Teen Twitter Takeover with @KidsinMuseums and @HornimanMuseum

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Last August over 50 cultural and heritage organisations across the UK handed their twitter feeds over to teenagers. Teen Twitter Takeover happened in museums, archives, galleries, castle, historic homes and more. All of these venues offered young people a chance to be Social Media Managers – a role that is usually reserved for adults.

Here’s how one teenager from The Horniman Museum as Gardens approached it with emojis.

Last year, the youth panel had the chance to be involved with Teen Twitter Takeover, and our immediate thought was to try and come up with an idea for the day which was really accessible, fun for everyone involved and appealed to other young people – which lead us to dedicate the entire day to one thing: emojis. People would tweet emojis at us, then we would run around the museum and gardens trying to track down and photograph the real life equivalent. It was an exhausting day (especially when someone tweeted a rabbit found in the garden one minute, and a fish from the aquarium the next!) but our idea got a great response on Twitter and we all had a lot of fun doing it. Continue reading →

The @JewishMuseumLDN Anti-Valentines Event

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In the post Sahava Baranow, project manager at the Jewish Museum’s Anti-Valentine Event, shares what the event was all about:

flyerDuring an early morning seminar in the first couple of weeks of the MA Museum Studies at UCL, our degree coordinator approached the class with a potential project. The Jewish Museum was planning a Late event that would be developed by students to go with their temporary exhibition Blood that drew together art, film and literature to present a rich exploration of how blood can unite and divide. The aim of the event was to attract a younger and culturally engaged audience. It sounded like a great chance to get some practical experience and take part in something innovative and enjoyable. Five of us were interested and the Jewish Museum got in touch to set up an initial meeting and explain our individual roles.

One project manager, three programmers, and one marketing officer would develop the event. The Jewish Museum was going to support us wherever possible, but we were in charge. Having managed some projects in the past, I decided to go for the role of project manager. Managing a project of this size and meeting the expectations of the museum, our degree coordinator, and all of my friends who had promised to come along created a lot of pressure to deliver a successful event, but besides being nervous, I was also excited. Continue reading →

Guest Blog by Karan from Florence Nightingale Museum Young Panel

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This is a guest blog written by Karan Ishii about her time at Florence Nightingale Museum as part of the youth panel this summer

100_0052This summer, I had the privilege and pleasure to be a member of the Florence Nightingale Museum Youth Panel in London. Having moved to England the summer before, I had decided to make whatever positive contribution I could give to local organizations. The Panel consisted of myself and two other girls as well as our supervisor, Ms. Stephanie Tyler. As a team, we developed a project for the Kiss of Light Exhibit in the museum, which highlights the role of nurses in light therapy in 20th century Britain. The exhibit, which ends October 23, 2015, tells of the use of sun sanctuaries and direct light therapy to combat diseases and illnesses.

For our project, we had a number of options in terms of angles we could take on this subject. In the end, we decided on educating our target audience of teens about the effects of sun on health through writing passages for a booklet, blog, and infographic. This was our first time working on a campaign and it was a really great experience learning of the workings of a museum especially the behind the scenes work. Hameda and Lydia participated with the Kids in Museums Twitter Takeover day, where they tweeted our journey through our project while educating the public of sun safety.

100_0062During one meeting, panel member Lydia and I worked with poet Simon Barraclough, who wrote Sunspots, in a poetry workshop. The result was a compilation poem that personifies the sun as insistent and loud in mornings but also bitterly considers cloudy, English days where the sun is no where to be seen. I am very proud of our poem, as I have previously had a slight distaste for poetry, but truly enjoyed composing this particular poem.

The lasting part of being a part of the youth panel was enjoying meeting and working with people that I most definitely would not have met had I not decided to join the panel. It was wonderful making new friends and making the small difference that we could and fascinating to learn about Florence and her impact today. With a steady supply of Starburst as our fuel, we plowed through research and came out proud to have been a part of an amazing team!

