The North West Schools Science Competition

There is still time to enter the brilliant Science Competition run by the North West Business Leadership Team. Year 7 and 8 students get the chance to win an iPad Mini (and cash for their school) by submitting an email to on “Why I want to be a Scientist” in no more than 500 words. The closing date for entries is 6th November 2014.

Good luck to all students entering!NWBLT Science Competition

Exploring animals and their habitats with Year 4 children.

This week we had a wonderful visit from a year 4 class at Lower Place Primary School in Rochdale. They were avid explorers on our Natures Library gallery and in our revamped Vivarium space. We loved having you here Lower Place Primary School.

The children were fascinated by the wondrous variety of life and started to focus in on the key features that allow a variety of animals to survive, hunt for food and protect themselves from attack in their natural habitats.

Back in the discovery centre the children worked on creating their own animal by selecting which features their animal would need in order to survive in one of the 3 layers of the rainforest; forest floor, canopy or emergent layer. It was fascinating to see their ideas develop.

A collection of animals that gathered the best responses from the year 4 children are shown here. I think you’ll agree they are pretty amazing.

Can you spot the Frogs amongst the cleverly camouflaged coatings of their skin? Can you identify the features on the sloth that help it to cling on? How is the turtle’s shell useful to offer it protection?

If you would like to learn more about animals and their habitats please do look at the ‘Habitats and You’ session on our website using the link below.

IMG_0201                                             IMG_0209                                                                            IMG_0203

Real Life Science programme shortlisted for the Lever Prize 2015

Exciting news – our Real Life Science Programme here at Manchester Museum has been shortlisted for the prestigious Lever Prize run by the North West Business Leadership Team. We are getting ready to present to the judging panel on Monday. We’re a bit nervous, but excited and we also wish the other three organisations good luck!Real Life Science

A year of challenges and opportunities ahead

Though it feels like only yesterday that we waved off our final school visitors of last year, here we are looking forward to another hectic term and the exciting challenges and opportunities it holds. The beginning of the 2014/15 academic year brings with it a new challenge in the form of the revised national curriculum, a fact I’m sure teachers across the country will need no additional reminder of!

Exploring the new curriculum and identifying areas that the museum can best support has been top of the primary learning team’s agenda this year. One area that has stood out as particularly challenging is the KS2 programme’s ‘Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age’ topic, and in March of this year we introduced our brand new session Dig It: the Mystery of the Thunderstone to cater to it. Exploring different aspects of the archaeological record from the Stone Age to the Roman period, this enquiry-based session gives children the opportunity to handle and investigate real Stone Age material, participate in a sandbox excavation and work in groups to discover and present the secrets of the Thunderstone.

Neolithic polished stone axe. Found in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. (25927)

The response to the workshop has been exceptionally positive, and feedback from teachers has helped us further hone the session to ensure it is covering the most relevant curriculum points. Teachers’ input into the development of sessions is absolutely crucial, and we would therefore encourage teachers to get in touch with any queries about the curriculum and how the museum might be able to support their class’ learning.

Finally, in very exciting news, we are pleased to announce that the Manchester Museum is working with the British Museum on their Teaching History in 100 Objects project; a series of online history resources created for use in the classroom. Each of the resources links to a particular object held in a museum collection in the UK, and we are privileged to have our wonderful Roman wordsquare, and Asru, our most famous mummy, included in the series. The diversity of objects is outstanding, ranging from 700,000 year old hand axes to 21st century protest posters, so please do take a look –

More information on our Dig It: the Mystery of the Thunderstone workshop can be found at, and if you would like to book a session please get in touch with Nora Callaghan on 0161 275 2630 or email

Opportunity for Creative Practitioner

What do these portraits tell us about ancient people?

One of the Greco-Roman Portraits

We are pleased to announce that we are recruiting for three Creative Practitioners in order to continue with our successful Art of Identity Project.

This fantastic opportunity is thanks to funding from  The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts who have recently agreed to fund Manchester Museum for a second year as part of their Start programme.

We are searching for three Creative Practitioners to help us deliver our project outcome of a physical or digital piece of artwork from each partner school on the topic of Identity. Project work will be taking place in either the Spring or Summer Terms and there will be a celebration event at the Museum to showcase the work.

