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

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