Museum trawl unveils two headed lambs and holy rhubarb

Welsh museums possess some of the finest natural history exhibits outside of London - but where are they all?

That is what a £100,000 project by the Welsh Museums Federation is aiming to find out.

Linking Natural Collections is trawling the country to find hidden gems and bring them together for the first time in a virtual history museum.

A two-head lamb and a tropical swordfish bill were the amongst the more unusual items uncovered.

The holy rhubarb

Image copyright Welsh Museums Federation

In 1880 the Virgin Mary reputedly appeared at Llanthony monastery in Monmouthshire on four occasions.

The site's rhubarb bush was the scene of a second vision when it was said to have glowed with light and the form of a woman appeared, followed by a man before both vanished.

Following the appearances, one nun announced her chronic stiff knee had been healed by the application of leaves from the bush.

The rhubarb is now in the care of Abergavenny Museum.

Two headed animals

Image copyright Welsh Museums Federation

Two-headed animals are not that uncommon, but are unable to survive long after birth.

This two-headed lamb can be viewed at Llanidloes Museum in Powys.

King scallop shell

Image copyright Welsh Museums Federation

Carmarthen Museum is home to this King Scallop shell, which is a locally occurring species.

Holes drilled through the outside are threaded with ribbon so visitors can open up the two valves.

Inside is a book with 30 leaves with algae pressed on to the pages to form a mini herbarium.

Red Squirrel

Image copyright Welsh Museums Federation

This red squirrel has been wrapped up ready to freeze, which is the best way of removing pests that would otherwise destroy it completely.

Museums fight a continual battle to protect all their objects from pests, but taxidermy specimens are particularly vulnerable.

Butterfly collection

Image copyright Welsh Museums Federation

The large copper butterfly seen here forms part of a wider collection at Brecknock Museum in Powys.

This species has been extinct in Wales for well over 100 years. Specimens like this are now the only way to study many extinct species.

Arctic fox

Image copyright Welsh Museums Federation

This arctic fox is what is known as a study skin.

Rather than preserve the whole animal, just the skin, head and feet are kept.

As well as being used as a teaching aid, this kind of specimen is often used to show the quality of fur.

Pests collection

Image copyright Welsh Federation of Museums

This specimen is part of a collection of pests housed at Tenby Museum.

This type of beetle causes huge problems for potato growers and caused the Irish potato famine.

As a result specimens such as this are still of huge commercial interest in order to study the species.

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