RCUK-funded opportunities for researchers at the University’s cultural institutions


‘Research speed-dating’

We are excited to announce that we’ve just recruited a new cohort of PhD demonstrators to deliver education sessions for secondary and post-16 students.

The recruitment and training programme for our new demonstrators is a flagship project within the University’s larger Research Councils UK (RCUK)-funded School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI). This scheme aims to help University researchers to directly engage and inspire young people. Our flagship project couples researchers from across the University with the collections at our cultural institutions and libraries to bring current research to life in a powerful and unique manner.

Therefore, this time it’s not just the Museum’s science programme which will benefit, as we have taken this very successful way of working with PhD researchers and are embedding it at Whitworth Art Gallery, John Rylands Library and within Manchester Museum’s humanities programme. This means there will be some exciting new sessions to look out for in the spring term!


Mystery object task

Each PhD demonstrator has been chosen specifically to use their current research knowledge and skills to enhance education sessions; meaning that school and college pupils will benefit from having their very own expert in the room.

To prepare the researchers for this new challenge we invited them to take part in a day long training programme. This included an introduction to cultural learning with a mystery object activity using specimens from the Museum’s collection. After lunch the demonstrators had a chance to explore the Museum’s galleries to identify ways of facilitating groups in unique out-of-the-classroom spaces.


Rewording research summaries

We ended the day by doing a spot of ‘research speed-dating’ to give the researchers practice of communicating their complex current research. They had 90 seconds to explain their research to a partner using clear understandable language. After a little feedback, they moved on to a second ‘date’ with only 60 seconds to spare this time. Before perfecting their explanations in a lightning-fast 30 seconds final ‘date’.

Armed with a refined idea of how to explain their research the researchers revisited and reworded their own short tweet-style summaries of their specific area of research. Throughout the day these 140-character ‘research tweets’ were displayed as a physical twitter wall.


Research summaries twitter wall

With new sessions in the pipeline we hope that you and your students have the chance to meet our new demonstrators very soon!

Below are our demonstrator’s tweet-style research summaries:



Sam – Life for ordinary #Romans growing old.  What did they do?  How did they cope?  Also, with 2000 yrs between then and now, #howdoweknow?

Twitter_logo_blueKarlina – I am interested in the effect of climate change on fish physiology so I study the effect of temperature and oxygen on fish swimming

Twitter_logo_blueNaomi – My #research: What did artist #WilliamBlake say about #JesusChrist in his artworks; what influenced Blake & how new & unique were his ideas?

Twitter_logo_blueKonstantina – I’m looking at archaeological skeletons and analysing their DNA to discover if they are related

 Twitter_logo_blueEmma – Were changes in climate, sea level or temperature responsible for fossil jawless vertebrate evolution and demise? Or are fossilization filters warping what we see?

Twitter_logo_blueStephen – Farewell Fossil Fuels! Processes that limit biofuel production are now understood. We are closer to making biofuels from plants feasible.

Twitter_logo_blueEvgeny – Did you know that teeth can help to improve your vision? Now you know. #stemcells from teeth may be used to enhance regeneration of injured eye.

Twitter_logo_blueMary – How have words meaning ‘mad’ changed over time? Can linguistic metaphor demonstrate whether cognitive concepts for madness remain stable?

CTwitter_logo_blueelina – By observing structural colour in nature, my research aims to produce colour in textiles without using colourants

Twitter_logo_blueCatherine – Could mixing and matching of modern-day viruses unlock secrets of the distant past?

Twitter_logo_blueJennifer – To save and show old sunken wood in water… in a museum


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!

The Midden Project: Research In Action

On Monday 15th July the Manchester Museum was pleased to welcome one-hundred and forty six Year 8 Matthew Moss High School students to take part in an Archaeology Enrichment Day.

The day was planned to introduce the new partnership between the Museum and Matthew Moss on our Midden Project: Research in Action.

