Raising Aspirations: Exploring Ancient Egyptian Art

img_5110I was recently contacted by a teacher from Tameside College’s  Aspirations Department (I love that there is such a department exists!) who teaches  a group of young people with learning disabilities (aged 16-20) on an Entry level 2 study programme.  They have been studying a BTEC unit titled Exploring Art,  where they had to plan and produce a piece of art within 15 weeks.

“In order to get some ideas and inspiration we visited Manchester Museum and as a result of that the learners chose Ancient Egypt as their theme. After viewing what the Museum had on display the students came up with some marvellous ideas.  Each learner made a mood board displaying their idea and the tools and equipment they planned on using to create their piece of art work and finally creating their own piece: the results were fantastic.”

Their teacher was really pleased to be able to share these images of the process and final outcomes for the BTEC unit and some comments from the learners who took part.

This is a wonderful example of the achievements that can come from an inspirational Museum visit. The learners should be very proud of their work and we’d be happy to have them revisit the Museum at any time!

Learner Comments from Aspirations, Tameside College

“We chose to make Egyptian masks that showed the make up the ladies wore in Ancient Egypt.  We were inspired by visiting the museum and by taking photographs of the hieroglyphics and we copied the colours and designs.”

“The museum had lots of interesting artefacts which gave me the idea of making a special display.  I made a pyramid, tomb design, and an oasis mirage.   I also wrote my name in hieroglyphics.  My visit to the museum inspired me to design my mood board and create my display.  I love Art and History.”

“When we first arrived at the Manchester Museum, it looked so beautiful that I feel like we should go there again. I enjoyed looking at the dinosaurs, but my favourite was the largest one (The Tyrannosaurus-rex). The other animals looked nice as well. Another thing that inspired me is that the museum tells you exactly what happened all those years ago. I also finished my mood board by finding the correct category for me. The pictures were fantastic and I loved looking at them. The museum had a big giant snake which I was standing behind when I had a picture took. I liked all the Egyptian models as well. I would love to see them all again. It looked absolutely perfect for a full day trip. And that is how Manchester Museum inspired me to work on and complete my artwork.”

“I found the visit to the museum fascinating and interesting because I learnt a lot about Ancient Egypt and Tutankhamun tomb. I was surprised to find out he was only 19 years old when he died in 1324, two years older than me. When I saw the pottery artefacts that  were found and displayed in the museum it inspired me to make my own display”

“When I visited the museum I had a really good time. I enjoyed looking at all the artefacts and I was inspired to design Egyptian clothes. The ancient Egypt exhibition was fun and enjoyable. I would really like to do it again.”

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


A hard days work at the museum

Last week, we set about the task of interviewing candidates for the new Learning Programme Delivery posts at the Museum with the help of 15 Year 5 pupils from Birchfields Primary (I expect you will hear from Jack and Gareth in person when they start at the beginning of the new school year).

Object task sheet


Prior to the interview, candidates were informed that in addition to the formal interview, they would be given 5 minutes to introduce and use an object to engage a group of key stage 2 pupils. Each candidate was provided with an image of a different ancient Egyptian artefact, along with a very basic description and dimensions. The rest was left up to them!


Under the supervision of their teacher and Elaine (from the Learning Team), the class spent the day being entertained, informed, engaged and intrigued by the candidates. After each presentation, pupils examined each object in more detail, and wrote a museum label for it.

Small Bes amulet with some labels written by the group.

Small Bes amulet with some labels written by the group.

By the end of the day, not only had the class done a fantastic job of evaluating the presentations, but they had also worked really hard to create their own mini-museum display. A huge thank you to Birchfields Year 5 group for all of their input and enthusiasm!

Year 5 pupils standing in front of their mini-display of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Year 5 pupils standing in front of their mini-display of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Our week at Manchester Museum :)

Guest Blog Post by Euan Malpas and Laura Hanafy. We are here as part of the work experience program of Manchester Museum. This is an account of what we did:

On the first day we trekked to ‘the Whitworth Dig Site’ to visit a newly archaeological dig searching mostly for remains from the 1960’s era. The dig had already uncovered a selection of artefacts such as alcohol and medical bottles, broaches, buttons, children’s toys, keys and smoking pipes. We then observed school kids in year four taking part in various activities such as a drama workshop, digging and cleaning of artefacts. It was a boiling hot day but it was very enjoyable.

