Monthly Archives: August 2011

Getting Involved

For the last fortnight I’ve been helping with the Herbert’s Getting Involved course. For those who don’t know, this is an accredited National Open College Network (NOCN) course for disengaged young people aged 14-19. The qualification is in team skills which the Herbert has chosen to develop through multimedia workshops. The Herbert Media team train the young people in blogging, digital photography and Photoshop, film making, pod-casting and music-making amongst other skills.

The team also hopes to engage the young people with arts and heritage, encouraging them to compare their experiences with life in times gone by. Last week we visited the Black Country Living Museum and enjoyed a day of live interpretation, traditional sweet making, fish and chips and, of course, the mining experience.

The group didn’t know each other before the course at the Herbert, but quickly gained confidence in working with new people.  It is hoped that the skills acquired on the course and the commitment their participation demonstrates will assist these young people with college applications.  Evaluation of the first fortnight of the course suggested that it had enhanced self-esteem and encouraged the pursuit of multimedia interests.  Some of the participants hope to return to the Herbert for further training or in a volunteer capacity.

Becky Harvey, Herbert Intern



There have been some fantastic new species dreamed up by visitors to Walking with Beasts, including this Coloursaurus! We’ve enjoyed them and hope you do too!

Via Flickr:
Name of researcher: Tyler
Food source: bones
Height: 10m
Notes on behaviour: wild

Don’t forget – you can add your own creations to our My Herbert Flickr group:

Culture Shift

Sunday was a sunny day. On bright days, we sometimes struggle for visitors. Our galleries are fun, but inside. It’s a tussle for public attention – bright history, culture and education, against the pull of bright sunshine. Still, we’re always open, giving you our option.

It was strange returning to work. I’m back off holiday. The last week I’ve been helping at a scout camp in the Lake District. Camps are a unique blend of fun, friendship, activities, play fights and dossing around. Museums appeal to completely the other side of my personality. Work today is a culture shift.

‘If someone gives me grief today I mustn’t chase them with a stick or give them a wedgie,’ I remind myself. 

Our prestigious year at the peak of the family friendly tree has ended, but there’s no need for scout camp tactics. Fortunately, I quickly switch back to customer service mode. It’s a mainly uneventful day. But, for me, it’s strange.

Me trying to water ski on camp whilst wearing unconvincing James Bond lycra.

Changes at the museum mean that the weekend Front of House team has a lot of new faces. I’ve been at the Herbert for almost three years; I’m the experienced head. However, I have customer service commitments at public events, so I’ve hardly worked with the new team. In the weeks I’ve been away, they’ve intermingled. They know each other. Therefore, despite my Herbert knowledge, it feels like a different place.

Still, we get on fine. There’s no need for wedgies, anyway.

Me and my friend Half Tooth!

Summer has arrived with an almighty heat wave, but the rising temperatures are not stopping us from working away to get everything ready for what should be a fun, and rather silly summer around the museum.

For me, that involved heading into schools across Coventry again for another assembly, this time focusing on our Walking with Beasts exhibition from the BBC. I’m really excited about this exhibition; it’s been lots of fun researching for the assembly so now the exhibition is open I can make sense of the rather long names associated with some of the animals featured in there (I mean Australopithecus…really???).

As part of this assembly I was kindly offered some objects from the BBC, that were used in filming, to take into the schools with me to show the pupils. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so when 2 men walked into the office carrying the head of a Sabre Tooth Cat and a Gastornis I was a little taken aback. They were so much bigger than I had expected, but look absolutely incredible. Even though I knew they were not the real thing and only made as replicas for the TV series, I still found it creepy to touch them, probably because taxidermy freaks me out, and these honestly do seem more real than some of the actual taxidermy animals we have in the museum… just don’t tell the curators I said that! Regardless of how life-like they are, we couldn’t resist having a few silly pictures taken with them around the office before they got boxed up ready to be taken with me on my travels around the city.

It also wouldn’t be summer prep time without our annual cutting up day with the family learning officer, Mel, as she gets ready for the influx of families coming in to the arts and crafts sessions during the holidays. Kitchen rolls, egg boxes and plastic bottles are being collected and lots of paper and templates have been cut to size and I think it was all worth it when we have children give us excellent results including a very snazzy Harry Potter themed castle! There will be lots more to come over the summer so keep checking what’s on everyday for you to get involved with.

Object of the Month – August 2011

This incredible object is over 200 years old. It is a picture made from small pieces of paper cut into floral patterns, a shield and letters. These have been arranged on a satin background and the whole has been framed. The caption at the bottom of the picture reads ‘this was done by Jane Hawtin, born without hands at Coventry…1769 – May 3 1780’.

It seems almost impossible to me that someone born without hands was able to produce this picture.

The writing on the picture is slightly damaged and it is not clear if Jane was 11 when she completed the work, or if it took her 11 years to make the picture. At this time young girls often made a needlework sampler as proof of their embroidery skills. You can see several on display at the Herbert. It could be that this careful work was Jane’s equivalent of a needlework sampler.

Unfortunately we don’t know anything else about Jane Hawtin or what happened to her, but this object shows she had patience and tenacity.


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