Saturday, 28 January 2017

Meet Me at the Museum - Around the World in Our Treasures

Over the past year I have been working with wonderful older people from across Oxfordshire, welcoming them in to the Pitt Rivers as part of the Meet Me at the Museum programme.

Meet Me at the Museum is an opportunity for older people and those living with Dementia to bring their curiosity and their continued thirst for learning to the Pitt Rivers. Every first Monday of the month we have been spending two hours together touring the galleries and handling objects that tell the story of the museum and bring to life the cultures behind the objects.

Photo of an African mask which was handled during the session
Object Handling, Meet Me at the Museum © CDAN 

Our first season of MMAM at the museum was in partnership with Creative Dementia and Arts Network (CDAN) Flourish funded artist, Charlie Henry. In collaboration with Charlie we shared our own special stories and objects, which culminated in Around the World in Our Treasures. This co-produced exhibition showcased our spoken memories and personal objects through a wonderful set of stop-animations that brought the objects to life.

Two people standing in front of a case which has the Treasures Exhibition inside it
Around the World in Our Treasures ©Pitt Rivers Museum

One of the most important aspects of this programme was that everyone in the group - carers, older people, people living with Dementia, volunteers and staff -  shared their object stories. This created an equality of purpose. Having had experience as a carer for someone living with Dementia, carers are not always actively engaged in the activities provided. Meet Me at the Museum is an opportunity to see the person you care for as having the ability to take part, contribute and to learn. Most importantly, it is also an opportunity to socialise with others living similar lives and to go away having learnt and contributed something yourself. MMAM has further highlighted to me the importance of ensuring that museums continue to develop opportunities for vulnerable older people to participate and make meaningful contributions to our museum activity. 

Two people looking into a museum case of objects
Touring the Museum  ©CDAN

This month we have widened the group further to include older people who would probably not think of themselves as vulnerable. This has changed the dynamic again – creating more active discussion and empowering some of our vulnerable members to participate with confidence.  We are currently looking at life stages and the rituals and ceremonies that we use to mark these. So far, we have covered birth, childhood to adulthood, and marriage, so we have heard lots of good stories!

If you are interested in finding out more about this group or in joining in then please contact me - Beth - on 01865 613004. Our sessions run every 1st Monday of the Month.

Beth McDougall
VERVE Activities Officer

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The art of sound and light at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Hopes and Fears from Pitt Rivers Museum on Vimeo.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is a great place to work if you enjoy rubbing shoulders with a vast range of creative people.  As an educator at the museum for quite a long time I have worked on some amazing and inspiring projects, but none simpler and more effective than working with sound and light artists Luxmuralis, and the whole project had a turnaround of six weeks.

Pitt Rivers labels as projections

I was approached by Fusion Arts in East Oxford and they suggested that they could apply for Arts Council funding for artists to project onto the front of Oxford’s Museum of Natural History. At that point I didn’t realize quite how extensive their projections would be, but if you watch their short film you will get a pretty good idea. The forty minute long film was looped for the evening and the projections ran at the same time as one of our late night openings, Hopes and Fears.

Textile projection on the museum

1,400 people attended the event to experience talks, debates and live music in the museum while Luxmuralis did their magic on the outside of the building, mixing museum images, film and field recordings into an explosion of sound and light. The following week they took the film around town as a series of ‘guerilla’ projections.

Wilfred Thesiger as a projection on the museum

Andy McLellan
Head of Education

Monday, 12 December 2016

Arctic Explorer visits the Pitt Rivers Museum

For our monthly Pitt Stop activities for families we invited along an artist who has just come back from a trip around the Arctic. This special Arctic Explorer is artist Jennifer Crouch who has spent the last couple of months travelling around the Arctic on a ship. Her trip was part of The Arctic Circle who run an expeditionary residency program for artists and scientists. The project that Jennifer was involved with is called Making in Transit and there are a number of events going on. She came to the Museum to share her experience of her visit and what she did during her time there.

One of the things that inspired Jennifer to go on the trip in the first place was seeing some Inuit carved maps that were carved from ivory. During her trip Jennifer carved some of her own maps of the places she visited, primarily Svalbard (Norway).

