Showing posts with label Heritage Lottery Fund. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heritage Lottery Fund. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 September 2013

NMU Day 2013: Sunshine, Yarnbombing and Drums galore...

© Pitt Rivers Museum Source

So our inaugural Need / Make / Use Day is over and what fun it was! The NMU team arrived bright and early to set up and our excitement - plus, if I’m honest, our trepidation  - built as demonstrators, wokshoppers and craft makers started to arrive. Would the public show up? Would it rain? Did we forget anything? Where were our balloons? Have we collected enough ‘rubbish’ for the junk workshops?

© Pitt Rivers Museum Source

Thankfully, the weather was on its best behaviour, we found supplies were ample, volunteers were prepared to undertake a variety of tasks, and the public were fantastic, turning up in healthy numbers throughout the day. We had hoped for perhaps 1000 people but in the end we had more than 1600. We were really pleased with this, especially as on such as sunny day, people might have chosen a million other places to go and we were competing against a local beer festival, a food festival and an Oxford United home game! Interestingly, it was the adults who sometimes got more enthused by the instrument-making, weaving, face-painting and craft activities, which is great - VERVE is all about trying to get people in touch with their creative sides and thinking about the making skills they have, have forgotten or might want to develop.

© Pitt Rivers Museum Source

The first event of its kind to be hosted by the Pitt Rivers, NMU Day 2013 was a bit of a test year – a practical and theoretical space for the NMU team to work in collaboration with some fantastic partners in order to explore what public outreach on a large scale should include. Most of you know how short we are on space inside the Museum so an outdoor event seemed the best way to allow as many people as possible experience a little of the Pitt Rivers magic. New things were tried and tested and on the whole, everything went well - all of the workshops and making activities went smoothly; 'dressing up for survival' produced some interesting sartorial creations (we love the mini 'Livingstone in Africa' below!); craft sellers helped make a lovely handmade market atmosphere; kids with baked bean tin drums made their debut with the brilliantly entertaining Sol Samba musicians; highlights tours and architecture talks were well-attended; and finally, we learnt that kiwi coffee, freshly baked pizza and ice cream are fantastic accompaniments to crafty and ethnographic fun!

© Pitt Rivers Museum Source

© Pitt Rivers Museum Source

Flicking through the Need / Make / Use Day visitor feedback book, my heart sunk as I came across a comment opening with ‘RUBBISH...’ However, reading on, the author finished with ‘…is great! What fun’. Phew! It was fantastic to see so many people – young and old, locals and those from further-a-field – so engaged by the interactive activities on offer. You can find lots of photos from the day on our Flickr site.

Thank you to all of you who took part  - it wouldn't have happened without you. For a full list of participants, see our previous post. If you made it to NMU Day 2013, do leave a comment below and let us know what aspects you got involved with. If you didn't make it, we look forward to seeing you next year! 

Keep an eye on our website for the date of NMU Day 2014. In the meantime, feel free to email me (Jozie) for further info. 


Friday, 9 August 2013

Feeling the beat (and the heat!) at Cowley Road Carnival

The project's summer of outreach and collaboration with fellow University museums continued last month with the Cowley Road Carnival - a popular event that's become something of an Oxford institution. Here, one of the cross-museums' interns reports:

Under the brilliant sunshine on Sunday 7th July, an estimated 35,000 people took part in the Cowley Road Carnival, either watching the procession, shopping in stalls and participating in activities. Cowley Road itself came alive as locals sat on balconies to watch the procession of schoolchildren and community groups - 600 people in total - dance their way down to Saint Mary and Saint John Church. 

There in the churchyard, “Museum Music Madness” reigned as some 440 children and adults enjoyed taster drumming sessions and made recycled instruments at the Oxford University Museums and Collections (OUMC) tent. The crafts and handling activities were designed and led by the HLF museum education trainees as part of our training across the OUMC. In keeping with the 'green' theme of the carnival, all the instruments were made out of recycled plastic and cardboard kindly donated by museum staff and decorated with old promotional materials. 

Each trainee also worked with artists and a Cowley school group to create costumes and to choreograph dance moves inspired by museum visits for the procession. After our visit to the Museum of Oxford my group from St. Christopher’s School were inspired to build a “Bullnose” Morris car, first produced here in Oxford 100 years ago. By working with the group over 2 months I had a chance to really get to know the kids. Seeing them gain confidence in their new skills as they learned the Charleston and sewed costumes was a wonderful experience. For me, the outpouring of support from the crowds as the kids jived and drove their model car in the procession really summed up the community involvement and sheer fun of the Cowley Road Carnival. 

