Author Archives: Lisa

A Royal Occasion…

Factory tour at the Emma Bridgewater Factory

Factory tour at the Emma Bridgewater Factory

Over the last few weeks the Herbert Learning Team have been working with Coventry’s Sowe Valley Primary school and the elderly people’s care home that sits across from the school on an intergenerational project that focuses on the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

The aim of the project is to encourage the children and elderly people to share their memories of royal events that have happened over the last 60 years. For the children the only major event that they can remember was the Royal Wedding from last year, but for the care home residents they had a whole bank of stories, memories and even some objects that they could share with the children.

As the project has progressed we have seen the children’s knowledge of the royal family expand beyond expectations. At just 8 and 9 years old the children only really knew the basics of who the Royal family are and why we have them in England. For most of them they knew who the Queen was (phew!) and of course they recognised Wills and Kate… however they were under the impression that Prince William was the Queen’s son and Charles was her husband (oh dear!). We soon sorted that out though with a family tree activity to help them understand who’s who, the order of the family and the line of accession to the throne. After 4 weeks of working with them they can now easily tell us who Prince Charles has been married to, the name of Queen Elizabeth’s father, and who will be the next 2 future Kings of England, plus lots more.

We’ve also been using some of the museum’s royal memorabilia from the years gone by as a trigger for memories for the

Souvenirs in the making

Souvenirs in the making

care home residents, and as an inspiration for everyone to design their own royal souvenir to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. To help bring the children and elderly people together we treated them to an exciting and unique day at the Emma Bridgewater factory, where we were taken on a tour of the working factories, and saw royal souvenirs in the making and even got to make our own in the design studio. It was a brilliant day and everyone who took part spoke about how much the enjoyed themselves.

The children have grown really fond of the people they have met from the care home, and vice versa. They are always asking about when they will meet again to keep their new found relationship going. We’re glad to say their journey isn’t ending just yet as we’ll all be getting together again for a celebratory street party at the museum to celebrate the jubilee and on the day we’ll present everyone with their fired and finished potteries that they created together. And of course, even the Herbert staff got involved with everything too including sitting on a snazzy spotted throne and the more menial tasks of washing up… well it can’t all be glamorous!

I’ll post again to show you how the pottery collection turned out and what the street party was like. Until next time folks!

Lisa.

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Scary-hairy, beastly bugs…

Olivia, aged 6, with a Victorian stereoscope
Olivia, aged 6, with a Victorian Stereoscope

I recently attended some training about how museums can be places to improve people’s wellbeing. During the event I had the opportunity to hear some brilliant case studies from organisations across England and was touched by some of the outcomes they had achieved.  

The focus on the day was not about what people could learn from museums, or about how much success these projects bought to museum visitor figures or finances – it was about how museums can create happiness, peace of mind and in some cases a distraction for people going through difficult periods of their life.

This got me thinking about the work the Herbert do to help the wellbeing of others. For around a year now I have been going onto the children’s ward at Coventry’s University Hospital, taking with me a selection of objects from the handling collections. This initially got started through the MLA’s Learning Links programme, but has since continued, due to the positive outcomes we have seen from the work we do. I go onto the wards once a month, and spend the afternoon going around children’s bedsides, or working with them in the hospital classroom, to give the children a hands-on approach to learning and access to the museums collections during their stay in hospital. Before we launched the project I had concerns over whether or not the children would actually want to get involved with this. My feeling was that when you are in hospital you would probably want to avoid strangers because of the vulnerable state you get into when feeling ill or recovering from an operation. However, I also remembered an experience of being in hospital for the short space of a day when I was a teenager and remember it being pretty boring! So for those who are there on either a short-term or long-term basis, something a little different might just be what they are looking for. 

Luckily for me the patients, aged from 4 – 17, have really got involved with the objects I bring to their bedsides, and what makes it even nicer is that they get their parents and the hospital staff involved too. I’ve had some fantastic memories made from my time on the children’s ward, with one visit in particular standing out in my mind.

The scary-hairy tarantula

The scary-hairy tarantula

I had taken a collection of beastly bugs into the hospital (I thought this would be funny as it is what hospitals try usually to avoid at all costs), and was working with a teenage girl. She had been in and out of hospital for quite a while, and had sunk into a bit of a depression over being ill and being separated from her friends all the time. On this day, I went to her bedside and showed her the bugs I had with me. It took a bit of encouragement for her to hold the block that encased a scary-hairy tarantula, but eventually she started to explore its many qualities. After looking at this for a while she placed it down on her bedside table, at which point a nurse walked into the room to run some tests. Before she had the chance though, she spotted the tarantula and thinking it was real ran screaming from the room. The teenage girl burst into laughter, causing her mother to start laughing, then me and then the nurse who had bravely ventured back into the room realising what was going on. This itself made the experience brilliant, but what really moved me was that as I was leaving the ward for the day, the girl’s mother ran up to me to say thank you for making her daughter smile… it was the first time she had laughed in 3 weeks.

