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


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Pitt Stop: Round, Round, Get Around

On the first Saturday of the month we run Pitt Stops at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Pitt Stops are afternoon drop-in family workshops that everyone is welcome to attend, and each month we explore a different theme linked to the collections. In October we looked at travel and transport with our exciting workshop, Round, Round, Get Around. One hundred children attended the workshop with their parents and carers between 1-4pm. They had a choice of making a car, a plane, or a boat. The car proved to be the most popular activity, and for this children could make a small model car that was powered by a balloon! It was a great activity that encouraged children to use lots of skills including thinking and planning as well as physical making and construction. When they had finished making their balloon-powered car they could then test it out on the racetrack that I had set up in the museum.

Racing balloon-powered cars! © Pitt Rivers Museum


Salama boat model! © Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum has lots of boats, which I discovered from running an under 5s event called Row, Row, Row Your Boat. One of the best boats is the Salama boat, which is used for fishing in shallow waters. The boat has an outrigger sticking out of the side which helps it to float as it does not have a keel underneath to steady it like many other boats.  Children also had the opportunity to make a model Salama boat to take home with them. One of the great things about the balcony location of the activity is that if you look above you there is a large Salama boat hanging from the ceiling, so children can see the real thing they are trying to replicate.


It is a good idea to have a contrast of modes of transport as it encourages children to think about the different ways in which people have travelled in the past, and how we ourselves travel today. They also have a chance to think about why people use these modes of transport in certain environments.


 Recycled aeroplane PRM 1998.9.7 © Pitt Rivers Museum
Children could also have a go at making a paper aeroplane model and they could pretend to fly on the Pitt Rivers Airline using the runway I set up in the museum. Children enjoyed creating the planes and seeing if they could make them fly.

This activity was fun and interactive and families enjoyed being able to design something based on the Museum's collections. The collections include a range of transport models made from metal cans and containers, like this aeroplane.


You can hear more about the aeroplane and how it was made in a refugee camp in Uganda, here:



I am looking forward to our next Pitt Stop on Saturday 6th December running between 1-4pm where we will be making shiny Christmas coins to get into the festive mood.  It is called Have yourself a shiny little Christmas and we will be discovering beautiful things made from metal.  Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Carly Smith-Huggins
Family Education Officer


Thursday, 30 October 2014

Pitt Fest 2014: Sunshine, music and craftiness in all its glory

Pitt Fest 2014 © Pitt Rivers Museum
Our second annual Pitt Rivers Museum festival – Pitt Fest – has been and gone, and what fun it was! The sun shone and over 3,000 people came on a September Saturday to make, handle, listen, watch dance, eat, drink and be inspired by a wide selection of stallholders and activities. The weather couldn’t have been better, with groups of people sitting all over the lawn in front of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Pitt Fest: Need / Make / Use describes the cycle of necessity, ideas, design, experimentation and production that has driven technological change and innovation in all cultures from the deep past to the present day - essentially, how people USE the things they have to MAKE the things they NEED. This year Pitt Fest was bigger and better than ever, with six different zones including the performance stage, a workshop zone, a family crafts village, a food corner, craft market and extra activities and tours inside the Museum!


Spinning Workshop © Pitt Rivers Museum

The Festival is a chance for people of all ages to get hands-on with some of their ideas about the collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Who made that object? What for? How and with what materials? Do we use something similar today? 





Carve a Carrot Recorder Workshop © Pitt Rivers Museum
The ‘Carve a Carrot recorder’ stand was especially popular, with over 80 carrot recorders being made in 2.5 hours. Children and parents were busy all afternoon making balloon-powered cars and boats, cord bracelets, drumming and henna tattoos, all run by our museum volunteers. Special thanks to our fabulous volunteers for delivering such great activities – we will do this again next year!


Lunas Dance © Pitt Rivers Museum
The stage hosted an array of music and performances for all tastes. Spoon workshop participants displayed their new skills whilst Sol Samba and the Oxford Ukeleles hosted some uplifting Carnival style music. The bell ringers were the ‘headliners’ of the event, having performed at ‘Britain’s got Talent’. For the first time we hosted a dance performance as part of the event - Lunas Dance put on a fantastic trio dance performance on the lawn.
Pitt Fest Trail © Pitt Rivers Museum
The inside of the Museum was equally busy with extra History and Highlights tours, Introductory Talks, Architecture Talks as well as a small lamp making activity on the Lower Gallery. The special Pitt Fest Trail kept people on their toes by challenging them to design a shield or finding ingeniously made objects such as a sieve made from a movie canister!

The Pitt Rivers worked with over 47 partners this year. New things were tried and tested to build on the successes of our first ever Need/Make/Use festival in 2013, and we were delighted with how the day unfolded. NMU Day is a FREE event and very much a collaborative effort, so we'd like to thank all the following who will be exhibiting, demonstrating, performing, providing refreshments or who have supported the event in some way.

Henna Tattoos © Pitt Rivers Museum



The date for next year’s Pitt Fest will be Saturday 5th September 2015 - we hope you will join us next year for another day of fun, creativity and discovery!

You can find more photos of the day’s highlights on our FacebookPage.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Our Art Education Officer

Hello - I’m Adrian and I am the art education officer across four of the Oxford University Museums, which include the Ashmolean, the Museum of the History of Science, the Pitt Rivers and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History Museum. I have been in post for the past six years and before that I was a Head of Art in a secondary school in Oxfordshire.

Adrian Brooks - Art Education Officer © Pitt Rivers Museum

My role is to support secondary and college art groups visiting the collections. In practice that means offering tailored introductions, running workshops for pupils, organising teacher INSET, preparing educational resources and generally keeping the museums high on the teachers’ agenda.
Last year we focused particularly on the use of digital sketchbooks as a means of collecting information during a museum visit. Fortunately we were able to secure funding from Arts Council England through their Major Partner Museum funding programme.  As a result we have been able to create an online learning package that includes a series of short films. 

