University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

Source 2016

For the past nine years Source has been matching the University of Cambridge Museums collections with Art and Design exam themes, providing high quality starting points from primary artefacts for students and teachers.

In 2016 Source worked with 120 independent young art students and with 451 whole class visits, reaching in total 571 young people.

Source was started in 2007 to offer students the time to research original objects, and enables them to draw and write in their sketchbooks in the galleries. Students are encouraged to discuss their ideas with their peers and museum education staff while freelance artists in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s education studio space support students’ technical and conceptual art practice. Source encourages young people as independent learners outside the classroom as it takes place during school half-term and on Saturdays. Parents play a crucial part in the project by enabling students to get to the Museum, and for shy students feeling outside their comfort zone parents give that all important initial confidence boost. Students work as independent learners within their peer group, with the support of Education staff as facilitators.

Students are offered a drop-in environment where they are provided with support as and when needed throughout their visit. Many students visit over several days to extend their work and find that they achieve a great deal. Sketching in the galleries leads to experiments and finished work in the studio.

Source offers young people the opportunity to work alongside regional artists offering a range of creative voices. It is stimulating for young people to engage and discuss their own art practice with established professional artists. Among this year’s artists we welcomed Caroline Wendling, from Wysing Arts Centre, who works on arts interpretation and interventions and Susie Olczak who is a key artist in the Cambridge E-Luminate art light festival. These are art forms and their accompanying thought processes that may be new to young art students. The opportunity to ask questions about art and artefacts in the museum and to discuss how to incorporate this in their own developing artwork is a key success of Source.  Giving their own voice to the museum collection is exciting for our young student visitors.

For 2016 we offered a new Portfolio Review Day with guest lecturers from Cambridge School of Art Anglia Ruskin University. With bookable slots of up to 20 minutes per art student (and parent) this proved really useful for students to find their strengths and weakness with gentle guidance and encouragement, whilst also hearing insights into degree courses and potential career paths in the arts. 14 students took up these 20-30 minute portfolio review slots, these proved a valuable addition to the programme with two foundation students travelling specially from London.

Source also encouraged students to make self-led visits to the other University of Cambridge Museums, where Education staff had matched exam themes to their specific museum collections. Students responded in several ways to these visits: some commented that would not have previously thought of coming to a ‘non art’ museum to research their exam themes, and were very impressed by the richness of the collection and the relevance to their exam themes. They enjoyed drawing and carrying out research. Many said that they might have completely missed the opportunity to develop their ideas in this way. They were amazed at the range of specialist knowledge of the Museum staff they met.

‘Very friendly. Helpful people!’

‘Very helpful and tried new mediums (sic) which helped. The people are also really friendly and nice give you good tips.’

‘Lots of interesting inspiration, and a chance to work with different mediums. A very friendly environment, too’

‘Very helpful and interesting, should help me with my exam’

‘Gave me some great ideas for my coursework presentation, very helpful and friendly’
Student’s comments

‘Very Friendly Staff, many thanks for the help at early stages of ‘Bridges’ Art theme (A S Level) Helped daughter pinpoint some key pieces to sketch.’

‘Excellent resources and informative staff. Lots of ideas for my daughter’s GCSE coursework’.
Parent’s comments

‘The Source events at the Fitzwilliam are a great annual opportunity for art students to enrich their projects through engaging with this world class collection in a focussed way. There can be no better way to connect with art and design than through young people seeking ideas and inspiration from the wealth of treasures at the Fitz. These creative and imaginative opportunities also have great potential to stay with students well into the future!’
Jonathan Samsom, Head of Art and Design, Hills Road VI College, Cambridge

Find out more about Source on the Fitzwilliam Museum website.

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