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.

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.

Discovering Oxford Stories with the Story Museum

On Thursday afternoon the Year Eight Museum Council, and Sixth Form Museum Volunteers, set off on a journey to the Story Museum to discover some of the places in Oxford connected to well-known stories and authors. We were greeted at the Story Museum by Isy Mead who started by taking us to a passageway next to St Mary's Church, where she explained that C.S Lewis had been inspired on a very snowy day in the 1940s by looking up the passageway and seeing a lantern, and looking at a door with what looked like a lionesque carving. 

Christmas Gifts through the Ages Display

For the month of December, Year Nine Museum Project students have curated a display in our front cabinet in Cheney School's main reception.

The students chose Christmas gifts through the ages as their theme, and items ranging from a set of Russian "nesting" dolls to a 1980s ZX Spectrum computer can be viewed in the cabinet. Other items featured are our music items (a Gershwin tape, U2 CD and i-Pod, as well as a vinyl), and a Princess Mary Tin, given to all serving British soldiers in 1914.

You will be able to view the students' display until the end of December.

A Tour of the Rumble Greek Underworld Gallery at the Ashmolean Late Opening

On Friday 26th November, Year Eight Museum Council students, with amazing support from Sixth Form Museum Council volunteers, ran their own gallery themed on the Greek Underworld. The students spent few weeks planning stalls and activities, and preparing displays and costumes. They were finally able to put all their efforts and plans into practice on Friday evening!

Lots of visitors were welcomed into the Greek Underworld at the entrance to the Ashmolean by Melinoe, Persephone and others. There was an elm tree where visitors could hear about the false dreams that hid under its leaves at the underworld's entrance. People could make their own dream-catchers here to hang them on the elm tree or take them home. Visitors at the entrance could also make an obol based on replicas on display from the Rumble Museum's collection, and pick up a passport!

Museum Council Prepare their Greek Underworld Gallery

Next Friday 26th November, Year Eight Museum Council students, very ably supported by Sixth Form Museum Council volunteers, will be running their own gallery themed on the Greek Underworld. The students have spent the past few weeks planning stalls and activities, and preparing displays and costumes.

The gallery will feature a range of Rumble artefacts connected to stories from the Underworld. Students will tell stories to visitors, introduce the artefacts, and engage people in a range of games and activities themed on different aspects of Greek ideas about the afterlife. Famous characters such as the boatman Charon, the daughter of Demeter, Persephone, and the King of the Underworld, Hades, will be there! There will also be some lesser known creatures such as Melinoe, and the hundred-handed monsters.

Dante and Celebrity at the Ashmolean

On Thursday 7th October, Year Eight Museum Council students visited the Ashmolean to explore the Dante and Celebrity exhibition. The students will be devising activities and displays themed on the Greek Underworld as presented in Dante's Inferno for the Ashmolean Late Night Opening on 26th November, and the trip was an opportunity to meet the curator of the Dante and Celebrity exhibition and take inspiration for their own plans.

We were met outside the museum by Professor Gervase Rosser, curator of the exhibition, and Liz Green, TORCH programmes director. Gervase then took us straight into the museum. He started by talking about the role of celebrities in our lives today, and how we have people we look up to, and those we don't. He pointed out that this idea of celebrity is an ancient one, and what the Italian poet Dante was doing in his most famous poem, the Divine Comedy, was to turn people into celebrities of sorts through his poem.
He pointed out that the structure of the poem was that Dante, with his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, would meet individuals in the three sections of hell, purgatory and eventually paradise, and he would find out about their stories and why they were there. One of the first characters he meets is an old friend of his, for example, who was so obsessed with eating in his life, that he now spends his time in the inferno bloated and eternally hungry. Gervase showed us some interpretations of the poem in different drawings and texts. He told us the story of the character who carries his own head as a lantern as a punishment for being violent in life. 

Our first Moth Night at Cheney

On Saturday, the Rumble Museum held its first ever Moth Night at Cheney School!