Here is an article I co-authored with Helen Ward, Deputy Head of Education at the Ashmolean, reviewing the project. 



Styluses versus Pencils
The use of digital sketchbooks in museums and galleries

As Museum educators in Oxford we work with literally thousands of pupils every year who visit the collections of the Ashmolean (Oxford University Museums) to research their art themes.  Interestingly we also see hundreds of Asian pupils on group visits engaged in a similar task of research. One of the subtle differences between the two groups however is that the British pupils come armed with pencils, while the Asian pupils carry styluses.

This observation prompted a series of discussions with the local network of art teachers called Oxford Art Teach (OAT) and colleagues from the NSEAD in which we mapped the use of digital sketchbooks as a tool for research among secondary art departments. The results were a patchwork of answers shaped by financial constraints, the multiplicity of apps and a lack of technical confidence.

Working with the Ashmolean, and with support from Arts Council England through their Partner Museum Funding Programme we decided to make a series of online tutorial films. In partnership with The Marlborough Church of England School, their art staff and year 9 and 12 pupils, we featured 3 free apps; Pic Collage, Brushes3 and 123D Catch. The Oxford University Media Production Unit filmed in the galleries of the Museum and in the school sessions: 




You can watch more of the films here. The aim was to show how simple, effective and fun tablets are for gathering information. We found in every session the pupils were engaged with annotating, photographing, drawing, editing and searching the web to extend their research. We hoped the films would also provide the inspiration for teachers to start integrating these technologies into their future museum and gallery visits.  

On reflection of course there is no real battle between the Stylus and the Pencil. The pencil offers the potential for scale, immediacy and a personal signature that is unique. But in terms of quickly harvesting information in a museum or gallery, the digital sketchbook wins hands down. It can replicate media from watercolour to oil paint, capture, crop and store photos, annotate, draw with anything from charcoal to a 6H pencil, and then undo and start again in second.  Finally, the work can be sent home and arrive before the pupils have left the galleries.

Read more about the digital sketchbooks project.



Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Welcome Carly!

Our new Family Education Officer, Carly Smith-Huggins, joined us at the end of August and has already organised several events.  Here she is to tell us a bit more about herself and about how she got on with her first Under 5s event.  

Our new Family Education Officer! © Pitt Rivers Museum
"Hello, I have just joined the Pitt Rivers Education team as the Families Education Officer. I will be delivering all the family activities and workshops that happen in the museum including Pitt Stops and special sessions for under 5s. I am really excited about getting stuck in and creating activities and resources for all families to enjoy.

For the past 8 months I have been working as the Heritage Learning Assistant at the Museum of Oxford, which is based in the Town Hall. Whilst I was there I worked with families and schools, and adult community groups. I managed and delivered the family programme, delivering monthly family workshops about the stories of Oxford on a variety of topics from the Romans to the Tudors, as well as designing trails. I also worked with adult community groups to inspire them to produce artwork for an exhibition that is going to be opening this month in the Town Hall.


Before that I was a HLF Skills for the Future trainee working with the Oxford University Education departments to become a Museum Education Officer. I did three placements at the Ashmolean, Museum of the History of Science, and the Museum of Natural History.

I have been at the Pitt Rivers for four weeks now and have run three events so far; making masks, parrot fish lanterns, and sponge boats! This week I ran an event called Row, Row, Row your boat for under 5s. For this we made Sea Explorer Hats and Sponge Boats. I also took the children and their carers around the museum on a Row Boat Adventure Tour. On the tour we looked for boats in the museum finding out a bit more about a few of them. We could have spent all day looking for boats, as there are so many! We also spotted some hidden treasure under one of the museum cases… There was also a model of a Salama boat for children to play with and use their imaginations to pretend they were at sea.


Carly Rows out to Sea © Pitt Rivers Museum

I am really enjoying my new role at the Pitt Rivers Museum. I am looking forward to working with the Education team and discovering more about all the fascinating objects in the museum and handling collections. 

Look out for our next Under 5s event on Thursday 9th October 10.30-12.30, and 14.00-16.00 which is all about Animal Antics!  Come and see what animals you can track down in the Museum..." 







Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Bags and bags of fun

Here is our intern Hannah reporting on family backpack activities run every Tuesday over the summer between 2-4pm:


"Well what a busy summer it was handing out backpacks to the public! Lucky visitors had the chance to borrow a backpack and explore the collections in the Pitt Rivers and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Visitors would pick which collection they would like to explore and then take their bag around the Museum to discover many wonderful objects. In the Pitt Rivers the bags were based on our Egypt collection. You could dress up to look like the god Horus or even wrap each other up like our mummy!

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History either had a bag all about dinosaurs (always very popular!) or a bag to explore all things creepy crawly. But if you were going to be a true explorer you of course needed to take your very own explorer hat to complete the look!

Modelling Explorer Hats © Pitt Rivers Museum


My task was to make sure that all our bags came back, were checked and recorded so they could be sent off again. This was often a rather lively task and we would have a queue of visitors eager to get going to explore the Museum with a bag. We had to try our best to stay calm and go as quickly as possible. We worked out that over 50 bags went out each time!



Handing Out Backpacks© Pitt Rivers Museum 

 
It was really lovely to see so many happy faces taking their bags around the Museum and I think the parents really loved having an extra thing to help engage their children with the collections. We received great feedback about how wonderful it was for the children and that it was suitable for all ages- even for little ones that could just sit down calmly and have a play".