Wednesday, 24 August 2016

MA Student in Museums and Galleries in Education placed at the Pitt Rivers

I am an MA student from UCL learning about Museums and Galleries in Education.  As part of our course we have to do a placement at a museum, gallery or heritage site, and I have been quite incredibly fortunate in being able to do mine here at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Smiling lady in the middle of the Museum
Hattie Kimberley in the Museum © Pitt Rivers Museum

Not only has everyone working in the Education Department been welcoming and friendly, they have also been more than ready to share their expertise.  Becca McVean, Primary School Education Officer, has been particularly generous with her time, working out a timetable for me and allowing me to watch various presentations from Extreme Environments to History Detectives, and Aboriginal Art to Take One Tahitian MournersCostume.  Andy McLellan, the Head of Education, has offered a great deal of welcome practical advice.  

Smiling man in office
Andy McLellan © Pitt Rivers Museum

I have helped Katherine Rose with Adult Handling Sessions, Beth McDougall with the VERVE-funded Langtree Amulet Project, and Carly Smith-Huggins with Under 5 events themed on Hats and Feathers, and half-term Family Activities based on the Haida totem pole.  I have also shadowed some of the museum’s inspirational learning volunteers as they guided children round various themed trails.  All participants, whether child, teenager or adult, have been both engaged and entertained, listening to presentations and learning more when exploring the museum independently.

Smiling lady in office
Katherine Rose © Pitt Rivers Museum

A fascinating opportunity arose when I was asked to assist Nicola Bird with a Sensing Culture tour for blind and partially sighted visitors.  This involved guiding visitors round the museum, describing what was in the cases, followed by a handling session based on what we had just discussed.  I was then able to attend a day’s workshop on how to develop museum learning sessions for the blind and partially sighted – it is much harder than one would think to describe something to someone without using ‘sight’ vocabulary, and to be constantly spatially aware on someone else’s behalf.

Rattle made from deer antler and hooves
Haida Rattle © Pitt Rivers Museum

The Education Department’s handling collection is nearly as exciting as the contents of the museum itself.  Each time I walk into the office another strange and wonderful object is sitting on the table waiting to be used in a session.  The whole office is looking particularly organised just now following the sterling work of Rachael Utting who has been cataloguing the entire education collection and storing all the objects in carefully labelled boxes so that when someone needs to lay their hands on an African shield, a headrest, a flywhisk, a fish trap or a Naga spear, it can be done in an instant!

Several plastic boxes stacked on shelves
Cataloguing Handling Objects! © Pitt Rivers Museum

I will miss my newfound friends and colleagues very much when I return to London, not to mention my lunchtime strolls round the streets and alleyways of Oxford.  I have been so impressed by this department’s professionalism, dedication and commitment to learning for all – the museum is lucky to have them!  I know that my time here has been a really positive addition to my MA learning, and I very much hope to put much of what I have learned into practice in the near future.  Thank you everyone!

Hattie Kimberley
MA Student in Museums and Galleries in Education, UCL

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Out and In, Around and About - Activities and Outreach Summer Highlights

My name is Beth and I am the new VERVE Outreach and Activities Officer. Since joining the Museums VERVE team in April I have met many hundreds of wonderful people participating in and collaborating with Pitt Rivers activities. Here are some of the highlights so far:

Around the World in Our Treasures exhibition of objects
Around the World in Our Treasures
© Pitt Rivers Museum
Meet Me at the Museum

Meet Me at the Museum is a collaborative project with older people and those living with Dementia. Over the last six months our team of older people have met monthly with Charlie, a Flourish artist funded by Creative Dementia Arts Network and Helen Fountain, the Oxford Museums Reminiscence Officer, and worked towards creating a temporary case exhibition called Around the World in Our Treasures. Each month we all learnt new things. We navigated the museum with object tours, handled objects from the Pitt Rivers Education Handling Collection, tested out our creativity on short stop-animation films, and chatted over tea and biscuits.

Two ladies looking at a basketry woven ox
Object Handling © CDAN

couple looking at objects
Museum Tour  © CDAN

Tents on Tour
On July the VERVE and Education Team have been out and about popping up at festivals, fêtes and carnivals and sharing the museum and its (handling!) objects with our local audiences. First stop was Flofest in Florence Park on 25 June, a day of warm sunshine and welly boots. Check out our short film of the event.

We then visited Bayards Hill Primary School as part of their School Fete and bopped to Bayards Got Talent while creating our very own stop-motion with the schools families.

Final stop, Cowley Road Carnival on 10 July. The Pitt Rivers Tent was organised by Carly, our fantastic Families Officer, and supported by our joint museum volunteers. We had families making their own puppets from the Ramayana story, and badges inspired by museum objects pressed in the perfect early summer sun. 

Woodland Way Workshops
Working with Danny and Joe from Woodland Ways has been a great way of understanding our collection through making. July saw our first workshop with Woodland Ways on Bone flute making, which involved a lot of puffed-up faces and high-pitched sounds as our workshop attendees blew their newly made flutes. Joe specialises in making these flutes and spoke eloquently about their early history and gave top tips on the importance of selecting the right bone for the job. 
Joe from Woodland Ways holds a bone flute he has made as part of his demonstration
Joe from Woodland Ways  © Pitt Rivers Museum
Workshop participants show off their flutes
The Bone flute Band  ©Pitt Rivers Museum