To see a blog post by panel member Hameda, please visit https://florencenightingalemuseum.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/summer-at-the-florence-nightingale-museum/ 

The Florence Nightingale Museum
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Part #4 Reflective Essay: Teen Ambassador @nmafateens

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Continuation of Teen Ambassadors Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art Guest Post

Amyra Demonstrating Project Math FestNote: This post was written by Amyra Hasan, a student in the Teen Ambassadors Program, to fulfill the requirements of her capstone project for the “International Studies and Law” academy that she is enrolled in. It is a reflective essay about her experiences during the training portion of the Teen Ambassadors Program.

For most people, Africa began when the Europeans decided that the continent was merely a meal they could slice and take for themselves with no regard to the millions of rich and proud people living there. They devoured Africa, ravaged it, and had the audacity to blame its poor condition on the people themselves. For a lot of people now, Africa and black America is still perceived that way. I, as an Asian, have virtually no ties to this continent. I, as an American, could have easily swallowed this imperialist narrative, the product of a Eurocentric education system, without thinking critically about it and moved on with my life. The problem is that I choked on it.

I could not accept this so passively. Africa is the cradle of humanity; surely it couldn’t be as simple as this right? I kept this idea tucked away in the back of my mind as I refocused on getting through the end of junior year. Afterwards, it came up again as I was considering my career path and my future college plans. I had my heart set out to be a humanitarian working to improve the lives of people in less developed countries like Indonesia, my own country. So far, I joined an International Studies and Law program, but I needed something more concrete. I needed something that would give me firsthand experience with different cultures other than my own, something that would simultaneously aid in developing practical skills and broaden my worldview.

Working as a teen ambassador for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art not only fit all of these requirements exactly, but it also answered these burning questions I had about Africa. I gained confidence when I gained friends in such a short span of time. I developed my social skills as I slowly got to work more and more with the public. I came home with newfound passion that I realized I hadn’t felt in years: talking excitedly about everything that happened that day, feeling satisfied and productive as I watched those previously empty weekend hours fill up quickly with schedules.

Even though the artistic aspect of the program was not initially my main interest, I realized art is much more valuable than what most people, including me, give it credit for. Art can be a conversation starter into deeper issues about society, which is precisely what I plan to do as a humanitarian and advocate. I may not work specifically with African countries in the future, but it was especially during this experience I vowed to do my best to bring awareness to the hundreds of diverse societies living inside it. I want to show people that Africa is not one monolithic culture ravaged by disease and poverty, but it is just as capable as anyone else of producing unique and beautiful art. On a general level, I want to show people that all art is equally beautiful and equally valuable, just as all people are.

This is really what extracurricular opportunities, such as the Teen Ambassadors Program, strive to achieve. As Americans, we don’t realize the enormous amount of privilege we have. Our public education system teaches to standardized test after standardized test, leaving no room to learn to appreciate the world for how it is and to learn how to make it a better place. By experiencing Teen Ambassadors as an extracurricular program, I learned that practical experience is just as crucial to being a well-rounded person as a classroom education. I refuse to be passive about the ideas I consume. Like getting nervous before a tour, I must learn to hold it down and speak with conviction, to take an active role in my life so I can help other people do the same in theirs.

 

Guest Blog: Le Rallye: a new lifestyle – Kevin Offelman-Flohic @kev_firitelleg

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Including visitors in a fun and educational mediation practice.

 The 9th of April last, I held in Châteauroux (France) a rallye for two classes of a ‘ZEP’ (an Education Priority Area). It had its own hashtag on Twitter (#rallyeCHTX). At first I thought I would just write about this particular experience and then I wonder: why just stop at that? Why not write about my experience with rallyes? You have to seize the day they say!

Where to start? Châteauroux is a middle-size town in the middle of France, about three hours away from Paris, along the river Indre.

rallye chtx - France

If you were to visit Châteauroux, you would find a little town, with a medieval past, some preserved heritage (a castle, churches, chapels and an industrial heritage) but no real desire to pass this on. Continue reading →

Part #3: More Lessons Learned and Big Questions from Case Study @nmafateens

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We’ve been quiet on the Teens in Museum blog about the Teen Ambassadors Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy. Quite the contrary! It’s been a busy few weeks for our Teen Ambassadors, as we launched into the nitty-gritty of training: learning the building blocks for a tour. In the meantime, we’ve also had the opportunity to provide our students with special opportunities, such as the chance to attend the press preview and opening for the Divine Comedy exhibition, and a chance to sit down with our head of Public Affairs and chief librarian to discuss a range of careers available in museums.

