Monday, 16 February 2015

Pitt Rivers Museum inspires Rycotewood Furniture Centre and Langtree School students

The Pitt Rivers Museum  has inspired a new exhibition by emerging furniture design talent. From 29 January to 15 March you can enjoy the new case display of work on the Lower Gallery by second-year Foundation Degree students at Rycotewood Furniture Centre  at City of Oxford College.

  Foundation degree students from Rycotewood Furniture Centre © Pitt Rivers Museum
The rather intriguing title of the exhibit is 'Containing…', a theme that encourages us to consider not just the everyday importantce of useful containers, for food or possessions, but also the containment of more transient commodities such as light, or emotions. The students’ work is inspired by artefacts or functional ‘types’ of objects that caught their imagination when visiting the galleries.  The students have used a range of materials in their work, including concrete, metal, leather  and reclaimed timber, which requires the development of a variety of new processes and skills.
'Containing...' display in the lower gallery © Pitt Rivers Museum

This exhibition is the third in a series of displays showcasing the work of Rycotewood students at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Rycotewood is a renowned Furniture Centre, located at the City of Oxford College, which teaches the principles and practice of handcrafted furniture making.  Its emphasis on design, innovation and the mastery of practical skills and understanding of materials make it a perfect partner for the Need Make Use project here at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Need Make Use is a Heritage Lottery Funded project which, through a series of collections-based public events, workshops and displays, encourages visitors to appreciate the ways in which human creativity and ingenuity has driven developments in design, craftsmanship and technologies.   

second display, in a nearby case, shows work produced by Year 10 Product Design students from Langtree School in Woodcote, Berkshire. Led by jewellery designer-maker Kate Coker, students were taught repousse and chasing metalwork techniques in their D&T classroom at school, using their facilities. They created copper amulets inspired by the votive offerings and amulets on display.

Heating copper at Langtree School © PRM
Learning repousse metalwork techniques 
 Amazing Amulets display © Pitt Rivers Museum

 Copper Amulet by Robyn Sedwell © PRM

You can visit their delightful display from 15 January until 8 March on the Lower Gallery of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Monday, 9 February 2015

A Flag for the Unspoken: Art performance and workshop by Nathalie Bikoro at the Pitt Rivers

Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, a leading international artist from Gabon, was invited to create a performance in the Pitt Rivers Museum as part of the adult education programme and Black History Month

Nathalie Bikiro at the Pitt Rivers Museum © Pitt Rivers Museum.  Taken by Jon Eccles.
The idea behind this event was to create a space in the Museum for a Non-Western and African contemporary artist to respond to the collections in relation to the theme of ‘Black Histories', to create new ‘narratives’ and bring Pitt Rivers Museum African collections into a contemporary art discourse on postcolonialism, diaspora, migration, creolised identity, heritage, memory and homeland.

Nathalie’s performance, ‘Les Statues Meurent Aussi II' (Statues Also Die II - after Alain Resnais and Chris Marker) engaged with the history of the Pitt Rivers Museum and referenced the 1953 film Les Statues Meurent Aussi that featured a number of African masks and sculptures from General Pitt-Rivers’ private collection.
Flag for the Unspoken © Pitt Rivers Museum.  Taken by Jon Eccles.

For a description of the performance please read the article 'A Flag for the Unspoken: Nathalie Bikiro at the Pitt Rivers Museum - Yvette Gresle' in Numéro Cinq, an international online literary and art journal.

Following the performance, Nathalie ran an afternoon workshop with tutor Rachel Payne and her students from Oxford Brookes University Artist Teacher Scheme. Nathalie worked with students to engage with objects in Pitt Rivers Museum collections to construct their own narratives, and to combine responses to objects with personal stories and images from newspapers and magazines.
In this workshop and performance Nathalie is asking us to question supposed ‘fixed’ narratives, perhaps those of the Museum itself, or colonial history, to think for ourselves and hear ‘other’ voices speak in the Museum.

Flag for the Unspoken © Pitt Rivers Museum.  Taken by Jon Eccles.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Music Transition Project Completes its Fifth Year!

