Enquiremanchester’s Weblog

The Manchester Museum is the lead museum in the North West Manchester cluster in a national project about art and learning for engage called ‘enquire’

New enquire Publication November 4, 2008

Filed under: Alchemy Enquire,Background,Evaluation — enquiremanchester @ 9:11 am
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The new en-quire publication ‘Inspring Learning in Galleries 02; Excellence and Inclusion’ has just been sent out.  Its a comprehensive overview of the work the engage has supported as part of its enquire strand over the last two years, covering all the participating clusters working in England.

As mentioned before, these clusters work in partnership with schools/youth groups, galleries, artists and higher education professionals to develop the action research. This research programme focuses on how children and young people can learn through galelries, contemporary art and artists.  In Phase 1 of enquire, which The Manchester Museum was not part of, took place in 2004-2006 and invovled three clusters.  For Phase 2 the number of clusters grew to seven and The Manchester Museum became invovled at this stage.  This new report highlights the last two years of work of these seven clusters and some of the things we have learnt as part of this programme – you can read about this in an earlier post

Here is an image of the report, in case you happen accross it in your area of practice and click here to download them from the enquire website.


Highlights: year two August 6, 2008

Filed under: About Alchemy - enquire,Background — enquiremanchester @ 9:17 am
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In 2007, we started off with a group of nine artists, three to work with each of the three museums (Manchester, Bolton, and Harris in Preston).

It was planned that each of the artists would develop a proposal and one of the three artists’ proposals would be chosen to work with the schools. However, the artists had other ideas and the majority of them decided that they would prefer to collaborate together rather than competing for a project.

This added a very new and interesting dimension to the project in which artists did not just collaborate with teachers and students, curators and museum educators, but also with each other.

In Bolton Adela Jones wrapped pupils from Harper Green School up as hieroglyphed mummies before showing them how to best to conserve their egg sculptures, which had previously fallen victim to an unfortunate egg-smashing incident.


Over at the Harris, Pete Flowers, Patricia Ramsden and Jane Fairhurst gave St. George’s High School from Blackpool a technique with which to recreate Islamic patterns in acidic day-glo colours in their transformed history classroom (thanks Mrs Baldwin!).

Back in Manchester, Marina Rees, Robin Graham and Sue Flowers, brought boys from Littlemoss High School for Boys to the museum to meet curators in our stores before working with them to create a performance piece, costumes and sets which would tell the story of their ‘tribe’. I’ll never forget the boy-sized praying mantis as, clawed-arms outstretched, it stalked across our dimly lit mammals gallery!

Artists Beth Allen and Daksha Patel did not take part in the school project work but their early contributions to discussions to plan our research and evaluation were valued. They tell me they have continued to make use of what they found out on their research visit to Bolton Museum.

Ups and downs

There were ups and downs to working with such an experienced, passionate and creative bunch of people. But, as we all knew, if we had stuck to what we were familiar with then we wouldn’t have found anything out. Like we ask of the pupils, we had to take risks. More on the research process next time…


Highlights: year one

Filed under: About Alchemy - enquire,Background — enquiremanchester @ 9:16 am
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In our first year we worked with two fantastic artists, Amy Leach and Brian Percival, who had very different practices and opened our eyes to the vast array of possibilities that open up when you work with contemporary artists and schools in a museum. Amy took a class from Chorlton High School on a dramatic journey through time, acting out what they thought Egyptians might say as they look back from the afterlife and then creating memory boxes to tell future generations what they wanted to be remembered about them. It was touching to listen to one young man considerately reflecting on how he had made a good Egyptian husband.

A class from St Ambrose Barlow High School joined Brian in an investigation of native and non-native species in and around the local area and stretching out across Britain. Through photography and film, collecting, drawing, audio recording, interviews, web research and media research, this class created a striking documentary exhibition which demonstrated the diversity of the wild (and not so wild) life that they came across.


How it happened August 5, 2008

Two years ago Bryony Bond, the then curator for Alchemy (artists’ research at the museum), secured our first phase of funding to take part in a national research project into the benefits of working with contemporary art and artists for young people. This project is called en-quire. This funding allowed artists to work with the museum’s secondary learning team for the first time and for school children to engage with contemporary art and artists at the museum.

In 2007 en-quire continued our funding, this time enabling Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium and Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston to join us in our research. The results of two years of research, which also allowed us to work with Salford’s Artists and Education and Creative Partnerships Manchester Salford, will be published by en-quire as part of their national findings and also in a smaller publication of the North West Manchester Cluster’s research reports. I’m also working on a website which can be used to share our research with other museums and schools who are interested in collaborating with contemporary art and artists.

We’re now getting excited about a further twelve months of working with en-quire, especially with the next academic year quickly approaching, but more about that in later blogs…