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.”

Ancient Egyptian Deep Clean!

It has been a busy summer at the Museum with a huge number of exciting activities linked to our latest temporary exhibition, Climate Control.

Here in the Learning Team, we are now beavering away getting ready to welcome lots more schools in September.

As part of this preparation, we check that all the Museum objects that are handled by children are safe and in good condition.

These photos show Matt (from the Learning Team) and Irit (a Conservator) checking out the ancient Egyptian objects. Although all our school visitors are wonderfully careful with the artefacts, the ancient Egyptian items do have a particularly hard time as they are handled by tens of thousands of small hands every term!

Have a good look at the ‘before’ picture of the fish votive (temple offering) that Irit is holding. Can you see what colour it is? What do you think it is made from? Is it patterned or plain? We’ll come back to the fish later!

Over the last few weeks, Irit has examined all the objects carefully and cleaned them where needed with swabs, water and rubbing alcohol.

Irit was really pleased with the condition of the objects and commented on how carefully the children must have been handling them on the Egyptian Worlds visits. Just one item (a wooden ear from a coffin) is going to go back into storage, to be replaced with a different possible tomb item.


fish votive

Remember that fish votive? Can you see the difference? It’s actually patterned and made of bronze! Irit’s careful cleaning has revealed the beautiful scaled pattern again. It is still mostly brown as it is slightly rusty, but we expect that the acid in the children’s hands this term will naturally polish it up again soon. We’ll let you know!

Handling real objects is such an important part of the ‘wow factor’ of visiting a museum, so we are really looking forward to sharing these exciting artefacts with many more schools this year.

We get booked up quite far in advance, but we do still have a few slots available for later in the autumn term so get your bookings in quickly by filling in our enquiry form to avoid disappointment! See here for our information about our schools programme. We hope to welcome you in the Museum soon.

Lovely to meet you!

Campbell and Amy

Amy meeting Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan at Manchester Museum

My name is Amy and I’m the new Primary Learning Coordinator here at Manchester Museum. I have so far spent two weeks getting to know the building, the collection, the fantastic team here and – mostly importantly – the awesome schools programme! It’s a great time of year to start as we are all gearing up ready for the return of schools in September.

You’ll hear more from me in the coming weeks, but for now I thought I’d share the top 5 things I’ve learnt about Manchester Museum so far …

  • It’s a very smiley place!! Everyone here clearly loves their jobs and is delighted to work in such an inspiring place. Even the frogs seem to grin!

lemur image

  • There’s LOADS going on here – far too much for one blog post! To give you a flavour, in the next year the Learning Team will be consulting with schools on our planned building extension; taking part in activities relating to the UK/India Year of Culture; planning TeachMeets and CPD for teachers … the list goes on!


  • Ancient Egypt is REALLY popular! Asru, one of the ancient Egyptian mummies on display in our Ancient Worlds gallery, is the star of our most popular primary school session, ‘Egyptian Worlds’. And rightly so – she gives kids a fascinating insight into a key feature of this amazing civilisation. (However, if any schools out there cover the Indus Valley as their ancient civilisation in KS2 History, instead of Egypt, we would love to hear from you!)
  • This team is pretty good at what it does: the stack of letters we receive from inspired children really shows how memorable museum learning can be, and last year well over 90% of our visiting teachers rated us as having “excellent” quality of delivery. Not bad across 30,000 annual school visitors!


  • The Museum is a BIG building with LOTS of stairs – wish me luck in finding my way around!!

That’s all from me for now. If you’d like to get in touch to discuss any aspect of our primary schools programme, please do so on 0161 275 7357 or amy.mcdowall@manchester.ac.uk. I look forward to meeting lots of you soon!


Placement Highlight: Georgia Sivri at Manchester Museum

Georgia with Maharajah

Georgia with Maharajah

In June we were delighted to welcome Georgia Sivri on a placement in our Learning team. Here’s her background and an overview of what she learned while she was here and the contributions she made to our programme.

I am currently completing my MA in Museum and Gallery Practice  in UCL Qatar. As part of my studies, in order to gain an insight into the developing and practical experience in the museum sector, I had to accomplish a one-moth placement in a cultural heritage institution, gallery or a museum.

