Friday, 28 November 2014

Make and Take a Feather Headdress: Family Activities

The Pitt Rivers Museum has many beautiful objects and we took a closer look at these during this October half-term.  This was a joint event with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUM) who focused on 'Beasts', therefore making 'Beauty and the Beasts'!  Over 1,200 children attended the three-day event with their families and friends and we had a great time making feather headdresses, armlets and tooth necklaces. In the OUM they made beastly sloths and cock-eyed squids.

Have you ever thought about how people make themselves beautiful? Well in the Pitt Rivers Museum we have loads of examples of how people from all over the world and from the past have made themselves look beautiful. Our ideas about beauty are all culturally determined so it is difficult to explain ‘real’ beauty when a defect in one country is desirable in another. Different cultures view beauty in so many different ways so beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  How do you make yourself beautiful?...

South American Feather Headdress PRM 1886.1.907 © Pitt Rivers Museum

During October half term we made beautiful headdresses based on examples from the museums collection. Here is an example of a South American feather headdress that is on display in the museum, it is made from the brightly coloured feathers of a Macaw bird and Green Parrot.

Make and Take Feather Headdress © Pitt Rivers Museum
We made feather headdresses using paper feathers like the ones below. Would you like to make one at home? Here are a few steps to follow to make your very own! Firstly make a headband by cutting out a strip of card and measure it around your head to make sure it fits. Glue on the feathers to the inside of the band. Then wrap the band around your head, again measuring to fit, and then staple it together. Now it’s ready to wear!

Feathers to Cut Out © Pitt Rivers Museum

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