Create Your Own Exhibition: A new cross-curricular schools programme for a new museum

Our fantastic new schools programmes for 2011-12 are online now, packed with activities and resources at all five national museums.  This year we are offering a whole range of new activities for schools at the transformed National Museum of Scotland, which opens on Friday 29 July.

Our Learning team has developed exciting, inspiring and engaging cross-curricular activities built around the key capacities of the new Curriculum for Excellence. One of the programmes we have piloted very successfully this year is Create Your Own Exhibition, where pupils can explore the process of creating an exhibition, from object handling to exhibition design. This programme can be adapted to suit all school visits: the content of the workshop and gallery visit can usually be tailored to suit the pupils’ current study topic, and the skills acquired during the workshop can be used in connection with any topic at all.

Examining objects in the National Museum of Scotland
Pupils examining objects in the National Museum of Scotland.

Pupils begin by exploring and recording what they can see in the Museum’s own exhibitions. They then hear from a number of our expert staff, including  Maureen Barrie our Exhibitions Officer, Fraser Hunter our Principal Curator of Iron Age and Roman Collections, Jan Dawson from our Design team and Kerryn Fraser our Marketing Officer. All these interviews and more can be found on our website in the new workshops section.

Where to advertise the exhibition?
Where to advertise the exhibition? On the side of a bus, of course!
Pupils designing posters for their exhibition
Pupils designing posters for their exhibition.

After investigating and handling their own artefact and learning to write object labels and story panels, pupils launch into 2D and 3D design. We encourage team work to decide how best to organise objects into an eye-catching and informative display. After all their hard work to create an exhibition, the children become Marketing Officers, learning about how to make sure that people will come to see their masterpieces and designing posters with all the appropriate information.

We can also reach schools who are unable to visit our Museum in person, via the Glow digital network. Our Learning & Programmes team has been working closely with Learning Teaching Scotland to participate in a number of Glow Meet sessions. Port Ellen Primary School on the Isle of Islay has already taken part in Create Your Own Exhibition via Glow. In preparation, they visited their own local museum, looking closely at exhibitions there before logging on to Glow and taking part in the Create Your Own Exhibition programme led by me and my fellow Enabler, Scott Neil. Using a slideshow to show what they would have seen in the National Museum of Scotland, the Port Ellen class completed all activities in a successful four-hour session. In addition to promoting closer connections with local schools across the country, we have now put into practice a system which provides schools who cannot easily visit our museums with effective and informative programmes and encouraging communities to look at their own local museum collections.

This flexibility in delivery ensures that all our programmes are both suitable for and attractive to the widest possible audience. Programmes such as Create Your Own Exhibition give pupils a museum experience they couldn’t get in the classroom and highlight that museums can be fun as well as informative.

Pupils investigating artefacts for their exhibition
Pupils investigating artefacts for their exhibition.

This week I had a very rewarding time adapting the workshop to meet the requirements of a special needs school, focusing more upon object handling and discussion. The pupils produced impressive displays and were keen to explore some of the Museum’s larger exhibits such as the Newcomen Engine. A teacher later emailed to say that one pupil was so inspired after his visit that he was planning which bus he could take to the Museum to come back at half term.

You can download the new primary and secondary school programmes here.

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