and it felt intimate and totally natural.
Then a whole load more people arrived for the actual launch. People crowded into the Church and the two main speakers, Garry Owen and Eurwyn Wiliam, both did excellent jobs. Eurwyn spoke about the project from its beginnings, and as he's been involved with the project since its beginning 25 years ago it was a great overview. But, as always, humorous too! Then Garry Owen brought a lovely personal note, as he's a local boy who remembers the Church when it was still by the river Loughour at Pontarddulais. He really emphasised just how iconic the Church was - and still is - to the local community.
Finally everyone came over to Oakdale, the Workmen's Instititute, for refreshments and we were flooded with people queuing up to buy the book. It was like when you first arrive at a car boot sale! It was also great for me to finally meet some of the book's contributors, people I've only emailed up til now. I guess everybody was enjoying themselves as by 5.30pm some people didn't seem to want to leave!
The rest of the work for me is now to make sure all the relevant bookshops and retail outlets know about it. And making sure it's on the relevant websites. And sending out review copies... In a way, producing the book is only half the job: now we've got to sell it!
St Teilo's Church - the book
No blogs for a while now - but mostly because we've been working full tilt on the book (also because I've been off for a week...).
So, it's now at the printers, and there's nothing - well, hardly anything - more we can do now. If all is well the books will be in Cardiff this Friday, and we'll all be at St Fagans launching it on Sunday. If the weather is anywhere as good as it has been this last week or so then it'll be a truly lovely afternoon.
As exciting as it is to look forward to seeing the actual book (no matter how many proofs, dummies etc you've seen - the real thing always looks different!) this bit always makes me a bit nervous too. After it arrives, and I spot the inevitable typo that got away, or something I wish we'd changed when we had the chance, or... and after the launch event, I'll be able to reflect on what a pleasure it was to work on and how lovely everybody was to work with. It's a real privilege to have been able to learn so much about the whole project - one of the very best bits of my job is being able to get involved with such a variety of different projects that might otherwise have passed me by. But with this one in particular, I think, the depth of people's knowledge and skills, and their committment, is inspiring.
Anyway, look out for it, available in all good bookshops - soon!
St Teilo's Church - the book
We're getting really stuck in now. We've had a complete set of pages, which is our chance to move or replace any images, or perhaps move pages around. Once we've done that the layout is set in stone and we start proofreading. While we proofread the English, the designer will work on the Welsh pages - that's why it's important that nothing moves around after we've agreed on the layout!
We had some new external shots of the church done, so that we'd have a wider choice to try out for the cover. I think we're pretty close to deciding on the image. And I think the title is decided too:
Saving St Teilo's: bringing a medieval church to life.
I hope it's a strong title, and I like the fact that we get the name 'St Teilo's' right in there at the beginning!
We're also moving ahead with the launch event. It will be in the spring, March or maybe April. It should be a lovely event, it will be lighter then - and warmer!
St Teilo's Church - the book
[delwedd: Safle'r Eglwys adeg Haf]
Yr eglwys fel ag y mae hi heddiw, ar safle Sain Ffagan: Amgueddfa Werin Cymru.
We had a very positive meeting with the book's designer before Christmas at St Fagans. She's come up with some lovely ideas, it makes a big difference when you've seen something and you then have a set of images and visual themes you can relate to. The design manages to convey a sense of the crafts, skills and techniques behind the whole project, which is something I really want the book to convey.
We're still looking for exactly the right image for the cover though. We decided, although it might seem a bit unimaginative, to use a picture of the exterior of the Church. For all the amazing images we've got of the interiors, especially of course the wall paintings, I really believe that the audience for this book will be looking for a book with a picture of the church on it - sounds obvious I suppose! The book covers many things including art, archaeology and architecture, but in the end it's primarily about the story of St Teilo's Church. So that's the message the cover will convey. Plus, the building itself is now so recognisable, its shape is almost iconic.
I think one of the features that draw people to the Church is the contrast between the simple, white, almost humble-looking exterior and the riot of colour and images inside.
As soon as I've got images of the sample spreads I'll publish them here - it would be very interesting to know what people think of them!
St Teilo's Church - the book
[delwedd: Ailgodi'r eglwys yn yr Amgueddfa]
[delwedd: Corff yr eglwys - tu fewn]
I'm working on a book about the fantastic St Teilo's Church at St Fagans. Been really looking forward to this one, it's a lovely story and there's a wealth of fab images - unlike usually, when I have to scrabble around for some decent stuff. I thought we'd be much further on than we are mind, I really expected to be up to my ears in proofs by now. I sort of know why we're further behind than I'd planned, just can't quite explain. Or I could, but it still probably wouldn't make much sense. Plus, designers work in different ways, and this one likes to take a lot of time 'up front' working on the design concept, then when that's agreed we crack on with the proofreading fairly quickly. I suppose I'm more comfortable with spending the bulk of the time at the proofreading stage, especially with a fairly text-heavy book like this one. Still, we always manage to end up with a book on time. I should be designing the marketing plan by now, but I'm still getting the images together and finishing the copy - things like indexes, the glossary, that kind of thing. And I haven't written any of the image captions yet, which I decided would be quite long, narrative style, so that we don't have to cram absolutely everything into the main copy.
Having to work within a financial year is odd too - not at all the way publishing works. I could get really quite anxious about this if I let myself. I just have to concentrate on how good the book's going to look, and having a high-profile launch, with a popular speaker, where everybody buys a copy of the book, which will get great reviews...
In our favour is the fact that the Church is already incredibly popular and has had a lot of good press. The whole re-erection project at St Fagans has built up a swell of good will, and the Church has its own loyal following - a sort of fan-base! All that's keeping me going at the moment, but I know things are going to get pretty intense over the next couple of months.
'Jeffrey', our recreated medieval Archer
[delwedd: Empty gallery]
[delwedd: 'Jeffrey', wrapped up]
Lots more things installed now. It's seems tidier and it's possible to see much better how the exhibition is going to look. We have some of the audio visual aspects being tested and lights are sparkling in the empty cases. You can see the Bryn Celli Ddu stone already in place and covered in bubble wrap to protect it from all the work going on around it. Our recreated medieval Archer, who we affectionately call 'Jeffrey', was first created for our Re:Creations exhibition in 2002. The level of detail on his hands where he holds the string to his bow is amazing - it looks real. He is currently covered in bubble wrap to protect him from all the activity around him. He does look a bit like a mummy - but that's a whole different exhibition!
There are a lot more stones you can see in place covered to protect them and their plinths are nearly complete.
We're waiting for more mounts and the insides of cases to allow us to start installing our objects. As soon as they arrive the gallery will become a hive of activity with curators and conservators checking and installing large and small, delicate and robust, beautiful and functional objects that together will tell some of the story of the early people of Wales.