The museums also got a nice profile boost by being part of BBC Radio Oxford's coverage of the event. PRM Head of Education, Andy McLellan was interviewed and explained why it was important the museums took part, commenting, "It’s everyone’s city and everyone’s museums so hopefully people who come to the carnival today will also come and see us."

See these links for BBC Oxford's coverage and more information on the HLF training programme

Liz Danner, HLF Museum Education Officer Trainee

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A new addition to the project team!

We're delighted to welcome a new member to the VERVE: Need / Make / Use team - Jozie Kettle. 

Hi, I'm Jozie, the new VERVE Communications and Events Officer. Having studied for a Masters degree based at 'the Pitt' from 2010 - 2011, I'm super excited to be returning to contribute to a project as meaningful as VERVE.

To be able to assist with enhancing the accessibility of a collection as fantastic as the Pitt's is a unique opportunity and I'm itching to start. I am particularly looking forward to hitting the road and taking the Pitt Rivers Pop-up Tent on tour...look out for us in a field near you soon!

Previously, I managed events at The Foundling Museum in London and I have experience ranging from organising education days and artists networking events, to Mad Hatter's tea parties, outdoor cinemas, and mass 'soup-ins'!

If you would like any information about upcoming events or activities drop me an email.


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

When a junk isn't junk

Recent collections work for the project has had a nautical theme with boats, balers and anchors all being catalogued and conserved. The boats range from coracles from Wales, Ireland and India to a beautifully painted model junk from China, and each has its accessories, be they paddles, sails, balers or flags.

As someone with relatively little knowledge of boat anatomy, I am learning new boat building techniques daily now. I never cease to be amazed by how many different construction methods can be found in just one small corner of the Pitt Rivers.

Inside the Chinese junk were what turned out to be 70 bundles of cord (around 100 metres in all) made from hair - we don't know if the cord was associated with the junk and if so, what it might have been used for.

Chinese junk (PRM 1886.1.375 .1) and chord found inside

This brilliant anchor and chain from Mansinam in West Papua, Indonesia is definitely one of the longest objects I’ve ever catalogued at well over 12 metres long. The links are all made from plaited rattan and, despite the fact that they are well over 100 years old, they are still robust.
Anchor and rattan chain, 19th century (PRM 1898.56.7)

The coracles are made with a basketry frame covered with either hide or bitumen covered calico. This one has a baler, paddle and salmon club or “knocker” for dispatching the freshly caught fish. They are manoeuvred using a single paddle in a figure of eight movement. This method means they make little movement in the water and so do not frighten the fish.

Coracle from Carmarthen in Wales (PRM 1907.71.1)

Once processed, the boats will return to display in the upper perimeter of the Court (ground floor) of the Museum, where they will be positioned and lit in a way that renders them much more visible than before.

What will we be working on next?

Sian (VERVE Curatorial Assistant)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A bright start to VERVE's events programme

The end of April saw one of VERVE's busiest weeks in terms of events so far...proving a lot of hard work to make them a success but also a lot of fun too!

A Friday night hosting a group of suited and booted finance managers from the Saïd Business School - introducing them to some of the histories and highlights of the Museum - was followed by a weekend shifting gear to focus on family groups - a nice illustration of the variety of audiences VERVE aims to involve.

We loaded up the van with bells, bunting and biscuits and made our way to Oxford Castle for our first outreach event at Folk Weekend Oxford. It was a beautiful setting in the gardens of the old prison in glorious sunshine. To fit with both the folk theme and the music and performance focus of VERVE in our first year, we offered families the chance to get hands on by making their own morris dancer's knee bell pads or handling some of our global instrument collections - from a Turkish drum to a Chilean rainstick to a West African kora

The Pitt Rivers tent at Oxford Castle Gardens

Children chose different coloured ribbons to decorate their knee pads, in the
same way that Morris dancers have distinguishable 'team' patterns and colours.

A Pitt Rivers volunteer demonstrates the silky sound of the kora

Visitors guess how to play some our
instruments and where they're from

Visitors could also watch and listen to demonstrations by our two special guests: Anna Casserley, who introduced vthe Cornish tradition of hand-whittling 'May whistles' from willow branches, and Michael Wright, a renowned authority on the mysterious Jew's harp - an ancient mouth instrument with a surprisingly futuristic sound. We have an extensive collection in the Museum.

We have a busy summer schedule of tent outings so this was a fantastic way to start  - more than 450 people of all ages had a taste of Pitt Rivers in the tent, including many people who had not been to, or even heard of, the Museum before.

