Millbrook’s Marvellous Museum!


The Manchester Museum is a fantastic place to work. Every morning I get to work inside a beautiful building with some of the most incredible objects I have ever encountered. After all, how many people can say that they walk underneath the suspended skeleton of a sperm whale every day?

Therefore, I was not expecting that my very favourite event of the entire school year would actually take place outside of the walls of the museum…but it did!
On Monday 30th June, Jack and I took a trip to Millbrook Primary School in Wigan to visit Mrs Thomas and her Year 3 class. The reason for our journey up the M6 was that we had been invited to see ‘Millbrook’s Marvellous Museum’ – a series of exhibitions that had been curated by the pupils themselves as part of their work on museums this term.

Jack and I had high hopes for the afternoon after meeting the pupils when they had visited the Manchester Museum earlier on in the year but nothing prepared us for what they had in store for us!

We walked into the classroom to be greeted by a reception desk manned by a dedicated (and very professional) team who asked us to sign in and then we were led on some fantastic guided tours around the classroom, which had been transformed into a museum that could rival our very own institution with its range and amount of artefacts!

Every table in the classroom boasted an array of treasures including authentic fossils, an old suitcase containing artefacts from World War Two,  an incredible foot powered sewing machine from the Victorian period and even a hockey stick used by the Indian Olympic hockey team!


Even more impressive was the knowledge of the pupils who presented the artefacts to us. They were armed with a plethora of facts about each item and, if any of them want to become curators in the future, I have no doubt that the museums of the UK will be in very safe hands for years to come!

Our guided tours ended with a challenge for Jack and myself. We had to attempt to identify a mystery object! Despite many helpful clues, my answers, which included seaweed’, were wildly inaccurate. In fact, the mystery object, which was circular and had a large round indent at its centre, turned out to be authentic Chinese tea leaves! The class certainly had us well and truly fooled with that one!

Overall, Jack and I had an absolutely fantastic trip to ‘Millbrook’s Marvellous Museum’ and we would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. In fact, if this was a ‘Trip Advisor’ review, I’d be giving the museum five stars!
Congratulations on such brilliant work Year Three and we wish you every success in your future curatorial endeavours!

Manchester Museum Camp

DSC_7073On Friday 13 June 2014 the Museum welcomed a group of young adults from the Charity Pure Innovations – who support people with a disability and disadvantaged groups to lead better lives.

The group have all completed their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award and are now embarking on their Duke of Edinburgh, Silver Award.

Some members of the group had never camped away from home or with their peers before.

As part of their award the adventurous, excited young adults, arrived at the Museum at 7 pm on the eve of a full moon to sleep overnight in the Museum.

On arrival they set up camp, and got acquainted with their surroundings.

They enjoyed and participated in a series of activities from torch lit tours, to building pyramids, to handling ancient Egyptian artefacts and taking digital photographs of their favourite exhibits.

The group had bundles of energy and excitement, however when it was time for lights out, they all slept soundly until 7am in the morning.

At the end of their overnight visit they met Adam Bland, our Vivarium Assistant who gave them a tour of the Museum’s Vivarium (Live Animals gallery) and introduced the group to some of the Museum’s animals, including snakes, tree frogs and chameleon.

Find out more about their experience at Pure Innovations blog:

We look forward to seeing the participants at the Museum again soon.

Vicky Grant, Family Programme Coordinator

Inspirational Youth Board Member speaks at Engagement Manchester


Last week saw the latest engagement@manchester event held at Manchester Museum with its focus being upon ‘How to engage with young people outside the classroom’

These events are great ways to meet informally for some professional development and a chance to network with other colleagues across the university who may be involved in similar work to share ideas, good practice and make any collaborative links possible, brilliant!