Music Education Officer, Isabelle Carré, tells us about the Music Transition Project run by Hands-on-Music in Museums:

We have just completed our fifth Music Transition Project for Headington Partnership schools. 

What is it?
A hands-on music project involving pupils moving from primary to secondary school.

Creating our own piece on instruments from the Pitt Rivers © Pitt Rivers Museum 

Part 1: Primary  (Summer 2014)
Seven classes of 11 year olds across four primary schools (Bayards Hill, Windmill, Wood Farm and St Andrew’s) participated in the first phase at the end of the summer. Creative sessions in which they composed their own pieces in small groups were followed by a half day African music workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

African Music at the Pitt Rivers Museum © Pitt Rivers Museum 
Playing the giant Ugandan xylophone © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pupils from St Andrew's C of E Primary School wrote blogs about their visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum exploring the African collections and playing traditional music from Busoga on a giant Ugandan xylophone:

Giant Xylophone Keys © Pitt Rivers Museum
“Yo Peeps wad up again! Today I played one of the biggest xylophones in THE WORLD. It was well xylophoney. (New Word!) It was amazing. Also I did a trail around the museum where we had to find different African objects. I also learnt a song which was about trying to impress a woman.” 

Exploring the Pitt Rivers © Pitt Rivers Museum

“Hello! Today’s museum trip was EPIC! We did a trail hunt where we had to find objects around the Pitt Rivers. The giant xylophone was awesome - as big as a rhino. The piece that we played on it sounded really cool. I did the mixer part, which was epic!”

“Today was totally cool. Our class went to the Pitt Rivers Museum for an amazing morning. My group learnt to play a massive Ugandan xylophone (the size of a car!) There was a song that went with the tune ‘Bojo abwoli webale, Bojo webale abwoli’. The words meant ‘Thank you my friend’ and was a traditional Ugandan love song. Yuk!”

“Yo! Gr8 time at the museum on Tues. We did a trail and found objects related to status. Giant xylophone big as an elephant. We played a song originally meant to impress a woman. OOhhhhhhhh!”

Part 2 – Secondary  (Autumn 2014)
As those pupils moved to secondary school in the autumn all 270 pupils in Year 7 at Cheney School learnt to play a traditional piece on Javanese gamelan (a bronze percussion orchestra from Indonesia).
Year 7 pupils from Cheney School wrote about their experience:

“In music we learned how to play the Javanese Gamelan which I enjoyed very much. I learned how a single instrument can direct an orchestra of many instruments. As I never heard of the Gamelan before, I was very nervous and anxious if I could do it but thanks to Isabelle my instructor, I learnt everything very quickly. The first time I met her, I was in primary school so it was nice to have a familiar face around. If anyone asked me to try again I would definitely do it.”

Gamelan with Year 7 at Cheney School © Pitt Rivers Museum
“I found learning to play the Gamelan instruments really fun and educational. Not only did we learn to play some music we also learned about Indonesian culture. I like how our instructor made everything more fun and interesting. I really liked learning and playing Gamelan Music.”

“The Gamelan contains lots of amazing instruments and is really fun to play. It’s quite different from normal instruments. Different in a good way – it’s high and low music all at once. It has a good beat and it’s interesting. You are always involved and active.”

Why do a Transition Project?
·      The transition from primary to secondary school is a sensitive time for many children when they can experience a lack of continuity and a loss of self-confidence. A Transition Project aims to help bridge that gap, increase their confidence and give them a positive start at secondary school.

Why a Hands-on Music Project?
·      As this is also a time when some children give up their regular musical activities, one aim was to engage them in a fun, practical project to boost their enthusiasm and enjoyment in making music.
·      All learning in this project was by ear or by contact with instruments (not by written notation), so encouraging and valuing skills other than those they typically use in most classroom situations.
·      Sessions encouraged teamwork. They aimed to build the pupils’ confidence in their creative and musical abilities as well as their ability to work as a group.

A view from Cheney Head of Music Emma Jordan:
“Students joining us in year 7 can often have very different experiences of music education, depending on the primary school they previously attended. This project goes a long way to helping them all feel equal at the start of their secondary music experience, and makes their transition from primary music so much smoother. It also helps them feel engaged with the subject here at Cheney from their very first lesson.
Students are excited to be working with Isabelle again, and with the gamelan orchestra. They get an insight into the music and culture of Indonesia, whilst at the same time developing their ensemble, listening and general musicianship skills.”

