Natty Mark Samuels Workshop on African Objects

On Thursday 27th May, we were delighted to welcome Natty Mark Samuels, founder of the African School, to run a workshop about some of our African artefacts for a group of sixth formers of African heritage.

Natty started by talking the students through some of the different countries in Africa, and some of the many languages spoken in those countries, before looking at some of the items. Natty introduced the students to items such as a beautifully decorated African doorframe, an embuutu drum, and an agaseke basket. In each case, Natty had composed a poem about the object, which gave information about how the object was used, in traditional style. The students were able to take part in some of the chants. We will be making these poems available online soon both as a booklet and audio recordings.

Natty will be working with us over the coming months to deliver more workshops, as well as poetry readings. On Friday 16th July, visitors will be able to come and explore our collection, and meet Natty and our students, who will be collecting stories and information, displaying our objects, and running workshops. You can find out more about this event here.


Cheney Tree Trail

On Saturday 22nd May, students from the Rumble Museum Council opened their long-awaited Cheney Tree Trail.

After months of hard work, identifying all the beautiful trees on site, creating themed sections and activities, and recruiting staff and celebrities to do voice-overs, the trail was finally opened to the public. Visitors were able to collect a trail map and in each area, students were ready to tell people about the trees: their type, their uses, and their appearance in folktales, Greek myths and more. Younger visitors were able to collect a trail activity bag, with puzzles and quiz questions about the trees. In each section, there were different craft-based activities too, from mosaics in our Greek myth section, fairy doors in our 'Secrets' section, and ribbon-tying in our 'Fun Facts' section, to snowflakes in our Wintry Section, and butterfly jewellery and identification in our Butterflies section.

Working with Natty Mark Samuels on our African Collection

We are delighted to be working with Natty Mark Samuels, founder of African School on our African collection.

The Rumble Museum was very fortunate to have been recently given a beautiful and wide-ranging collection of artefacts from Africa, ranging from musical instruments, to every day objects, baskets and an exquisitely carved door frame.

Natty founded African School in 2009 to introduce African Studies to the general public. African studies involves The Carribean, African America as well as Africa. The African School Mobile Library started in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natty is creating a booklet of narratives about our items, and he will also be meeting students at Cheney to explore the items together, and share knowledge about them.

Alongside this, our Museum Council students will be working with Naima Mokhtar, a researcher, to create entries for the items on the Earth Museum website, and we are planning some exhibition events later in the school year, so watch this space!


Museum Council Visit to Wytham Woods

On Tuesday 11th May, the Year Eight Museum Council were fortunate enough to be able to visit beautiful Wytham Woods and see nesting boxes with Sam and Keith from the Edward Grey Institute team.

We heard how birds' eggshells are made of calcium which the birds get from eating snail shells, and that at a particular point, the birds are able to release the calcium they have stored to coat the egg. We saw some blue tit eggs which had been abandoned by the mother. Sometimes the mother gets the timings a bit out, and doesn't have the energy to devote to the eggs, which is why they get abandoned. We were told how climate change has caused a gradual shift in the intricately timed ecological systems which enable birds to be ready to lay their eggs, and this process now occurs two weeks earlier than before. We also found out that blue tits grew more yellow on their breasts if they had eaten more caterpillars. 
We saw a baby chick, which was recently hatched, and didn't look much like a bird at all! We also saw some blue tits flying from the boxes. We saw some mechanised feeders, which used infrared technology to ensure that only certain birds could feed from particular feeders, and heard all about the various other projects being explored and developed. 

Most of this took place during an atmospheric thunderstorm, which made us all a bit soggy, but created a very special experience in the woods!  

The Wytham Tit Project was set up in 1947 and involves studying great tits and blue tits. Wytham Woods was given to the University by the Ffennell family in 1942. The woods are used by scientists to research environmental changes and behaviour of different species. There are over 1000 fixed location nest boxes in the woods, and the students were able to find out more about the project, as well as to see inside some of the boxes. You can find out more about Wytham Woods here.

Tree Letters Project with Gabriel Hemery

This year, the student Museum Council is creating a virtual tree trail which will enable visitors to explore the beautiful trees on site at Cheney online. You can find out more about this project's progress here.

