Dystopia Day at the Rumble Museum

On Tuesday 12th July, we rounded up a season of talks, competitions, artefact displays and discussions with our Dystopia Day!

We were joined by award-winning author Chris Beckett, who has written a number of novels with dystopian themes, and a wide range of talks, activities, workshops, film viewings and stalls ran throughout the day. The day kicked off with an assembly for all Year Eights where Chris introduced some of the ideas behind dystopias, and some well-known and lesser-known examples. 

Chris then spent the day working with 22 Year Nines who, in groups, created their own dystopian storylines and cover artwork, which they presented to visitors at the end of the day. At break times and lunch times in the Library, our Year Eight Museum Council ran a range of themed stalls and activities exploring different dystopian novels. There was Hunger Games knot-tying and camouflage painting, a Scythe quiz, Divergent tattoos (temporary!), Ready Player One activities, an unfolding story scroll, a Logan's Run life clock, and more! We were also joined by Jack from Mostly Books in Abingdon, who brought an enormous range of titles exploring dystopian themes. A refreshments stall featured Handmaid cakes, Hunger Games "vomit" drink, pinkish stew from 1984 and soma pills!

After school, community visitors arrived to explore the stalls and story boards created by Year Nines, with the addition of Hunger Games training outside, including archery and axe-throwing. Chris Beckett then delivered a community talk in which he gave feedback on each of the story boards created during the day. These boards will be turned into displays for 10th September, when the Rumble Museum is co-hosting Ai-Da the robot at the Weston Library all day.

We are very grateful to Chris for spending the day with us, to all our students for their amazing work, and to everyone who came to explore and support amidst the dystopian temperatures!

Creating New Signage for the Rumble Museum

When the museum was awarded full accreditation by the Arts Council in March 2020, it was recommended that we improve museum signage around the school.

We applied for an Accreditation Grant from the South East Museum Development Office to create new signs, and our Year Eight Museum Council are now working with acclaimed designer Naomi Waite on creating a large new sign and map on the back wall in reception, as well as smaller signs around the school to show what is in each building.

The students chose the London Underground map as the basis for their design, and are now exploring how to create separate "lines" which people can follow to see different sorts of artefacts. Ideas such as having a "bee line" with the museum's "must see" items, and things like a nature lover's line are being explored. Naomi is an expert designer who, amongst many other things, created the Alice's Day Signs around Oxford. The students will work throughout this month on their signs, which will be installed this summer!

Castle of Our Skins Workshop at the Rumble Museum

We were delighted and honoured to welcome five musicians from the organisation Castle of Our Skins to deliver a workshop with musical performances to Year Tens this week.

Castle of Our Skins is is a concert and educational series which is dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music. The visit was organised by Dr Samantha Ege. Samantha is a soloist performer, and the Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, University of Oxford.

The workshop introduced influence of spirituals on classical music, encouraging the students to think about the role of music in communities, and linking lyrics and the shape of the spirituals songs to the experiences of enslaved peoples. It explored how songs can be a form of resistance, both in terms of binding a group of people and also in terms of passing on important messages. One example of this was "Wade in the Water" where it was explained to the students that dogs were often used to track down escaping slaves, and being in the water can take away the scents that the dogs are pursuing.

Musicians Ashleigh, Matthew, Francesca and Gabrielle performed each piece after introducing the context to the students, and discussed the emotions invoked by the sound of the music with the students.

It was an amazing experience and we are enormously grateful to everyone involved for such an informative and moving workshop.

Rumble Museum African Collection featured on the Earth Museum

We are delighted that a number of items from our African Collection have been featured on the Earth Museum.

The Earth Museum is an online museum which hosts objects and the stories connecting these from across the globe.

Over a few sessions in the autumn, Rumble Museum Museum Council students worked with Earth Museum volunteer Naima Mokhtar to create a series of entries about our African items. First they thought a bit about categories of object, and each chose an object or two to work with.

They then worked on short stories or pieces imagining the lives of each object. You can see each entry on the Earth Museum website here.

We are very grateful to have been able to work with the Earth Museum on this project, and look forward to adding further entries in the coming months.

Dystopia Season at the Rumble Museum - April - July 2022

We held a Dystopia Season at the Rumble Museum from April 25th to mid July 2022. To celebrate our Dystopian Fiction Collection, we organised a range of events including Thursday morning breakfast talks, workshops, projects and film viewings.

For the duration of the season, our front reception cabinet displayed items from our dystopian collections, so do drop into Cheney School main reception to take a look!

Our Thursday morning breakfast talks are listed below, and were available to all students in Year Eight and Nine.

Project with Robby the Robot at the Story Museum

Last week, we announced that our Rumble robots had started to speak for the first time, and that The Year Eight Museum Council students and Sixth Form Museum Volunteers had been in the know for a number of weeks, and have kept the plans veiled in secrecy, while inventing stories for the robots to tell when they finally spoke. You can listen to their stories here.

The Story Museum caught wind of our project, and were inspired to think about giving a voice to Robby the Robot who lives at the Story Museum. Robby the Robot starred in the 1956 sci-fi film The Forbidden Planet. He was groundbreaking at the time, though not an actual robot, but one operated by a human inside.

The Story Museum team invited our Museum Council team to visit their amazing museum this week to meet Robby and to start to think about the sorts of things that Robby might see and hear in the museum when he is there after opening hours. Students were able to explore the Whispering Wood and the Enchanted Library, where they were able to step inside some very well-known stories such as Narnia, the Snowman and Noughts and Crosses, while thinking about what stories Robby might tell.

