Thursday, 6 August 2015

Pop-up Pitt Rivers

The Pitt Rivers outreach programme is part of the Need / Make / Use project. Between 2013 and 2017 we are taking the Pitt-Rivers ‘experience’ to events, fetes and festivals in and around Oxfordshire. Our aim is to reach out to communities that may not have had the opportunity to visit the Museum, so they can engage with the collections in new ways through handling museum objects, craft activities and workshops.

So far in 2015 we’ve been lucky enough to attend Abingdon Fun in the Park in the Abbey Grounds and Florence Park Festival in June and Salisbury’s Festival of Archaeology in July.

Pitt Rivers pop-up tent at Abingdon's Fun in the Park in June © Pitt Rivers Museum

Inside our beautifully decorated tent we have a selection of intriguing museum handling objects on display from around the world to spark people’s curiosity and encourage conversation. The great thing about museum handling objects is that people can pick them up, feel the materials and even give them a sniff!

One of our favourite ‘smelling’ objects is this Kenyan milk gourd, made from a calabash (a type of vegetable), which has been cleaned and dried in the sun until it becomes hard and watertight. Its distinctive smell comes from a blend of milk, cows blood and ash, providing the local Maasai herdsmen with their staple food and all their protein and caloric needs in a convenient portable ‘lunchbox’. These gourds were treasured, mended when broken and used for many years.

Kenyan Maasai gourd from the education handling collection © Pitt Rivers Museum

As always our pop-up tent also features a selection of free family friendly craft activities relating to the museum’s collections and some of the handling objects on display. This summer we’ve had fun making porcupine fish helmets, fish scale breastplates, mini Zulu shields, feather headdresses, drum shakers and more!

 Porcupine fish helmet activity & replica porcupine
fish helmet from the education handling collection. © Pitt Rivers Museum

At Salisbury Festival of archaeology, emulating a fish-scale
breastplate from Sarawak © Pitt Rivers Museum
Children wearing their porcupine fish helmets, 
and pretending to be one! © Pitt Rivers Museum

This August, look out for our tent in Witney’s Marriotts Walk shopping centre (Wed 19th) and the next Oxfordshire Play Day event in Wallingford (Wednesday 12th)!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Make and Take a Carp Kite: Family Activities

We have many beautifully crafted kites that can be found on the first floor of the Pitt Rivers Museum. In our education handling collection we have one of my favourite types of kite, carp kites. 

Japanese Carp Kite from the Education handling collection © Pitt Rivers Museum

What I like most about the carp kite is not only how colourful and great they look blowing in the wind, but also the story of why they were created and how they are used in Japan.

Carp kites are traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate a yearly national holiday called Children’s Day (Kodomo Nohi). It used to be known as Boy’s day until 1948 when it was changed to make it a celebration of boys and girls. In 2015 Children’s day fell on 5th May and we celebrated in the museum by making carp kites with under 5s.

The tradition is that kites are hung outside the home to honour children, usually one for each child. The kites are based on Koi carp fish, which are known to swim upstream so they represent determination and strength. Parents fly these kites outside their home in the hope that their children will grow up to be brave, strong and dedicated like the carp. 

Handmade Carp Kite © Pitt Rivers Museum

Why not try making your own carp kite to fly inside or outside your home! Find instructions here. 

Carly Smith-Huggins, Family Education Officer 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

CPD Event for Primary School Teachers: From Stone Age to Iron Age

Calling all Oxford primary teachers! Have you been asked to teach Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age for the first time and don't know where to start? Or even if you gave it a go last year but want some ideas to liven it up this year, then Kim Biddulph of Schools Prehistory is running an afternoon workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum on 22nd September from 1.00 - 4.30 pm.

Getting to grips with a Neolithic Axe during a training day
© Schools Prehistory

Kim has been a museum educator for fifteen years, and has worked in schools, museums and heritage sites. Her specialism is in the prehistory of Britain so she will run through a timeline and an overview of the major changes that happened during this period, to help you think about planning a block of work as well as bring in lots of handling objects to help you get the feel of the period. She'll get you to try out some activities that could help bring the topic to life in school, like making your own pigment or making replica Bronze Age axes out of chocolate. Kim has been working with us to develop a new workshop that will be available to book after October half-term, and you get to see a sneaky peek at all our fab resources.

For only £40 for the afternoon, with a free 2-metre timeline and booklet of information, resources and links thrown in for free, you can't afford to miss it!

Handling Palaeolithic handaxes at the Bucks County Museum © Schools Prehistory

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Phillip Pullman draws a crowd at Bookfeast

Philip Pullman was one of 23 authors to talk at the Bookfeast Festival, jointly hosted for the fifth year by the Pitt Rivers, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and The Ashmolean.  Over 1,968 children from 27 Oxfordshire primary schools participated in these author events, focussing on the festival theme of 'Once Upon a Place - Places, Spaces and Setting in Children's Stories'.