A last word from a Year 6 pupil at Windmill School:

"We learnt to work as a team, and I have learnt how to use inspiration during music.  You can play everything when you  use your mind."
Find out more about Hands-On Music in Museums 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Make and Take a Reindeer Hat: Family Activities

It's almost Christmas and at the Pitt Rivers Museum we are feeling festive.  This year we have had our Pitt Stop Have yourself a Shiny Little Christmas where families had the chance to make shiny Christmas coins using real metal sheets.  We also had our Under 5s Rockin' Reindeer event looking at all the reindeer related objects in the museum.

Ivory Model of Reindeer, Siberia 1884.1.6 © Pitt Rivers Museum 

The Pitt Rivers Museum has many objects associated with reindeer, either made from parts of reindeer or models of reindeer.  Our most well-known reindeer object is the reindeer milk cheese from Norway displayed on the Lower Gallery, which is over 100 years old! In the Court (ground floor), there is a carved ivory model of reindeer pulling a sled in the Ivory and Bone case, reindeer knickers from Siberia in the emporary exhibition My Siberian Year, 1914 -1915, plus clothing made from reindeer skin and fur. There'll also be a reindeer harness and an unusual Swedish reindeer-skin shoe appearing in the new Leatherwork display on the Lower Gallery very soon!

Reindeer Milk Cheese 1886.12.2 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Reindeer Knickers 1915.50.111 © Pitt Rivers Museum 
Reindeer Hat © Pitt Rivers Museum

One way to get festive this year is to make your own reindeer antlers. They are very easy and simple to make and can be created at home. Follow this link for instructions - How to Make a Reindeer Hat.

From all the Education and Learning staff at the Pitt Rivers Museum, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Make and Take a Feather Headdress: Family Activities

The Pitt Rivers Museum has many beautiful objects and we took a closer look at these during this October half-term.  This was a joint event with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUM) who focused on 'Beasts', therefore making 'Beauty and the Beasts'!  Over 1,200 children attended the three-day event with their families and friends and we had a great time making feather headdresses, armlets and tooth necklaces. In the OUM they made beastly sloths and cock-eyed squids.

Have you ever thought about how people make themselves beautiful? Well in the Pitt Rivers Museum we have loads of examples of how people from all over the world and from the past have made themselves look beautiful. Our ideas about beauty are all culturally determined so it is difficult to explain ‘real’ beauty when a defect in one country is desirable in another. Different cultures view beauty in so many different ways so beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  How do you make yourself beautiful?...

South American Feather Headdress PRM 1886.1.907 © Pitt Rivers Museum

During October half term we made beautiful headdresses based on examples from the museums collection. Here is an example of a South American feather headdress that is on display in the museum, it is made from the brightly coloured feathers of a Macaw bird and Green Parrot.

Make and Take Feather Headdress © Pitt Rivers Museum
We made feather headdresses using paper feathers like the ones below. Would you like to make one at home? Here are a few steps to follow to make your very own! Firstly make a headband by cutting out a strip of card and measure it around your head to make sure it fits. Glue on the feathers to the inside of the band. Then wrap the band around your head, again measuring to fit, and then staple it together. Now it’s ready to wear!

Feathers to Cut Out © Pitt Rivers Museum

Friday, 21 November 2014

Making Museums Project

Our Education Intern describes her involvement in our Clore Award for Museum Learning winning project Making Museums:

