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..."