Stories Found Under the Ground: Big Sat 15 July 2017

Guest blog by Sadiya Fern, Archaeology and Anthropology student at The University of Manchester.

Hi there! I’m a second year Archaeology & Anthropology student here on placement at the Manchester Museum for two weeks. I’ve had an insightful experience here at the Museum and was lucky enough to take part in a Big Saturday on Sat 15 July.  The theme for the most recent ‘Big Saturday’ was ‘Stories Found under the Ground’ as part of the Festival of Archaeology 2017. The event attracted all kinds of visitors; I had interacted with a family from Rome and a family from France as well as many local families eager to participate in the activities. Spread across the three Discovery Centre rooms were various object handling ‘zones’: the Ancient Roman Zone displayed Ancient Warfare Replicas, visitors enjoyed trying the helmet on, particularly parents. The Ancient Egypt Zone also displayed Ancient Warfare Replicas and was just as popular, particularly as the objects could be handled by visitors bringing a lot of amazement to the visitors.

The Stone Age Zone had visitors attempting to decipher which of the items were from the Stone Age and which were not. The Stone Painting Zone which was inspired by 11,000 year old Stone Age stones found in a French cave, Le Mas d’Azil with mysterious patterns on them. Visitors of all ages had fun creating their own painted stones and small works of art, there were many happy little faces upon collection of their now dry painted stones at the end of the day.

I helped with the Dig Box activity, where children were encouraged to roll up their sleeves and fine tune their archaeology skills which proved to be quite popular and not just because of the sand! This activity discovered many young archaeologists who were very keen and eager to have a little dig to see what they could find. Once they had found some objects and brushed them clean, the little explorers went on to examine the objects to figure out what they could be and how old they were. I heard many children shout in excitement “Look mummy! Look what I found!” and most children over the age of around 5 were just as excited about discovering what the objects they found were and where they came from.

Manchester Libraries were promoting their free summer reading challenge, encouraging children to read 6 books over the summer to be able to win stickers, certificates and prizes highlighting free access to libraries across the city. There was a wonderful reading area where many parents read with their children, a colouring area, and a little craft area too.

In the Victorian Objects Zone visitors were piecing together Victorian Manchester through 19th century pottery found in an excavation on Deansgate. Broken plates, teacups and much more were being taped together almost like a jigsaw, although slightly trickier as the pieces could have sharp edges requiring much more patience!

Some comments from the day include:
“I absolutely love this place, it is adventurous!” – Macey
“I discovered different stones and how an archaeologist digs for fossils. I had fun doing the activities.”
“Fantastic! Good to learn a bit about history, thank you.”
“I loved it!”
“Great day out, very informative and your staff are fantastic!” – O, J, F, R

The Museum’s next Big Saturday: Modelling Nature is on Sat 19 Aug: 11am-4pm.



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.



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

‘Egyptian Worlds’ off to a flying start!

Hello there, or ‘iiti em hotep’ as they might have said in Ancient Egypt! My name’s Jack and I work with Gareth (who introduced himself a couple of weeks ago!) as a Learning Programme Assistant on the Museum’s fantastic ‘Egyptian Worlds’ KS2 workshops. Having obsessed slightly over all things Ancient Egypt when I was in primary school, being given the opportunity to tell the Museum’s school visitors about the wondrous Egyptology collection is a real treat!

As Gareth mentioned in his post a few days ago, we spent our first week here exploring the Museum’s many nooks and crannies and learning more about the stunning collections it holds. We were treated to behind-the-scenes tours of not only the Egyptology store, but also the Living Cultures, botany and archaeology stores. The diversity of the collections is unbelievable: you could be looking at a Maori taiaha in the weapons store one minute, then a huge medieval longboat or a gigantic bison the next! It really is incredible.

This week Gareth and I have been welcoming schools from across Manchester and beyond to our first ‘Egyptian Worlds’ sessions of the year. It’s been so much fun introducing classes to the lovely Asru, one of our most interesting and best loved mummies, and helping them get hands-on with some genuine Ancient Egyptian artefacts. The ‘Riqqeh Pectoral’ is proving a very popular object with our school groups, maybe because the Ancient Egyptians believed its magical ‘eyes of Horus’ would grant the wearer good luck and swift recovery from injury, or perhaps because of its Hollywood-esque story, which our curator Campbell Price explored in one of his blog posts.

Our brand new Pacy Pyramids Challenge is also going down a storm, with places in the league table changing faster than the sandstorms of the Sahara! But more on that in next week’s post…

More information on our ‘Egyptian Worlds’ 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