Over the past few weeks, our Teen Ambassadors were ask to select two artworks in our Conversations exhibit that they loved, and then respond to these pieces. They then researched these artworks and pieces, and then gave a five-minute talk in the public galleries on their findings. After we gave the students feedback, each student chose a partner whose selected artworks corresponded with his or her pieces. The students then worked on discussing comparisons between the pieces and elarning their partner’s works. These pieces will be the building blocks of their tours. Our work with the students over the last few weeks has provided us with several “lessons learned” and reflective opportunities.

Lesson #1: Get all relevant medical information from your program participants.
One of our participants has a reoccurring medical condition that occurred while at our program. Although it was not serious, we had no prior knowledge on this condition, or on any other medical conditions or allergies that the students have. From this incident, we learned that we have to collect documentation on any medical conditions or special needs that might affect our programming. For future teen programs, we plan on beginning with a parent meeting, where we will provide confidential worksheets for parents to fill out regarding medical conditions and other information. It seems obvious in hindsight, but in our rush of planning curriculums and envisioning a program, we overlooked this basic step, and we definitely learned a lesson we won’t for’et.

Lesson #2: Provide specific guidelines about what we want from the teens.
When we assigned the students “Interpretive Challenge” research assignments on two artworks that they selected from the Conversations exhibit, they were the five-minute gallery presentation we wanted them to develop. While the student presentations on a whole were really good, the students’ research was not as rigorous as we’d have liked to have seen. Our “Interpretive Challenge” activity was modified from an exercise completed by our adult docents. Many of our adult docents have advanced degrees and intensive experience in the art world, so when we tell them to “research a piece of art”, they more or less know to draw a broad context around the piece. When we asked kids to do this, they provided really rich interpretations based on their observations and own worldviews, but some of their readings lacked in artist biographies, theme of the exhibitions, and art historical context. While we did some research on our own to add some facts to these pieces, we’d like the kids to do this research in the future. To do this, we realize we need to ask our kids to answer very specific questions in their research (such as “give three facts about the artist”). For our first round of Teen Ambassadors, we helped write up some additional research and interpretation for them, but this led us to grapple with our educational philosophy and led to our first big question, which we think might be shared by anyone doing a basic program.

Big Question: How much of the tour should be generated by us, and how much should be generated by the kids?
We have a great group of kids; they make great observations when given the chance to closely look at art and objects, they are wonderful storytellers, and they aren’t afraid to let their personalities shine through when talking about art. It was a highlight of our program to give them a chance to research and study pieces and take some ownership over their pieces, and then have a chance to teach their peers about these pieces. However, there are certain basics that we believe that every gallery experience facilitated at NMAfA should include, and certain contexts that we as interpreters should pass on to audiences who are familiar with art but may be new to non-Western art. At the same time, we don’t want our students to be reading off a script. So how to balance? We’ve been experimenting with scripting certain elements of the student’s tours—introductions and conclusions, for example, which we’ve noticed that any new docent or educator may struggle with—and we’ve given them additional facts to sprinkle through the gallery. It’s still a give-and-take process as we experiment with what works and what doesn’t, so we look forward to thinking more on that in the next few weeks.

Lesson #3: Spend as much time as possible in the galleries.
Many of our early sessions were held in our executive conference room, but I realized when the students were giving their gallery presentations that they seemed much more relaxed in the conference rooms than they did in the galleries. As it’s Cherry Blossom season in DC, the past few weeks have been really crowded with tourists. Couple that with some really sensitive alarms in the gallery, it’s no wonder that the galleries are unfamiliar and a bit scary to the kids (honestly, during the Cherry Blossom Festival, the galleries are a bit scary to me!) Our last session was spent almost entirely in the galleries however, and I realized the need of being in the galleries as much as possible in the future. I like to think of learning as one of the more elevated blocks on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In order for learning to happen, the more basic needs—comfort, security, etc—need to be met. By providing kids the opportunity just to hang out and be themselves in the gallery, we are building their comfort levels so they can properly study and learn the artworks. They’ll then be able to convey that to the audiences that they’ll start working with in the next month.