15 Year Seven and Eight students were very privileged to meet moth expert and illustrator Richard Lewington. Richard first of all set the students the task of painting some of the pine trees with a thick treacle-and-rum mixture. This mixture can attract moths to the trees. He set up a few moth traps of different types, and explained to the group how these worked.

He then showed some of the many moth illustrated guides he has made, and the students were then able to use these to identify some of the many moths which Richard had brought from catching in his garden the night before. Everyone was amazed by just how many different sorts of moths visited an ordinary Oxfordshire garden. There were a few elephant hawk moths, which are a stunning pink and green colour. There was a cinnabar moth, with a vibrant red splashed across its dark wings. There was a brimstone moth, named, just like its more well-known butterfly counterpart, after its yellow wings.

Natty Mark Samuels Launches Black History Month at the Rumble Museum

On Friday 24th September, we were delighted to welcome Natty Mark Samuels, poet and founder of the African School and Library in Blackbird Leys, to visit the Rumble Museum at Cheney to launch our Black History month. In the month of October, we will be running a series of talks, events and exhibitions celebrating and exploring aspects of Black History, details of which will appear on our website and in the school newsletters.

Natty first delivered an assembly to our Year Twelves, where he introduced students to the flourishing centre of research, scholarship and science at Timbuktu. Timbuktu was home to the oldest university in subsaharan Africa, where advances in a range of scientific fields were made. Natty did some interactive cartography to show where Timbuktu was in Africa, and how trade in salt and other goods took place across Africa at the time. He did a group reading of one of his poems about Ahmad Baba who was a well-known philosopher and researcher during the Golden Age at the university. 

It was a fascinating assembly which introduced students to this fascinating site of learning in the medieval world in Africa.

Putting Names to Faces: Cheney Girls Grammar School Photograph

The Rumble Museum at Cheney is running a project to find out more about the history of Cheney School, by connecting with past pupils from the two schools which moved to the current site in the 1950s, Cheney Technical School and Cheney Girls School. In recent years, the Rumble Museum has installed large display boards in its canteen so that current students can learn more about the long and interesting history of Cheney School.

Lynn Ferris, a Cheney Girls Grammar School alumna, recently met with Museum Project students in Year Nine to share her experiences, and she kindly donated her old uniform and some photographs. One of the photographs is an old school photograph of Cheney Girls Grammar School, and a group of Lynn's friends are keen to identify the other pupils featured in the photograph. The Rumble Museum would like to invite any former pupils from the Cheney Girls Grammar School to get in touch, with stories, information and objects, as it is keen to digitise these, and to organise an event where former pupils can visit the school site.

African Artefact Community Event

On Friday 16th July, we were delighted to welcome a range of students, staff, parents and other visitors to explore our African artefacts collection for the first time.

In December last year, we were gifted an extensive and fascinating collection of artefacts from a range of countries in Africa, and over the coming months, we are working with Natty Mark Samuels, founder of the African School, the Earth Museum and groups of students and community members of African heritage, to create striking displays, and resources around these artefacts.

Yesterday, visitors were able to read Natty Mark Samuels' poems on each of the items, and experience interactive workshops, which included poetry readings and chanting, as well as geography quizzes! We also collected ideas about how and where the artefacts might be displayed.

We are very grateful to Natty Mark Samuels, and to everyone who attended, and we will be holding more events to display our collection over the next few months.

You can hear some of the group chanting of one of Natty's poem's here:


Moths and Butterflies Workshop at the Natural History Museum

On Friday 25th June, our Museum Council students visited he Oxford Natural History Museum to explore moths and butterflies as part of a Rumble Museum project to explore the moths and butterflies in our collections and on site at Cheney. We were met by museum learning officer Sarah Lloyd who took us to a classroom to show us some specimens on moths and butterflies and to introduce some important themes and characteristics.

The first thing we explored is the great diversity of the insect population, and what tends to define an insect (six legs, three segments to its body, and often two pairs of wings). We then looked at some beautiful specimens and Sarah asked the students to work out which ones were moths and which were butterflies. People tended to sort them out according to colourful and less colourful, though in fact, moths can be very colourful indeed.