I was completely impressed, inspired and left feeling super motivated by one particular speaker, 2nd year undergraduate Elisha Bradley. Elisha has been a member of the Manchester Museum’s Youth Board for over 7 years  and has led, collaborated on and been creatively involved in a wide variety of projects helping to make young people’s voices heard and listened to across the Museum, the University and beyond. Elisha spoke proudly of the type of work she has produced, highlighting how young people are invaluable in creating unique, powerful and thought-provoking work. Elisha showed her dedication and passion for museum’s and galleries throughout her very in-depth and inspired talk about why it has been so beneficial for her to be apart of the Senior Youth Board both in terms of educational pathways and personal development.

Elisha was articulate and very well-informed and represented young people in an extremely positive way, a real champion for young people today! I simply had to tell you about her.

I’ve attached a link to the engagement website where you can find Elisha’s presentation and soon there will be a film of the event uploaded there too.

If you would like to find out more about engagement or learning at Manchester Museum just follow the link or contact myself, I’d love to hear from you.

Senior Youth Board member, Elisha Bradley.

Senior Youth Board member, Elisha Bradley.




A landmark week at the Museum

Every year, Fallibroome Academy, a specialist arts college in Macclesfield, organises an Artsweek around a particular theme for its local feeder schools. For the last two years, our colleagues over at the Whitworth Art Gallery have been involved in Artsweek, working with pupils from the network of Cheshire primary schools to explore themes such as global threads (2012) and elements (2013). However, this year, for the first time, the Museum was also involved.


Coral on display in Natures Library

From 11th to 14th February, the Museum and Gallery hosted four different classes from Mottram St Andrews, BollinbrookWhirley primary schools, as they explored the theme of ‘landmarks’. Initially, landmarks did not seem to be the easiest topic to explore in the Museum, and with the closure of the Whitworth for refurbishment, the whole project was looking like quite a challenge. However, after some initial head-scratching and with a little creative joined-up thinking, we soon hatched a plan, based on the notion of ‘landmarks’ as structures. So Artsweek 2014 soon became an exciting joint venture between the Museum, where groups were invited to explore and investigate structures, and the Whitworth, where groups were given the opportunity to build structures in Whitworth Park.

To give the groups a sense of direction during their museum visit, we decided to develop some landmark-themed resources. As I wondered the museum in search of inspiration, I soon realised that once I opened my eyes and took a slightly different perspective, I was actually surrounded by structures, both natural and manmade, of all shapes and sizes. From the intricate net-like calcium carbonate structures of coral (pictured , to the gigantic articulated bones of a sperm whale, hanging above the Living Worlds gallery, the museum is full of natural structures. Indeed, manmade structures are also abundant both in the collection, such as the Japanese armour with its interlocking plates, and the enormous pink granite column, carved by King Ramesses II that sits in the Museum’s entrance, but equally on a larger scale in the form of the beautiful Victorian architecture of the building itself.

To support the groups as they explored the Museum, we developed a ‘structures trail’ and, for the older pupils, a ‘structural challenge’. Both activities encouraged groups to approach objects creatively and from the perspective that, on a particular scale, they all constitute structures. While the trail identified particular items that we invited groups to reconstruct using their own bodies, the challenge encouraged pupils to design a tree-house that met a number of criteria, using the collections as inspiration. These resources will soon be available on our website in the ‘on-gallery resources’ section. While some groups did use these resources, in practice, others chose not to. In spite of this, the resources are, if anything, evidence of the type of creative work that can take place in the museum.

mottram group

Reception class from Mottram St Andrew

Our first visit was from a reception class from Mottram St Andrews. This, it turned out, was the first trip that the class had been on, and for most of the pupils, it was also the first time that they had visited the Museum. Now I will hold my hands up and admit that reception pupils are way out of my comfort zone (as Primary Learning Coordinator, they are also outside of my experience!), so when I learned that the first group to visit for Artsweek would consist of four and five year olds, I had no idea what to expect. When the class arrived, I was delighted to meet such a lively and enthusiastic class, and was relieved to find out how focused and articulate they were. During their visit we ended up ditching the trail and I led a tour around the museum, pointing out some of the highlights (both the living and stuffed animals were a big hit!), of which Stan was probably the most memorable, particularly since the class is currently studying dinosaurs. The sight of a group of reception children coming face to face with Stan the T-rex for the first time is quite something! And after the initial excitement, the group spent some time (a surprising amount of time!) on the gallery sketching the enormous skeleton which, from the point of view of a 4 year old, must have been even more impressive than it is for us fully-grown adults.