Museum Project students explore the Bate Collection

Year Nine Museum Project students took a trip to the University of Oxford's Bate Collection of Musical Instruments this afternoon to explore one of Oxford's less well-known and very fascinating museums.
We arrived to be greeted warmly by curator Andrew Lamb, and were then able to explore the extensive and highly varied collection. Students were delighted to be allowed to play some of the harpsichords and pianos, as well as to explore the many other instruments on display. These ranged from the familiar - cornets, trumpets, flutes - to the less familiar, such as shawms and serpent horns. Many of the instruments were beautifully and intricately decorated, with elaborate paintings on the underside of harpsichords and engravings in brass instruments.
Andrew explained to us that the Bate Collection grew out of an initial collection of woodwind instruments donated by Philip Bate in 1968. There are over 1000 instruments on display, and University of Oxford students are able to borrow items, making it a unique museum. He talked about how there is an important balance for the museum to strike between preservation and allowing the items to be experienced through touching and playing on them. The group had a range of questions for Andrew, from whether the instruments get tuned (yes, regularly), to whether it is possible to hear what they sounded like (also yes - we were played a recording of what an ensemble of 19th century instruments might have sounded like).
It was a fascinating and very enjoyable visit, which gave the Museum Project students an opportunity to experience a very different sort of museum to ones we have previously visited. We are very grateful to Andrew for welcoming us to the Bate Collection and talking to us about it.


Year Nines Explore the History of Humans through Skulls

In today's Year Nine Museum Project session, we were very lucky to welcome Sarah Lloyd from the Oxford Natural History Museum who had brought a collection of skulls!

As she brought the first one out, she explained that the skulls were all replicas, made from 3-D printing, and asked everyone how that made them feel. She observed that people often feel disappointed when they hear that something is a replica, but there are various reasons why museums might use replicas, such as handling, ethical considerations concerning human remains, and also simply that the museum does not own an item, but would like a copy.
This was the case with the first skull. She explained that it was a human skull - human being defined as a mammal with a large brain which walked on two legs. She revealed that this was a model of the skull of the famous "Lucy".

Lucy was discovered in 1974 by palaeoanthropologist Donald Johanson, who was exploring the Afar region in Ethiopia. Lucy was a type of early human called a "Australopithecus afarensis" and her remains are just under 3.18 million years old.

Sarah asked you to put several skulls of different chronological order. You tended to order them on size, but some of you used other things such as the shape of the jaw or the brow. Sarah explained how a researcher had once tried to work out what the brow was for on an early human skull, so he had made a model of it. He discovered that it wasn't much use in stopping the rain or sun getting in his eyes, but it did make him look a bit threatening. He concluded that it must have had some sort of social function. 

Sharing Stories Conference

We were delighted to welcome twelve different organisations or individuals and two highly acclaimed speakers to the Rumble Museum's Sharing Stories Conference on Wednesday 9th March. About 160 Year Elevens and Twelves took part in the event which was themed on the transformative power of sharing stories, and the role empathy and compassion can play in building a stronger and more inclusive society.

The event started with a fascinating, informative, evidence-based view on empathy by Roman Krznaric, author of books like the Good Ancestor, and public philosopher. Everyone was together for this opening talk, including staff and workshop leaders, which set up the themes for the whole day. 

Aidan Meller introduces Ai-Da the Robot to Cheney Sixth Formers

On Friday 4th February, we were privileged to welcome Aidan Meller to the Rumble Museum and Cheney School to deliver a fascinating talk to our Sixth Formers about his journey into the world of art, and how this led, unexpectedly, to the creation of Ai-Da, the world's first ultra realistic robot. 

Aidan had brought two original pieces of Ai-Da's art, both self-portraits, which he displayed to the Sixth Formers. He started by talking about how he developed a passion for art as a young person, and wanted to become part of the art world. He worked very hard educating himself on art, and over the years gained a lot of knowledge. In the very early days, he spent time as an art and history teacher in Witney, before deciding that he wanted to set up his own gallery. He ran the art gallery for over 20 years. In the process of doing so, he realised that 1% of all artists, made up most of the art world. He spent a long time trying to work out why that might be, and what might connect all those artists. Eventually, he decided that it wasn't to do with their background, education or anything like that, but that it was that each of the most famous and enduring artists of their time reflected back to society something that was causing anxiety and uncertainty at the time to people. For example, Tracey Emin's Unmade Bed reflected the looming awareness that the internet and ability to see inside our lives was at hand, which it turned out to be.

Cheney Technical and Grammar School Uniforms

For the month of March, we are displaying some items of historic Cheney uniform in our front reception cabinet. Items include a Cheney Technical School cap and tie, and a Cheney Girls Grammar School blazer, summer dress, belt, hat and scarf. You can also view some old photographs of Cheney Girls Grammar pupils, and two Cheney Technical School magazines. You can find out more about the history of the two schools which eventually merged in 1972 to form Cheney Comprehensive, here. Our Museum Council students have been composing ghost stories imagining the school in earlier times, so this display in chosen to connect with their stories, which will be released soon!

Calendar Displays in our Front Reception Cabinet

Our Year Eight Museum Council students were given the challenge to come up with the first display of New Year in our front reception cabinet.

They thoughtfully chose calendars as a theme. In the display, you can find four interesting examples of calendars, spanning eras and cultures. There is a Japanese woodblock print page of a calendar dating to the Showa Period; an 1887 calendar made by the Eastern Telegraph Company; an Agricultural Almanac from 1910; and finally a replica astrolabe, a multipurpose instrument with calendar, navigational, and astronomical capabilities. Astrolabes became popular in the early Middle Ages in the Islamic World and Europe.

You will be able to come and enjoy exploring these items throughout February.