Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

I took this photograph a few years ago in our Clore Discovery Centre and it still sends shivers down my spine! Enjoy :-)

Monday, 14 October 2013

Roots of power and herbs of healing... "remedies for weak men and nervous women"


There is an odd story attached to this little booklet. Some time ago, I received a telephone call from a lady offering to donate a catalogue from an old Cardiff herbalist. It sounded intriguing and something that would fit in perfectly at the library over at our sister museum St Fagans: Museum of National History, so we gratefully accepted the offer. A few days later, the Librarian and I were weeding through a pile of old booklets and we noticed an old Cardiff herbalist catalogue [date written in red ink - 29/11/29] and I remember saying how bizarre it would be if this was the same catalogue as the one that was on its way to us. Yes, you guessed it, it turned out to be exactly the same one! We ended up keeping both copies, placing one at the St Fagans library and keeping one here at National Museum Cardiff.

What exactly went into the herbal remedies is one mystery now most likely beyond solving [many of the ingredients are listed but not all] but it is the naive and whimsical wording of the ailments themselves that are so interesting to us now [Remedies for weak men and nervous women, Poverty of nerve force and That don't care sort of feeling spring to mind] and this naivity is illustrated further with the Disney-like wizard and his bubbling cauldron on the cover.





I have done a little research but, apart from a few scanned newspaper advertisements, have found no other information on Trimnell except for one of his old medicine bottles that sold recently on Ebay for £1.99 [see photograph below].
Glamorgan Archives hold some limited information on Trimnell but no actual documentation.
 All photographs [except the Ebay one above] in this post taken by the author.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Fern Paradise

A lovely pressed fern found between the pages of The Fern Paradise [1876] by Francis George Heath. I'm always a little disappointed that we don't find more pressed flowers in our old botany books so this really made my day.

How long has it been lying quietly cocooned between these dry secure words? Who picked a live and vibrant frond one summers day and slipped it away never thinking it would stay hidden for decades? Did the sun shine that afternoon? What news was ringing around the world? So many questions...

All photographs in this post taken by the author

Friday, 27 September 2013

Squirrels' Grand Tour [being the travels of Lady Red and Lord Grey]

Experiencing the impressive grandeur of the towering folio shelves
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you, two of the cutest little squirrels of my acquaintance.
I recently moved house and have been going through old boxes that were packed years and years ago when I first left home. These two were nestled deep inside a box of old toys and seeing them again took me back to my pretty little childhood bedroom with a special shelf on which I used to display all of my most beloved creatures. These included peg dolls, bean-bag babies [the ones that came in match box beds], mini china animals and an assortment of tiny plastic figurines that probably came out of Christmas crackers. I also had a Pippa doll who [even though tiny and svelte] was bigger than all the characters so I pretended she was a friendly giantess and her pet serpent was a Squirble [those little feathery snakes on invisible wire / early1970s]. I arranged the shelf into a village street with shops and houses and at one end I constructed a wall [made from mini bars of Bronnley soap if I remember correctly] and on the other side of the wall was a palace. Here lived a little white bear King and a peg doll Queen who sat upon thrones made of bath cubes [Bronnley again of course] and  were attended by loyal [yet excitable] pencil top vegetable squires. 
Gazing out upon the wonder that is the West Wing Library
I intend to photograph this pair again as both pictures are a little fuzzy close up, so watch this space...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Kunstformen der Natur

Step into a wonderland of colour, a celebration of the natural world in all its artistic and symmetrical glory...

Ernst Haeckel (1834 — 1919) was an eminent German zoologist who specialized in invertebrate anatomy. He named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many now ubiquitous terms in biology. A popularizer of Charles Darwin, Haeckel embraced evolution not only as a scientific theory, but as a worldview. He outlined a new religion or philosophy called monism, which cast evolution as a cosmic force, a manifestation of the creative energy of nature.
Haeckel’s chief interests lay in evolution and life development processes in general, including the development of nonrandom form, which culminated in the beautifully illustrated Kunstformen der Natur  - Art Forms of Nature, a collection of 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations (lithographic and autotype) of animals and sea creatures prints. Originally published in fascicules of ten between 1899 and 1904, and as a complete volume in 1904.
The overriding themes of the Kunstformen plates are symmetry and organization, central aspects of Haeckel's monism. The subjects were selected to embody organization, from the scale patterns of boxfishes to the spirals of ammonites to the perfect symmetries of jellies and microorganisms, while images composing each plate are arranged for maximum visual impact.