While I was not entirely convinced that the pupils had made the link between their museum visit and the theme of landmarks, when we relocated to the park after lunch, it became clear that they had. Steve’s blog post will give you a detailed account of the work that was carried out in the park from the point of view of the Whitworth, but I also want to mention a couple of my own thoughts and observations, from the point of view of the Museum’s work.

Using willow and twigs / branches, the class was invited to build their own structure, and it was only at this point that I realised how much of an impact their museum visit had made. As well as constructing the frame of a huge dinosaur, smaller groups of pupils also started work on structures such as a den and various animals. On the surface, it probably looked a lot like a load of kids (and adults!) playing in the park and building bizarre willow structures. While I’m not denying that the park work was a lot of fun, it was also a lot more than that. By listening in on conversations between pupils as they worked on their structures, and from hearing pupils talk about their landmarks, I was very happy to hear that their museum trip provided much of the inspiration for their willow structures.

After the reception class, the next group to visit was a year 6 class from Bollinbrook. While I have much more experience of working with this age group, and therefore, our resources were perhaps more suitable, I was thrilled to find that, like the reception class, the year 6 group linked their museum visit to their work in the park. Using the previous group’s structures as a starting point, the year 6 class threw themselves into the challenge wholeheartedly. The third day was slightly different in that the year 3 class from Whirley visited the park first, and then came to the museum for the afternoon. While I had been slightly worried about how well this would work in practice, it turned out really well as for this group, their willow structures informed the types of structures that they investigated in the museum. The final group to participate was a year 3 class from Mottram St Andrews. While I was unable to spend much time with the group during their museum trip, I had a quick chat with the teachers over lunch, and was glad to hear how well the trip was fitting in with their current topic of skeletons. The museum, once again, provided a really great opportunity for pupils to observe different types of structures and to gather inspiration in preparation for their afternoon in the park. When I visited the park later in the day, I was thrilled to see how each group had added something new to the original structures, whilst remaining sympathetic to the previous work. The amazing collaborative landmarks that came about from this project are, for me, physical evidence of the benefits of partnership working.


So a couple of thoughts…

  1. Artsweek demonstrated (yet again) how joined up thinking can lead to really exciting projects that make new links between the museum and the gallery, and in this case, the use of the park as an outdoor setting.
  2. A joint visit is entirely feasible! In the past, we have found it very difficult to convince groups to visit the museum and gallery in one day. The fundamental issue has, quite rightly, been the matter of walking down Oxford Road with a group of pupils. This challenge can, however, be overcome and as we demonstrated during Artsweek, simply taking the back route from the Museum to the Park is not only easy and safe, but is also entirely doable!
  3. A chance to work outdoors in the park is the perfect accompaniment to a trip to the museum. These two environments couldn’t be more different, yet they are strangely complimentary when appropriately supported.
  4. Finally, if you are ever running an event and hoping for good weather, Steve Roper is your man! If you cast your mind back, you may remember that mid February was rather wet and windy (understatement:  MEN headline for 14th February was ‘The Great Storm: How winds of 70mph battered Greater Manchester’!). So I admit that I was feeling rather smug about having an actual venue to work in, and slightly sorry for Steve, who didn’t. In spite of the storms, the gale force wind, the torrential rain, and everything else that the week threw at us, Steve Roper only got rained on ONCE! With the exception of the last day when it started spitting as the group left the park, whenever I visited Steve in the park, it was not only dry but was often also glorious sunshine. So based on the events of Artsweek 2014, I can only conclude that Steve Roper has the weather on his side – the man is waterproof! – and in Manchester, that is a very special gift!