"It has been an incredible two months being part of the Making Museums project with both the Pitt Rivers and Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUM) education teams. My main aim from my traineeship was to be involved in more delivery of sessions - and I can safely say I have certainly achieved that with this project! As Making Museums is a partnership between both museums and eleven local schools in Blackbird Leys, Cowley, Littlemore, Rose Hill, Barton, Wood Farm and Headington, we taught almost 500 Year 6 students.
During the first month Aisling (the OUM Education Intern) and I were overseeing the delivery of sessions within the schools. Here the children discussed ‘what is a museum’ and what are the roles of people who work there. They also had an opportunity to explore real museum objects to discover what they were made of and what they were. They would use their senses to explore each object (but not taste!) and would ask questions to help further their discovery.
The next step was for the children to come to the museums and follow the journey of an object on its way through a museum.  Firstly the children would reflect on what they did when we came out to their school and would warm up their object investigation skills with a ‘what is it’ game. Here they would be presented with objects and would be given three options; they would need to decide on what the objects were by using their senses.
After a discussion about how we find objects in museums there was the big reveal that they would in fact be archaeologists for the day!  We then took the groups of very excited children to their own archaeological dig. It would be their job to dig carefully and as a team to discover what was underneath! 

The Dig! © Pitt Rivers Museum
This part would often be quite frantic, often stopping to remind the children to dig carefully. Once finished we discovered the skeleton of a human body and around it were some real museum objects. It was really interesting to hear how the children were already coming up with suggestions about who the person might be from their observations.
Mapping the Dig © Pitt Rivers Museum

The next step was to map the dig and then to document specific objects.  We explained how objects need to be recorded when received at a museum so we can see their condition and record any damage.  It was then time to go behind the scenes to see real museum professionals in their work environments.  Here they would learn the importance of conserving objects.
Researching Artefacts © Pitt Rivers Museum

Children then researched their chosen objects in the Museum.  Finally we gathered back to reconstruct the dig and hear what everyone had found out about their objects.  In this way a picture was built up of who this person might have been: Where did they come from?  What did they do for a living?  And how did they die? We had some very imaginative ideas.

Sweet Tasting at St Andrews© Pitt Rivers Museum
The final part of the project entailed the children going back to their schools and making their own museums.  We really enjoyed going to visit their class museums and seeing how they engaged their visitors.  One group had researched different sweets and you can see me here doing a blind taste tasting of their favourite sweets.  This was a very popular display!
I think I can say for both myself and Aisling that we have thoroughly enjoyed delivering the project and have a great sense of achievement from all we have done."  

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Contrasting Bodies: Art Workshop at the Pitt Rivers

The day long workshop 'Contrasting Bodies' was run this autumn by Salma Caller (Adult and Secondary School Art Education Officer at Pitt Rivers Museum) and Adrian Brooks (Joint Oxford University Museums Art Education Officer).

Contrasting Bodies Artwork © Pitt Rivers Museum
This workshop is organized once a year for sixth form art students to explore Western and Non-Western representations of the body using the Oxford University Museum Collections. Each year an artist is invited from a different cultural background to explore ideas about the body, identity, beauty, anatomy and proportion and how the body is represented in art.

This year artist and illustrator Anna Bhushan came to the Pitt Rivers to work with sixth form students from local Oxfordshire schools. Students worked collaboratively with Anna, exploring how the body is represented, protected, controlled, altered, ornamented and embellished across cultures.

Anna Bhushan graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2004. She now divides her time between London and New York. She also teaches at Cardiff Metropolitan University at the Cardiff School of Art & Design. Anna has won numerous illustration awards and has illustrated several Folio Society publications, including The Bhagavad Gita and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

Students explored the Pitt Rivers Museum looking for objects that represented the human body literally or metaphorically, searching for materials, forms and patterns that were used to alter the body in some way. Sketching, taking photos and notes, their visual research was then taken back to the workshop to be used in image making. Working with a limited palette of metallic colours of silver and bronze, black, yellow, red and white, we passed our templates round and round, back and forth, each person adding, taking away, altering and developing each one as it came to them.

Anna describes the process in the workshop:
 Each image began with a projection of a Persian anatomical drawing that was traced. We then responded to this ‘template’ working collaboratively and drawing into it, on top of it, around it. Sometimes this felt like an opening up of the body, other times as if we were clothing, decorating or altering it. Some of them were approached a bit like the consequences game (exquisite corpse) in which bizarre and unexpected characters emerge.

You can see some of these intriguing collaborative images here.

Contrasting Bodies Artwork © Pitt Rivers Museum
Contrasting Bodies Artwork © Pitt Rivers Museum

Salma Caller
Adults, Communities and Secondary School Education Officer