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...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


We recently hosted Bookfeast along with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Ashmolean.  This is the schools part of the Oxford Literary Festival where pupils come to listen to talks from children's authors and illustrators and then go on trails around the Museum to inspire creative writing.

Over 2,300 primary school children came to listen to a fantastic line-up of authors and illustrators.  Kristina Stephenson of Sir Charlie Stinky Socks  fame had her audience singing along as she told the story from a giant picture book with puppets.  Elsewhere, Liz Pichon, the creator of the popular Tom Gates brand, got her entire audience of 296 pupils practising their illustrating skills.  Her passion for drawing could even be seen on her shoes which she had decorated with Tom Gates characters - amazing what you can do with a pair of white shoes and a fabric pen!

Liz Pichon's shoes! ©Pitt Rivers Museum
Liz Pichon signs books ©Pitt Rivers Museum

Agent C explains the mission © Pitt Rivers Museum
Pupils were then invited to enter Spy Academy, discovering more about the spy genre as they explored the three museums.  They were met by Agents who briefed them on their mission.  Dr. NoFun wanted to ban all children from visiting museums.  He had left a secret message for his gang to find in the Museum which would help start his plan.  Pupils had to try and find this message first and crack the codes so the evil plans could be thwarted!

First our trainee spies had to look round the collections to find a suitable disguise and a nifty gadget.  There were some brilliant plans for how secret cameras could be hidden in the eyes of statues and how listening devices could be attached to bats since they fly so quietly.  Watch out MI6! If pupils wrote up their spying adventures in the Museum do remember to send them to us:

This is the fourth consecutive year we have hosted Bookfeast and thanks go to all our volunteers who donned their best hats and fake moustaches to become Secret Agents!  We had fun and I hope everyone else involved did too!