Early years Explorer sessions at Manchester Museum

SBA MUSEUM (29)[1]Explorer sessions are Interactive and multisensory museum led sessions for Foundation stage groups which support the delivery of a creative EYFS curriculum;
Communication and Language
Personal Social and emotional development
Understanding the world: The world

Nature Explorers

Discover wildlife, minibeasts and things that live under the sea on our Natures Library gallery, lizards frogs and snakes in our vivarium and continue on a self-led visit (with resources) on our Living Worlds gallery

Available to book from May 1 2014

We know from your feedback that more early years practitioners would prefer to bring bigger groups of nursery and reception children (30) to our facilitated sessions, but we also know that young children have a better quality experience if they are taught in groups of up to 15. So we are piloting a new session, Nature Explorers, which is designed to give your children a 45 minutes taught session on Natures library gallery with museum staff (group size 15) and to have a 45 minute self-led visit on the Living Worlds gallery (group size 15)  supported by resources and activities.
Cost;£2 per child/ £60 minimum charge

Other early years sessions available;

Dinosaur Explorers

Say hello to Stan the T.rex and become dinosaur hunters whilst following the footprints around the Fossils gallery. What will you uncover on our dinosaur dig?
1 hour and 30 minutes

Please note that we are adapting this session to accommodate groups of 30 children; 45 minutes taught session (Dinosaur dig) in the discovery centre and 45 minutes self-led visit on the fossils gallery with resources

Animal Explorers – Polar Bear Polar Bear

Polar Bear has a problem, some of his animal and bird friends have gone missing! Can you help him find them? Come and explore our Vivarium, Living Worlds and Nature’s Library galleries, as you embark on this exciting mission to find his missing friends. At the end of the session there is an opportunity to meet one of our live animals from the Vivarium.

Please note; this is a fully taught session lasting 1 hour 30 minutes for groups of 15 children (max), as it includes opportunities for close observation and handling of some of the live animals from the vivarium.

To find out more about the museum and our programmes, please visit our website

To make a booking for a facilitated or self-led visit

Call us on 0161 275 2630

Or email

Have a look at our early years film to get a taste of what we can offer young children  on our galleries …..

Explorer sessions at Manchester Museum for Early Years settings from Wild Bees on Vimeo.

Work experience at Manchester Museum for Year 10-13s

Last summer's work experience students on an archaeology dig in Whitworth Park.

Last summer’s work experience students on an archaeology dig in Whitworth Park.

Looking for hands-on museum work experience? We are offering two week-long placements to students in Years 10-13 interested in gaining an insight into how Manchester Museum works.

The team at Manchester Museum has developed two work experience packages that will run Monday 7th- Friday 11th July and Monday 14th- Friday 18th July.

As a work experience student you will experience the working life of the museum through a programme of organised activities and tasks. You will meet the staff and gain practical work experience both behind the scenes and out in the gallery spaces. You will get to see first-hand how the museum’s collections are looked after and displayed as well as how we welcome and work with our visitors. One of our work experience students who took part in last summer’s placement said: ‘In this past week I feel I have learned a lot about the way a museum operates and the different types of work involved in running a museum.’ See the blog post that two of our work experience students wrote about their experiences last summer. 

For more information on how to apply for this summer’s placement see Work experience application form 

If you have any other queries about our work experience placements, please contact

The deadline for applications is Friday 21st February and we will contact all applicants by 14th March to let you know if your entry was successful. We look forward to hearing from you!

School Partnerships: The Art of Identity

At the end of January 2014 Manchester Museum played host to two out of the three partner schools as part of our ‘Children & the Arts’ Start programme: The Art of Identity. Derby High School and Wardle Academy visited the Museum with their Year 8 students on 23rd and 28th January respectively to take part in a variety of activities around the topic of Identity.

The ‘Children & the Arts’ Start programme works with arts venues around the UK to foster new partnerships with their local schools.  As a result Start has given three Manchester schools the motivation, means and opportunity to engage their students in a series of creative experiences outside of the school environment (at the Museum) in order to use these experiences back in school. Students from each school will work with a creative practitioner to create a final piece of artwork that will go on display in Manchester Museum in the summer.

portraitEach school begins their Start project with a whole year group visit to the Museum to introduce them to the project and explore the topic of Identity. The starting point for the project is centered on our Greaco-Roman Mummy Portraits, which we hope will inspire the students to consider how identity can be presented in the past and the impact of multi-cultural traditions on individuals and groups.

