I Spy Nature at Manchester Museum


During the summer holidays we were able to run an additional programme for under 5’s and their families (alongside our core family programme) with funding from The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust . This allowed us to offer FREE  drop–in activities and  small group bookable activities both inside the Museum and outside on The Museum Allotment.

We had already raised this funding for the development of a Nature Discovery garden, to sit alongside our Nature Discovery gallery. This will now be developed as part of our major capital redevelopment at the museum over the next few years, during which time we will have a new South Asia gallery and a new temporary exhibition gallery.


We worked in partnership with Hulme Community Garden Centre, RSPB, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Groundwork, Barrow-in-Furness Owl Sanctuary, 24/7 Theatre Company and De Capo Duo to pilot new practice which will inform future developments at the Museum. This…

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Using Collections to Write Poems: a Museum Staff Workshop by Helen Clare

Our Poet-in-Residence, Helen Clare, invited Museum staff to engage in a workshop to help them to create their own poem.  She shared with us the techniques she has used in creating her own poetry, which included the creation of ‘poemlets’ that we blogged about earlier this year. The activity also demonstrates that these techniques can be shared with visitors to facilitate using the collection as inspiration for creative writing.


Helen on Manchester Gallery sharing her poem writing techniques with staff

Using this poemlet technique as a starting point staff were asked to find 3 or 4 objects that inspired them on from our Manchester Gallery and then use a line from their resulting poemlets to develop a longer rhyming poem. In the spirit of sharing, here’s three of my poemlets and the resulting poem I developed using various lines from each.

Once upon a time in Manchester,
Sharp and clean but only now;
A giant cat sauntered here.  – Lion’s Tooth

Illegal, bad and guilty,
A thing of beauty: look at me!
Some things were not made for blood. – Dagger

Spices, smells, so many options built over time.
Fill me, use me, breathe in my tangy scent.
Cultures clashing: a pinch of spice for everyone. – Spice Rack

Poem: Culture Clash
Some things are not made for blood,
Sharp and clean, now used for good.
The owner, once a feared man, lost in history, all but gone.
Cultures clashing: a pinch of spice for everyone.

A thing of beauty: look at me.
Come slowly closer, what might you see?
A forgotten daughter, parents and abandoned son,
Cultures clashing: a pinch of spice for everyone.

I have to say, for a Monday morning activity I am surprisingly pleased with my effort given that we only had around 40 minutes to spend on our poems. The techniques are easy enough to suggest to visitors as an activity, and we got to hear some of Helen’s Museum-inspired poetry, which is always a treat.

It can be daunting [to write poetry] but actually it was quite inspiring. It was a safe environment and Helen was very encouraging. To start out the week creating something was lovely.” – feedback from staff member.


Staff share some of their poemlets on Living Cultures

The instructions for the staff workshop can be found on Helen’s blog, but you don’t have to be a member of staff to have a go yourself. And if you can’t make it to the Museum, check out our Flickr account to see pictures of many of our objects and galleries for inspiration.

Feel free to share your work in our comments section below.

Helen will be showcasing her new schools workshop developed from this Arts Council funded project during the October Half Term.

Juice from Oranges, Rocks from Space
Wed 26 Oct
11.30am – 12.15pm & 1.30-2.15pm
A new poetry performance from Helen Clare, about exhibits from around the museum; where they came from and the journey they’ve made. There will be happy poems, sad poems, gory poems and fun poems – and opportunities for children to join in and create too.

Find out about the giant carved tusk, a moth, bloodworms, a man who was murdered and left to rot in a bog, a Greek God, Stan the T. Rex, and an ancient rock from out of space.

For children aged 8-12 and their parents/carers
Free, book on mcrmuseum.eventbrite.com or 0161 275 2648


A Placement Hello


Me saying hello to Stan the T-Rex

Hello, my name is Luke and I’ve just started my placement year with the Learning Team at the Museum. When I am not on my placement year I study Animal Behaviour at Manchester Metropolitan University, which believe me is more than watching cat videos. Having just finished my second year I thought it would be a great time to go on placement and get experience in the real world.