– Lisa

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.

It’s here at last!

Robin and Rachael dressed as their alter egos, Anubis and Perenbast

It has long been anticipated, but the wait is over and Secret Egypt has arrived!

The whole museum has been working hard at getting Secret Egypt on its way and ready for the grand opening, which happened last Thursday and was a huge success, so now it’s time to get under way with the flow of school groups who have booked on to visit us.

The learning team travelled around the country last year visiting different museums, looking around ancient Egyptian galleries and observing their schools sessions, all in the hope of achieving an enjoyable, engaging and exciting schools programme for the Herbert. The process of bringing this knowledge together with our own ideas, experience and interests has resulted in two Active Learning sessions, with one focusing on Life and Death in ancient Egypt and another one about hieroglyphics, called Scribe School.

Ancient Egypt is one of the most popular topics covered in the Key Stage 2 curriculum, so we were expecting the interest in Secret Egypt to be high and are thrilled at the various schools we have attracted from Coventry, Warwickshire and further a field.

Hand crafted resources made by the learning team

As part of the preparation for these sessions the learning team have been busy reading, painting, writing, typing, emailing, training, sewing, knitting, shopping, cutting, tidying and even dressing up! It’s fair to say we’ve been a busy bunch over the last few months and the workload is not going to lessen for the duration of the exhibition as we physically deliver the school sessions, but it is one of the best things about being on a learning team, because we’re certainly kept on our toes, and no two days are the same.   

So what will pupils be learning about as they come to the Herbert for the schools programme? Well, here a few facts and snippets of information to give you an idea:

Me looking very happy with my felted stomach!

  • The ancient Egyptians didn’t think the brain was a very important organ, so rather than carefully preserving it in canopic jars or place it back into the body as they did with the heart during mummification, they would simply pull it out of the nose, throw it away and sometimes they even fed it to cats! EURGH!
  • The process of mummification could take around 70 days altogether – that’s the same length of an average school term.
  • The ancient Egyptians strongly believed in a number of Gods and also in carrying amulets with them in life and death to protect them. The most famous of these amulets are the eye of Horus and the Scarab beetle, but a favourite of ours in Bes. He’s a little dwarf-like figure who would protect children and families. His amulet was often placed in people’s homes and their bedrooms.
  • Only 1 out of every 100 ancient Egyptians were able to read and write and they were always boys who trained as scribes.
  • Hieroglyphics were first translated because of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which features the hieroglyphic, demotic and ancient Greek languages all saying the same thing.

Well that’s it from me for now… hope to see you at Secret Egypt!

Lisa
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Coventry Blitz 70th Anniversary

Noreen Dalglish (top right)

To commemorate the 70th anniversary since the Coventry Blitz the Herbert has all sorts of events and projects happening… in fact the whole of Coventry has lots of things going on. We’ll be hosting a Blitz family day in conjunction with the Coventry Transport Museum and one of the History Learning Officers is running a project called ‘We Will Remember Them’ where people can send in photographs of themselves, family members or friends who were a part of WW2 along with some information about who they were and what they did.

As a part of this project I have been delivering WW2 assemblies for local primary schools where we have been testing out an air raid siren, trying on a gas mask and helmet and most importantly learning about the lives of some of Coventry’s citizen’s who contributed towards the War Effort.

One of the people we have been looking at is Noreen Dalglish, an Ambulance driver for the Civil Defence. Noreen was only 20 years old when she joined the Civil Defence in 1938, a year before war was declared on Germany. She said that everyone knew the war was going to happen and rather than be forced into a job she wanted to choose what to do. At the time of joining the Ambulance service, Noreen did not possess a driving licence and instead had to learn as part of her training. When it came to taking her test she drove up a road and straight into a tree, but the Civil Defence needed as many Ambulance drivers as possible so they passed her as she hadn’t caused any damage to the car!

When describing what it was like to be driving out during a blackout with a full uniform on she said, “You’re driving in the dark with your gas mask on, you couldn’t see or hear anything – or breathe! It was horrible. And you had your gas outfit on. All the trousers and the jackets and everything. And driving in that… it was awful. It was like driving down a dark tunnel with a blanket over your head. It was really awful.”