As part of this initiative to celebrate Cheney's trees, we are also grateful to be involved in a really exciting project with local forest scientist Gabriel Hemery called Tree Letters. Gabriel is planting a number of capsules around the country on different trees. Each capsule contains a letter which Gabriel has written to the tree, and a link to a website with a password, which enables people to write their own letters in response. These letters can be written about any tree. One of these capsules is on site at Cheney. You can also find the letter and the link posted below.

Become a Friend of the Rumble Museum

Rumble Museum is an accredited museum based at Cheney School, and run by educational charity The Iris Project. It is unique in the UK. It is a fully accredited museum spread across the site of a busy, diverse and vibrant state school. Its collection ranges from stone age tools to modern day brain surgery instruments, with very many things in between.
We are very pleased to be launching our Friends of the Rumble Museum scheme for anyone who would like to support us and stay closely in touch with our work. For £30 per year (or as much as you feel you would like to offer), Friends will receive our weekly newsletter, priority seats at our talks and events, and invitations to displays and project opening events. 
You can find more information about us below or by exploring our website.
If you would like to become a Friend of Rumble, you can do so here:
We will send an email notification at the end of each year to ask if you would like to renew your subscription.

Exploring the Earth Museum

As part of our Year Nine Museum studies course, we were joined this week by Janet Owen, founder of the Earth Museum, who introduced us to her very unusual and exciting virtual museum project and museum. In April, the Rumble Museum will be partnering with the Earth Museum on a project to explore the stories behind one of our collections. This session was a very informative and interesting introduction to the story behind the Earth Museum.

We started by hearing a bit about how the Earth Museum came into being. The project was inspired by Janet’s many years of working in the museum and cultural heritage environment.Janet told us about her research involving the collecting journeys of Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, as well as other travelling collectors. The artefacts they collected are now scattered in museums across the world, a long way from their original places of belonging.

From Japanese Maples to Monkey Puzzle Trees: Exploring the Harcourt Arboretum

The Year Eight Museum Council students were very fortunate to be able to visit the Harcourt Arboretum on a beautifully sunny autumn afternoon this week. The Museum Council are starting work on a project to create a tree trail at Cheney to celebrate the amazing nature on our doorstep, and the trip offered the opportunity to find out more about trees and nature. 
When we arrived, Dr Lauren Baker, Education Officer, met the group and introduced us all to the arboretum itself. Along with the Botanic Gardens in central Oxford, it forms the University of Oxford's tree and plant collection. Lauren explained how the university had a vast store of seeds from an enormous range of plants, some of which are now extinct in the wild. She showed us the Franklin Tree, which has not been seen in the wild since 1803. Just like animals, trees and plants can also become extinct for a variety of reasons, and the arboretum has some examples of these species. 
Lauren then asked Mr Gimson and I to hold two ends of a long rope; at one end, was a card representing the formation of the universe, and at the other, present day was represented. Students had to answer some general knowledge questions about plants and biology more widely, and when they got a correct answer, chose a card representing a key event in the history of life on the planet, and had to work out where to pin it on the rope. We were assisted by a watchful and rather hungry peacock!

British Butterflies Collection

We have been donated a beautiful collection of British butterflies, which we put up in the ground floor of Brighouse over the holidays. The case contains a number of well-known butterflies, such as peacock, red admiral and marbled white, as well as others such as a marsh fritillary, small skipper, white admiral, orange tip and many more! We are in the process of putting up our wider collection of butterflies and dragonflies in surrounding walls, as well as preparing display boards with information about conservation of species.

If any members of the wider community are interested in butterflies, or have particular expertise, we would be delighted to hear from you as we progress with these displays. We are keen to eventually do some data collection of sightings of butterflies at Cheney and will be updating on this in later newsletters.


Peppered Moths and Unexpected Carvings: Oxford Natural History Museum

This week, our Year Nine Museum Studies students were very lucky to be able to visit the Natural History Museum after a long period of closure. They were greeted outside by Rogder Caseby, education officer, before being led into the main building. There Rodger asked them to think about what the building looked like. Some suggested it reminded them of a cathedral or a train station, with its vast and impressive atrium and glass roof. In fact, as Rodger pointed out, it was designed to be a bit like a temple of learning. He told students to look at the outside entrance as they left the building, where they would see a carving of an angel, holding a Bible in on hand, and a model of a cell in the other. At the time of building in 1855-60, science was viewed as being a pursuit which explored and celebrated divine creation, and so the angel was meant to represent this.