I have been really looking forward to starting this placement and now that I am here, I haven’t been  disappointed. So I thought I would share with you my top 3 favourite things about the Museum from my first week of working here.

The fact that I’ve learnt a lot about ancient Egypt has been great. This is from being an extra pair of hands during the Egyptian Worlds primary school session, which was on the second day of term! I wish my school did field trips that early after school started. I was especially jealous of the children as I never got to study ancient Egypt at school, let alone go to a museum and have a private lesson on it! It was obivious from how much the children enjoyed it that I clearly missed out of something.

The Vivarium has to be my favourite place in the Museum so far, as it is home to the Museum’s live animals! I will say I spent too much time in there on my first day just looking at all the different animals. My personal favourite (at the moment) is the Golden poison dart frog, as they are so beautiful but also so dangerous.

Lastly my third favourite thing about the Museum is that I get to work in a place full of passionate people and I get to help to educate and inspire people who are younger then me to take up science and history and discover all the amazing things that both science and history have to offer.

That is all I can fit in to one blog post, but this won’t be the last you will hear from me as I am at the Museum for the next 9 months. So don’t worry you will get an update on how I am getting on throughout the year.


The baby sperm whale wishing me luck


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Ancient Egyptian Deep Clean!

It has been a busy summer at the Museum with a huge number of exciting activities linked to our latest temporary exhibition, Climate Control.

Here in the Learning Team, we are now beavering away getting ready to welcome lots more schools in September.

As part of this preparation, we check that all the Museum objects that are handled by children are safe and in good condition.

These photos show Matt (from the Learning Team) and Irit (a Conservator) checking out the ancient Egyptian objects. Although all our school visitors are wonderfully careful with the artefacts, the ancient Egyptian items do have a particularly hard time as they are handled by tens of thousands of small hands every term!

Have a good look at the ‘before’ picture of the fish votive (temple offering) that Irit is holding. Can you see what colour it is? What do you think it is made from? Is it patterned or plain? We’ll come back to the fish later!

Over the last few weeks, Irit has examined all the objects carefully and cleaned them where needed with swabs, water and rubbing alcohol.

Irit was really pleased with the condition of the objects and commented on how carefully the children must have been handling them on the Egyptian Worlds visits. Just one item (a wooden ear from a coffin) is going to go back into storage, to be replaced with a different possible tomb item.


fish votive

Remember that fish votive? Can you see the difference? It’s actually patterned and made of bronze! Irit’s careful cleaning has revealed the beautiful scaled pattern again. It is still mostly brown as it is slightly rusty, but we expect that the acid in the children’s hands this term will naturally polish it up again soon. We’ll let you know!

Handling real objects is such an important part of the ‘wow factor’ of visiting a museum, so we are really looking forward to sharing these exciting artefacts with many more schools this year.

We get booked up quite far in advance, but we do still have a few slots available for later in the autumn term so get your bookings in quickly by filling in our enquiry form to avoid disappointment! See here for our information about our schools programme. We hope to welcome you in the Museum soon.

Campbell and Amy

Lovely to meet you!

Campbell and Amy

Amy meeting Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan at Manchester Museum

My name is Amy and I’m the new Primary Learning Coordinator here at Manchester Museum. I have so far spent two weeks getting to know the building, the collection, the fantastic team here and – mostly importantly – the awesome schools programme! It’s a great time of year to start as we are all gearing up ready for the return of schools in September.

You’ll hear more from me in the coming weeks, but for now I thought I’d share the top 5 things I’ve learnt about Manchester Museum so far …

  • It’s a very smiley place!! Everyone here clearly loves their jobs and is delighted to work in such an inspiring place. Even the frogs seem to grin!

lemur image

  • There’s LOADS going on here – far too much for one blog post! To give you a flavour, in the next year the Learning Team will be consulting with schools on our planned building extension; taking part in activities relating to the UK/India Year of Culture; planning TeachMeets and CPD for teachers … the list goes on!