Jew's harp expert Michael Wright demonstrates the instrument 
Iron and steel Jew's harp, China PRM 1932.89.248

A few days later we hosted our first Twilight Takeover event, an initiative to work with young people to help them organize and curate a social evening at the Museum. The many weeks of careful planning paid off - more than 200 people came to experience the Museum with atmospheric lighting, music, bellydancing and contemporary dance choreographed by Rosie Kay. The 'Mask Parlour' was particularly popular, buzzing with industry and imagination. It just goes to show, we are all kids at heart! In addition, we were amazed and impressed by those who came with their own masks - everything from carnival ones to Venetian ones to horror ones.

Guess who? Masked guests at the Masquerade event

Videographer Dan Keeble made this wonderful short film of the night (3 mins) and the student organizers will write a fuller account for this blog soon.

Then, with just enough time to draw breath, we hosted our second Skills in the Making workshop in partnership with NSEAD. Artists Caroline Broadhead and Julie Westbury came from London to deliver a full-day session for 16 Oxfordshire art teachers. Participants were asked to bring a few items such as scissors and a sketchbook and a camera to record both their own work and that of other people. The theme was the 'Performing Objects' and people were asked to think about creating a piece that would in some way change the body's appearance, conceal it, restrict its movement or impact on the wearer's 'personal space'. In this the Museum's Body Arts collections were an obvious inspiration.

After the artists showed a powerpoint of their own work and approaches, the participants were let loose with a variety of materials including flexible furniture cane, coloured thread, wax paper, plastic bands, plastic fibres, foil and newspaper. Soon, a plethora of inventive accessories started taking shape, from rings and ruffs, to head-dresses and hats. Julie and Caroline encouraged everyone to think in new ways - "what if you turned it this way?" or "what sort of sound does it make when you move in it?" Many pieces were items that restricted the senses, such as vision, touch or even breathing. Each person explained their pieces to the rest of the group and many reported how uneasy this stifling of the senses made them feel - the voluntary denial of interaction with one's environment.

An alternative fascinator

The wearer said her brain tried to
'fill in the gaps' in her stripy vision

A punky hand ornament, reminiscent of
some of the Museum's knuckledusters

Dubbed an 'isolation bridle' and inspired by cane-work,
this contraption was designed to keep the wearer's
hands in the correct position when making
quills - a mediative, repetitive action.

This striking cone visor started off as a finger
ornament, then increased in scale!

By the end of the day there had been an impressive array of sculptural forms made and everyone took interest in each other's work and discovering new ways of working. Feedback from the teachers was positive. One noted, "a good opportunity to make some work for myself and nice to chat to others about how we can use and recycle everyday objects." After the success of our two Skills in the Making workshops we will be meeting with NSEAD and OAT (Oxfordshire Art Teachers) network to see how we can take the partnership forward. 

So, in little over a week, VERVE has involved more than 750 people from all backgrounds and interests, built relationships with all sorts of new groups, and constructed outreach and workshop models we can take forward into the future. All good stuff, and now the team can put its feet up for a little while before our big summer programme starts - watch this space..!

Friday, 1 February 2013

After Hours & Meet the Team

So, it's been a busy week as the VERVE team settle into their new roles, phone calls have been made, meetings arranged and real progress made. On Wednesday we hosted our first ever After Hours event, focussing on South and Central America and seventy people ventured into the Museum after the sun went down.

After Hours events will happen each month. It's your chance to enjoy the Museum of an evening, away from the hordes, and you'll also be able to take advantage of a free, themed programme such as talks, music, or screenings (and, as it's the Pitt Rivers, tea and biscuits) or you can simply enjoy the Museum at your own pace.

Next month's will be on Wednesday 20 Feb with a theme of Performance and Masquerade
See the website for more details.

Fig Roll Anyone?

It's also good to put name to a face so let's introduce you to the team...

I'm Maya - the new VERVE Project Activities and Outreach Officer. Previously an Education Officer at Science Oxford, I have experience running design and technology related workshops and activities and make stained glass and mosaic art as a hobby, so am a great fan of all things craft-related! We're kicking off the outreach element of the project with the creation of a Pitt Rivers pop-up tent which will be designed and customised in time for the festival season starting in May. More details to follow so watch this space!

GRRR - I'm Nicky, I'm the VERVE Volunteers Manager. I've worked at the Pitt Rivers Museum as Executive Research Assistant for the past 3 years. Before that I was an Interpretation Officer at the Museum of Reading and before that I worked at the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors in China as an Interpretation Officer. I'm looking forward to welcoming new volunteers to take part in our exciting range of activities and offering them the support needed to ensure they have a great experience at the Pitt Rivers. 

If you are reading this and are thinking "I'd like to volunteer" then why not send me a quick email.