Kunstformen der Natur played a role in the development of early twentieth century art, architecture, and design, bridging the gap between science and art. In particular, many artists associated with the Art Nouveau movement were influenced by Haeckel's images, including René Binet, Karl Blossfeldt, Hans Christiansen, and Émile Gallé.
Our copy of Kunstformen der Natur [photographed here] is a complete bound volume of all ten sets and sits in our folio section. It was donated to us in 1919 by the first Director of National Museum Wales [from 1909 to 1924], William Evans Hoyle. This stemmed from Hoyle’s training as a medical anatomist and subsequent life long interest in 'cephalopods'              



Our BioSyB Department now holds Hoyle's cephalopod collection [over 400 of them] along with many other specimens and publications.
Haeckel biographical information:
Hoyle biographical information:
All photographs in this post taken by the author.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Theatre of insects



Thomas Moffet [Moufet, Muffet] (1553-1604), was a physician and naturalist. After graduating from Cambridge, he went abroad, gained the degree of MD in 1579 from Basel University and eventually established a successful medical practise in Frankfurt. In 1580 he visited Italy, where he studied the culture of the silkworm and developed an absorbing interest in entomology. By 1588 he had returned to England and secured a good practise, first in Ipswich and afterwards in London. On 22 December of that year he was admitted as a candidate of the College of Physicians, became a fellow and eventually censor. In 1589 he was appointed to a committee responsible for compiling the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (1618) for the College of Physicians.
Moffet combined real literary aptitude with his interests in natural philosophy, publishing the lengthy poem, The Silkworms and their Flies, in 1599.
Theatre of Insects was published posthumously. In 1590 he had completed a compendious work on the natural history of insects, partly compiled from the unpublished writings of Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner and Moffet’s friend [and fellow physician] Thomas Penny. After Moffet’s death, this still unpublished manuscript (BL, Sloane MS 4014) came into the hands of his apothecary [Darnell], who sold it to Sir Theodore Mayerne, who published it in 1634 as Insectorum, sive, Minimorum animalium theatrum. It was translated into English by J. Rowland as The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures and appended with the plates to Edward Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658).
We hold quite a few copies of both the 1634 and 1658 editions; the copy photographed here is one of the earlier editions.
These books, along with many other early natural history works, were bequeathed to the Library by Willoughby Gardner in 1953 [for more details visit our website or see The Willoughby Gardner Library: a collection of early printed books on natural history, by John R. Kenyon, published by Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru / National Museum Wales, 1982]
It has been supposed, on the basis of Moffet’s interest in spiders that his daughter Patience was the‘little Miss Muffet’ of the nursery rhyme; although some sources state this unlikely as the rhyme did not appear in print until 1805.
Biographical information taken from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thing 23: Reflection – what have I learnt and where do I want to go from here?

When I started this course back in June 2011, I had no idea just how long it would take to complete; it was supposed to have taken one year but instead it has taken two. Now, I hasten to add that this lengthy run has nothing to do with me being disinterested or lazy, I had to deal with two fairly major personal traumas that took my time and attention. However, I am happy to report that both turned out okay in the end so I was able to bounce back and here we are, this is IT, the very last “Thing”! Let’s start off with what have I learnt, which is SO much, it’s difficult to know where to begin…

The very first “thing” we were required to do was to create a blog and this old blog of mine has become very important to me. Mostly because it has become both an outlet for my interest in our special collections here and, in photographing the items, it has also become something of a creative outlet. I have learnt that I love taking photographs, I love the whole process; setting up shoots, taking the photos, editing them and posting them.

