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


Guest Post: An Interesting Week at Manchester Museum

A guest post, written by Candice Kossowska who spent a week working on gallery resources for the primary learning team. Many thanks to Candice for all of her hard work, and keep an eye out for her resources, which will be available on the website very soon…

New Picture (24)1I am just embarking on my final year of the Primary Education Degree course, at Edge Hill University. I have spent a lot of time in primary schools, but I really wanted to experience how different learning can be, in an alternative educational setting. Manchester Museum certainly was different to my previous experiences!

The teaching team at the museum offer so many opportunities for children to engage with, by actually being able to explore and even touch real artefacts. I was able to observe many sessions, which included the Egyptian Worlds session – where children find out about the museum’s mummified Egyptian Chantress, Asru. The Dinosaur Detectives session, in which children use their knowledge of carnivores and herbivores, to solve a dinosaur murder mystery. The Dig Stories archaeology session, in which pupils use tools to excavate real archaeological finds! I was also able to experience how younger children including babies, can learn from and engage with the museum, during the fantastic Magic Carpet sessions – during which the team work so hard to captivate young minds!

While at the museum I was given my very own task – something I felt privileged to be asked to do – to plan some self-guided tour sessions using my own ideas! Of course you would think this would be an easy task, as there are so many amazing exhibits. However, because there are so many it’s hard to decide which ones to include within a session, for primary aged children.New Picture (26)

Therefore I explored all the galleries in the museum and read the background stories for many exhibits. I selected a number of exhibits and was able to create three educational gallery tours, which tie in nicely with the new National Curriculum. After much thought, I planned a number of different resources.

One resource uses the Living Cultures and Living Worlds galleries to give children the opportunity to find out about different cultural symbols, and how different cultures attach particular meanings to different animals. Another of my gallery tours will enable children in Key Stage 1 and 2 to find out about the environmental challenges that face some of our most endangered species – and even write their own lonely hearts column for an endangered animal.

New Picture (23)In the Natures Library exhibition, children will be introduced to the unusual collecting habits of the Victorians. Children will conjure up their own background story for a number of strange exhibits, including a Narwhal’s tusk, also known as the Unicorn Horn of Manchester Museum!


I enjoyed my week at the museum immensely. I have learned a great deal from exploring the different galleries and exhibits. I was able to ask lots of questions of the museum guides, and discovered interesting and sometimes almost unbelievable stories behind many exhibits!

Evaluation Consultant Needed for HLF Funded Ancient Worlds Galleries

8158058348_5b8802721f 8157991179_5ea633f483 Ancient Worlds GalleriesManchester Museum is seeking an Evaluation Consultant to devise and implement a robust evaluation strategy to measure the impact of the Museum’s recent Ancient Worlds Galleries redevelopment. Ancient Worlds transformed the displays in three of the Museum’s galleries which are dedicated to archaeology and ancient Egypt. Opened in October 2012, at a cost of c. £1.5 million, the project has been funded with the support of several key external funders, including a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We now require an evaluation expert to assist us in assessing the extent to which we have met our original objectives for the redevelopment and in measuring the impact of the project upon the Museum’s diverse audiences. In addition to focusing upon the new galleries themselves, the evaluation process will also encompass the associated Activity Plan of events (public programmes, learning sessions, community engagement initiatives, etc.) which have taken place in these spaces since they reopened.

You can find more details here: Ancient Worlds Evaluation Consultant Brief

The successful applicant would be required to start around w/c 14th October 2013 and the full external evaluation report would need to be produced and submitted to the Museum by 16th December 2013.

Placement Student develops new KS4 history of medicine session

We were really lucky over the past three weeks to have two fantastic placement students  from UCL, one of whom helped us to develop a brand new Secondary workshop focusing on the history of medicine and the use of primary sources!

Here’s a post from Elizabeth Roberts about her experience at the Museum:

“I arrived in Manchester at the start of May having flown several thousand miles from Doha, Qatar to begin a placement with the Learning and Engagement team at the Manchester Museum. The three-week placement is part of my MA course in Museum and Gallery Practice with UCL Qatar. I spent my time at the museum planning a workshop for Key Stage 4 History students on ancient medicine designed to develop their understanding of primary sources. The workshop was trialled with a group of Year 7 pupils from Newall Green High School and it was fantastic to work with a local school and to get feedback from the students.