  • Ancient Egypt is REALLY popular! Asru, one of the ancient Egyptian mummies on display in our Ancient Worlds gallery, is the star of our most popular primary school session, ‘Egyptian Worlds’. And rightly so – she gives kids a fascinating insight into a key feature of this amazing civilisation. (However, if any schools out there cover the Indus Valley as their ancient civilisation in KS2 History, instead of Egypt, we would love to hear from you!)
  • This team is pretty good at what it does: the stack of letters we receive from inspired children really shows how memorable museum learning can be, and last year well over 90% of our visiting teachers rated us as having “excellent” quality of delivery. Not bad across 30,000 annual school visitors!


  • The Museum is a BIG building with LOTS of stairs – wish me luck in finding my way around!!

That’s all from me for now. If you’d like to get in touch to discuss any aspect of our primary schools programme, please do so on 0161 275 7357 or amy.mcdowall@manchester.ac.uk. I look forward to meeting lots of you soon!



South Asia Inspired Creative Practitioner Wanted

Manchester Museum is proud to be supported by Children and the Arts for our final year of our Start programme funding. Our Art of Identity project ran successful in 2013-14 and in 2014-15 with a number of fantastic Creative Practitioners helping over 450 pupils in five different Secondary schools and three Primary schools to explore the topic of ‘identity’ and produce professional pieces of artwork that have been displayed in the Musuem.

MMSouthAsiaThis year, Art of Identity will expand to partner with up to ten Secondary schools in Manchester and will be linked with Manchester Museum’s exciting Capital Redevelopment Courtyard Project. This will involve the development of a permanent South Asia Gallery at Manchester Museum in partnership with The British Museum.

As a result we are looking for Creative Practitioners who have a link to South Asia or who are inspired by this part of the world to develop and deliver two workshops to all of the pupils involved in the project (c.250 KS3 pupils) – one at the Museum and another at each of the partner schools.

If you are interested, or know someone who might be, take a look at our Creative Practitioner Brief and apply before Monday 5th September at 10am.


Creating a School-Museum Comic

During the end of the Summer Term we were delighted to work with Cedar Mount Academy on a HEFCE National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) Funded project. This funding allowed us to engage with a new, external partner to work with. We decided to embed the project within the Literacy framework by teaching pupils about story structure so we approached The Society of Authors Children and Illustrators Group who were able to recommend one of their amazing Writers and Illustrators: Shoo Rayner.

Cedar Mount w Shoo

Shoo Rayner sharing a story with Cedar Mount pupils

Shoo has written and illustrated hundreds of children’s books and when we told him that we wanted to create a collaborative pupil-led comic  strip he was more than up for the challenge. With Shoo on board we then organised a planning day with Cedar Mount Academy’s tutors to decide on how best to prepare the chosen pupils for their task.

It was important for us to try and find a technique of sharing the basics of story structure across multiple levels, as we wanted to involve a cross section of pupils from the whole of Year 7. This is because one of our legacy aims is to create a teacher resource to demonstrate how this approach could be utilised in the classroom, using museum collections as a prompt.

With 20 pupils identified we spent a day planning an action-packed visit to the Museum that would see them learn about story structure (using Romeo & Juliet and Harry Potter as examples), explore the collection, choose potential characters for their stories and, finally, work closely with Shoo to produce two short comic strip stories that he could then illustrate over the summer.

Cedar Mount

Cedar Mount Academy pupils with Stan the T-Rex

The pupils visited the Museum on Friday 8th July and had a lot of fun coming up with a whole series of fantastic ideas for what our Museum specimens could get up to! To say they only spent four hours with us they were brilliantly creative and having Shoo facilitate their ideas in preparation to illustrate them was a great motivator. As a thank you for all their hard work each pupil was gifted a book to read over the summer to encourage them to read outside of school.

The final illustrated stories will be printed up and create a pocket-sized comic that we hope to share with other school children that visit the Museum in 2016. In September we’ll also be asking the pupils about the stories in the books they were gifted in the hopes that learning about story structure has given them a means to summarise stories and potentially given them a scaffold to create their own stories too.