For the Enrichment Day, the Museum designed a variety of different workshops, sessions and activities to complement the collection and examine different facets of identity. In our Celebrities and Shabtis session, students determined how identity can be defined by particular objects and what these might say about individuals. Whereas in our CSI Athens workshop students used objects to determine who was most likely to have committed a fictional crime. Students were also engaged in on-gallery discussion with our curator – Campbell Price – about how representative ancient Egyptian art might be and if it might depict ‘real’ people. We had a print-maker, Alan Birch, who took self-portraits that the students had drawn themselves and demonstrated how to create prints of these using a printing press (you can view further examples here). We also encouraged student to consider animal identity and how humans classify the natural world and challenged them to make their own Figurines as part of our Fragmentary Ancestors temporary exhibition.

A creative practitioner was also assigned to each school and led a workshop linked to the Greaco-Roman Portraits with students who would be involved in creating the final artwork back at school. These sessions were unique to the practitioner and tailored to suit the needs of the individual school and the supporting subjects that were defined at the project outset.

The two Enrichment Days proved to be a great success, with some great feedback from both teachers and feedback – some of which I’ve included here (see below). It was a great way to involve the school and their students during the start of the project, and now each school will work with their creative practitioner and a set of students to create their final artwork for Museum display. These students will be returning to the Museum for a second visit over the course of the school year, so watch out for more posts about it!

Students at Derby Academy:
71% of students said that they had enjoyed the activities of the day. 35% said they would visit the Museum with family and friends, with another 43% saying they might come back.

Students at Wardle Academy:
50% of students said that they had enjoyed their visit and 50% said they would come back to the Museum with family and friends.

Some of the teachers’ comments reflect the quality of the workshops:

  • “I thought this was very educational – lots of learning opportunities” – Derby High Teacher on the Animal World session
  • “…developed thinking skills and team skills.” – Derby High Teacher on CSI Athens workshop
  • “All children engaged, constantly asking questions. Liked the pace and engagement of Campbell’s talk” – Derby High Teacher on the Egyptian Gallery discussion
  • “Pupils loved making the figurines…well linked to the topic.” – Derby High Teacher on the Fragmentary Ancestors activity
  • “An excellent, well organised day. Great to see our children so switched on and thinking!” – Wardle Academy teacher
  • “Great to handle real objects. Good link with present back to the past. Pupils very engaged and reflecting on the use of objects and meanings” – Wardle Academy teacher on Celebrities and Shabtis
  • “Very engaging for students – totally absorbing” – Wardle Academy teacher on the print-making workshop


RCUK-funded opportunities for researchers at the University’s cultural institutions


‘Research speed-dating’

We are excited to announce that we’ve just recruited a new cohort of PhD demonstrators to deliver education sessions for secondary and post-16 students.

The recruitment and training programme for our new demonstrators is a flagship project within the University’s larger Research Councils UK (RCUK)-funded School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI). This scheme aims to help University researchers to directly engage and inspire young people. Our flagship project couples researchers from across the University with the collections at our cultural institutions and libraries to bring current research to life in a powerful and unique manner.

Therefore, this time it’s not just the Museum’s science programme which will benefit, as we have taken this very successful way of working with PhD researchers and are embedding it at Whitworth Art Gallery, John Rylands Library and within Manchester Museum’s humanities programme. This means there will be some exciting new sessions to look out for in the spring term!


Mystery object task

Each PhD demonstrator has been chosen specifically to use their current research knowledge and skills to enhance education sessions; meaning that school and college pupils will benefit from having their very own expert in the room.

To prepare the researchers for this new challenge we invited them to take part in a day long training programme. This included an introduction to cultural learning with a mystery object activity using specimens from the Museum’s collection. After lunch the demonstrators had a chance to explore the Museum’s galleries to identify ways of facilitating groups in unique out-of-the-classroom spaces.