Speaking of the future, we’re onto recruiting for a summer class of Teen Ambassadors! Reflecting as part of the Teens in Museums blog has been very beneficial for my own program planning, and I look forward to having the chance to implement my own lessons learned.

Photos:Teens at Press Preview

We’ve been trying to expand the range of opportunities available to our Teen Ambassadors by tapping them into other Museum events. Here, Teen Ambassadors Nick and Emily attended the press preview for The Divine Comedy. Emily writes for her school’s newspaper, and will write an article about her experiences. Both had the opportunity to mingle with museum staff, artists, and professional journalist.

Julia presents in the gallery.
Julia Gallery Presentation

Amyra, Emily and Nick after the press preview.
Nick Emily Amyra

Post #2: In the Trenches of Training: Some Lessons Learned @nmafateens

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Please note: This is the second post in an on-going series by Alli Hartley who is sharing what it is like to set up a Teen Docent program.  We hope this inspires conversations so please feel free to leave comments or tweet @nmafateens or us at @teensinmuseums

A few weeks ago, I wrote my first guest post for the Teens in Museums blog, outlining my experience coordinating an emerging teen volunteer program at the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA). As a refresher, the Teen Ambassador Program at NMAfA is a volunteer program that trains students to be docents. Today, we are two weeks into a six-week training curriculum, and even just two weeks in, the interests of this group of teens and the cohesion of the students is already shaping and changing the program.

Reflection timeOur first session was a general introduction to the museum, along with a curator tour of the Conversations exhibit. We started off with an object-based introduction. This gave us a chance to learn a little bit more about what drives these kids, and followed up with a broad introduction to the museum. After that, our curator gave the students a tour of the exhibit that they will be facilitating tours through, and we ended with a reflection activity. For our second training, we gave the kids a broad introduction to the subject of African Art through a presentation by Deborah Stokes, Curator for Education, and a tour led by an adult docent. We further introduced the students to the museum by having a representative from the editorial department sit down with the students and discuss her department’s role in the museum. Before the session began, we had an optional social media scavenger hunt for women’s history month; the attendance numbers were not as high as I had hoped for this optional event, but as I’ll explain later, the kids who did participate were super engaged and produced awesome work.

There are many “lessons learned” already. The first one may seem obvious: reflection can be a real game-changer in programming. About midway through our first session, I realized that there was not nearly enough time to achieve everything we needed to in a two-hour period. However, since many of the kids were able to stay late the first day, we had time at the end to reflect through writing and then share these reflections. When planning our second session, I took reflection off the schedule, thinking that removing reflection wouldn’t too adversely impact the program. However, leaving the museum the second Saturday, I felt off—I knew that the session had been a success, but I felt that it had ended very openly. It had been a particularly didactic session where the kids had to absorb large chunks of information in a short period of time, and because we didn’t give them a chance to share their thoughts and feelings at the end, I wasn’t able to get a sense of where they were at the end of the day and how they were processing the information. Lessons learned, but luckily we have another session this week—one that WILL end with reflection!

The fact that we have another session this week brings me to another “lesson learned”—program fatigue is real! It was a gallop to the finish line to have our program guidelines and regulations complete, our handbook finished, other speakers from within the museum secured, and our training modules drafted by the first training session. After we had our first training session, I barely had time to breathe before I was finalizing worksheets and materials for the second session, and it has been another marathon week gearing up for the third Saturday in a row spent doing a training. I am not entirely sure how the kids are faring with program fatigue either—attendance has been high session to session, although there are the unavoidable family and school conflicts (and SATS! Don’t forget about SATs if you are doing teen programming, like I did!). I’m thinking about incorporating a check-in on how the kids are doing with the quick pace of the programming into reflection next week. In any case, over the next few weeks, our sessions will be biweekly rather than weekly, which will offer the students a bit of down time and also allow me to catch my breath!

My advice to anyone running similar programs is to give yourself more planning time than you anticipate needing before the program starts, because once it’s up and running, you are going to be more tired than you think. I purposely only wrote out rough outlines of each training session during the program planning stage because I knew my lesson plans would change once I worked with the kids more and got a sense of what works and what doesn’t work with each individual group. It’s a tough balance—my lesson plan for this week’s training session was strongly influenced by the session last week, in ways I couldn’t have anticipated at the start. While this has allowed me to really cater each session to my teens and make sure they are getting the most out of each training, planning training sessions in such close succession to each other has put me behind on other work. How you personally achieve balance is something you will want to keep in mind when doing teen programs.

