Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Family tour guide training: Summer holiday tours

This month we have been busy training up a group of Museum volunteers to become Family Tour Guides at the Museum. Five volunteers will be running a set of tours, designed especially for families, on Fridays during the summer holidays. This is a pilot project and we are hoping these summer tours are popular so that they continue as a regular weekend offer for families visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum.

To prepare the volunteers to guide families through the Museum and tell them more about the fascinating stories behind the objects, myself and Caroline Moreau from the Volunteers Service ran an interesting, and hopefully not too challenging, training session! During the session the volunteers took part in various activities including charades and asking lots of questions about Museum objects. During charades volunteers were asked to act out a museum object, trying to get the others to guess which Pitt Rivers Museum object they were. This included what the object was, what it was made from, and where in the world it was from.

Volunteers playing Museum Object Charades © Pitt Rivers Museum
Volunteers were also given mystery objects and were asked to write down as many questions that they could possibly ask about the object. It helped that they had no idea what the object was so would ask the most basic questions that perhaps visitors who may never have seen it might ask. This helps the volunteers to understand viewing an object from a visitors point of view. 

Volunteers asking lots of questions about a mystery object © Pitt Rivers Museum
Volunteers were also asked to lead each other around the Museum whilst one of them either partially closed their eyes or looked at the floor. The point if this exercise was to encourage the volunteers to think about how they might guide families around the Museum using just their words. This included guiding people around the physical space and also considering how to describe an object to a large group of people where some people might not be able to see the object on display.

Leading the way: One volunteer leads the other around the Museum
 © Pitt Rivers Museum
During the tours, volunteers will lead families around the Museum to look at five objects from around the world. Families will get the opportunity to see some of our lesser known objects and be able to ask the volunteers lots of questions about them. At the moment, they are working hard, reading up about all the objects and getting ready for the tours which start on Friday 29th July. Come along this summer to meet our great Family Tour Guides.

Carly Smith-Huggins
Families Education Officer 

Explaining a bit more about the five tour objects to the volunteers © Pitt Rivers Museum

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Take One.. Tahitian Mourner's Costume

Take One.. Mourner's Costume is a new primary school project which has been launched at the Pitt Rivers Museum.  It is part of the National Gallery's Take One... brand which encourages schools to take one picture or object, and use it as a springboard for pupils' critical and creative thinking.  Pupils are challenged to take a close look at the spectacular Mourner's Costume collected on Captain Cook's Second Voyage of the Pacific (1772-75).

Costume made up of a headdress, mask, apron and barkcloth cape
Mourner's Costume 1886.1.1637.2.1© Pitt Rivers Museum
During the 75 minute taught session pupils explore the different components of the Costume, examine the materials used and find out the fascinating story of how it was collected.  They are given the opportunity to look at other artefacts collected on Cook's Pacific Voyages, focusing on the patterns, and use their research to design their own celebratory costume.

Children stand in the Pitt Rivers Museum and hold up their costume design
Pupils present their costume design © Pitt Rivers Museum

After the initial stimulus, schools can develop their own response to the object with explorers, costumes and ceremonies, and materials being key lines of enquiry.  Teaching Notes available here. Take One... encourages a whole school celebratory event as demonstrated by West Oxford Community Primary School who used an art exhibition open to parents and the local community this week to showcase their response to the project.  This was the culmination of every year group visiting the Museum in June to experience a Take One... session.

Replica Mourner's Costume stands in the middle of a school hall
Replica Mourner Costume © Pitt Rivers Museum

When I walked into the school hall at West Oxford Community Primary School I came face to face with a life-size replica of the Mourner Costume.  I loved the way shiny paper had been used to resemble the pearl oyster apron, buttons imitated discs of coconut shell and crepe paper stood in for the barkcloth cape. This had been the masterpiece of Year 1, co-ordinated by Senior Teacher Liz Newman.  I was also very excited to see the cloak designed by the Reception Class, ingeniously made from dyed wet-wipes.  I was warned not to smell too closely as they had used potent dyes ranging from coffee, turmeric, tea and beetroot.  They had wanted to use natural dyes in the same way that the Tahitians had done when creating their barkcloth.

Cloak made from brown, yellow and pink wet wipes
Cloak made by Reception class © Pitt Rivers Museum

I really enjoyed finding out the different directions classes had taken the project in.  Some groups had immersed themselves in the life of Captain Cook, plotted his journeys of the Pacific, designed his boats and written detailed diary entries. 

Map of world showing Captain Cook's Voyages of the Pacific - replica boats below map
Captain Cook's Pacific Voyages © Pitt Rivers Museum

Some classes had developed their work on patterns and experimented with different methods of printmaking.

Year 1 brightly coloured print patterns on pieces of paper
Print patterns inspired by barkcloth © Pitt Rivers Museum

Brightly coloured printed patterns on pieces of paper pinned on the walls of a school hall
Print patterns inspired by barkcloth © Pitt Rivers Museum

There are definitely some talented costume designers at West Oxford Community Primary School, as seen in the picture below captioned 'Party Time'.  I particularly liked the design where confetti could be released from the knee-caps of a costume.

Brightly coloured and collaged cosume design reading 'Party Time' at the top of the piece of paper
Celebratory Costume Design © Pitt Rivers Museum

If you would like to find out more about the project, book Take One sessions or organise teacher INSET then please contact me at education@prm.ox.ac.uk.

Becca McVean
Primary School Education Officer
Pitt Rivers Museum