Staff at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum have been working with young people from the local area. Courtesy Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
Renaissance is the groundbreaking programme from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council to transform England’s regional museums. Their tag line is ‘museums for changing lives’, and for many young people in South Dorset that is exactly what has been happening.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth has begun a series of educational programmes that have engaged and inspired young people aged from four to 24.
Museum staff have collaborated with local schools, teachers, training providers, youth centres and hostels. The result is a series of specially tailored events and activities aimed at specific age groups. It has been extremely positive and a learning experience for all involved.
“People thought we must be mad taking four-year-olds to museums, but they responded magnificently and were fascinated by the whole experience,” said Heather Nethersole, Foundation Stage Coordinator at Kinson Primary School.
Anne Dobbing, Learning Officer at Russell-Cotes, has collaborated with the school’s teachers to design a series of activities based around a museum visit for foundation stage children, aged four to five.
The fountain in the museum's main hall. Courtesy Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
“We managed to cover all areas of the curriculum through the visit and follow-on activities. As a tool for us the museum is extremely good,” commented Heather. “We could have done all this without a trip to the museum, but it would not have been so special. This way it has stuck in the kids’ memory.”
Anne Dobbing is continuing to develop the activities for the foundation stage children and is now introducing programmes for older pupils as well. She hopes that this is the beginning of the museum being used by schools and children of all ages as a source of inspiration and education.
“It is a huge positive experience which a lot of the kids might never have out of school. It has been a big success and is something we definitely want to continue,” added Heather.
The activities for the younger children are designed with the school curriculum in mind and form an excellent learning tool. Teachers at Kinson School seemed to appreciate the museum visit as much as the kids. It is not just younger children who are benefiting from museum visits though.
Young people created displays reflecting what was going on in their lives. This photograph was used on promotional material. Courtesy Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
Rachel McArdle is the Post-16 Learning Development Officer at the Russell-Cotes Museum. She has been working to encourage 16 to 25 year olds to visit and engage with the museum. PastPresentFuture is one such project that has been developed.
An outreach project offered to all local training providers, youth centres and hostels, PastPresentFuture encouraged young people to consider what might be in a museum in 100 years time. As part of this process young people were asked to choose objects that they felt represented their life in 2005.
“The aim of this project was to engage with a non-traditional user group through outreach,” said Rachel. “It was most important that young people should be invited to bring part of their world into the museum. We hoped the message from this would be ‘we want you here and we value what you have to offer’.”
All participants had to write labels to display with their chosen objects, and the results formed an exhibition at the museum. The objects ranged from the deeply personal to broadly political, portraying issues from cannabis misuse to anorexia.
Displays included fashion and items of personal and social significance. Courtesy Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
“They had to consider the impact of their objects on the audience and what they wanted people to understand about their choice,” explained Rachel.
The project enabled young people to feel part of the museum. Many of the participants had never considered visiting the museum before, or did not even know it existed.
One 17-year-old, who had not previously visited any museum, said that museums offer “good information about history and events, and fun days out”. Another thought, “the museum was okay - I would like to move in!”
The project was designed to be a starting point for museum visits and future consultation and involvement. As a result many of the participants are now taking part in a new digital photography programme with the museum.
The work carried out with children and young people of all ages shows that museums can be inspirational to everyone. As Rachel commented: “Evaluation with the young people has shown that they do value what museums can offer, and really do want to do more with us in the future.”
Rory Trust is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the South West. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.