In preparing to move to the new location, a lot of work needs to be done on existing collections at the museum – to ensure everything is numbered, marked and photographed to make the big move as smooth as possible. This work is ongoing. The project will also improve access, engagement with and care of Bangor University’s wealth of intriguing artefacts. Zoology, Geology, Herbarium, Timber, Art, Ceramics and Musical Instruments Collections are housed in various buildings around the University. Discover more about these collections as work begins on opening up this extraordinary cultural, scientific and historic asset.
From a two headed lamb to a painting by Kyffin Williams, Chinese ceramics to rare plants from Bardsey Island, there is plenty of variety. Online digital catalogue, guided tours, leaflets, open days and exhibitions are some of the activities planned. However, the first task is to improve the way that the collections are documented and stored. Follow this blog as work progresses on improving access to these ‘hidden gems’.
Natural History Museum, Brambell Building takes part in the Welsh Museums Festival
The Natural History Museum, Brambell Building was open on Saturday, 24th October as part of the Welsh Museums Festival. As well as the open day, events were organised throughout the day. The theme was ‘Creatures of the Night’ and two workshops were held with artist Luned Rhys Parri creating spiders and bats ready for Halloween. A grant was obtained from the Welsh Museums Federation to fund this event.
Bat expert Cathy Wuster from the Gwynedd Bat Group gave a talk about “Things that don’t go bump in the night! The wonderful world of bats and how they use the night sky”. There were also other activities provided for children.
The day was a success and the workshops that had to be booked in advance were all fully booked. The overall visitor figure was 128 and visitors enjoyed the day.
It is intended to open the Museum for more open days in 2016 and to organise events to coincide with openings in order to provide an extra dimension to these days.
Guided tours of the Art and Ceramic Collections
A series of guided tours of the art and ceramic collections were held between June and September as a pilot in order to raise awareness of the collections and to provide members of the public the opportunity to view the collections and learn about them.
These were held once a month with an English and Welsh tour offered, and booking in advance was necessary. Three of the tours were held during the week and the last tour was held on a Saturday as part of the University Open Doors event. The tours provided a general introduction to the paintings displayed in the Main Arts Building and although some areas are accessible to members of the public, access was also provided to rooms not normally open such as busy lecture theatres.
Most of the tours were fully booked and overall 124 attended. Positive comments were received back such as “excellent in many ways –a rich experience” and “a very interesting and informative tour”. There are improvements planned for the collections within the next few months, mainly in adding labels and better interpretation.
It is planned to hold more tours in the 2016 and to include specialist tours led by experts as well as the general introductory tour to the collections. These will be advertised in advance on the University web pages.
Visitors enjoying the guided tour
New storage racking for the University Art Collection
The University Art Collection includes around 600 art work, most of which are on display in various University buildings. The remainder are kept in the art store. Over the summer months, new specialist art racking was purchased and erected in order to improve the way the art collection is stored and cared for. This was made possible due to funding from the T. Rowland Hughes fund, a fund set up in 1934 by the Treasurer of the University to look after the art collection.
The art works in this store are now placed on the racking or on the specialist shelves provided. A system has been devised to track the locations of the paintings as they are placed on the racking according to size. Very few of the paintings will be in the store permanently as they are often moved out of the store to be displayed as suitable spaces become available. Paintings previously on display will sometimes be returned to the store usually due to a change of use of the space. Some go on exhibition loan to other museums and galleries.
The new racking system is a huge improvement to the storage conditions and there will be sufficient space to store more art works in the foreseeable future.
New racking being installed
Paintings on the new racking
Brambell Natural History Museum Open Days
Bangor University’s Natural History Museum housed at Brambell Building was open to the public on Saturday 18th April and Saturday 16th May between 11am and 3pm. The Museum is used for teaching, University functions and organised groups including schools, but is not usually accessible to the general public.
The days were organised and staffed mainly by zoology volunteer members of Student Volunteering Bangor who had developed activities for children including quizzes and who were on hand to answer any questions. Other volunteers participated in the event acting as invigilators and welcoming visitors.
The days were well publicised resulting in 240 visitors during the April open day and 200 visitors during the May open day. All visitors seemed to enjoy the visit and positive feedback was received.
It is intended to open the Museum on a more regular basis as a way to improve access to Bangor University’s hidden museum collections and as a way of offering local residents and visitors a chance to enjoy and learn about the vast variety of specimens on display.
It is also intended to develop a programme of events to coincide with the open days including live animals, drawing sessions and talks. The next open day will be held on Saturday, 26th September 11am-3pm as part of the Open Doors event.
Documenting the spirit collection on the balcony
Work has been continuing with documenting and improving the storage of the natural history collections at Brambell Museum. Over the past months zoology student volunteers have been busy sorting and documenting the specimens stored in the balcony above the museum.
A mixture of different specimens were discovered ranging from a tarantula spider and snakes to hedgehogs and a lobster. Very few of them had accession numbers and were included in the main catalogue. An inventory was made and the zoology background of volunteers was put to the test as they had to use their knowledge to identify some of the specimens. There were also several marine specimens with labels inside the jars that were difficult to decipher.
The spirit collection will stay where it is until the area next to the balcony has been sorted. At this point a full inventory of the spirit collection will be in place and work can progress with rationalising the collection and organising their redisplay. Hopefully at this point it can be made accessible to the public by guided tours during the Museum’s Open Days.
Sorting cupboards at the University’s Natural History Museum
Diane works as a technician at the University, and is one of the many staff and students who have been working with the natural history collections.
Volunteers have been busy assisting with cataloguing and improving the way that the zoology collections are stored in the cupboards in the museum. A condition survey undertaken previously highlighted the need to for this as most of the cupboards were overcrowded causing damage to the specimens.
Work involved taking out the specimens, cleaning and lining the cupboards with plastazote and undertaking basic work on packaging using plastazote and acid free tissue. This provided the opportunity to check the accession numbers on the specimens against the catalogue, adding locations and adding any specimens without an accession number to the catalogue.
Each cupboard was opened with caution as it was difficult to anticipate what to expect. A variety of skulls, taxidermy and fluid filled jars filled the cupboards and the same specimens were returned to their original location. This proved impossible in some cases as better organisation meant less space and specimens had to be moved to another cupboard with space.
At some point the specimens must have been stored according to their species, and it proved frustrating to have catalogued forty mole skulls only to find further samples a few cupboards down. This work has given us a good overview of what the cupboards contain and an opportunity to improve storage and recording – they are definitely looking much better.