Etruscan womb

Etruscan womb, 4th/3rd centuries BC on display in Ancient Worlds

One of the objects that we looked at in the workshop was this Etruscan model of a woman’s womb from the 4th/3rd centuries BC. The Manchester Museum’s collection is vast and incredibly diverse so it’s hard to pick favourite objects but, if I had to choose, this model would undoubtedly be on my top 10 list. It shows a detailed anatomical understanding of how the womb functions but it was not produced for further scientific study, rather it was most likely given as a votive offering at a shrine. The woman who left this model may have been trying to get pregnant and was looking for divine intercession or she may have become pregnant and wanted to offer thanks to the Gods. It is interesting to explore this object with students to get them to think about the co-existence in ancient societies of spiritual beliefs with developing understanding of anatomy and physiology.

In preparation for the workshop, I met with many of the subject specialist curators responsible for the different parts of the museum’s collection. Over 90% of the Manchester Museum’s collection is in storage and it was a real privilege to go behind the scenes to access the vast store rooms that are tucked away behind the galleries. Sometimes there are objects in the most unlikely places and in order to get to the Materia Medica, part of the Botony collection, I was led up a stone spiral staircase into an attic room stuffed with jars and specimens that would not be out of place at Hogwarts. A selection of plants and herbs from the Materia Medica are now on display in Nature’s Library and were also part of the object handling session for my ancient medicine workshop.

The Materia Medica in storage and on display in Nature’s Library

The Materia Medica in storage and on display in Nature’s Library

My behind the scenes look at life in the museum also included a peek at the Conservation department. Conservators are the unsung heroes of the museum and work tirelessly to protect the collection, be it installing new exhibitions, preparing objects for handling sessions with schools or wrapping objects for loan. A major focus for conservators here in Manchester is protecting the collection from insects because of the large number of natural history objects. At the first sign of pest infestation, objects are whisked away and placed in huge freezers before too much damage occurs.

The vast collections at the museum make it one of the UK’s leading cultural institutions. But it wouldn’t be the success that it is without the dedicated and innovative museum staff. The Learning and Engagement team are particularly active, planning sessions for schools, building community partnerships, organising family events, hosting international conferences – the list could go on and on. Just one of the projects that is being planned at the moment is the Midden Project in conjunction with Matthew Moss High School. This has already been trialled and the results can be seen in one of the display cabinets in the Exploring Objects section of the Ancient Worlds gallery.”

The session that Liz developed – examining what primary sources can tell us about ancient medicine, with examples from Ancient Egypt – will be available from the Autumn Term. We will be offering some FREE sessions for schools: if you want to know more, please contact me.

Ancient Worlds Education Sessions

Our Curator Bryan just blogged about the Learning Team’s Staff Forum Presentation; Some great pictures and quotes included!
The work we do couldn’t go ahead without our invaluable Collection’s Team so a big thank you them!

Ancient Worlds

Just been to the Staff Forum where members of the Education Team talked about the brilliant work they do with schools and other groups. Some 29,000 schoolchildren visit the Museum every year and 80% of the classes have a taught session. The evaluation feedback is invariably ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ and the vast majority say they would visit the Museum again.

Debbie Doran who is Primary Learning Coordinator talked about her work using the ideas developed in the Ancient Worlds displays. Debbie develops teaching sessions for Key Stage 2 children (7-11 year olds). She recently sent me some comments from some of the pupils who had attended pilot Ancient Worlds teaching sessions in the museums.

The sessions are designed to stimulate learning by allowing the children to handle the various objects.  Katy from Vernon Park Primary School said, “I couldn’t believe we could touch the very old things!”  Samir from Oswald Road Primary School said “It’s better to look at the broken pot because you can see…

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Primary Students Dig their way to Success!

Oswald Rd Arch pilot 010These past few weeks we have been really excited at the museum to begin the pilot sessions for our new Archaeology primary school session, ‘Dig Stories; Bringing the Past to Life’

This session explores the hands on practical skills of what it’s like being an archaeologist by way of a sand box dig, unearthing real objects!

The group then identifies their finds and graduates to handling real objects from our collection and debating methods of conservation.

At the end of the session children create their own ‘Cabinet of Curiosity’ filled with objects they choose themselves for a particular theme of cabinet.

Oswald Rd Arch pilot 012We have been really impressed by the groups that have tasted this session so far, they have all passed their archaeological training and we can’t wait to see them in the future as experts of archaeology themselves!