If you would like to apply, take a look at our Creative Practitioner Brief, which will provide more details on how to apply.  Closing date for applications is Wednesday 3rd September at 5pm.

Any queries or inquiries please contact Cat Lumb.

If you are interested in seeing some of the work produced from our first year you can visit the Museum to see the students’ work which is displayed in our reception area until September 5th.

The Art of Identity 2014 Display of this year's student work

The Art of Identity 2014
Display of this year’s student work


Guest blog by our Y10-12 work experience students

In the last two weeks of summer term we had 8 fantastic work experience students with us in Years 10-12. The students were given a taste of the museum’s working life and wrote a bit about their experiences….

Two of our students, Matt and Emily, wanted to share their views as ‘newcomers’ to the museum:

We believe museums should encourage people of all ages to discover the life of people from the past, and how it has helped shaped today’s society. During our work experience we have seen numerous examples of how  Manchester Museum impressively makes the stories of history accessible to visitors. On our first day, we ventured down into the dark stores beneath the museum and we were able to see only a glimpse of the millions of artefacts the galleries do not display. This opened our eyes to the vast collections that often the public are not aware exist, and how carefully organised each object is.

Work experience weapons stores

Conservation is one of the Museum’s main responsibilities. It ensures the artefacts we see can survive for many years. During our second day, we spoke to Irit Narkiss about how she devotes her time to ensure the beautiful objects that the Museum holds are able to stay in such perfect condition. For many visitors, her work goes unnoticed, and we, being past visitors to the Museum, were surprised to find out that this is such a vital part of the running of the Manchester Museum.

Not only does the Museum display artefacts, it also strives to educate visitors on the origins and history of the objects, and how they were used in historical times. For example, the Museum runs an extremely successful primary school education programme, as shown by the large numbers of school children filling the foyer as we arrive every day. These programmes, however, would not run without the dedication of the primary and secondary learning teams based in the museum. On our first day, we talked to Emily Robinson, the Secondary Science Programme co-ordinator, who explained her role in the organisation of one of the many education schemes that the museum offers. We also helped Emily brainstorm ideas for the renovation of the Life Lab, a well-loved programme for secondary and college students.

By far the most essential element of the Museum is its ability to inspire. Everyone who visits, works at or admires the Museum is inspired by the collections and is left in awe by the fascinating stories attached to the objects. We have also been inspired during our internship. After only experiencing a couple of days work here, we have already fallen in love with the welcoming environment at the Museum. We look forward to the remaining time we have here.


Work experience art studio

Our two students Gabriel and Alice were really inspired by their visits to the museum’s stores:

In our week of work experience in Manchester Museum, we were privileged to have an insight into the hidden stores of artefacts and minerals that normal visitors do not have the opportunity to view in wonder. Unbelievably, only 0.05% of the museum’s collection is actually seen by the visitors! The museum has an extensive range of living culture artefacts, many of them that were unfamiliar to us, for example the Fijian Throwing Club, which to our inexperienced eye “looked like a flower”. We were also impressed by the mass array of armaments, ranging from shark tooth swords to coconut hair armour. In the rabbit warren of secret stores under the museum were some precious minerals and fossils including the most highly prized of all – a centimetre sized diamond. However, the most fascinating object to us was undoubtedly the spider in preserved in Baltic Amber.

Work experience geology

Manchester Museum is a vital part of the community. Much of the public use the museum in various ways, not only is it a popular destination for school children studying Egyptology, but much to our surprise, we were informed by Lindsay Loughtman (curatorial assistant in the Herbarium) that many artists also use the Museum’s plant preserves as artistic inspiration. The Museum is steeped in Manchester’s history, for instance, many plants have been donated by the Victorian collectors from Manchester such as Charles Bailey and Cosmo Melvill. In addition, many of the rock samples housed in the Museum are from local areas, even the stuffed deer in the lobby was originally from Belle Vue Zoo.

Due to the Museum’s unique position in our community, it is of paramount importance that the Museum is maintained for the future. This is why we have chosen to do our work experience at the Museum so that we can learn about the challenges it faces but also the benefits that it provides, and by understanding how the Museum operates, we have better knowledge to ensure that the Museum continues to thrive. We love working with the Museum and we hope to make the most of these experiences.

Working in stores object analysis

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!