My third lesson learned so far is that while it is great to research trends with teens, every group of kids is so vastly different and their specific needs must be taken into account when programming. I had anticipated that social media would be a strong component of our program, and designed a “social media scavenger hunt” for International Women’s Day before meeting with the teens. After the first meeting, however, I learned that very few of the kids in my program interacted with social media. I was surprised; I knew kids didn’t use Facebook anymore because we old people had taken overJ, but I had thought they would definitely be on Twitter and Instagram! The students had various reasons for not being on social media; my kids are particularly academic and involved in other after-school programs, which makes them awesome participants, but leaves them little time for socializing online. As I had already spent time developing a social media scavenger hunt, I kept it as an optional event and did the event with three participants.

Sage and BreAlthough the event wasn’t as well-attended as I would have liked, the kids were super engaged. I was Tweeting and Instagramming (can I call it ‘Instagramming’??) through the program account (@NMAfATeens), although I wasn’t as active as I would have liked (my phone battery overheated halfway through) it was still a really great event. My teens were tagging the program account with wonderful and insightful posts, and (this was what was most exciting part) their friends, who would have never engaged in the museum otherwise, were liking their posts and began following my posts as well. For any future social media scavenger events, I definitely want to expand on this more, and maybe instruct the students to Tweet more questions and other posts that would encourage a response from their friends not participating in the event.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that this whole program was an exercise in “letting go” of authority, and the social media scavenger hunt definitely confirmed that. As a museum educator, it is my reoccurring nightmare that I look up and see kids glued to their phones, and I really had to let go in this program. Visitors in the gallery did give us some judgmental looks, and I found myself explaining to visitors what the kids were doing, to defend the kids. However, I did let go, letting the kids pick items from the scavenger hunt off a sheet I had prepared, and based on the Tweets the kids posted as well as the feedback from the few that attended, the event was a huge success. I’d like to do something similar in the future, but I don’t know if I will with this particular cohort of teens, which brings me to my fourth lesson learned: don’t assume. All my research and all my assumptions had led me to believe that these would be plugged-in kids; however, once I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with these kids, I realized this was not the case at all. As a result, I had to shift my programming

As tired as I am,   I am feeling really pleased with the program so far. The kids seem super engaged, especially as they’re starting to do their own research on artworks in the exhibit that they selected. I am really excited with how the program is shaping itself and how much the kids are learning from us and I am learning from them.

 

From the Underground Up: Building a Teen Docent Program at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art @nmafateens

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Please note: We are please to announce Alli Hartley will be sharing an on-going series of post on what it is like to set up a Teen Docent program.  We hope this inspires conversations so please feel free to leave comments or tweet @nmafateens or us at @teensinmuseums

By:Alli Hartley is the Teen Ambassador Programs Intern

This spring at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, I have been tasked with building a “Teen Ambassador Program” for teens to volunteer with us throughout the museum. For those who are unfamiliar with us, the National Museum of Art is located on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Our mission is to inspire conversations about the beauty, power and diversity of African arts and cultures worldwide. We’re excited this spring to provide teens with the tools to promote cross-cultural understandings of Africa among our museum audiences.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.40.21 PMThe program launches Saturday February 28th , and the teens will participate in various trainings on weekends during the spring, before giving special teen tours to groups of other teens and eventually the general public in the early summer. The teens will also interact with the public by facilitating art carts. Teen Ambassadors will study artworks in our collection, but they will also have a chance to learn gallery teaching techniques used by museum educators worldwide. We will give our Ambassadors the opportunity to learn more about careers in the arts through interactions with museum staff across a range of departments as well as staff in other Smithsonian institutions. These interactions will include “meet the museum” sessions, during which staff from departments within our museum discuss their projects and careers, and cross-trainings with teen programs at other Smithsonian museums. Our anticipated outcomes include building leadership skills for the teens that can be applied to future careers both inside and outside of the arts, as well as unique exposure to art and -art-related career options.