On the second day we were first greeted by a conservator at the museum called Irit Narkiss. She discussed her day to day job and the importance of keeping the artefacts intact. We were taught the many ways of deterioration of objects and methods of stopping pests destroying valuable objects. We found out how conservation is an extremely important part for the museum to mend and sustain museum collections. It was a very gripping talk and we learnt a lot. In the afternoon we were fortunate enough to meet the curator of Earth Sciences, Dr David Gelsthorpe, who gave us a tour underneath the museum in the private store rooms which was amazing to see the collections which are not shown to the public!

On the third day we worked with volunteers on the handling tables at various points around the museum including the Egyptology area and the ancient money area. It was very interesting to see how the volunteers responded to visitor interaction and questions. We were then treated to see the live animal’s attraction which was the handling of reptiles; in our case we saw a Python and a Rough Scaled Monitor (aka a Lizard). We were very lucky to be able to stroke the calm Python and hold the beautiful lizard. We met some lovely interesting volunteers that taught us a lot about life in the museum.

On the fourth day it was a day full of Botany aka a lot of plants. We were lucky enough to meet the curator of Botany, Dr Rachel Webster, who provided us with amusement and a tour around the ancient part of the museum including the medieval style spiral staircase. We saw a significant amount of the collection and learnt information on the history of Botany in the museum. It was very enjoyable and we were fortunate to help with the packaging of the collection.

On the last day we met the marketing manager, Tim Manley, who gave us the opportunity to judge websites and techniques on social media to advertise the museum. We found it very interesting to learn about the advertisement of the Museum.

‘The tip of the educational iceberg’…amazing choir performance at Manchester Museum

choir picWe were amazingly privileged here at the Museum to play host to the fantastic ‘School Network Choir’ today. In the glorious Manchester sun, pupils from Oswald Road, Crab Lane, Birchfields and Barlow Hall schools sang a series of songs from around the world in the galleries and the Museum allotment, inspired by the collections in the Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery. They sang beautifully, with passion and clear enjoyment. It was a wonderful sight to see and attracted staff, visitors and passers by alike. As described by their conductor, the actual performance is just the ‘tip of the educational iceberg’ – to prepare for this the pupils spent months researching Victorian and modern day Manchester, the Museum and its collection and learning about the history of the songs they were singing – and you could tell that they understood and had learnt so much more than just the words.

Here at the Museum we are always passionate about the collection and how inspiring it can be for creative work but it is always good to be reminded by brilliant projects and groups what wonderful and unexpected learning journeys objects can take you on. The performance today was an excellent reminder as to how great creativity can stem from experiences and sources outside the classroom and be used to stimulate classroom learning and enthusiasm for a subject.

Thank you to all schools involved today – we very much appreciated your efforts and the hard work you put it to your performances! And we very much hope to welcome you back in the future.

Poll results

Results of the poll that I posted last month are below. As you can see, they are rather inconclusive (interesting nonetheless!).

why take a class to visit a museum

Note: The following responses were entered as ‘other’:

  • Inspiring staff, chance to share experiences and stories, bringing subject matter to the real world/ life connections, gaining empathy, enquiry and new experiences, creativity, museums aim to be fun, welcoming and enjoyed by all
  • To show them that the museum can be for them, and have something to offer them.
  • A comment that I’ve had from teachers is about relative sizes of things. e.g. how a sparrow is smaller than a crow – not obvious from watching a film or even from observing live birds as they move about & are at a distance.
  • It’s a good way to build relationships with students in a different environment.
  • Bringing the past to life – cliché but true. A shop with items from 50p upwards. What they choose might make them think about a return family visit.
  • Artefacts visually bring to life the learning & can introduce/ demonstrate so much more than a terms worth of lessons (I’m specifically thinking of Ancient Egypt & the British Museum).
  • Knowledge that the teachers don’t have or can obtain easily.
  • I work in an area of high unemployment and the chances of our children visiting a real museum without us taking them are quite slim so sometimes we try to find one that compliments our learning.
  • I take students to the museum which reflect aspects of our specification at A level. – Dinosaurs/strat/local geology etc. Also primary children for the wow factor
  • Handling real objects. Learning in a way that cannot be achieved in the classroom.

However, and as the responses to the ‘What is your role?’ question illustrate, only 7 teachers participated in the poll.