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Summer has arrived at the Herbert!

Wax and ink painting made during a family activity session

The school holidays are well under way now, which should mean a quieter time for the learning team as we mostly work with schools, but for our family learning officer, Mel, it means all systems go! She has been busy getting everything in place for the ‘Face up to Summer’ activities that are taking place in the museum throughout the holidays, which so far have been going really well and producing some lovely examples of art work by the children (check the pictures out to see some of the results).

I’ve particularly been enjoying the school holiday activities because I’ve been spotting lots of children from schools I visited just before the schools broke up. I went around schools in Coventry delivering assemblies called ‘All about Apes’ to promote the summer temporary exhibition ‘Face to Face’. During the assemblies I kept telling all the pupils that if they spotted me during the summer at the museum they had to come up to me and remind me of what I’d been teaching them that day…… I’ve lost count of how many children have been finding me and telling me the facts about apes that they remember, so I’m very impressed with them all!

Annamation storytelling in the Face to Face exhibition

Last week we had a professional story-teller in from Annamation, who were creating stories in the Face to Face exhibition space with families. It was really fun to watch and very entertaining so we’re looking forward to them returning again next week.

Felt Fridays and object handling in the afternoons has been working really well too. This is something new for this summer; usually we have the drop-in art activities all week, but to offer something a bit more collections centred and focused Mel came up with these ideas. I popped into one of the object handling sessions and the families were asking lots of questions about the objects and the children were spending a lot of time exploring the objects and doing observational drawings of them. The atmosphere was relaxed and calm, which I think was what Mel needed after the running around involved for the drop-in activities all week.

By the time I post my next blog I’ll be well into going around schools for a WW2 assembly, so catch up with me again in a few weeks to read about some of the Coventry citizens who contributed to the war effort, including the story of Noreen Dalglish, an Ambulance driver from Coventry who happens to be the Grandmother of one of the learning officers here at the Herbert. Until then…have a happy summer time!

Lisa.
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Talking, travelling, waterways and summer fun!

Family enjoying craft activities at the Herbert

 In my previous blog I mentioned the work the Herbert learning team have been doing to prepare for upcoming temporary exhibitions and the schools programmes we offer to go along with them. Well that is all still happening, but I thought I’d give you a catch up on how things have been going. 

1. The From Here to There exhibition is now approaching its final week of being on display and so far I’ve gone through 13 guided talks around the exhibition and have another 5 to go, which all means it’s been a very good success. This was the first time we have catered guided talks around an arts exhibition to Secondary schools, so it was new ground for us, but the school groups who have visited have all said how they felt the benefits of the insight into the art works and how useful it was to the pupils’ development and research work, so hopefully it is an area we can explore again in the future. I have personally thoroughly enjoyed leading on this project, as I have an arts background myself and I am a particular fan of Tracey Emin and Marc Quinn, 2 of the featured artists. 

2. Our travels around the country have continued in our quest to research how museums are delivering the subject of Ancient Egypt to school groups. Two of my colleagues recently visited the British Museum in London and I have just visited Bolton with another colleague to meet with one of their learning officers. It did require both of us being on the train at 6am and 3 changes along the way, but it was well worth it, as Bolton museum is one of the sites who are going to be lending the Herbert artefacts to contribute towards our Secret Egypt meeting so it was very interesting to see how they bought the topic to life with the use of handling collections, costume and different activities around the gallery. 

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From Egyptian Mummies to Tracey Emin

Working on the Herbert learning team means getting involved with a huge variety of projects, from running school sessions, to helping out our Families Learning Officer with activities and events, dressing up in costume for sessions like Molly the Maid or Keep Calm and Carry on, or working on the learning programmes for temporary exhibitions, there is always something fun and exciting to be involved with.

Lately on the learning team we have been travelling up and down the country doing research for the Secret Egypt exhibition that is coming up in 2011. This is going to be huge for the Herbert as an exhibition, but also for learning. We’ve already had teachers asking questions about it, so we’re expecting a big uptake with visits for the learning programme. Over the last couple of months we have been to Leicester, Sheffield, and Manchester to talk with other museums about what works and what doesn’t for Ancient Egyptian school sessions, and over the next few weeks we’ll be travelling to Birmingham, Bolton, London and Oxford to meet with some others. This is great for us as we’re getting a real insight into what is available from other museums and we’re meeting a lot of fellow museum educators. Over the next few months the learning team will be putting the Secret Egypt school’s programme together so keep looking out for updates of how that’s going! Read the rest of this entry

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