Creating the Midden 2

Last year’s Midden creation

You may recall that we did a similar project with eight of their school students last year. Well, Matthew Moss were so pleased with the benefits that the project had for those involved that they have partnered up with us again to deliver a more structured programme on the same topic.

In the 2013-14 academic year the Museum will support a number of Matthew Moss students on their Level 2 Project Qualification by helping them create and investigate their own Midden (the name for an archaeological rubbish dump). Students who want to work with the Museum will self-select and apply to be a part of the Midden Project: Research in Action throughout Year 9.

The Enrichment Day, which was packed full of activities to introduce students to some of the skills and ideas behind the project, gave them a taste of what they might get involved in during their Project, thereby helping those who were interested decide to apply for the partnership work as part of their Project qualification.

It was a fantastic day with a selection of nine different activities that smaller groups of students could carousel around. These included:

  • A session with the Museum’s Conservation team examining how we preserve artefacts from the past
  • Practical activities about the Science behind conservation looking at the effects of salt, detergents and glues on objects
  • A workshop on ancient Egypt and the unique environment that allowed survival of some fascinating historic artefacts led by our British Museum Curator Intern
  • On-gallery sessions with our team of freelancers about what items from the past can tell us, how fossils are formed and the invaluable role minerals form in our daily lives

We also provided supporting resources for the Group Leaders to deliver activities on other galleries and encourage their students to explore the Museum’s collection in meaningful ways. Check out the photographs below to see a selection of the students enaged inactivities on the day!

All in all I think it was a great start to the partnership and demonstrated a flavour of what the project could be to the students of Matthew Moss High School. We’re really excited to be a part of this partnership and looking forward to starting the project proper in September by creating some more Middens.

Look out for more updates about our Midden Project: Research in Action, coming soon…

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.

Celebrating Manchester’s History

We were very excited to work with our colleagues from Widening Participating, and one of our Partnership institutions, Whitworth Art Gallery, on creating two, one day workshops  for Secondary students concentrating on Manchester’s History.

This followed on from our successful model last year, as part of the Manchester Histories Festival, where various schools brought students to participate in workshops at the Whitworth and the Museum. They were also treated to an introductory lecture on Manchester’s history – this year – by Professor John Pickstone.

Histories objects

Objects used during Collecting the World workshop at Manchester Museum

As part of the Museum’s workshop, called Collecting the World, students were asked to investigate the collection and determine how, and why, it ended up in Manchester. They identified objects of interest on the Manchester Gallery and their links to the city. Then they were allocated objects from the collection not on display and asked to research them using online resources to find their link to Manchester. They were encouraged to consider sources of their information and the relevance any connected individuals had to their home city.

All in all it was really wonderful to be able to focus on Manchester’s history and how the Museum’s collection links to the city and illustrious indviduals  – such as William Boyd Dawkins, Jesse Haworth, Joseph Whitworth and Lydia Becker – not to mention highlight historical Manchester events such as the Exhibition of Art Treasures, the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal and the Peterloo Massacre.

ship canal medal

Manchester Ship Canal Medal

Questioned at the end of the session on which object they felt best represented Manchester’s History, the majority of students chose the Ship Canal Medal due to it’s links with trade and economy that helped make Manchester the hub of industry in the North and contributed to it becoming known as ‘Cottonopolis’!

Many thanks to all those invovled on the day: Stockport School, Parrs Wood HS, Manchester Health Academy, Manchester Enterprise Academy, Alder Community School, Cardinal Langley RC HS, Loreto High School.

We’ll  be repeating these fantastic local history focused days next year during the Manchester Histories Festival celebrations.

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!

Alan Turing: Maths and Morphogenesis workshops

Want to know how maths is applied to the real world? Bring your KS4 students to our Alan Turing: Maths, Modelling and Morphogenesis maths session that accompanys our Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma exhibition to find out. Led by University mathematicians, this workshop explores mathematical modelling, and enables students to find out more about the pioneer of biological mathematics who lived right here in Manchester: Alan Turing and how he used maths to investigate the secrets of life. The 2 hour session is available at selected times on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 15th November 2012.