Philip Pullman signing books at Bookfeast © Pitt Rivers Museum

Top tips were given by Pullman to an audience of 300 pupils as to how to create a compelling setting. He explained how you have to help the reader see something in their mind's eye and how you can use details to make things stand out. When an illustrator came and made sketches in the Pitt Rivers Museum for his Dark Materials trilogy details picked up on were the roof brackets and joists. He encouraged pupils to understand how authors have to suggest things with words - if you read something how do you know where you are? - is it indoors? - what light is there? - is it a small or big room?

 Pullman talks about Pitt Rivers as an inspirational setting © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pupils were then given the opportunity to develop their own sensational settings in creative writing trails around the Museums, led by OUMC Education Officers. Key Stage 2 pupils explored a range of genres as they transformed the Museums into settings for a fantasy, action adventure, and spooky story. These ideas could be developed into a story setting for an opening paragraph and entered into the Bookfeast competition. Key Stage 1 pupils created picture book pages of adventures in a range of settings from underwater to the jungle.

A fantastic line-up of authors explained how they got inspiration for both their settings and characters.  Matt Brown, author of Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy in the Universe, explained how village names on road signs and maps give him inspiration for character names. Elen Caldecott, creator of The Marsh Road Mysteries: Diamonds and Daggers, explained how a specific London street well known to her inspired her setting and story.

Gary Northfield introduces Julius Zebra © Pitt Rivers Museum

Illustrators also gave tips on how to create evocative settings and characters.  Gary Northfield got pupils recreating Julius Zebra from the world of the Roman Colosseum.  Meanwhile Carnegie Winner Tanya Landman enchanted younger pupils with her Jetsam and Flotsam dolls.

Jetsam and Flotsam come to the Pitt Rivers! © Pitt Rivers Museum

Thank you to everyone who helped make this such a fantastic festival  - it was a great partnership project between the charity Bookfeast, authors and Museum staff as to how central places, spaces and settings are to successful creative writing.  Now watch out for the winning entries of the Bookfeast competition!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Craft Café: Crafts for Adults

Hi, I'm Aisling, a trainee education officer taking part in the HLF Skills for the Future programme across the Oxford University Museums and Collections.  On my final placement, which is here at the Pitt Rivers Museum, I have had the opportunity to devise and run an independent project of my choosing.

The project I chose to run was a series of 4 craft sessions for adults on Sundays at the museum called Craft Café. The idea for this developed when I noticed a lack of informal arts and craft sessions aimed at adults in Oxford. There are plenty of classes which teach a specific skill, for example painting, often as part of a course people have to sign up for. However I wanted to provide a more casual experience, a chance for visitors to relax and meet new people, and a place people could experiment and explore without the pressure of feeling like they have to be particularly skilled or experienced at art. 

The first craft I chose to run was printing, which we did by using a pencil to etch patterns into foam, then printing using lino rollers and printing ink.  This craft is great because using this simple printing method even people who do not feel very confident in their artistic skills can produce a really professional looking piece, as you can see in the pictures below. For the final session we recycled paper to make beads, which we then made into jewellery. The technique involves wrapping strips of paper around a wooden skewer, gluing them in place and then varnishing with a layer of sealer. Although simple to do this technique is very effective and everyone left with a great looking piece of jewellery.
Printing Fun at Craft Café © Pitt Rivers Museum

Printing at Craft Café © Pitt Rivers Museum

Printwork at Craft Café © Pitt Rivers Museum

In the next session we customised canvas bags using fabric paint and pens, beads and ribbon. It was brilliant to see the care and thought being put into the craft.  Corie, pictured below, made a bag for her part Galician, part Cypriot mother-in-law.  It featured Galician and Cypriot symbols along with depictions of the London and New York City skylines where she has lived.  Wow!

Customising Canvas Bags © Pitt Rivers Museum

In the third session we painted Easter eggs inspired by the beautiful traditional painted eggs on display in the museum. Visitors also got to try their hand at blowing out the inside of fresh eggs to just leave the hollow shell, like some of the eggs pictured here.

Painted Eggs PRM 1965.3.208 © Pitt Rivers Museum
For the final session we recycled paper to make beads, which we then made into jewellery. The technique involves wrapping strips of paper around a wooden skewer, gluing them in place and then varnishing with a layer of sealer. Although simple to do this technique is very effective and everyone left with a great looking piece of jewellery.
Making Paper Beads © Pitt Rivers Museum

Modelling Paper Bead Bracelets © Pitt Rivers Museum

Paper Bead Necklace © Pitt Rivers Museum

Recycled Paper Bead Jewellery © Pitt Rivers Museum

I loved running Craft Café and from our feedback it seems our guests enjoyed it too!

“Lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Thank you!”
“Loved the session! Very relaxed and great value with all the materials included. Really accessible. Would definitely come again."
“Fab. Relaxed. Enjoyable. Fun!”