Wednesday, 14 March 2018

People and Planet: World Stories over Half Term

People and Planet brought together the Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) for a week of tectonic plates, rock handling, animation and World stories. February Half Term is one of our busiest holidays of the year with 1126 children taking part over the three days of activities, and another 156 coming to the Pitt Rivers for object handling on Thursday and Friday.

Over the week families were inspired by objects from around the world to tell stories, seeing, thinking and wondering about camel intestine pots, milk gourds, snow shoes and rubber tyre sandals.

A pale brown pot with a lid with delicate white patterns on it, including flowers
Camel Intestine Pot, Pakistan, © Pitt Rivers Museum
 The Pitt Rivers ‘animators’ also needed help to animate Grimm’s Fairytale, The Frog Prince in our animation studio. Families were tasked with creating new characters to replace our animation studio’s ‘lost’ puppets for the story, bringing to life the witch, frog, Prince and Princess to tell their own slightly twisted version of the tale. Here's the final animation!

Four puppets featuring: a Prince, a lady, a soldier and a frog
Frog Prince Puppet Stars © Pitt Rivers Museum

This was my first February Half Term at the Museum and I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and life the visiting families brought with them to the Museum, whether they were completing the Mouse Trail or engaging in the week’s special family activities.

I enjoyed challenging myself to test digital activity in the museum and pushing myself out of my comfort zone to engage with the anthropological collection big issues of decolonisation and cultural appropriation. Now is an exciting time for learning in the museum as we reshape our activities to ensure families engage with programming that challenges their perception of cultures from around the world by helping them to reflect on their own. I know we are not there yet, but by ensuring families could read stories, written and illustrated by indigenous communities and created versions of their own cultural stories in the museum, we have started.

Most importantly, I would like to thank the volunteers, Pitt Rivers staff and Joint Museum Volunteer team for making sure that every family could glue, stick, animate, touch and hear stories from across the world.

Our next families event is on the 17th March. This Girl Makes led by designer-maker Hattie Speed invites families to come and make their own beautiful stools. These making workshops are running 10am – 12pm for children aged 7+ and 1pm – 3pm for children aged 10+. There are 10 spaces on each workshop and each family ticket (one child and an adult) is £16.50 and can be purchase here.

Beth McDougall
Families and Communities Public Engagement Officer

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Pitt Youth Action Team organise their first Takeover event!

On Saturday 14 October the Pitt Youth Action Team (Pitt YAT) hosted their first museum Takeover event from 7-9pm. The Pitt YAT is made up of twenty young people aged 14-19. It’s convened by Katherine Rose (Secondary and Young People Education Officer), supported by Andy McLellan (Head of Education), and meets once a month at the Museum on a Saturday morning. The young people come from all over Oxfordshire. Many have joined independently; some joined because a friend was in the group.

We decided through group discussion that the theme of our first Takeover event would be ‘Magical Soirée’, based on objects in the collection that interested members in the group and thinking about what would make an appealing event that we could market. We aimed to sell 150 tickets, and decided to price these at £4 per ticket.

Magical Soirée Takeover event © Pitt Rivers Museum

We planned that the event would involve specially designed light projections, an object trail that morphed into a tour, object handling, hands-on activities such as biscuit decorating and potion making, as well as face-painting. We divided up event planning roles, taking on different areas of responsibility such as production, marketing, collections research and activity planning. The group thought that Live Music was a key part of an appealing event, and one of the group asked the local four-piece band The Land Girls to play.

Live Music © Pitt Rivers Museum

The month before the event was hectic with everyone working hard to get everything ready. It was a big success162 people attended the event, including the Youth Panel from the Natural History Museum and Ashmolean Museum, as well as the National Gallery Young Producers.  The event generated an income of £553 which will be used towards the next Pitt YAT Takeover event.  

Object Handling © Pitt Rivers Museum

One visitor said: 'Thank you for a Marvellously Magical Soiree! There was magic everywhere:from the swirling constellations to the artefacts which seemed to feel the spirit and almost leap out of their glassed cabinets.  Thank you for sharing your energy, enthusiasm and knowledge with us and making the museum we love even more special!'

Attending the Takeover event © Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt YAT is supported by a Young Roots grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is run in partnership with OYAPTrust.  If you want to find out more or become involved in Pitt YAT then please contact Kelly Smith, the Secondary and Young People Education Officer (maternity).  Kelly can be contacted on

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Working with New York Street Artist Bradley Theodore

Late in 2017 acclaimed New York street artist Bradley Theodore spent two days at the Pitt Rivers Museum creating a new painting as a piece of free-to-view performance art which he then donated to the Museum. In my role as Education Officer it was a privilege to spend two days with Bradley, bering inspired and watching him inspire others.

Man kneels on floor to work on a apinting
The Artist at Work © Pitt Rivers Museum

Bradley standing in front of his Pitt Rivers art
Bradley Theodore © Pitt Rivers Museum

Bradley is a natural performer, even his trousers beame part of the art.

Bradley's trousers
Bradley's Trousers © Pitt Rivers Museum

The opportunity to work with cutting edge artists like Bradley is one of the things I love most about my job. This short film gives a flavour of the experience. I filmed it on my phone so the footage and sound isn’t the best, but it is short:

Carribean-born Theodore has his roots in street art and has produced murals in Oslo, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Los Angeles. His vibrant artwork frequently features mammoths of the fashion world or historic figures stripped back to skeletal figures and has become instantly recognisable thanks to his distinctive ‘Dia de los muertos style’ (Mexican Day of the Dead); Vogue’s International Editor Suzy Menkes describes his work as ‘Banksy meets Basquiat’. Thanks to a growing number of high-profile collectors and celebrity admirers, Theodore’s renown is on the rise.

Bradley Theodore talking to some student artists
Bradley explains his art © Pitt Rivers Museum

Bradley is a talker, and is passionate about his work. While painting he was happy to chat to the public and school groups. He spent an inspiring half an hour talking to some year 10 artists about how to balance colour and the importance of maths in art. I think it is a school trip they’ll remember for quite a while.

Bradley at work
Bradley at work © Pitt Rivers Museum

Bradley Theodore came to Oxford at the invitation of the Edgar Wind Society to paint and to talk about his life and art. A big thanks to Jemma and Geo for making this happen, and to Mike Peckett for taking much better photos than I did.

Photo of a wall with painted canvases and paintbrushes on the floor
The studio © Pitt Rivers Museum

He said that he was going to donate a picture to the museum: he ended up giving us four, all his paintbrushes, and his paint. I have been using the brushes and paint for a community arts project in East Oxford. Thanks Bradley.

The finished Bradley Theodore of the Pitt Rivers and the Museum of Natural History
The finished Bradley Theodore of the Pitt Rivers
and the Museum of Natural History © Pitt Rivers Museum

The modern artist is never far from some digital inspiration.

Bradley gains some inspiration from his phone
Bradley gains some inspiration from his phone
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Andy McLellan
Head of Education
Pitt Rivers Museum