Posted by: georginaferry | February 13, 2011

Prize longlist for ‘Making Museums’

Janet Stott and her team in the Education department are thrilled to be among ten projects longlisted for the Clore Award for Museum Learning, a special award associated with the Art Fund Prize for museums and launched for the first time this year.

‘Making Museums’ is a joint project with the Pitt Rivers Museum that takes primary school children through the whole process of museum curation, from accession to display. Through handling objects, thinking about them and comparing them with others, they develop skills of analysis that open their minds to a world of possibilities. The project  has been growing steadily since 2003, and in 2010 nearly 1200 10- and 11-year-olds from schools in East Oxford took part.

It begins with museum education officers visiting each class, taking real museum objects from fossilised dinosaur poo to dreamcatchers, and helping the children to learn what museums are for. All the children then visit the museums for a whole day and explore what really happens in a contemporary research collection. Beginning with a staged ‘archaeological dig’, they make their own choices about which of their discoveries to focus on, using the museum displays to help identify and classify objects before making a final presentation. ‘The mystery of the dig is an open-ended question relying solely on the evidence that the children discover’, says Janet.

Children who are less comfortable with formal book-based learning and written tests thrive in this atmosphere of discussion and debate. They all go back to school ‘exhausted, but buzzing with excitement’. The final stage of the process sees the children making museums in their own classrooms, choosing their own accession criteria and forms of display.

The most remarkable thing about this project is that it has developed with no extra funding from any source. While it demands a lot of the education officers’ time (and some too from curators and teachers), it is fully sustainable and has grown from year to year purely thanks to the enthusiasm of everyone involved, from school pupils to museum staff.

I think Janet and her colleagues in the both museums deserve every penny of the £10,000 prize, and will be keeping my fingers crossed. (Unlike the Art Fund Prize itself, there does not seem to be any public voting involved, so that’s all I can do!)

Update: they won!


  1. […] original post here: Prize longlist for 'Making Museums' « Dodology Related PostsFebruary 13, 2011 — Prize longlist for 'Making Museums' « […]

  2. […] All that will change later this year when the new guide is published. I have had a wonderful time working on it. There are great stories to tell, from the 19th century struggle to put science on the curriculum in Oxford, to contemporary research on dung beetles or the rocks of Mount Everest. And it is very satisfying to have a chance to celebrate the work of the education staff, recently rewarded with a £10,000 prize in the inaugural Clore Award for Museum Learning. […]

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