I'm Drew - the new VERVE project Communications Officer. I've previously done all kinds of things, from organising and promoting music festivals, to starting and running underground an supper club as well as running a small PR & Marketing agency my personal job highlight has to be being santa for a weekend. (ahem - I mean santa's helper). Looking for a new challenge, and being a regular visitor to 'The Pitt' I'm really excited about being here, and even more excited about what's happening in and out of museum over the coming year. Outside of work I love drinking coffee, walking my puppy and buying (too much) vinyl.

And finally, I'm Helen, the VERVE Project Curator / Engagement Officer. I've been lucky enough to work at the Pitt Rivers for six years and every time I tell people where I work it makes feel all warm and glowy inside when they say how much they love the Museum. My research and interpretation work has been varied, from putting together new displays of guns and Aboriginal art, to writing audio tour scripts, setting up social media initiatives and going out to film artists and experts. I've long wanted to work in the cultural sector and spent a good few years juggling studying, volunteering and waitressing. After a lucky break at the V&A, I wound up at the Pitt, my favourite childhood museum. I'm really excited about VERVE and all the things we're going to achieve - new resources, new activities, new audiences - a new era for the Museum. When I'm not here I enjoy the outdoors, pubs, soppy films, and singing loudly and badly in my little yellow car.

Friday, 18 January 2013


This week the new VERVE Activities and Outreach Officer, Maya, and VERVE Communications Officer, Drew, started at the Pitt Rivers. We've inducted them through all of the departments but more importantly, the cake rota, plus what they should do in snowy weather (snowball fights, obviously!). They both seem eager to get started and keen to bring VERVE to life. Over the coming weeks they'll be updating this blog with what they are up to inside and outside the Museum walls...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Making Moves

Before the arrival of the new VERVE staff team on Monday, preparations for the project continue apace. In order to accommodate new lighting and new displays there have been some major collections moves. Because of the nature of ethnographic collections, this work needs great time and care and we tend to do it in the early mornings or late afternoons when the Museum is closed to visitors.

Firstly, here are some more images from our recent music collection move. Conservation and collections staff transferred our reserve music collection to a temporary secure store room whilst its new off-site repository space awaits completion. Working in a museum is not all sitting at desks and drinking tea  - each of these Correx® boxes was specially made for its contents, and shifting and shelving dozens of them was tiring work!

Next, the staff sought assistance from our in-house technicians to negotiate the tricky job of removing a fragile model wooden house from its high, case-top resting place on the north side of the Court (ground floor), above the textiles cases. The model is made of palm wood with a palm leaf roof and was collected by Hugh Hastings Romilly - a colonial officer in the Pacific - in Papua New Guinea in 1886. It was donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum by Augustus Wollaston Franks of the British Museum in 1893.

Conservation staff thought it not improbable that the model house had not been moved in its one-hundred year history at the Museum - it was fragile and very dusty in places. It was thought best to move it in two stages using wooden boards for support. The top of a nearby case was unscrewed so that it could be used as a resting place. Then boards were fed under the house's legs and a scaffold put in place so it could be lowered gently and horizontally. It is now in the conservation lab for cleaning and inspection. It is a large object and it would be a shame to put it into store so we shall try to find an alternative spot to display it safely in the Museum.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Musical Boxes

We are making progress with the preliminary stages of VERVE, getting things in place before the project kicks off fully in January. After a recruitment process which, as expected, drew a high calibre and high number of applicants, we now have most of the posts allocated. It will be wonderful to welcome some new faces and fresh ideas to the Museum.

Technicians and electricians continue the task of installing more than 100 metres of new LED lighting, although delivery delays have meant that the Court phase is expected to finish in the new year, rather than before Christmas. 

In preparation for the lighting work in the Upper Gallery, the collections and conservation staff today began the considerable task of moving nearly 500 boxed musical instruments from their home in the large wall cases behind the totem pole. These will be moved to a secure temporary holding area before a new space is prepared for their long-term storage at our main repository in Oxford.  

Maddie and Andrew sort through the music boxes, whilst Acting Deputy
Head of Collections, Faye Belsey keeps a list of the objects and their numbers.

These boxes contain some rare and unusual instruments from all around the world, such as a Sudanese lyre with tortoiseshell sound-box, a decorated lute from Malaysia or an 18th-century hammered dulcimer. It is important that every object is checked and its move noted down, in order to update the location field in our collections database. We must know where every object is at any given time.

Maddie and Andrew check the contents of box 46 - a zither made of a
reed stick with a gourd resonator, from the Fang people of Gabon and
part of General Pitt Rivers' Founding Collection (PRM 1884.113.14)

It is a shame that we do not have the space to exhibit more of these wonderful collections within the Museum itself. However, our online database is becoming increasingly populated with images and information and is a great way to explore some of the countless items you would not ordinarily get to see.