What is your role

This is not surprising, particularly considering my rather unscientific approach and the limited period over which the poll was open! I do intend to recirculate this poll again (or some version thereof) but I would really appreciate any suggestions regarding the matter of targeting teachers.

Be a climate researcher – Citizen Science – Make a rain gauge!

Here at the Manchester Museum we absolutely love projects that get pupils involved in real life science that matters – they are, after all, the researchers of tomorrow.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

How much rain falls in Manchester?

So we were really pleased to get information on the ‘Crowdsourcing4Climate: Community Rainfalls Collections’ pilot project, which hopes to get the public and schools collecting rainfall data to add to the data we can use in all sorts of scientific research. It’s simple but could be a brilliant and effective school project and will support research at Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester Universities.

We’ve attached some information on how you can get involved and would love to see local schools contributing – so do take a look and let us know if you need any further information C4C_TeacherGuide-1.

A brief introduction and a couple of questions…

First a brief introduction: I’m Hannah, I have recently joined the Learning Team at Manchester Museum as maternity cover for the Primary Learning Co-ordinator. It is all rather busy here so I am going to keep this post quite brief. Something that we are currently trying to think about is how we know our audiences, and this got me thinking… why do schools visit museums? What is it that museums offer to schools that makes them worth visiting? Personally, I assume that it has something to do with the objects and collections – isn’t it?
Well, rather than guessing, I thought it might be useful to try to find out! I have put together a very brief (2 questions) poll, and would like to gather as many responses from both teachers and museum educators as possible. I am going to start off by releasing it for just a week – cut off point is Friday 3rd May at 17:00. I’ll keep you posted with the results but please do spread the word (and the link) to any teachers / educators that you know: Click here to take survey

Creative Exposures: Tameside College Photography Exhibition

We’ve been really lucky this year to be able to work with Tameside College‘s Photography students again this year, creating an exhibition that is inspired by the Museum’s collection.

On the 1st March the students were invited into the Museum, given tours of the galleries and collection stores and encouraged to document their visit with photographs. This then formed the basis of their brief:

“Students will be working with Manchester Museum to produce work for an exhibition, in response to the Museum’s collection. They will be utilizing the techniques in the darkroom and the studio to produce a body of work shot on film on either Large or Medium Format cameras,  in the studio and printed in the darkroom”

They had until the 27th March to create three final images each, with at least one of each going into the exhibition.

On the 19th March I was asked to go into the College and ‘critique’ the work done so far; to identify the final images for the exhibition and encouraging the students to write labels to accompany their pieces. I was amazed by the thought and detail that had gone into every example of the work done by each student. They had taken elements from the collection and considered them from multiple angles, linking very complex concepts with inspiring ideas and creative input.

Some of the aspects the students were using in their work included using the Zoology specimens to examine the protective layer that animals have – including humans – and metaphorically demonstrating this through masks. There were numerous reflections on the Egyptology collection, scrutinising the means of communication – hieroglyphic script – and translating that into imagery associated with the way we communicate today – via clothing or graffiti, in addition to the mummification process and the preservation of memory and stories.

Some students were intrigued by the idea of what occurs behind the scenes at the Museum – the specimens we keep hidden in stores, and the means by which we classify the collection. This led to responses associated with the food chain,  – linking in with the recent horse-meat scandal – dominance in the natural world and the issue of domestic violence (represented by bruised fruit), change over time – as evidenced by Darwin – and how we label not just things, but people.

The exhibition opened on Friday 29th March and has been in place for two weeks, with the closing date on Sunday 14th April. It looks fantastic in our Alhambra space between the Egyptian World gallery and Living Worlds, and there have even been interactive elements for our visitors to become part of the legacy of the project.

All in all, it’s been a fantastic exhibition and the students have done brilliantly as part of the project; they should all be very proud.

Calling all inventors!

Do you have an idea for a clever invention that could solve an every day problem?


BBC Learning and CBBC’s Newsround have launched a very exciting new competition aimed at groups of primary school children aged 8-11. CBBC’s Dick and Dom appeared on the Newsround sofa to launch the competition and explain a little bit more about it.


In the link above you can find all the information about how to enter and some inspirational films about inventing! The competition deadline is the 24th May 2013.

Competition winners get their invention made into a real working device!