If you are interested in booking a school group on to our new Archaeology session, ‘Dig Stories; Bringing the Past to Life’  please don’t hesitate to contact school.bookings@manchester.ac.uk

Secondary Learning Offer for Ancient Worlds

As Debbie mentioned in her last post excitment in the Education Department has been building up with the opening of our new Ancient World galleries. Well, they’re now open – and looking stunning too!

These three new galleries – Discovery Archaeology, Egyptian Worlds and Exploring Objects – will become the focus for some of our brand new workshops, in addition to being included into some of students’ favourite sessions from our usual offer.  To give you a taster, here are how some of our Key Stage Three sessions will utilise the galleries…

In our ArteFACT session students will now be able to explore the Discovering Archaeology gallery to learn how objects can teach us about the past as well as investigating collections in Exploring Objects to write alternative labels for archological finds.

In Citizen of the City students will use the gallery to inform them on their roles in Ancient Athens and how we know about these people through archaeology.

Whereas, in Natural Reflections – where students answer ‘big’ questions, including one on human remains – they can view a variety of remains on display showing different types of display and information we can learn from these, sometimes contentious, objects.

For more information on any of the sessions, visit our website or see the pre-visits for each session by clicking on the workshop title. Alternatively, contact Cat Lumb, and look out for more posts on our new galleries and their accompanying learning programme!

Ancient Worlds Teacher Preview

With the opening of our new Ancient World Galleries the Museum’s Learning Team are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a Teacher Preview event to introduce teacher’s to our brand new galleries and associated learning programmes across the Key Stages.

This event will take place on Wednesday 14th November between 4.30 and 6.30pm. There will be a short introduction by our Learning Manager, followed by optional tours of the gallery spaces with our Curators. In addition our entire team will be present, allowing teachers to ask questions, learn about our new sessions and even register their interest in booking workshops on offer.


Our temporary exhibition, Breed:The British and their Dogs, will also be open and our Resources and Secondary workshop for this gallery will also be on show.

To book your space on the Preview Event email our bookings co-ordinator on school.bookings@manchester.ac.uk or call 0161 3052630.

Learning Placement Experience

This week we have been very fortunate to have the help of aspiring Religious Studies teacher, Sophie Hall, who has been working with me on the Secondary Humanities programme.  Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

“So I have just spent 3 days at the Manchester Museum with the Learning Team and it was fabulous! I have just finished my degree at the University of Manchester and will be on my way to Liverpool in September to start my PGCE. I came to the Museum to experience education outside of a UK school setting and don’t think I could have gotten a better experience. The Learning Team are extremely organised and very lovely; my time with them has been really great.

While at the Museum I got the chance to wander round the galleries and made links between objects and Religion and there were loads! I really wasn’t expecting to be able to compare and contrast as much as I could but found it extremely enriching. It was possible to make links in every gallery to religion, even in the Money Gallery. I had the chance to make up some possible session plans, connecting to the galleries. As a future teacher the only teaching experience I have had has been in a classroom so to imagine teaching on a gallery was completely alien but turned out to be a really good task for me.

Coming to the Museum I expected to leave with the necessary information to understand education outside a school setting but I’m leaving today with much more. The sessions plans I have seen give opportunities to every student and I’m sure would be incredibly popular with those pupils who struggle to learn in the classrooms. They have links to the curriculums, challenge students in ways that is often lacking in schools and allow students to explore the world they live in, both past and present. I have really enjoyed my time here and will definitely be bringing my future students for a visit!! Thank you Learning Team!!”

Sophie was great at highlighting links with objects on gallery that I would never have thought of, and her specialist knowledge on Religion has created some really exciting potential resources and session ideas for the programme. It’s been great to host Sophie’s placement and we wish her all the best in her PCGE at Liverpool.

Ancient Worlds school resources on their way!

Can you spot what’s on our Ancient Egyptian timeline?

I have been very lucky this week to have the creative input of some very talented staff here at the Manchester Museum who have painted ten key images from ancient Egyptian history onto our new canvas scroll. This visual timeline will be used with visiting school groups during the new Egyptian gallery primary school session, ‘The Egyptian World; museum secrets, mummies and pyramids!

A huge thank you to Karen, Sam and Cornelia for their wonderful creative work,  it looks fantastic! We hope to see many schools enjoying and exploring this ancient Egyptian timeline very soon.