A guest post by work experience student Eleanor Fergusson, who’s been with the Museum this week:
The scorching sun beat down on us relentlessly as we journeyed down to Whitworth Park to begin the first day of our work experience week at Manchester Museum; we had been scheduled to observe local primary school, Medlock as their year four class took part in the archaeological dig at Whitworth Park. The park is currently being excavated due to the extension of Whitworth Art Gallery.
The children crowded into the park, eager to begin the session and, as Mel, Professor of archaeology at Manchester University began her talk, a hush fell across the swarm of writhing children as they sat silently, enthralled by her words.
Mel produced various artefacts that had been discovered at the excavation in Whitworth Park: from broken ceramics to Victorian medicine bottles and even small toys; the history of the park seemed immense and brimming with the potential of exciting, new discoveries. The enthusiasm was contagious and the children seemed highly engaged.
The class of sixty was then divided into three equal groups with each group taking turns doing a drama activity, a digging session and a session washing some of the artefacts found at the site.
Under the shade of a leafy tree the first group began their drama activity. The children were provided with several Victorian postcards with either photos or paintings of the park scene. They were then told to act out activities that may have taken place in the park during that era. Imaginations soared and the children presented to their peers several intense adventures of spies and thieves, games and paddling.
In the next session I observed the children were cleaning small pieces of ceramics found at the site. After a little persuasion for the girls to put their hands in the dirty water the children quickly got to work, their toothbrushes a blur as they fervidly hurried to uncover the ceramics hidden by the layers of antiquated mud.
To end the session the children were given the chance to help excavate part of the site. So, braving the torturous heat out came the children, crouched over the dusty mud, miniature trowels at the ready. Their discoveries ranged from small pieces of glass to a miniature toy soldier!
Everyone seemed to have had an enjoyable time and I look forward to finding out about what secrets the park has been hiding once the excavations are finished.