Delightfully I received the news that for this task I was accepted in the Manchester Museum. I arrived in Manchester at the beginning of May and I spent the whole month working with Learning and Engagement Department. My mentor was Cat Lumb, Secondary and Post-16 Coordinator for Humanities. I received the warmest welcome and hospitality for the whole month. Cat with her knowledge, support, professionalism and guidance became an excellent example to adopt for my future professional career in the cultural heritage. Since my dissertation had the Manchester Museum as case study, from my personal research I had an idea about its historical importance, its significant and stunning collection and the pioneering learning practices they employ to empower public engagement.  However I was happily surprised that my already high expectations were only a part of the real value of this institution.

Droylsden Academy

On a session with Droylsden Academy as part of our Art of Identity Project

The Manchester Museum aims for dialogic engagement and audience participation, creating two-way communication to support a constructive learning experience. This is its primary learning principle. The learning practices that are used are personalized, enabling learners to make sense of the collection in the context of their own lives, providing the freedom to explore and make choices. Their educational workshops and activities are collaborative, letting the participants share a social experience. Furthermore, to support learning, they offer multisensory experiences involving history, philosophy, science and imagination transforming the learning process into a playful and meaningful experience for the visitors. To maximize inclusion, the Museum provides special adapted programmes for disabled people and autistic children. Overall, one notices that the Manchester Museum, by carrying out a variety of activities and workshops inspired by different learning practices, manages to be a museum accessible to everyone whatever their age, interests and diversity.

My tasks were to observe, learn and participate in extending the educational programmes that were already running to engage the public with the Museum’s collections. All the learning coordinators and facilitators warmly shared their knowledge and experience with me and I would love to thank each and everyone for their patience and generosity.

With Jack and our Outreach  Designer

With Jack and our Outreach Designer

Moreover, I had to research and assist in the design of a future outreach educational programme scenario for students from 7 to 11 years old on “Ancient Egypt”. The main goal of the project was to engage students with the museum’s collection of Egyptian artifacts by using theatrical practices and Applied Drama techniques, which were outside of the museum’s usual practices. The project will be used by schools at the beginning of September and will run on an annual basis.

I also developed timelines of the careers and lives of Margaret Murray, Jesse Howorth and Sir William Flinders, who are important historical personalities involved in the history of the Manchester Museum and Egyptology. Furthermore, I have made a comparative research for educators on the English and Scottish curriculum and developed a fact file for curators and educators to accompany the “Animal Mummies: Gifts for the Gods” forthcoming temporary exhibition. I designed a self-guided resource linked with Archaeology in relation to organic and inorganic chemistry for KS3  students following the Science curriculum. Lastly, I had the chance to reform a variety of museum’s online learning resources using WordPress.

Georgia and one of our outreach boxes

Georgia and one of our outreach boxes

My placement was a valuable opportunity to put the theory gained from the Master’s in Museum and Gallery Practice into practice. It was an experience that gave me the opportunity to be introduced to the structure and way of working of a cultural institution, such as the Museum. Moreover, a deeper understanding of the different roles and responsibilities of museum professionals helped me to orient my future career given my interests and qualifications. It was a great opportunity to develop a network with cultural heritage professionals, artists and scientists. The placement serves, as a soft passage from academia to the real professional world given the fact that it is carried out after all coursework is complete. I feel emotionally and practically prepared to confidently begin a career in the cultural field after exposure to a real working environment and having to develop human relationships.

Working along with museum professionals gave me the chance to experience teamwork and an example to develop a professional attitude. I expand knowledge, skills and interests and learned new subjects while developing my tasks. It was also a great chance to confront my weak points and try to correct them following the advice and guidance of my personal mentor in advance in order to be more efficient in their professional career in the future.

Notably, the placement allowed me to act as a helping hand and as a bridge between Qatar and Manchester. I was able to link knowledge gained during the MA in Ucl Qatar to activities in Manchester and act as a representative of Qatar whilst explaining and introducing colleagues to the nature of Qatar’s cultural heritage. Hopefully this placement laid the groundwork for potential future cooperation between cultural and education institutions across countries.