History of Medicine in 30 Objects: the Lady with the Lamp

This term, we have been continuing with our History of Medicine in 30 Objects course with a group of Year Nine History students. Thirty objects representing five different time periods have been selected, and lessons use these objects in our collection as a way to recreate the time periods and explore the past. Full write-ups of all lessons and resources can be found on a blog for the project here.

In our first lesson back, we looked at the significance of Florence Nightingale's work in pioneering the training of nurses and also collecting careful data to show the causes of death at the Scutari Hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War. Florence invented a type of pie chart called the "coxcomb chart", where the size of the pie reflected the data represented. Florence is probably most well-known as the "lady with the lamp", and we have a replica of her lamp in our collection.

The original lamp used by Florence can be seen below, and currently resides in the Florence Nightingale Museum in London. Students were also able to ask questions of Florence Nightingale in a re-enacted interview, and explore her ideas about hospitals and nursing using letters she wrote, which can be found at the British Library.

Ancient Skulls, Elephant Teeth and Cockroaches: Introducing Natural History Collections

We were very excited to kick off our new Year Nine Museum Course this week with a workshop from Sarah Lloyd, outreach officer at Oxford's Natural History Museum. The course will enable students to explore a range of different museums through visits and workshops; they will each then choose an aspect of museums to develop a display, which they will present at a special evening in April.
Sarah started by asking the group what they associated with the Natural History Museum. She pointed out that most people thought of it as the 'dinosaur' museum, but that actually, dinosaurs represent a small part of their very large collections. She showed everyone an image of a large, whitish, ridged object, before bringing out the object itself. There were various guesses about what it might be. It was in fact an elephant's tooth. This particular one had been confiscated from a poacher at Heathrow Airport, and then donated to the museum. She pointed out how the texture gives us information that a picture can't. The sharp edges of this tooth indicate where it would have sat in the gum of the elephant. The weight is also an important aspect of an object.
She showed an edible mouse which had been preserved through a process called taxidermy. She explained how the organs would be taken out and a layer of fat put in as part of the process. Creatures like fish and humans make poor taxidermy subjects as their skin is too delicate. The group also discussed the ethical questions that are now often asked about the process, and explained how the museum sought to raise and highlight these in its displays. Origins of the animals are always given. Animals usually come from zoos where they have died.
Another exhibit which Sarah had brought was a bristle worm preserved in formaldehyde. She explained that large collections of creatures preserved in this way could be found underneath the museum, where they were in storage. She pointed out that these items gave us lots of useful information, but the fact that they were not alive was a disadvantage in some ways, as living things can give us all sorts of other insights into natural history. She had brought with her some living hissing cockroaches. She explained that the males often fought, and that they noticed that the big ones would fight, and the medium sized ones would lose against the large ones. However, small ones were noted to nibble off the antennas of the large ones - since they use their antenna for seeking out females to mate with, this was a significant disadvantage. As a result, large and small ones tended to survive and reproduce, eventually leading to these two types creating separate subtypes of cockroach.
Sarah showed us a skull, which was a replica. The skull was of an early human, and had been called "Lucy", and the original had been discovered in 1974 in Africa. The skull bones dated to 2.3 million years ago, and show evidence of walking on two feet. The skull was still relatively small, showing evidence that walking on two feet came before an increase in brain size. She asked whether it made a difference whether the skull was a replica or not. A replica can give lots of useful information, but it lacks the sense of wonder in holding a very ancient object, and there is also some information that could be lost in the act of making a replica.
Finally, the group were asked to discuss whether they might be able to work out from the skull whether people spoke to each other, played as children, cared for their sick and elderly, and what they ate. Students thought that you could tell if there was care for the sick, as there might be evidence of healed bones, for example. However, things like playing needed more evidence.
It was a fascinating session, and we are very grateful to Sarah for taking the time to visit us with such interesting objects. We will be visiting the Natural History Museum next Tuesday to see more exhibits, and explore how the museum displays its collection.