The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship

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World War One at the Forum.

The Day We Went To WarHello everyone! My blog this week is all about an outreach activity which took place on Monday 4 August at The Forum in Norwich.

As many of you are aware, Monday marked the centenary anniversary of the beginning of Britain’s involvement in World War I. To raise awareness of this and commemorate the people and animals involved in the war effort, The Forum hosted a one day WW1 event. Visitors were encouraged to ‘take the King’s shilling’ at a recruiting office, discover how to research their family military history, view wartime documents, take part in craft activities and much more.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse was previously contacted and asked to take part in the event alongside colleagues from The Regimental Museum Collections in Norwich, Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Library Service. We wanted to focus on the less well known parts of the war effort, including the later creation of the Women’s Land Army, the input of heavy horses and of children.Mayor and Town Crier 1

Ben (Skills for the Future Heritage Farming Apprentice) and Katie (Learning Officer) both attended in period costume as a farmer and a woman from the Women’s Land Army respectively. They talked to visitors about the kind of jobs involved in farming – a key part of the home front war effort in Norfolk. We also brought Gressenhall’s much loved milking stand where children (and adults!) could have a go at milking a ‘cow’. Women recruited to the Women’s Land Army would have had to train on a similar piece of apparatus, before they could go on to milking actual cows.

Ben as Farmer 2Ben also led a popular handling session using farming and heavy horse related objects from Gressenhall, which really tested the agricultural knowledge of the people of Norwich. These items were brought to life by having a real Suffolk Punch horse (like our team at Gressenhall) in the opposite corner of the Forum, courtesy of the Suffolk Punch Trust. This helped to cement just how important these incredible animals were, both working on the land and as war horses pulling heavy artillery.

Katie Milking 1In addition to this we bought along our Learning Department’s bird scaring equipment, and encouraged families to use our bird-scarers to make a bit of a racket to scare away imaginery birds from eating the seeds sown on the fields. This was a real job which children would often do before and during the war, to ensure that the vital crop was not decimated by feathery oppertunists.

With these three activities centred around heavy horses, the Women’s Land Army and children, we hoped to really improve visitor’s experience and understanding of other, often forgotten, elements of our WW1 victory campaign.

peg-legged horseWe supported this understanding by also offering three crafts which families could have a go at, including peg dolls, Women’s Land Army arm bands and peg-legged horses. All three were exceedingly popular and I helped to supervise and instruct the children (and their parents) in how to make them. I felt that these activities worked well and helped even the very young children to understand some aspects of the First World War commemoration, as well as giving families the opportunity to talk about what the commemorations meant to them on a personal level.

Overall it was a a thought-provoking and enlightening day speaking to visitors, helping to raise awareness of the part played by Norfolk during WW1.


TeachingMuseum Events Trainee

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse


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The Discovery of Arts Award at Ancient House Museum, Or, Eight Sets of Very Inky Fingers

Me2Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m the Teaching Museum Events Trainee who is lucky enough to work at Gressenhall Far m and Workhouse; a beautiful site complete with historic workhouse, museum of rural life, traditional farm and acres of amazing unspoilt grounds.

If you don’t already know what the Teaching Museum Scheme is, then the concept is to try and give people of all ages and backgrounds a ‘stepping stone’ into employment within the museum industry. Anyone who’s ever tried to find a way into a museum career will know that the most common entry route is via a Museum Studies Masters course at university. Unfortunately though not everyone can undertake this route, so Norfolk Museum Service has piloted the first Teaching Museum Scheme which, rather than a formal qualification, provides training and on-the-job experience for the trainees taking part.

Our training sessions are usually led by a member of Norfolk Museum Service staff across one of the ten NMS sites within Norfolk; however we have also been lucky enough to receive training from Norfolk County Council staff and museum professionals outside the service.

To give you a flavour of the kinds of things we learn about I’m going to tell you a little of what we did and learnt on one of our recent sessions at Ancient House Museum, Thetford. The training was on Arts Award and was led by Arts Award advisor Melissa Hawker who is the ‎Learning Officer at Ancient House and Lynn Museum.

In case you have not heard of Arts Award, it is “a range of unique qualifications that support anyone up to 25 grow as artists and arts leaders, inspiring them to connect with and take part in the wider arts world through taking challenges in an art form – from fashion to film making, pottery to poetry.”IMG_0858

You may be wondering what this has to do with museums, but historical sites and objects often provide fantastic examples of different types of art forms, from metalwork to pottery, painting to architecture. This was certainly reinforced throughout the day, as we were given the opportunity to complete several activities as if we were completing Arts Award Discover, the introduction and first step on ladder for those looking to progress up to Arts Award Gold.

After a short ice breaker we took part in several activities which helped us to complete the first aspect of the Arts Award and ‘Discover’ different art forms. This included a game of ‘art form charades’, the creation of an ‘art form identifier’ (and subsequent exploration of the museum to try and find different kinds of art), learning how to weave, and historical ink writing with Tudor quills and Victorian dip pens. IMG_0859

Melissa stressed the importance of making sure that everything is evidenced, as young people taking part will need to show their work and exploration by having it evaluated by an Arts Award assessor. As such we recorded all of this in our exercise books, and took pictures of our exploration of the museum.IMG_0861

After a wonderful lunch in Ancient House’s courtyard garden, we then moved on to the ‘Finding Out’ element of the award, which involved us investigating two art figures related to Ancient House Museum and Thetford. My group investigated Prince Frederick Duleep Singh who saved Ancient House and converted it into a museum. The prince was a keen art collector, author, garden designer, sportsman and actor, so we had plenty to investigate and find out about for the award. The other group chose Thomas Paine who was a Thetford born author, philosopher, pamphlet writer and bridge designer.

Having completed our research we then went on to design our own bags which represented Prince Frederick or Thomas Paine, and what we had found out about them.

IMG_0863We then moved on to the final part of the award which involves sharing our experiences with others. To do this we got together to discuss what we had enjoyed, learnt and what we would improve, and also discussed how we would evidence that we had done this. Several suggestions were made from video recordings to presentations, however in this instance we decided that we would share our thoughts with the person sat next to us, and then ask them to write a small paragraph in our books describing what we had discussed, and then signing it.

To finish the day we talked about how we could apply Arts Award to our own museums. This was particularly relevant to me as Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse are offering to support Arts Award through our Summer Holiday Programme and led by Ancient House. We all compared our formal and informal learning programmes, and discussed how we might incorporate the ‘Discover’ modules into the different scenarios.

Overall it was a fantastic day which really allowed us to engage with Arts Award, and get us thinking about how we might apply it to our own museums in the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Arts Award at Ancient House Museum then please call 01842 752599 or ask at the museum for more information.