Continue reading →

#MysteryTour programme returns – January to March 2015 @wipartsuk and @priorityfive

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Are you aged in 11-25, based in Birmingham/West Midlands region and interested in being a young consultant for heritage venue? Well this programme is for you!

The Mystery Tour programme is back for 2015 and we have lots of very exciting venues that we will be visiting this year across the West Midlands region.

Below is some information where we will be going.
Get involved in the Mystery Tour Programme, please follow the link and fill out your contact details here

 

UPCOMING DATES
1) Saturday 24th January 2015: Red House Glass Cone in Stourbridge
Red House Glass Cone
Lying in the heart of the Stourbridge glassmaking industry, the Red House Glass Cone was built at the end of the 18th century and was used for the manufacture of glass until 1936. Reaching 100 feet, it is the only complete Glass Cone in the area and one of only four left in the United Kingdom. With the aid of film, audio guides, exhibits and live demonstrations, you can now explore the Cone’s 200 years of glassmaking history.

 

2) Saturday 31st January 2015: Mystery Tour visioning day at The Drum

On this day we will be reflecting on past visits and visioning for the future of this project. We are looking to formally recruit Heritage Ambassadors who will be working with the Mystery Tour team to attend conferences and events, share their knowledge and give specialist advice and guidance to organisations, share the story of the Mystery Tour programme to date, and help to invite new young people to take part in the project.

 

3) Wednesday 18th February 2015: Aston Hall

 

Aston Hall

 

Aston Hall is a grade 1 listed Jacobean House located in Aston and built between 1618 and 1635. In 1864 the house was bought by Birmingham Corporation, becoming the first historic country house to pass into municipal ownership, and is now a community museum managed by Birmingham Museums Trust. It boasts a series of period rooms which have furniture, paintings, textiles and metalwork from the collections of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

 

4) Saturday 21st February 2015: Heritage Motor Centre

 

Heritage Motor Centre

The Heritage Motor Centre is home to the world’s largest collection of British Cars; it boasts nearly 300 cars in its collection which span the classic, vintage and veteran eras and is a mecca for car enthusiasts.

5) Saturday 28th February 2015: The Old House
The Old House

 

The Old House is a remarkably well preserved example of a 17th Century timber-framed building and is situated in the heart of Hereford, surrounded by the commercial centre of the city. Built in 1621, it is a startling sight, standing as the sole reminder of times-gone-by in the middle of a modern shopping precinct. It is furnished in period style with an internationally important collection of English Oak furniture and rare wall-paintings.

 

Hereford Museum and Art Gallery
hereford-library

 

Hereford Museum and Art Gallery, housed in a spectacular Victorian gothic building, has been exhibiting artefacts and works of fine and decorative art connected with the local area since 1874. Although the exterior of the building has changed very little the museum and gallery have kept up with the times. Exhibits include a hive of live bees, a two-headed calf, a two metre long fish, swords of every shape and size, elements of costume and textiles and much more besides.

 

6) Saturday 7th March 2015: Soho House

 

Soho House

 

Soho House was once a regular meeting place for some of the greatest minds of the 18th century. It was in the dining room of this elegant house that Matthew Boulton, one of the country’s first industrialists, entertained the leading scientists and inventors of the industrial age including James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestly where they discussed ideas and presented discoveries that continue to affect our lives today.

 

7) Saturday 21st March 2015: Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery
Shrewsbury museum

 

Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery is set in a remarkable group of historic buildings including the town’s old Music Hall. The collections offer people imaginative opportunities to actively engage in Shropshire’s heritage and help them to experience the unique offer of which the County provides. They currently have a temporary exhibition called ‘Secret Eygpt’ with 150 objects including statuary, coffins, ceramics, jewellery and animal and human mummies.

 

Shropshire Regimental Museum
Shropshire Regimental Museum

Based at Shrewsbury Castle, the Shropshire Regimental Museum Trust includes pictures, uniforms, medals, silverware, weapons and other artefacts from the 18th Century to the present day. The oldest parts of the Castle were built during the reign of William the Conqueror and it became a major border fortress in the Middle Ages. After falling into disrepair in the 1300s, the Castle was revived to become a domestic residence in the late 16th century. Refortified and briefly besieged during the Civil Wars, the Castle was returned to a domestic use under Charles II. In the late 18th century Thomas Telford remodelled the Great Hall as a private house, which it remained until just after World War One.

