The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship


Leave a comment

Takeover Day here at Time & Tide

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.

IMG_1359 Blue Time and Tide logo 4 New fish

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.

Click here to see students analysing and exploring objects in the museum’s collection

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

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.

Click here to see students mending their terracotta pots

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

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.

Click here to see students filming their video responses to our exhibition

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

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.

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

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:

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

-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.

1 Feedback Fish

5 Feedback FishPhotos 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.

Takeover Day at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth.   Picture: James Bass Photography

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Lists, Lists Everywhere – Preparing for an Exhibition

Since starting my traineeship at the Norfolk Regimental Museum in April, I have been helping prepare for the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition opening at the Norwich Castle in October. As preparations for the exhibition were well under way, the first thing I had to tackle were all the curator’s lists.

Brainstorming up an exhibition is truly a creative process. Due to the vast collections held in museum stores sprawled all over the county the result is A LOT of lists. Finalizing the object list for the exhibition is a big job. So off to the costume and textiles store I went. Every object has to be measured and recorded on the list in order for the display team to be able to plan how they will present the objects. There is a lot of people involved in putting together an exhibition. Therefore it is crucial for the object list to be as accurate as possible!

P1010821

Measuring one of my favourite objects – a commemorative textile featuring a bugler playing “Fall In”.

Although keeping track of nearly 500 objects is no easy task, we got to remember that every object on the list tells a story and it is up to us how we present that story in the exhibition. One of my favourite stories so far is that of Elfrida Long, born in Norwich in 1910. The family kept a scrapbook for their daughter, which in time turned into an eyewitness record of the experience of the First World War in Norwich. I am currently working on presenting an abridged version of the scrapbook in the form of a flipbook to include in the children’s section of the exhibition. Not only do I get to interpret an amazing primary source illustrating life in Norwich during the First World War, but also I get to work directly with museum volunteers who have already done extensive research on the scrapbook. Volunteers have been crucial in compiling research for the exhibition and it’s great their hard work will be put on display.

Elfrida and Sydney Long

A photograph of Elfrida with her father Sidney Long. Elfrida’s scrapbook will be on display at the Castle in October.

I can’t wait to see what the next couple of months of my traineeship will have in store. I love hands-on-history and appreciate having the opportunity to be able to help think of ways to make the object list come alive with stories. You can help tell the story of the First World War in Norfolk by sharing your family memories about loved ones living in Norfolk during and in the aftermath of First World War by emailing regimentalmuseum@norfolk.gov.uk.


Leave a comment

Storing a Samurai

IMG_7193

Phase 1 complete, the samurai waits to be taken down to conservation

Before Norwich Castle Museum’s spectacular Paston Treasure exhibition could be installed and revealed to the world, the bittersweet task of dismantling the departing Square Box on the Hill exhibition was necessary. After a popular run of four months, it was time to make way for something new, and give the objects on display a well-earned rest. As the Costume and Textiles trainee, I was asked to assist the conservation team with the removal and repacking of the items from our collection, including a museums attendant’s uniform, army surplus parka, and most gruellingly the 17th century samurai armour.

Phase one was to get it out of its glass display case, and onto a trolley; a more challenging endeavour than one might imagine, involving many supporting hands, much body contortion, and measured movements. With limited space for maneuvering within the glass case, the box the armour sat on was cautiously inched forwards. The separate plinth upon which the feet rested was temporarily removed to facilitate a smooth exit, meaning two of us had to hover over others whilst supporting the feet. Once out and securely positioned on the trolley, the armour was steadily moved down to the conservation lab to be taken apart piece by piece, inspected for any stress that may have occurred, and finally packed away into custom-made boxes.

IMG_7205

Condition checks before being packed away

The multiple components of the armour occupy a total of nine boxes; with supports, padding and ties used to protect the pieces and keep them in place. The various materials and techniques displayed from head-to-toe are incredible, and worthy of much photography! Helmet, face-plate, shoulder guards, chest piece, faulds, sash, armoured sleeves, shin and thigh guards, shoes… each intricately constructed, and just as intricately arranged around the body using cords and ties.

IMG_7211

Face plate in its box; the red interior is seen below

Dismantling the armour was a slow process, releasing and removing each piece individually, whilst ensuring those elements left behind remained well-supported with minimal disturbance. Taking the best part of a day, such care is essential to ensure all components are safely returned to storage and that the samurai may be preserved for future enjoyment. It was a joy to help out on the day, allowing me to inspect up-close this fascinating display of craftsmanship.


