Guest Blog from Anita Fox

It has been an exciting few months researching the possibilities for our new Investigate Learning outreach offer.

Having the support of The Mighty Creatives has opened up great opportunities for us. The process so far has revealed some new ideas and changes along the way and it will be exciting to see where it will lead.

When I became the Learning Manager for Lincolnshire County Council in August 2017 the immediate focus was to centralise the on site learning offers across the heritage and arts sites. The learning team are a very enthusiastic bunch and very open to ideas to enhance our offer. The existing workshops spanned the historical periods from Dinosaurs to the Second World War and I was keen to also include creative arts workshops to link to the excellent exhibitions and events. At The Collection museum we became an Artsmark Partner early in 2018 with the aim to offer support and build a team to lead the arts sessions. Our current art workshops respond to the two exhibitions, Luke Jerram’s ‘Museum of the Moon’ and Keith James’ ‘Eclipse Chasers’. It is great seeing what the students come up with and we are also offering art sessions inspired by the three OPEM artists in residence from May. Participants will have a chance to contribute their ideas for our new outreach work. Very exciting!

Once the review of the workshop offer was complete I was then able to turn my attention to the extensive number of established loans boxes. These fifty plus boxes are hired out, mainly by schools and some community groups. It was widely felt by the team and across the sites that the contents and format was a little out of date (no pun intended!) and I decided to review the themes and see what else we could offer. Whilst the current boxes include details about the artefacts enclosed, they do miss out guidance for users regarding how to curate a museum display or arts exhibition.

I began thinking about the way the artefacts could be linked to a wider outreach offer looking at processes and skill development in addition to exploring the artefacts. Talking to teachers and other interested visitors also confirmed that the availability of new ‘outreach kits’ (no name confirmed as yet) would be something that they would be very interested in. Lincolnshire is such a large county and, although we deliver workshops every day on site,many schools and groups find it difficult to pay the transport costs to visit. This, I have found, is a common theme for heritage learning, especially in mainly rural communities. We are considering how we may send outreach staff to deliver workshops too.

In recent months I have been researching what outreach is offered at other sites across the country and we also enlisted the help of a group of primary pupils on their Kids in Museums Takeover Day in November 2018 to share their ideas.

So, in the coming months the first three ‘kits’ are being developed to give a starting point to incite this collaborative discussion. Suggestions for inclusion in the ‘kits’ include artefacts, images, art works, written evidence, costumes, musical instruments, stories (some with puppets) and will enable the users to create their own exhibitions and consider the skills required for doing so. The topics for these were arrived at following a range of conversations at event days and with school teachers and students and will be:

  • Prehistory
  • Creative Art
  • Local Medieval History 5th to 11th Century

Liaison with the Exhibitions, Collections and Places teams is underway and they are equally excited about the project and keen to support. I am currently ploughing my way through the huge volume of artefacts that could possibly be released and form part of the handling collection. It is very important to me that anything we are sending out to the community should be of the same high standard that would be expected from a visit to the site itself. Choosing the combinations to make this new offer is going to be a stimulating and slightly daunting task!