E-learning: free, teaching resources from UK museums

By Rachel Hayward | 16 November 2010
  • News
  • Archived article
A screenshot of the website.

Museums have great e-learning resources and they're mostly free too.

Museums, galleries and heritage sites have a wide range of free, engaging e-learning resources to develop your class’s learning opportunities and raise pupils' attainment. The materials are meaningful, reliable and of a high quality because they have been produced by professionals: including curators who have an in-depth knowledge of their collections or site and education specialists who understand their applications to the curriculum.

From zoomable techniques where your class can look at an artefact up close to audio, videos, Webquests, games and podcasts, there’s so much variety on offer that all the different learning styles of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning are covered.

Zoom into paintings and objects in online collections

We love interactive whiteboard friendly websites such as the National Gallery's where you can magnify aspects of a painting online and get close virtually to a Titian or Van Gogh. The quality is so good that you can even see the artist’s brushstrokes. The National Gallery also has an amazing online resource section with a strong cross-curricular emphasis too.

We also recommend:

The National Portrait Gallery

The British Museum


More e-learning resources

Documents and manuscripts are also online...

We recommend:

The National Archives

Unlocking Archives  more from The National Archives in collaboration with the British Film Institute and English Heritage

Parliamentary Archives

Hidden Lives Revealed (about children in care - includes Victorian photos and documents)

My Learning created by Yorkshire and North West museums, libraries and archives has a huge range of free learning resources

Games and interactives

Museums have so many free, curriculum-linked games and don't forget our kids' site, Show Me where museum games are collected together in one place for your pupils.

We also recommend:

The British Museum for their Young explorers website  full of objects and info and with its amazing Time explorers game

Tate Its Kids' section has lots of creative arty fun. Art-based, but also offering cross-curricular ideas is Tate's Schools and Teachers’ section. It includes Tate Tools with its free interactive whiteboard materials and video clips.

BM&AG for Kids with their key stage 2 History and Art resources. Click on the link to Birmingham Museum & Gallery's online resources for a list of their content, including e-learning for secondary pupils.

Historic Royal Palaces for their History games - in particular their Henry VIII ones

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums Fun & Games for History games and more

National Maritime Museum for Tudor games, Stories of the Skies, sailing and more

National Museums Liverpool have a variety from art to Ancient Egyptian themed games

National Museums Scotland  for History including their Discover Celts & Romans at Birnie section, aviation and nature games

The Museum Network  great for for Art, Greek and Roman Myths and portraiture

My Learning, created by Yorkshire and North West museums, libraries and archives has a huge range of free learning resources

Smaller venues such as Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle have great interactives too. Their Once upon a website inspires primary school children to write stories based on artefacts from the collection. You’ll discover a varied and unusual array of artefacts to fire up the children’s imaginations and the information text is key stage 2 friendly. A nice touch is the accompanying audio version. The audio describes each artefact so children can listen to the text being read out loud. Although the focus is literacy, there’s a real cross-curricular spread on the site. The sections are: Arts, Archaeology, Social History and Natural History. Also worth exploring is Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery’s Roman Carlisle and Cumbria site and the Lakeland Wildlife site site.


More interactives such as Webquests have been taken up by museums. Have a look on the Roman Baths in Bath website at their Webquest examples.

We highly recommend: The National Museums Online Learning Project (NMOLP)
and their cross-curricular WebQuests aimed at primary and secondary pupils and created by nine national museums.

To do a quick NMOLP WebQuest search
1. click on Links to the NMOLP WebQuests;
2. then click on one of the partner museum links;
3. finally, enter for example, Art & Design into the ‘Search’ facility.

Or for a bit more of a browse…
Once you’ve clicked on Links to the NMOLP WeQuests, and clicked through to a partner museum, you can then browse for a subject area such as Art and Design WebQuests by key stage and subject area.

Audio and video

Audio and video are increasingly part of museum and gallery online resources. The Horniman Museum, for example, has podcasts with a world music focus.

The BeMused microsite from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery is for secondary level students. It includes the video Freedom Is Life and showcases young people’s poetry inspired by the issues surrounding slavery and Olaudah Equiano's life.

Another project directly involving young people in online content is the British Museum BSL project with Frank Barnes School for Deaf children. They have created British Sign Language videos about the Museum to view online. There are also examples of the children’s creative writing and artwork based on their visits to the Museum.


Videoconferencing is strong in the museum sector and gives your class to take part in museum activities from the classroom, including the chance to question a character from history or take part in challenges such from the National Space Centre. E-Mission uses real-time hurricane and seismic data in a cross-curricular challenge based on a real historic volcanic erruption. Your class will assist Mission Control in saving the island residents from certain destruction.

We also recommend:

The National Archives

Natural History Museum

The Churchill War Rooms

Find what's out there via our Culture24 round-up of museum resources by subject area:



Religious Education


We're constantly adding to our round-ups of museum resources, so watch this space for more materials...

  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share