Friday, 19 September 2014

BIG (British Interactive Group) Event

Here is the Volunteers and Outreach Officer, Caroline Cheeseman, to tell us what she got up to at the BIG event  this summer which was hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of the History of Science:
Between 23rd and 25th July, 183 science communicators from around the country gathered at the museums for the BIG Event 2014.  BIG (British Interactive Group) is a skills-sharing network full of lots of creative, energetic, enthusiastic people working to raise the profile of science, technology, engineering, and maths.
There was plenty of the hard science you might expect, but I wanted to present an alternative way of thinking about scientific understanding as part of the session, ‘Is there a Doctor in the House?’, so while other presenters talked about nasal speculums and penicillin, I talked about teaching the history of medicine using ‘non-medical’ objects.
A fertility doll, a food cover, and a fox… © Pitt Rivers Museum

Passing around an assortment of museum handling objects, including a kohl pot, a fertility doll, a food cover, various fossils and amulets, and a fox, I talked about everything from objects as alternative medical records to objects as protection against the Evil Eye. I was especially pleased with one of my slides, which showed two southern Italian amulets associated with the goddess Diana: one from the Pitt Rivers Museum and the other from the Museum of the History of Science, making the point very neatly that they can be understood in many different contexts!
With a picture of the slug on a thorn – one of my favourite objects in the Pitt Rivers – as inspiration, I finished by talking about sympathetic magic: challenging the audience to a guessing game. Once they got the hang of looking for ‘correspondence’ (the idea that the appearance of an object in some way resembles the cure or protection it is believed to offer), they were able to see how people might think that both a fossil ammonite, which looks a bit like a curled-up snake, and a Martynia seed amulet, which looks a bit like snake fangs, could be used against snake bites. As for the fox, well, you’ll just have to look up ‘Pulmones Vulpium’ to find out…!
The presentation was based on by a six-week Joint Museums Outreach project I did with a local Mind group in 2012.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Museum Discovery Day

Last month Salma and Maya trialled their new Need Make Use workshop for Museum Discovery Day with over 100 Year 8 pupils from Marlborough Schoolorganised into 3 groups.

Need Make Use Workshop © Pitt Rivers Museum

This new workshop aimed to get students thinking about human creativity and ingenuity, and how people design and make what they need from the materials they have around them. 

Object Handling Table © Pitt Rivers Museum
An introduction to the Pitt Rivers followed by discussion and object handling got the students thinking about what needs people have - from the basic need to survive to more complex things like art, culture, communication and identity. 

Students had to consider how to design and make an object so that it would do what it is meant to do. But they also had to think about how the design would be influenced by factors such as materials, environment and identity. Each scenario was created by students choosing an identity, an environment, and a need from three different pots. 

One group selected a chief from a mountainous region who needed to design a mask to use in a ritual that would help the community deal with a difficulty.  If this sounds like a really tall order, Marlborough School rose to the challenge in an ingenious way.  They decided that the problem the community had was making money so they designed a mask made out of goatskin and leaves marked with the symbols and colours of success - red, gold and money signs.  The students felt that this should be a bright cheerful mask used to round up the community to creative positive vibes, get people networking and talking about how to make life and business more prosperous, so they could sell more mountain goat products like cheese, milk and things made out of hide. 

Another group designed a fierce animal mask that a ten-year-old boy could use in the forest to help him prepare for his first hunting trip. They felt that masks help us transform ourselves, so the boy could pretend to be a fierce hunting animal and then feel brave and strong ready to join the men on the hunt. 

Annotated student design © Pitt Rivers Museum
Here is an example of a student design for a specific need, identity and environment.

Having fun and being imaginative and creative was the order of the day.  Well done Marlborough school for coming up with so many fantastic creative designs and standing up in front of everyone to explain them.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Goodbye Simone

We are very sad to say goodbye to our brilliant Family Education Officer, Simone Dogherty, who has left to become Family Learning Programme Manager at the Museum of London.  Her last day was Friday 12th July and as she also worked in the Education department at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, she totalled five celebratory leaving events.

Over lunch we quizzed her about some of her highlights and she said the project she was most proud of was Toys for Smiles.  This was a project done in collaboration with The United Nations Refugee Agency, Aviation Without Borders and the International Scouts and Guides Federation which encouraged local families to donate toys which were sent to a Syrian Refugee camp in Za'atri, Jordan.  The aim was to connect local and international children through the common medium of toys.  Over 2,200 toys were collected from local families and packed into 114 boxes which were sent to Za'atr.  

This moving short film shows some of the very toys packed by Simone and her colleagues being distributed to children:

We asked Simone what key skill her successor would have to have and she said strong arms to put all the tables up!  Diplomatically she also said that the best thing about the job were the people she worked with.  The nature of her post meant that she worked with a lot of volunteers and she was well known for giving them her favourite biscuit - a jammie dodger.  So of course one of her presents had to be a jammie dodger cushion! 
Simone and the Jammie Dodger Cushion © Pitt Rivers Museum

We wish Simone a fabulous time at the Museum of London but we are going to miss her good cheer, superwoman efficiency and creativity enormously.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Introducing the Outreach Team

The Museum regularly hosts workshops for lots of different audiences – adults, families, prospective students, and school groups – as a way of providing access to the collections through hands-on activities. Working with the Oxford University Museums and Collections Outreach Team, we deliver regular workshops for adults, families and children both in the museum and also based in the community around Oxford and Oxfordshire. The team, who comprise Susan Griffiths and Nicola Bird, aims to break down real or perceived barriers to visiting the University’s museums and collections by taking collections material out to groups all over the county. They also represent the University’s Museum of the History of Science, Ashmolean,  Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.  To find out more, visit the Outreach website or follow them on twitter @MuseumsOutreach

Susan Griffiths and Nicola Bird © Pitt Rivers Museum

Here is an example of an event the Outreach Team recently hosted in the Pitt Rivers Museum:
On the 21st June, a professional development day for Art Therapists was run at the Pitt Rivers Museum.   A full day’s programme was organised, looking at the work the Outreach Team does with community groups and how we engage people with objects.  The participants were also given a tour of the museums and a talk from the Pitt Rivers Education Service about how they use the collections to engage young people with art. 