For AS/A2 biology and Maths students, we are running A-level study days that would be perfect for them to understand the link between these two subjects. One of our Engage with the Experts A-Level study days Alan Turing: Maths and Morphogenesis works with University researchers to unlock the mathematical mystery behind patterns in the natural world and discovers how Alan Turing began to tackle this problem. It is a full day (10am-3pm) on Monday 15th October 2012, Monday 22nd October 2012 and Tuesday 13th November 2012

If you would like any more information or would like to make a booking, please contact Alexa on alexa.jeanes@manchester.ac.uk or 0161 3061764.

British: Born and Bred


Dogs featured in Breed: The British & Their Dogs

British: Born and Bred is the title of a new session that we’re running for Key Stage 3 and 4 students to accompany our fantastic new temporary exhibition, Breed: The British and their Dogs.

The exhibition opens on Saturday 6th October and explores the links between historic concepts of Britishness and ‘man’s best friend’:  the dog. It highlights six different pedigree breeds that all have unique connections to British culture. The exhibition has been developed with The University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

British: Born and Bred is a 1.5hr session that will encourage students to engage with the exhibition and explore the concept of what it means to be ‘British’ and how dogs have grown to be a symbol for this, and many other things. The six pedigree dogs included in the exhibition content range from the Bulldog (so often referred to as the ‘British bulldog’) to the Collie (a standard sterotype for the British Countryside) and even feature the Borzoi (a Russian breed that became a favourite of the Royal Family).

Students will be able to investigate the links each breed has with British history and culture using the various source material in the exhibition. By the end of the session they should have a better understanding of how the concept of Britishness developed throughout Victorian and Edwarding times and the effect this has on values and attitudes today.

It’s a brilliant opportunity to interest students in the subject of History through a unique topic area, demonstrating how historical research can cross over into multiple disciplines and inform us about a concept still relevant today.

For more information on this session, please contact Cat Lumb, Humanities Secondary and Post-16 Co-ordinator.

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.

Matrix in the Museum 2012

Making a Cartilage model

On 10th, 12th and 13th July, the Manchester Museum hosted our annual ‘Matrix in the Museum’ events which are run in partnership with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research in the Faculty of Life Sciences.    This year we had three schools visiting over the week; Stretford High School, Manchester Academy and All Hallows RC High School, all bringing year 8 classes to take part in the days’ activities.

The students were split into 5 teams for the day; Team Mucus, Team DNA, Team Cell, Team Cartilage and Team Matrix, all with a research scientist as their team leader.  The day started by having a tour of the research laboratories in the Michael Smith building.  The students get to see real scientists at work and find out about the work that they do. It was then over to the Manchester Museum to complete their team challenges! 

 Each team had a different challenge to do about their respective area of research i.e. team name, from making a model, to writing a song/poem or rap to preparing a presentation to show the rest of the class. The students worked brilliantly to complete these challenges, coming up with some fantastic ideas and creative ways to showcase what they have learnt.  After lunch, during their final preparations, two  ‘judges’ or Professor and research group leaders came round to talk to the students about what they had been doing over the course of the day. 

Team DNA (Team Pro) from Manchester Academy with Dr Keith Brennan and Dr Pat Caswell

It was then time to show off the work they had been doing.  Each team presented their topic to the judges and the rest of the group and demonstrated their model and song/rap/poem.  The judges then had to pick a winner – itwas often a very tough decision with all groups performing really well and showing how much they have leant from the day.  A special mention has to go to Team DNA or Team Pro as they were known from Manchester Academy whose constant energy and enthusiasm throughout the whole day was just fantastic!  It was a brilliant few days and I hope the students enjoyed as much as we did!

Thank you to all students, researchers and PI’s that took part which made it such a successful event.