If you would like to be involved in the Mystery Tour Programme, please follow the link and fill out your contact details: http://goo.gl/forms/r94xZq1UvX.

 

Any further queries in the meantime, please drop me a line - holly@workinprogress.uk.com.

 

Follow us at @wipartsuk and @priorityfive // #mysterytour.
 
 

 

Talking Objects Collective: Working in Co-production with Community Partners @BritishMuseum

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Written by: Reagan Kiser, Community Partnerships Coordinator, The British Museum

OC final performance 016Talking Objects Collective is an object-based youth engagement programme led by the Community Partnerships Team at The British Museum. The programme aims to bring young people (aged 16-24) together with the Museum and its collections in support of their accredited learning. Since 2012 the British Museum has worked with nine partner organisations, from fashion design students at Working Men’s College, to charities for vulnerable, disengaged, or at-risk young people, including Street League and Dance United. While each group brings their own creative process to the project, one thing remains the same: we work collaboratively to develop a creative response to one key object in the collection, the Lewis Chessmen. The Lewis Chessmen are highlights of The British Museum’s collections, a beautiful and mysterious medieval chess set found on a beach in the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.

OC final performance 063Each Talking Objects project allows an important opportunity for creative risk-taking for its participants, our community partners, museum staff, and also for creative practitioners brought in to support the young people. The responses developed by the young people in co-production with the museum challenge our ideas about what can and should happen in the galleries. For example, we have had heard eloquent proposal pitches for new works of art designed for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, listened to collaborative poems inspired by individual characters from the Lewis Chessmen, and seen fashion designs inspired by patterns on the chess pieces. Recently, we staged a contemporary dance choreographed by young people from Dance United around the narrative of the Lewis Chessmen, and hosted an evening’s site-specific performance in the galleries (using theatre, dance and spoken word to unlock the mysteries of the Chessmen) by young people from OnlyConnect.

DSC_0465Each project is co-produced with our community partner, so that weekly sessions are customised to meet the skills development needs of the group. For example, when working with OnlyConnect, the young people used half of each weekly session at the Museum to develop their drama pieces in the galleries and to engage with and perform for visitors. They worked with a storyteller to focus on key characters in the Lewis Chessmen (from the queen to the knight) and then developed three stories that would encourage an audience (of 50!) to follow them from the Asia galleries to Africa galleries and beyond to reveal the mysteries of the unused chess set and its “lost queen.” Another example is when we met the Dance United group for the first time. We decided with the partners that the best way to shape the project and to build up the young people’s confidence in working with the Museum was to actually take part in one of their intensive dance sessions at their studio. Lorna and I definitely broke the ice this way, and by working alongside the troupe learned about the complex process of choreography and the skills they were interested in developing through the project. From film-making and editing skills, to fashion and jewellery design, we have collaborated with local creative practitioners to develop participants’ responses to the object, and sessions at the museum, and to provide them with new experiences and exposure to career paths. The methodology of Talking Objects is object-based exploration and discussion, so we start with young peoples’ personal connections and ideas about the objects, and end by encouraging them to use the objects and museums on their own terms for their future creative projects.

DSC_0459Perhaps the legacy of this type of collaborative work will be to change perceptions (on both sides) of how young people can use museums, and to raise their confidence with accessing culture and heritage. We also feel that by providing a public forum for the participants’ responses, the young people advocate for their place in museums. As an added benefit, by working closely with our partners who are specialists in youth engagement, we have had the opportunity to share and learn best practice. We have learned new strategies for engaging young people, are more aware of the challenges and rewards of this type of work, and have encouraged our partners to consider objects as dynamic platforms for their own creative practice. The best way to describe the partnership work is to link to an amazing blog post by one of the Only Connect participants about her experience with Talking Objects Collective at The British Museum.

Talking Objects Collective is funded by John Lyon’s Charity. For more information, please contact Lorna Cruickshanks, Community Partnerships Coordinator lcruickshanks@britishmuseum.org

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