We also discussed how the museums and the Outreach Service can help support them to use the museums and their collections to work with their clients.  The afternoon was then free for the artists to work on their own professional practice, using the museum as inspiration for their own artworks. 

Artwork inspired by Pitt Rivers collections © Martha Evans
Art Therapist Professional Development Day © Martha Evans
Poisson Beware © Martha Evans

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cowley Road Carnival

Here's our intern Hannah to report on the Cowley Road Carnival:

"We have just about recovered from our jam-packed day at the Cowley Road Carnival on Sunday 6th July! Our team consisted of the HLF Skills for the Future Trainees, the Pitt Rivers Head of Education, Andy McLellan, and the Museum of Oxford Education & Learning Officer, Carly Smith-Huggins.
Dream team of mask makers© Pitt Rivers Museum

To fit with the theme ‘Faces of Oxford’ we thought what better way to make this connection with our museum collections than mask making!  There was a wide range of templates to design your own mask, or your could decorate an existing design such as a mummy face to look just like the female mummy Meresamun at the Ashmolean, or you could even fashion a dinosaur face with matching feet for a stompingly good dinosaur at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

2.15pm selfie © Pitt Rivers Museum 
The sun shone all day as we busily helped over 200 visitors of all ages create their own masks. After the fantastic procession, we were ready for a wave of more customers looking for a fun craft.

As well as the making activity we also had a range of handling objects to further the faces theme and to widen the audiences knowledge of our collections, including: Javanese dance masks, a horse’s skull and fossilised dinosaur poo - a real hit with the young ones! 

Trying on Masks © Pitt Rivers Museum

Faces of Oxford © Pitt Rivers Museum 

Our visitors were also encouraged to use the carnival board painted by Charlotte Orr at the Pitt RiversMuseum. A brilliant way to get people to be ‘part of the collections!’  These are 'Faces of Oxford’ after all…

Overall it was a super successful day. I speak on behalf of the trainees when I say how pleased we were with how it went. We were satisfied with our decision to keep the craft simple so there was a fast turnaround with the masks made. A brilliant day, full of fun, crafty people in the surroundings of the bustling Cowley Road."

Littlemore Playday

Here's our Family Education Officer, Simone Dogherty, explaining what she got up to at Littlemore Playday in the rain!

"On the morning of Saturday 28th June, I could be found wheeling an exciting trolley full of exciting objects to Littlemore Recreation Ground for a fab day of outreach.

My job here at the Pitt Rivers is to arrange events and activities for families in the Museum. Therefore, I love the chance every now and then to get out and meet families where they may not necessarily expect to see museum objects!

We have an absolutely fantastic Outreach team –Susan Griffiths and Nicola Bird – who work across the Oxford University Museums and Collections and deliver fantastic sessions to a whole range of community and school groups. So it was on their behalf that I headed out to Littlemore Recreation ground to take part in one of the brilliant Oxfordshire Play Association’s Play Days.

Not long after I had set up the gazebo did the heavens open! Luckily for us, we still had a great number of determined families pop by and check out mystery objects from across the museums’ collections.

Simone shelters from the rain! ©Pitt Rivers Museum

From the Pitt Rivers we had brought a Kenyan Milk Bottle (great for all the senses!), a Chinese Tea Brick and a Tibetan Fire Striker. Add this to plenty of other objects from the Ashmolean, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Museum of the History of Science and the Botanic Garden and Arboretum as well, and we were a very popular stall indeed! Families enjoyed working out what the mystery objects could be, and working together as a team to come up with the answers. They could even take away some craft activities and colouring sheets, along with some information about our upcoming activities.

Despite the rain, it was a great way to spend the afternoon, meeting lots of families who will be sure to be museum experts when they visit the collections!"

Friday, 11 July 2014

Introducing our new intern

Here's our lovely new Education intern, Hannah Eastwood, who is keen to introduce herself...

"Hello all, I just want to explain what I will be up to in the next few months. I am one of six trainee museum education and outreach officers in the HLF Skills for the Future Project. During the traineeship each of us will spend four months in three of the the following museums and collections: Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Museum of the History of Science, Joint Museums Office, and the Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum.  This provides an opportunity to experience working with three diverse collections and with lots of different audiences.  My first placement is here at the Pitt Rivers Museum where I will be working for the next four months.

               Hannah prepares for the Cowley Road Carnival  © Pitt Rivers Museum

For the past year in my previous job, I supported the education team at the Ashmolean. In this role I was able to get a sound understanding of how an education department works to deliver educational programmes for all audiences. I supported the education officers and assisted with the bookings, finance, and general administration work. I applied for the HLF internship as I felt that I needed more experience of hands-on delivery and to be part of the creation of projects and resources. 

I hope the traineeship will help to give me the extra skills and experience needed to become a museum education officer and I am really looking forward to getting stuck in and being involved in the exciting projects at the Pitt Rivers." 

Hannah has only been with us for three weeks so far but she has already helped to run mask-making workshops at the Cowley Road Carnival, taught primary school children on their First Visit to the Museum and helped deliver an Under 5s workshop on Shadow Puppets.  We're loving having her as part of the team and look forward to sampling her infamous cake baking skills...