Back in the warm, sunny days that were July, Youth Engagement Officer Tricia and I, ventured out from the Time and Time Museum to visit Kettle’s Yard gallery in Cambridge. Here we attended a meeting with Kids In Museums, who are a charity that encourages the increased inclusion of children and young people within the museums and heritage sector and are enthusiastic about championing family-friendly events. Through this I was informed about Takeover Day: an annually occurring, national movement created by Kids in Museums, where children and young people experience significant engagement within a museum, gallery or heritage environment. The aim of this day is that they are immersed within museum life and given meaningful roles that enable them to work alongside staff and volunteers, learning about museum and heritage, as well as taking part in various activities. The date for this year’s Takeover Day was set nationally as November 23nd. So fellow Teaching Museums trainee Nicole and I set about brainstorming ideas for the event.
We are fortunate enough at the Time and Tide to work with colleagues who are ex-trainees from previous years, so Nicole and I were able to speak to my predecessor, Phoebe, who is last year’s Learning and Youth Engagements trainee and now Cultural Learning Officer for Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Phoebe was able to tell us about her Takeover Day event last year and give us some advice on organisation. We decided to work with ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) Students from East Coast College. I thought this would be a particularly rewarding group to work with; as we tend to have a lot of primary schools visiting the museum on a daily basis, but visits from secondary schools and colleges aren’t as frequent. Also, by working with ESOL students with varying levels of ability in English, I decided to make the event day as practical as possible and minimalize the need for written tasks.
To organise this, we decided to utilize skills being learnt through the traineeship; so Nicole, as the Collection and Exhibitions trainee, focused on objects within the museum’s collection and created a session for the students in this area. As the Learning and Youth Engagement trainee, I wanted to work on something practical that engaged students within our current temporary exhibition, Circus! Show of Shows. So I decided to have the students make video responses within an area or theme of the exhibition.
I contacted East Coast College to give them more information about the day we had planned, and found the response from the students to be very positive and that all thirty-five students in the class had shown interest in attending the day. This was a bigger number than we had expected, and so the decision was made to include a further activity. This involved Head of Conservation at Norfolk Museums Service, Man-Yee, who would take a session speaking to our group about conservation, who would then work practically with objects to further their learning.
On the day of the event, we had 28 participants from the college and four tutors. Students on arrival were given the task of making their own name badges to go in their lanyards and were also encouraged to customise a fish from our Time and Tide logo. Some of these were then used to replace our current logo on all of our social media accounts as another way to “takeover” the museum. Nicole and I then addressed the group to welcome them and give them a brief overview of the day, before we split them into three group and started them off on their sessions. Throughout the day we had professional photographer taking pictures and Time and Tide-based Kick The Dust Project Worker, Becky, videoing the event.
Nicole’s session used “Mystery Objects” where students would have to try and deduce what each item was and its’ purpose: such as hand lamps from the Second World War, a mammoth tooth, a Tudor watering can and an eel trap. In addition to this, her session included an “Archaeology Bin”, an activity the young people found enjoyable but challenging, where students were given various groups of objects from different periods of history: from the Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman and Viking, to Tudor, Victorian, and the Modern Day, which they then had to identify and place in chronological order. Pupils were also given a handbag containing personal items and tasked with trying to deduce, in as much detail, who the handbag belonged to. Our participants were challenged to think about the idea of a collection; did they themselves collect anything? And did they think it might be important for museums to collect things. Additionally, students were also asked to think about an object as if they themselves were a curator, receiving an unidentified object or donation and trying to decipher why it might be significant.
Head of conservation, Man-Yee spoke to the students about the area of conservation and then each pupil was presented with their own terracotta pot, which they then broke in a controlled way and shown how to mend it. This, as Man-Yee spoke about in her presentation, relates to the Ming vases in a museum in Cambridge that got knocked over and broken into thousands of pieces, whilst in the museum’s care, -but were able to be put back together quite successfully through the meticulous care of the conservators. Man-Yee also added that this activity with the students also related to the work of a conservator whose job it could sometimes be to reconstruct pots found in the ground during archaeological digs.
The third and final activity saw students engaging with our temporary exhibition, Show of Shows, which celebrates 250 years of the circus. Our Exhibitions Officer, Philip, spoke to the students about the history of circus and the current exhibition itself. I then set the students the task of using this information and their own observations to respond to the exhibition using iPads to make a video about what they thought about it, or about a certain object or theme within the exhibition that they found interesting. Students were in groups of about three and picked team names to go along with their videos. This was a really engaging activity which saw a variety of responses, including a group who discussed their thoughts on the association of animal cruelty with the circus, others who analysed the role of clowns, as well as students who spoke reminiscently about the circus and their experiences of it in their own childhood.
When a group had completed their response, I then set them the extension task of remaking their video but in their first language. This was perhaps one of my favourite parts of the day, as it was clear many of the young people really enjoyed being encouraged to speak in their native tongue and it was great seeing their confidence grow as they spoke. All fourteen videos made were then turned into QR codes that displayed the group’s name and hashtags for the event, as well as a small flag portraying the different language the video would be in, which, in addition to English included: Portuguese, Romanian, French and Tentun, the latter being from East Timor, an Island near Indonesia. This QR code information is currently on display as a video trail throughout the exhibition and accessible to all visitors equipped with a smartphone.
Throughout the day, students were given the opportunity to compose tweets and Instagram posts on paper, some of which we posted the next day, which was the official Takeover Day, alongside photos and outcomes of the event. A student was also given the opportunity to announce Takeover Day to visitors over the tannoy, to inform them what was happening around the museum that day. Participants of the event filled in “Feedback Fish”; where they recorded the top few words that summed up the day for them. Such as “Fun”, “Informative”, “Creative”, “Wonderful” and “Exciting”. Feedback from college tutors was also very positive, with responses such as:
-What did you enjoy most about the day? Very well organised day with lots of engaging activities for the students.
-Is there anything you will take away from the day that can perhaps be used with your students in the future? All of the new language and information given. We also plan to take them to the Circus to complete their experience.
-Could you tell us about any positive outcomes you noticed from the event? Some shy students participating in the video filming. An excellent way to improve self- confidence.
Photos and videos of the day have been sent to both the local newspaper, the Great Yarmouth Mercury, as well as to Kids In Museums themselves, who may include some on their new website. Additionally to this, unbeknownst to Nicole and I, by registering our event, we were put into a draw alongside all the museums and galleries participating in TakeOver Day, and, happily, we were selected as winner, with a prize of two free tickets to an exhibition of our choice. Since then, we have decided upon seeing Modern Couples currently on at the Barbican. Watch this blog-space for a follow up post of our visitation of the exhibition.