Mind-mapping: Manchester and the Maharajah

It’s not often that educators ask pupils for their help and expertise – but that was entirely the point when a group of Trinity High School students came to visit The Manchester Museum on the 12th May.

In trying to identify what would most inspire students in our new Manchester Gallery and the adjoining Living Cultures Gallery I thought it best to go straight to the source. Therefore, Brian Maguire, Head of History at Trinity, brought in 23 motivated students to share their thoughts and opinions on the layout and objects in these galleries.

Image, a mind-map from Trinity Students about the galleries

Image, a mind-map created by Trinity Students about the galleries

There was general agreement from all students that they preferred the style of the Manchester Gallery, to the type of information which appears in our Living Cultures gallery. The presentation of the Manchester Gallery text was praised for being more colourful with shorter, easier to read sentences, and therefore much more interesting. In contrast, pupils interpreted our Living Cultures gallery to be aimed at adults and (I quote) “elderly people”, despite there being a lot of material within the gallery which fascinated them.

A number of pupils also mentioned that sometimes important questions were not answered on the accompanying labels. This led me to wonder what pupils believe the most important questions ARE when it comes to museum artefacts. Fortunately, we had the time to find out.

So, pupils were asked to examine objects and come up with a list of questions they wanted the answers to. It would have been rather mean spirited of us not to provide them with SOME of the answers so our Living Cultures curator, Stephen Welsh, gave them a bit of background for each of the objects.

Image, What Trinity students wanted to know

Image, What Trinity students wanted to know

Finally, in order to find out what elements of the provided information inspired them about these objects, I asked them to agree on what facts about each of the artefacts they felt were most significant for them. There were some interesting answers, most impressively, the idea that they wanted to know about the journey which an object had made in order to get to the museum. They also liked discovering that the museum has fairly modern objects, rather than just ancient artefacts.

Overall, the afternoon was a huge success and the ideas and thoughts that the students recorded about the galleries and objects has provided us with some intriguing material so that we can develop our secondary learning offer.

Well done, and thank you, to those students (and Mr. Maguire) at Trinity High!

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