Families around a table looking at carved wooden maps
Jennifer showing families her carved wooden maps © Pitt Rivers Museum

For the workshop at the Pitt Rivers, Jennifer brought along a making activity where families could carve maps into sandstone. Sandstone is quite a soft stone so you can slowly carve it with clay tools, and it has a really smooth texture which makes the carving very therapeutic. Jennifer explained to families how she carved her maps whilst in the Arctic, pointing out how she would have to pick up all the wood shavings from the floor otherwise they would pollute the landscape. The reason for this being that the Arctic is so cold so things take hundreds of years to rot down. Families had great fun carving their own maps of Svalbard looking at maps that Jennifer had on display.

Carly Smith-Huggins
Families Education Officer

Man and two small children sat at table carving onto soapstone over trays
Families carving soapstone maps © Pitt Rivers Museum

Adult and child sat at table carving soapstone over trays
Families carving  soapstone maps © Pitt Rivers Museum

People carving stones over trays
Families carving soapstone maps © Pitt Rivers Museum

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Extraordinary Eyes!

During Autumn half term we ran a family event all about eyeballs! The event was run jointly with the Museum of Natural History and focused on people and animals and how they view the world through their eyes. Around 900 children took part in the activities over the three days and people enjoyed learning all about the amazing things that eyes can do.

A pair of 3d glasses on the top lefthand corner and a photograph of some people
3D glasses and one of Robert Hottot's photographs
 1994.62.54.2 © Pitt Rivers Museum
In the Pitt Rivers, one of the activities that families could take part in was making their own 3D glasses. This was inspired by one of our photographic collections, showcasing the work of French explorer Robert Hottot. Hottot travelled to various places in the world, including Africa, which he visited three times. One of these trips was to the Congo and the Museum now hold Hottot's collection of stereographic images from this trip. For the duration of his visit in the Congo, Hottot documented the journey through many stereographic images. These photographs can be viewed through a stereoscope and consist of two photographs that when viewed through the stereoscope make a 3D image. The photographs give a sense of Hottot and his desire to relive his memories, bringing them to life again through these photographs. During the event families could also look at a collection of photographs that were not from the Hottot collection through a real stereoscope to get the sense of what it was like to view these photographs with the original tool.

The Museum has transformed these photographs into 3D images. If you would like to view these photographs in 3D you can find them here:

Don't forget to wear your 3D glasses!

Carly Smith-Huggins
Families Education Officer

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Hands-on experience of museum learning for trainee primary teachers at Oxford Brookes!

We were lucky enough to have four trainee primary school teachers from Oxford Brookes placed in the Education team as they completed a module on learning beyond the classroom.  What better place to come than the Pitt Rivers, a place crammed full of objects and offering so many hands-on primary school sessions.  Here they give an account of their week at the Pitt Rivers:

"As part of our teacher training at Oxford Brookes University, we have spent some time working alongside the staff at the Pitt Rivers Museum.  We gained an insight into how the education department have been providing an engaging learning experience outside the classroom.  During this time we had the opportunity to observe and participate in some of the workshops they have on offer to schools, including hands-on investigation activities and an artefact treasure hunt!

One young woman holds up a leather cooking pot and the other holds up an axe
Wielding cooking pots and axes! © Pitt Rivers Museum

We observed both primary schools and home-schooled groups in a great workshop called Stone Age to Iron Age. We explored objects from the Stone Age, Bronze Age and the Iron Age, and had to think which object belonged to which time period. This session was fun and engaging, as it gave children a chance to handle the objects and really explore them to determine their purpose. Having the ability to interact with these objects maintained the children’s interest and encouraged them to use clear, considered reasoning to decide what the objects could be. Both we and the children learnt so much in these sessions.

We also had the chance to observe a guided tour of the museum relating to a particular theme. The children were immediately enthralled by the tour and benefited greatly from knowledgeable guides who were well practised in presenting the information in an interesting way. The guides were also able to answer questions posed to them by the children and involve the teachers in their tasks. Everyone involved in the tour, ourselves included, enjoyed learning new things about some of the objects which are on display. 

Exploring the Pitt Rivers © Pitt Rivers Museum

We fully enjoyed our time at the Pitt Rivers Museum and are grateful to the friendly and knowledgeable staff for allowing us an insight into what they do. We would definitely recommend that teachers look at what the Museum has to offer and take advantage of the opportunities available to them. There is much for children to learn from a trip to this Museum and, perhaps most importantly, they will certainly enjoy it!" 

-Darren, Sammy, Clare and Julia, trainee teachers at Oxford Brookes University. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Pitt Youth Action Team launches!

We have just launched the Pitt Youth Action Team, in partnership with OYAP Trust!