Watch this space for our reveal of the final comic book!
In the meantime, have a look at this video from Shoo’s YouTube page to hear more about the project and see one of the stories he’s been working on…


The Inflatable Museum pops up in Manchester Cathedral for Tiny Science

Earlier this week the Inflatable Museum popped up in Manchester Cathedral for Tiny Science, a citywide festival specifically designed to help young children get involved in Manchester’s European City of Science celebrations.


One of the joys of working with the Inflatable Museum is seeing it spring up in so many weird and wonderful locations, and the Cathedral provided a stunning environment to set up in for the day. It was so nice to see so many children and families head down to explore and get hands-on with our collection, and it was an amazing start to our I Spy Nature summer activity programme. From our brand new Wildlife Wednesdays, to our much loved Magic Carpet story making sessions, there’s so much to get involved with in the Museum over the next couple of months. Head to our website for more information about everything that’s going on.



Great Science Share for European City of Science

Posted on behalf of The Great Science Share Team:

ECS16_1200x627_10Great Science Share Takeover

Wednesday 6th July, 18.00 – 20.00 at the Museum of Science and Industry

Young people from secondary schools and colleges are invited to take over the Museum of Science & Industry for a unique evening as part of the Great Science Share. Students will host a science stall and share their STEM activities and experiments to the whole city in an inspirational environment. If you would like your school to be a part of this, please register here to express your interest in hosting a stall and see full details of how to apply.

Your students can be as imaginative and creative as they like with their activities for the Great Science Share. They may want to showcase exciting experiments, a project or competition entry they’ve been working on in school or some new technology they have created.

Closing date for applications is extended to the 30th June.

If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch info@manchestersciencecity.com.

With best wishes

The Great Science Share Team


Poet-in-Residence Guest Blog: Poemlets

Over 2016 we’ve been incredibly lucky to have Helen Clare as a Poet-in-Residence as part of the Learning and Engagement Team. Helen wanted to develop some learning experiences using poetry and was fortunate enough to receive funding from the Arts Council to work with us on developing this.

Helen has been recording her progress on her personal blog – so if you want to know more about the project do take a look.

In the meantime, here’s a short post Helen has written for us on how to create your own ‘poemlets’.

“Over the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the museum, writing children’s poems and learning materials as part of an Arts Council England funded project. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at things, visiting galleries and seeing those things I first missed and then looking again and again.

That opportunity to look again and again is both inspiring and dizzying, and it’s the basis of the the little writing exercise that I’m offering to the blog.

It involved ‘zooming in’ on just one object at once and asking it three questions.

  1. What do we say about the object?
  2. What does the object say about itself?
  3. What does it really mean?

Look at it really carefully and try and think about other senses as well – does it make a noise? What would it feel like if you could touch it?  Does it smell? If it moved how would it move? You might want to think about its history – and all the lives it’s been in contact with. You might also find that it has opinions quite similar to your own and that’s ok. But equally it might surprise you with what it has to say!

And that’s it. There’s no need to fancy it up. When the wind blows right it forms a perfect little poemlet all of it’s own – although you may also wish to use it as the basis of something more substantial.

Here’s an example:

I am alien. I am earth.
We are all spacedust.


Iron Core of Meteorite: Campo del Cielo (Field of Heaven) Argentina, 16th Century

You can see that I’ve used the first question as the title – and that the title is bigger than the poem! You could use that first question in the poem – or you could take it off altogether and make a riddle.

Look at my huge feet, how easily they carry my weight.
It was a long way. It has been a long time.

Can you guess what this is in the Museum?* I’ll put the answer at the bottom of the blog.

It’s fun to take pictures to accompany your poemlets as well.

This is my tree. I have not moved all week.
I am more threatened than threatening. Let me sleep.


Green Tree Python

There are more of these poemlets on my personal blog at http://bucklesandbutterflies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/week-2.html

 You can tweet your poems and your photos and tag the museum @mcrmuseum, the learning team @learningMM or me @haclare.

Have fun!


*Did you guess right? It’s Maharajah, the elephant skeleton from Manchester Gallery