On Thursday 17th October, the lower school and sixth form Museum Councils were invited to the History of Science Museums to explore 'backstage' at the museum, meet some key staff, and then find out about an exciting new project which they will be involved in next term.
The 19 students arrived to be greeted by Chris Parkin, Lead Learning Officer for the museum, who gave a brief introduction to the museum, explaining how the top of the building had originally been the Ashmolean, the ground floor was used as a lecture hall, and the basement was the university's first chemistry laboratory. The students were then split into three groups, and each group got to spend ten minutes meeting a different member of staff at the museum. They met Keiko Ikeuchi, Designer and Photographer, who showed them how she worked on display boards and brochures, and the sorts of things she thought about when doing so. They also met Melanie Howard, Collections Assistant, who talked about the 75 000 items owned by the museum which are in storage, and the curatorial work involved in caring for them all, Finally, they met with Dr Lee Macdonald, Research Facilitator, who showed the students some beautiful books on biology and astronomy, and talked about the research role at the museum.
The groups then came back together in the top gallery, and were shown an example of a display case - about scientific instruments used in Islamic prayer. This case had had a team of young adults working on updating it to make it look more appealing and engaging. A prayer mat had been added, and the information boards were colourful and had thoughtful design features. The museum council were then tasked with putting post-it notes on the cabinets in the gallery with their thoughts for how they could be improved! Lots of feedback was placed on the glass, with comments ranging from suggestions of font and colour changes, to finding stories to put the beautiful objects in context.
Finally Chris introduced to the group to their project next term, which will be working on two display cabinets - with a budget - to create new and striking displays and interpretations of objects, as well as the possibility of using budget to add in new objects!
The students will find out more about this project next term. We are very grateful to Chris, Melanie, Keiko and Lee for all their time with us, and for a very stimulating and interesting visit.