We had our first meeting last Saturday. A group of young people came along to find out more about getting involved in the new initiative, as well as to try some creative activities. First of all we each made badges using our snazzy badge maker. Then we roamed the museum with an assortment of props, some picture frames and cameras to take a series of mask portraits with attitude:

A framed portrait of young person standing next to a Pitt Rivers Museum case wearing a mask from Java and a hat from China
Mask portrait with a Javanese dance mask and Chinese hat
(photograph © Pitt Rivers Museum)
Young person standing next to Pitt Rivers Museum case wearing the V for Vendetta mask made famous in the Occupy protests
Mask portrait with V for Vendetta mask (made famous in the
Occupy protests) © Pitt Rivers Museum
Photograph of young person in a frame wearing a star wars mask and standing in front of a museum case.
Mask portrait with Boba Fett mask (a Star Wars character)
© Pitt Rivers Museum
We used a 'green screen' app called Veescope Live. Using this we made films of ourselves exploring the museum in a whole new way. We also did some animating using the Stop-Motion app for i-pads. It's a great, simple app that lets you get creative and tell stories using objects. The young people selected objects from the Education Handling Collection to create some mini tales of the unexpected:
Photograph of a group of young people making an animation using Javanese shadow puppets
Making an animation using Javanese shadow puppets
© Pitt Rivers Museum
A group of young people watching the animations they have made on an i-Pad
Watching the animations on the i-Pad © Pitt Rivers Museum
It was great to meet the young people who came. They had a range of interests and skills, from film-making and photography to drama and script-writing. We are looking forward to the next meeting when we will start planning some creative projects and events for other young people.

We are keen to hear from other young people who would like to join. You need to be aged 14-19 and want to get involved with a group that meets once a month on a Saturday morning at the museum to plan events, do creative projects and go behind the scenes at the museum.

Please email me to let me know if you're interested: and put the date of the next meeting in your calendar: Saturday 19 November 11am-1pm.
This new initiative for young people is part of the Pitt Rivers Museum Global Heritage project, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots grant. 

Heritage Lottery Fund logo
Katherine Rose
Education Officer : Secondary and FE
Pitt Rivers Museum 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Pitt Rivers Team at the Oxford University Museums Staff Conference

The Pitt Rivers had a strong presence at the Oxford University Museum Staff Conference, held on Monday 26th September in the Ashmolean's Lecture Theatre.  The Conference allowed colleagues to share their work through a series of 5-8 minute 'lightning talks'.

It was great to see the public engagement work of the Pitt Rivers represented by Beth McDougall, VERVE Activities and Outreach Officer, and Madeleine Ding, VERVE Volunteers Officer.  They talked about how the HLF-funded project VERVE has enabled them to better connect the public with displays in the Pitt Rivers Museum:

Group of adults gathered around a curator talking in the middle of the Museum
Visitors in the Museum © Pitt Rivers Museum

Group of people sit round listening to adult speaking in centre of Museum
Public Engagement © Pitt Rivers Museum

Object displays in the Pitt Rivers - 823 Objects conserved and redisplayed, 13 new displays completed, 10 archaeology displays in progress
Rejuvenating Collections and Display  © Pitt Rivers Museum

Photo montage of Pitt Rivers Festival Tents and visitors - 10183 people met at 29 outreach events
Outreach Activities © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pictures of workshops from boatbuilding to mending ceramics kintsugi style
From boat-building to kintsugi workshops © Pitt Rivers Museum

One of the successful VERVE Takeover Events was described further in the lightning talk on 'Joint Museums Youth Forum Project'.  This was a sell-out evening event on Mythology by Moonlight organised by Matthew Arnold students with the support of the Secondary School and FE Education Officer, Katherine Rose.

Poster entitled 'Mythology by Moonlight' with picture of a moon and a raven
Poster Advertising Youth Takeover Event
© Pitt Rivers Museum

The Conference ended with a director-led panel discussion in which future strategy was touched on. Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of The Ashmolean, stressed the importance of the University Collections working closely together and communicating to their audiences that they are part of the University of Oxford's mind-blowing collections.

Four people sitting down in discussion
Lucy Shaw(left) leads a discussion with Directors © Pitt Rivers Museum
It was great to see so much energy and enthusiasm emanating from the conference and there are lots of new initiatives to look out for from a LGBT trail across the University Collections to a mobile app on which you can play musical instruments at The Bate Collection.

Becca McVean
Education Officer (Primary)