I have also learnt the vast benefits of using social media to promote and improve my library career. I would say for this, Twitter has been the best outlet [I’m @SquirrelLib] as I came to a conclusion very early on that librarians love to Tweet! There are thousands of them out there; all sharing valuable information resources [of course], experiences, breaking news, gossip, cat pictures, recipes, film reviews... you name it, they'll tweet it! 

Another important thing I learnt was not to try and do everything. The course advocates trying everything of course but very early on you realise just how many social media vehicles are available and therefore the best thing to do is to pick and choose what works for you. This has worked perfectly for me, I use my Blog and Twitter accounts for work and Facebook and Flickr for my little crafting business and right now, these four accounts are quite enough thank you very much.

Doing CPD23 has made me a better librarian, I’m much more aware of information resources, new technologies and I’m definitely much more in tune with what’s going on around me, and I was pretty rubbish at that last one.

Where do I want to go from here? Well, I have just been given permission to upload my blog posts on to the main museum blog and this is very exciting as so many more people will get to see them. I love the idea that doing something I really enjoy is also promoting my library, myself and our museum's collections and I consider that ending on a real high!

So goodbye and thank you to CPD23, it has been a pleasure :-)

 All photographs in this post taken by Squirrel Library

Thing 22: Volunteering

This post is the penultimate task of the CPD 23 Things for Professional Development course I started way back in June 2011 - it was supposed to have been completed in a year but personal factors took centre stage [twice] and this highly enjoyable course was put on the back burner. Anyway, more of that in the final task which involves a little reflection write-up on what I have gained from the course.
I’m afraid my personal experience at volunteering is somewhat limited so I will begin with a bit of literature from a recent purchase of ours, The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook  [published by the Directory of Social Change 2012]. This is a comprehensive guide to organisations seeking to involve volunteers strategically and effectively in its work. One of the first subjects it covers is to list the many commonly cited reasons for volunteering; the main ones being: I wanted to gain work experience and learn new skills; I like meeting new friends and being involved and I felt I could impress my employer and show leadership
The first one is certainly true of the majority of volunteers we have had in our Library and they have covered the full spectrum of ages; from comprehensive school children to our current volunteer who is a retired librarian herself! For school children and students, it is an opportunity to test the waters, to dip their toes into the heady waters of librarianship whereas for retired people is it a chance to stay active and in touch their career.

Our museum has a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator and the website currently states the following with regards to our volunteering programme:

Volunteers get involved in all sorts of projects across the museums of Amgueddfa Cymru. Some roles might require skilled assistance, but for many projects you only need enthusiasm and willingness to learn!

Types of volunteering opportunities:

Public Programmes – opportunities can include leading handling sessions or guided tours with our visitors in the galleries, helping out with workshops and activities for all ages or dressing up in historical costume!

‘Behind the Scenes’ – this is often the busiest area, where the collections are managed and maintained. You could be sorting and labeling specimens, helping with cataloguing and archives, packing items or undertaking research depending on your skills and knowledge.

Other – you may also find opportunities to get stuck in at the gardens at St Fagans, carry out visitor surveys or support our learning and visitor services teams.

What's in it for you?
  • Opportunities to develop skills and experience within the museum sector.
  • Enjoyment in doing something you like while meeting new, like-minded people.
  • Helping to support the work of Amgueddfa Cymru.
  • Work experience that can be an invaluable addition to your CV.

I recently volunteered to help at the CILIP Wales Conference 2013 and enjoyed every minute of it. I had the opportunity to meet up with other Librarians and was able to sit in on lectures and workshops that I wouldn’t normally have attended.

This seems to be the whole point about volunteering, you do it for the experience. For the career minded, you do it for the line in your CV that states you thought some thing was important enough to do in your own time and without getting paid; and furthermore it highlights you as that kind of conscientious person who wants to learn and experience new things.
On a slightly negative note, I take on board the worries that an eccess of volunteerships can go some way to devaluing a profession but I'm afraid it's just a case of getting the balance right. Volunteering opportunites are too valuable and care must be taken to ensure they are maintained.

Images courtesy of Volunteer Centres, Pancreatic Cancer Action, University West of England and Volunteer Weekly