Friday, 17 April 2015

Wow!How? - a fun family science fair


For the last eleven years the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History have organised Wow!How? This is a fun family science fair attracting between 3000 to 4000 visitors where all the activities are created and run by volunteers.

Here is a volunteer, Phillip Anderson, to tell us about what he got up to this year.

"This year I led the "good Vibrations" stall at the annual Wow!How? event.  Although I have helped out quite a bit with science demonstrations in the past, this was my first year participating in Wow!How? and since my background is in vibrations and acoustics this particular topic was a natural fit.
Phillip (left) leading the Good Vibrations Stall © Pitt Rivers Museum
My goal was to have some interactive activities for visualizing and learning about vibrations and waves, particularly sound waves, that were not too complicated and also appropriate for a wide age range. This turned out to be an ambitious goal, and on the day of the event we had five different activities operating throughout the day. A few were quite simple and hands-on, such as making straw oboes, or exploring waves with slinkies. The others were a bit more technical.

The most popular activity was a sound visualization station where visitors could speak, sing, snap, or scream into a microphone and see the differences in waveforms displayed live on a screen. We had two versions, one of which used a telephone handset connected to an old analog oscilloscope, the other with a microphone and projector for a true karaoke feel. In addition to using their voices, visitors could visualize the sound from a variety of musical instruments from the Pitt Rivers and the Bate Collection that were on hand.

Using the telephone handset at the sound visualisation station © Pitt Rivers Museum
Joy Todd using the sound visualisation station © Pitt Rivers Museum
My favorite activity was using a variable-speed strobe light to create the illusion of slow motion with vibrating objects such as a tuning fork. This video shows the effect with a vibrating string very well. The effect is visually stunning and is a great way to demonstrate motion that is normally too fast for the human eye.


I had a lot of fun putting together the 'Good Vibrations' stall this year, but a lot of credit is due to all the folks who helped me pull these activities together. The Oxford University Impact Engineering Lab, First Light Fusion, Ltd., the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Bate Collection generously loaned most of the necessary equipment. And of course, this would not have been so successful without a team of excellent, highly motivated volunteers!"







Wednesday, 25 March 2015

New primary school session: Light and Colour


'Light and Colour', a new science-based primary school session, has been launched at the Pitt Rivers Museum.  The 90 minute  session ties in with the topic of Light as featured in the Science KS2 Programme of Study, and also links to the Art Curriculum.  The session has been designed over the last year in consultation with primary school teachers and with the support of Maya Herbolzheimer, the Activities and Outreach officer for the HLF-funded VERVE: Need Make Use project.

During the session pupils will:

- appreciate how humans need and create light and warmth
- understand how shadows are formed
- find out how colour is created
- be introduced to ideas of problem solving, and design and technology solutions

Glasses showing how light is made from many colours © Pitt Rivers Museum
In the opening discussion pupils are posed with questions such as: Why do we need light?  Where do we get light from?  What happens when we block light?  How have humans used colour?  After evaluating the session with West Oxford Primary School we acted on recommendations to improve scientific understanding of the relationship between light and colour.  We wanted a physical demonstration of how white light is made up of a range of colours and with the help of the University of Oxford Physics Department we tracked down special glasses which demonstrate this.

Pupils then rotate around 3 hands-on activities which explore different aspects of Light and Colour: How do we create light?  How do we create shadows? and How do we get colour? The principle behind all of the sections is to link scientific understanding to the Museum collections.  In How do we create light? pupils explore how fire was first created, handling flints and experimenting with bow-drills.  Having understood how a flame is created, they then explore lamp design from basic Roman snail shells to more elaborate Japanese parrot fish lanterns.

Education Guides learn how to use a bow-drill © Pitt Rivers Museum


Education Guides get their hands on a bow-drill! © Pitt Rivers Museum

Javanese shadow puppets are used to explore the section How do we create shadows?  Pupils are invited to take a particularly hands-on approach as they experiment with a range of materials to see whether they are transparent, opaque or translucent.

In the section How do we get colour? pupils consider how the iconic Haida totem pole acquired its colours.  They discover how to make paint from grinding up the pigment red ochre to mixing it with a glue so it stays painted on.  The Haida people used chewed salmon eggs as the glue but since this a little fishy for Museum-keeping pupils find out about other binders that can be used.  A matching game then helps pupils learn about what else has been used from the natural world to make colours.  They can get their hands on cochineal beetles, murex sea snails, madder roots and saffron flower stamens.
  
Grinding red ochre © Pitt Rivers Museum
Matching colours to source materials © Pitt Rivers Museum


'Light and Colour' is described as 'an amazing workshop' by the Year 4 teacher, Julia Christie, who piloted the session with her class from West Oxford.  She thinks:

"the real strength of the workshop is the provision of the wealth of real resources and artefacts which are so stimulating for the kids to see and the underpinning unifying scientific theme of light and shadows/ and colour...  and the organic materials from which these are made..."  

You can find out more about their trip in their school blog here.

So why not come and try our new hands-on Light and Colour session at the Pitt Rivers Museum or recommend it to any Key Stage 2 teachers/pupils you know!?  Tell us what you think of it!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Home Sweet Tipi

On display in the Pitt Rivers Museum you can find examples of various models of shelters that people have built during different time periods and in different cultures.  These example shelters were designed for different environments around the world: cold, hot and wet. If you look in the cases you will find a model igloo, a rainforest house on stilts, and also tipis. 


Model of Siberian bark tent used in summer,
Czaplicka collection © Pitt Rivers Museum 
This February half term we ran an event called Home Sweet Habitat and for this we looked at shelters and how people build them to protect themselves from the weather and other dangers in their environment. During the three-day event we made igloos and tipis and families could also play the Den Busters board game; a game in which you collect all the materials you need to build your shelter to win.


We have great examples of tipis in our collection that you can see on display in the Building and Housing cases. Tipis are a tent-like shelter that were mostly used by Native Americans in the past. Native Americans living on plains needed to move around a lot so they built portable homes called tipis. They moved so much because they hunted buffalo that roamed around looking for fresh grass to eat. They used the buffalo for meat and made shelter covers from their skins. The tipis in the museum have different covers including one made from reindeer skin. 

Model of Siberian reindeer skin tent,
Czaplicka collection © Pitt Rivers Museum 
Model of Laplanders tent 1884.1.3 © Pitt Rivers Museum





















The examples in the photographs are from colder environments such as Siberia and Lapland. You can see that different materials have been used for colder and hotter times in the year, for example, reindeer skin for the winter and bark for the summer. 


Find instructions on how to make your very own mini tipi at home here
 







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!