Leave a comment

An ‘Ace’ Find

 

Playing Cards 1

Late 19th Century Playing Cards belonging to Minna Watson

Strangers’ Hall is home to our Toy Collection, a fascinating and sometimes nostalgic mix of books, games, puzzles and toys. There are some absolute gems in amongst these stores, and today I want to share with you a truly ‘ace’ discovery – apologies for the terrible pun.

We currently hold over 70 packs of cards, but one deck in particular really stood out to me as something extra special. Whilst the artwork on the reverse of these late 19th century cards is undoubtedly beautiful, it’s the other side that warrants a dedicated blog post.

 

In this deck each card has been hand decorated, using the suit as a focal point for the drawing. Clubs are used to make faces, hearts used as hats, diamonds as watering cans, and spades as tennis rackets. Some of the drawings have writing on them as well, with a few of the hearts playing cards referring to ‘The Queen of Hearts’ poem.

Diamonds and Spades.jpg

Hearts and Clubs.jpg

Queen of hearts poem.jpg

‘The queen of hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day
The knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts
And with them ran away:
The king of hearts
Call’d for those tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The knave of hearts
brought back those tarts
And said he’ll ne’er steal more.’

These drawings are the work of Norwich born artist Minna Watson (nee Bolingbroke). Watson was a keen painter of views and animals, some of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1905 and 1926.

We might never know why Minna decorated this deck of cards, maybe they are just private doodles, a way of making a normal pack of cards personal to her or a gift for a friend. Whatever the reason behind these drawings, to have something so personal to the artist is a privilege.

Minna

Portrait of Minna Watson – painted by her husband Charles J. Watson (undated) 

 

 


Leave a comment

During one of his first tasks as a Teaching Museum Trainee at Lynn Museum, Andrew Tullett discovers a surprising fact…

Not all visitors are welcome in our museums. Some manage to gain access behind the scenes without permission and, if left unchallenged, can cause permanent damage to the objects on display or in storage. It is often the smallest individuals that do the most damage. Staff of the Norfolk Museums Service therefore routinely use sticky traps to catch and monitor these pests.

02_20180604_154158Placed against walls in museums, in dark corners of storage areas, and even inside display cases, the sticky traps play a crucial role in keeping our collections safe. The type and number of each species of insect and other ‘creepy crawly’ caught in them are identified and recorded. If increases in population size are noted over time, which could quickly lead to destructive infestations, action is then be taken to remedy the problem.

Only a small proportion of the 100,000 or so species of insects found in Europe are a potential threat. However, among these are several that pose a serious danger. The trick is to know which ones. The larvae of the beetle Anobium punctatum, for example, are a threat to collections of wooden furniture, whilst the immature forms of Tineola bisselliella can be a major problem on fabrics. Fortunately, the most common pests are now so familiar that they have been ascribed English names, usually based on their foodstuff of choice – so A. punctatum is also known as the ‘furniture beetle’ (the larvae are commonly known as ‘woodworm’) whilst T. bisselliella has been ascribed the moniker ‘webbing clothes moth’.

05_20180604_112735

Titles such as biscuit beetle, common booklouse and cigarette beetle give obvious clues as to the pest’s diet. Others suggest an alarmingly restricted regime, for example, the Guernsey carpet beetle. However, not all common names are as revealing. The death watch beetle is partial to damp oak wood, for example, whilst the brown house moth is, unsurprisingly, less fond of eating brown houses than it is gorging on furs and feathers.

Some of the creatures caught on the traps are not pests. Indeed, spiders might even offer a pest management solution if they were given a chance, albeit that their methods are unsightly and may distract from the displays. Silverfish and woodlice can cause some damage in their own right, but their presence on traps in large numbers are also indicative of damp conditions. Such a climate would be optimal for a number of other, far more significant, agents of degradation and so measures to remedy the problem would have to be taken.06_20180604_154128_b

Inevitably, traps located near doors and walkways also collect a fair amount of debris other than insects, such as dust and human hair. Down on all fours, retrieving sticky cadavers on cardboard traps from the deepest darkest crevices of our collections is not the most glamorous work, but it is essential to keep the objects under our care safe. It’s a dirty job – but someone’s got to do it.