Georgia and some of our ancient Egypt outreach objects

Georgia and some of our ancient Egypt outreach objects

We’d like to thank Georgia for all her fantastic work during her time here: we really loved having you as part of the team! We wish her all the best in the future and are sure she’ll be a valuable addition to any cultural venue.

What a great start to the year!

As promised in earlier blog posts, I am here to introduce myself! My name is Gareth and I have just started working at the museum this week as a Learning Programme Assistant. Don’t be fooled by the long title, all it means is that I get to deliver our fantastic ‘Egyptian Worlds’ sessions,  introducing primary school children to our mummy Asru and getting them to put their historical enquiry skills to the test as they investigate a host of amazing artefacts!

Alongside my colleague Jack (who you will also hear from soon!) I have been given a whistle-stop tour of the museum’s collections and stores over the past few weeks. It has been, quite frankly, mind blowing! My personal highlights have included holding a terrifying Fijian pineapple club, meeting the legion of mummies that lie beneath the museum and seeing some mummified intestines (after breakfast fortunately!).  And all this just in my first week – what an incredible place to work!

Now back to our ‘Egyptian Worlds’ sessions. Although some people might be bemoaning the end of Summer, the start at Autumn here at Manchester Museum is the cause of much excitement – Primary schools have started visiting us!

So, if you want to find out how an unfortunate ancient Egyptian tomb raider met an unfortunate end, how to avoid doing any work in the afterlife and what is REALLY inside one of our mummified crocodile, then I suggest you get you and your class along to the Manchester Museum!

So, if you would like to book a session, please see our website – https://learningmanchester.wordpress.com/egyptian-worlds/  or give Nora Callaghan a call on 0161 275 2630!Image

New school year – thinking about a trip?

Somewhat unbelievably (at least we think so – the year is flying by!), it’s September and the start of another school year. We’ve been gearing up to the 2013-14 academic year with a refurbishment and refreshment of our school programme from Early Years to Post 16 and a new look to the Learning Pages on Manchester Museuslothm website: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/museum/learning . You’ll still find many of the ever popular sessions like Egyptian Worlds (KS2), Dinosaur Detectives (KS2), Forensic Science: A Bog Body Mystery (KS3/4 Science) and Citizen of the City (KS3 Citizenship) but also a few new ones and some like Dinosaur Challenge for KS1 pupils that are coming soon.

Do take a look and let us know what you think. If you are starting your planning for the year ahead then take a look at the website and see what takes your fancy for you and your class. If you need more information on anything then either email us at school.bookings@manchester.ac.uk or give us a call on 0161 275 2630 – we start taking bookings on 5th September.

We’re really looking forward to a jam packed year of school visits (there’s nothing we like more) and to seeing many of you and your classes in the Museum. That’s the programme spruced up – now just the office to go!

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.

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.

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.

New KS 1 Egypt Explorer session in development…..

Our new Ancient Worlds gallery will be opening on 26th October and we will be developing a session for Y1 /2 which we hope to pilot February /March 2013. If you are interested in helping us to develop and pilot activities for the new session, we would like to hear from you!
Contact Elaine.bates@manchester.ac.uk
we have a teacher preview evening for Ancient Worlds on November 14th 4.30-6.30
wine and nibbles will be provided.

Booking is essential as places are limited, so please RSVP by 24th October 2012 to our Bookings Coordinator on school.bookings@manchester.ac.uk or 0161 275 2630

Early year’s sessions …
There is still some availability for booking our early years sessions by contacting our bookings coordinator.

Nursery and Reception
Animal Explorers – Polar Bear Polar Bear

For up to 15 children, 90 minutes
£3.50 per child (minimum charge £50)

Nursery Reception and Y1
Dinosaur Explorers
For up to 15 children, 90 minutes Y1 For up to 32 children, 90 minutes
£3.50 per child (minimum charge £50)

Find out more about Ancient Worlds and our learning                                                  programme by visiting:                                                 www.manchester.ac.uk/museum/yourvisit/galleries  http://www.manchester.ac.uk/museum/learning