University of Cambridge Museums

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Helping you to find a ‘way in’

During the past week, a fellow PGCE Primary teacher trainee and I have been inspired by the education departments of The Museum of Cambridge, The Sedgwick Museum, The Museum of Classical Archaeology and The Fitzwilliam Museum.  What these museums have to offer families, schools and people of all ages means that whether you’re 18 months old, pushing 100 or any of the years in between these educational teams are thinking and planning for you, respecting and valuing your ideas.  Between the artefacts, collections and buildings themselves there is an infinite number of stories to tell.

A way inThe Fitzwilliam Museum was our home for the majority of the week, where we seized the opportunity to make connections and explore age appropriate strategies that elicit and scaffold curiosity towards the unearthing and articulation of a web of ideas.  Through a three way dialogue between subject, object and the museum educator/facilitator skills of observation are guided and honed as meaning and understanding are threaded and shaped by emergent narrative. Reading a painting with your imagination and appealing to all your senses sparks confidence in the reader.  In engaging guided sessions the familiar features are enhanced, questions are celebrated. Tempted by fascination, thoughts safely flow.

Within the walls of a museum there is an incredible potential to recognise objects, not as distant relics but instead as significant pieces of information and connected through time.  The museum skilfully brings the past into the present moment, as the real object stands before you or indeed you can journey back in time to meet the creator.  In a powerful moment of realisation the familiarity and humanness of many of the collections lead to a mutual respect between observer and artefact, lending validity to their own point of view.

If you fancy an epic adventure then find, tell and create stories out of the multitude of characters, locations and situations; interact, interpret and become authors through your self-expression; be artists, scientists, philosophers or put on your deer stalker, join up the dots and solve a mystery.  These museums are collections of ideas waiting to be inherited, carefully presented in recognition of the significance of the experience, enjoy a new age of exploration.

Peter Bardsley, Primary PGCE student at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

One comment on “Helping you to find a ‘way in’

  1. Pingback: Spiral Bound | University of Cambridge Museums

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'Hangsha Salim, a 78 year-old Konyak Naga man with facial tattoo.' Photo by Peter Bos, (2016)

This stunning image forms a part of Another India, a new exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, opening tomorrow, 
8 March 2017 - 22 April 2018.

Marking the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain, Another India examines the complex histories of some remarkable items from minority populations in India, and reveals how they came to be in the collections in Cambridge.

This exhibition forms part of the University of Cambridge Museum's India Unboxed season. #indiaunboxed #india #cambridge #museums #photography The Whipple Museum of the History of Science's Anatomical model of a frog, lit up as part of Twilight at the Museums. A night for families to explore collections after-hours. 🐸 #camtwilight #cambridge #museums The Museum of Zoology is going to reopen later this year. This fine backbone / rib cage is going to be a key feature. #skeleton #finback #cambridge #museum 'A tennis ball, 1988'

Why does the Whipple Museum of the History of Science have a tennis ball in its collection?

This ball demonstrates the possibility of using four or more sets in a Venn diagram. Cambridge statistician Anthony Edwards worked with frustration over 2D Venn diagrams, which can only accommodate four sets by using distorted ellipses. Using a tennis ball he noted that by continually dividing the sphere with a curved line in a shape "precisely that of the seam of a tennis ball", it was possible to create a Venn diagram of four or more equally-sized sets.

This tennis ball is part of an exhibition called 'Why is this Here (WTH) at the Whipple Museum, showcasing objects that make museum staff wonder why on earth they're in a museum.

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