Rewording research summaries

We ended the day by doing a spot of ‘research speed-dating’ to give the researchers practice of communicating their complex current research. They had 90 seconds to explain their research to a partner using clear understandable language. After a little feedback, they moved on to a second ‘date’ with only 60 seconds to spare this time. Before perfecting their explanations in a lightning-fast 30 seconds final ‘date’.

Armed with a refined idea of how to explain their research the researchers revisited and reworded their own short tweet-style summaries of their specific area of research. Throughout the day these 140-character ‘research tweets’ were displayed as a physical twitter wall.


Research summaries twitter wall

With new sessions in the pipeline we hope that you and your students have the chance to meet our new demonstrators very soon!

Below are our demonstrator’s tweet-style research summaries:



Sam – Life for ordinary #Romans growing old.  What did they do?  How did they cope?  Also, with 2000 yrs between then and now, #howdoweknow?

Twitter_logo_blueKarlina – I am interested in the effect of climate change on fish physiology so I study the effect of temperature and oxygen on fish swimming

Twitter_logo_blueNaomi – My #research: What did artist #WilliamBlake say about #JesusChrist in his artworks; what influenced Blake & how new & unique were his ideas?

Twitter_logo_blueKonstantina – I’m looking at archaeological skeletons and analysing their DNA to discover if they are related

 Twitter_logo_blueEmma – Were changes in climate, sea level or temperature responsible for fossil jawless vertebrate evolution and demise? Or are fossilization filters warping what we see?

Twitter_logo_blueStephen – Farewell Fossil Fuels! Processes that limit biofuel production are now understood. We are closer to making biofuels from plants feasible.

Twitter_logo_blueEvgeny – Did you know that teeth can help to improve your vision? Now you know. #stemcells from teeth may be used to enhance regeneration of injured eye.

Twitter_logo_blueMary – How have words meaning ‘mad’ changed over time? Can linguistic metaphor demonstrate whether cognitive concepts for madness remain stable?

CTwitter_logo_blueelina – By observing structural colour in nature, my research aims to produce colour in textiles without using colourants

Twitter_logo_blueCatherine – Could mixing and matching of modern-day viruses unlock secrets of the distant past?

Twitter_logo_blueJennifer – To save and show old sunken wood in water… in a museum

Babies explore the Coral exhibition at Manchester museum

Our first Baby Explorer sessions of   2014 (Tuesday 7 Jan) took place in our beautiful temporary exhibition Coral  – something rich and strange designed by Ben Kelly ( Hacienda) and featuring a diverse range of exhibits, including,  18th c sea anemones , a Rossetti painting and new works by artists Mark Dion and Karen Kasper.

The space wasn’t designed for under 5’s but our baby Explorer ‘Under the Sea’ story was perfectly themed for the space and we took advantage of the nooks and crannies around the central exhibition space to build islands of sensory play for babies and parents to explore.

We shared the gallery space with our general visitors, informing them of what was taking place  as they entered the space (16 babies and ‘strange’ looking resources on the floor!) and assuring them that the space was still open and that they were welcome to join us. We have found that on the whole our general visitors are delighted to see young children in the museum.

We have used our Nature Discovery gallery as a base to develop our Baby Explorer programme, but as we have grown in confidence as practitioners our aim is to support parents into the main spaces of the museum and to encourage them to visit at other times outside of the sessions, especially if our babies have siblings.

During the summer we held some of our sessions in our temporary exhibition, ‘Trees’ and we have developed a set of Baby Explorer sacks linked to our Ancient Worlds themed session which we use  to support parents  to explore the gallery spaces. Being out and about in different museum spaces is also a great way to raise the profile of the early years work within the museum itself.

We asked parents and carers for feedback from the session in the Coral exhibition, which was really positive and here are some of their comments;

‘Had a brilliant time at first session today. Really enjoyed being in the gallery – something for adults to see as well’.

‘The raised exhibition provided an interesting space to explore. Lots of interesting corners.’

Babies  will be exploring  the Coral exhibition again on Tuesday 21 January.