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’

Poems and Museums December 8, 2009

As part of our Magpie Speaking and Listening project for Secondary Schools we’re planning on including an element of poetry and wanted to link this with the museum visit.  A call out to Manchester Museum staff and members of Poets on Fire online forum for poem suggestions met with an over-whelming response.  Whilst we can’t use all these suggestions within our current project, I thought this would make a fantastic archive for potential future projects/visits/work… So here’s the list (in no particular order)… feel free to add to it with your comments!  Please note I haven’t followed up on all these recommendations so please add your own links or corrections by commenting on this post.

Poems:

The Magic Box by Kit Wright

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias (also known as On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below) by Horace Smith

In a Museum by Thomas Hardy

Relic by Ted Hughes

The Old Curiosity Shop

The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford by James Fenton (features in a book by Suzanne Keane called Fragments of the World)

Fragments of the world also includes:

– Flea Market by John Fuller

– Poetry by Saadi Youssef

– The Treasure and the Dragon, a short extract from Beowulf

The Crystal Cabinet by William Blake

Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats

Winter Quarters by Pete Didsbury

The British Museum by Peter Didsbury in Scenes from a Long Sleep

The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894)

The Room of Saints and Virgins by Jean Sprackland in her collection, Hard Water.

The Natural History Museum by Kate Clanchy published in her collection Samarkand.

Museum Piece by Richard Wilbur

The Dolls Museum in Berlin by Eavan Boland

Archaic Torso of Apollo by Rainer Maria Rilke

Subject by Kate Potts (about a medical museum in her t-l Pilot pamphlet)

The Jade Corridor by Richard Marggraf Turley in his Salt collection

Museum of the Forest by Matthew Francis

In the Wedding Museum in The Book of Love

Red Rackham’s Treasure by Lavinia Greenlaw

An Ovaltine Tin… by Paul Farley in Bum on Fire

The Sea Cabinet by Catriona O’Reilly

Natural History by Kate Bingham in Quicksand Beach

Into the Rothko Installation by Peter Redgrove
Musee des Beaux Arts by W H Auden
The British Museum Reading Room by Louis MacNeice

The Theological Museum by Paul Stubb from his 2005 Flambard collection of the same name

The Black Museum in David Harsent’s Selected

Fox in the National Museum of Wales by Robert Minhinnick

The Green-Handled Knife by Martyn Crucefix

Blogs:

Lindowmanchester.wordpress.com

Books:

Past Poetic Archaeology in the Poetry of W.B.Yeats and Seamus Heaney (2004) by Christine Finn

Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995) by Kate Atkinson [fiction]

Selected by Lee Harwood includes a poem about his father and a museum

The American Poetry Wax Museum: Reality Effects, 1940-1990 by Jed Rasula

Recollections by Maureen Almond (produced during a residency at The Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle upon Tyne)

Other links:

A good search engine: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/search.htm…useum&x=39&y=11
A poetry competition: http://www.dlrcoco.ie/library/f02en.htm

 

An Art Historian in the Museum December 3, 2008

Filed under: Alchemy Enquire — enquiremanchester @ 9:10 am
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Jen Ashton has written this piece about her experiences of working with us on our educational programmes.  Enjoy!

I began working with the Manchester Museum secondary education team in 2007. The process of working with the team has been enlightening; working in the museum space has been inspirational. Not only has working in the Museum influenced my research as an Art Historian, but has challenged my own preconceptions of what a museum and its collections can, and should, be used for.

My own memories of childhood museum visits are not, admittedly, altogether positive.

On coach – hurried in building – stare at objects – lunch – gift shop – coach – school – discussion of plastic toy/ bag of gem stones/ postcard purchased in gift shop – home.

Why were we hurried past exhibit after exhibit, no lingering, no delayed, slow walk up and down, no pondering over shapes, colour, forms, textures, histories? And why was it that the museum was left in the museum? There seemed to be a disconnection between the two spaces – the classroom, filled high with paper and books was distinctly separate from the museum, full of scrumptious objects, jewels, insects, stuffed animals and mummified bodies. Never the twain shall meet – only on that school trip. The museum visit was, for me, almost a token gesture of ‘other cultural activity’, a tick box filled. Did teachers (do they now?) understand the vastness of the rich material held by the museum, and how to utilised that material to stir imaginations and challenge curious minds? And on the flip side: did museum staff (do they now?) understand the needs of these little people; how to present their collections, verbally and visually; to engage and entertain; to stimulate interest, so they long to ponder, linger……..

As an art historian I like to look. As a child, I am not sure if ‘just looking’ was enough – I wanted discussion, explanation, activity, a chance to explore the space, a sense that the museum belonged to me also, not just those ‘in the know’ – those knowledgeable adults, with their big posh words, and unpronounceable naming games. As a child I remember the museum being closed off to me. A space I didn’t feel comfortable in. I never imagined I would eventual come to work in such a space.

As an ‘outsider’ to the museum collections, I am still not one of those ‘knowledgeable adults’. I have only just learnt to spell palaeontology. But I am in. I have been turned. Art History is concerned with all things visual, whether it be paintings, sculpture, architecture, textiles, furniture, fashion, jewellery, photography, illustration, roads signs, advertising, maps – the list is endless …… we live in a visual context. The museum is a visual space, from the exhibits themselves, to the building which contains them, to the landscape (urban or rural) in which it sits. As an Art Historian I have nothing to add of specimen value, I have only my images, my ways of seeing. When I look at the urchins, the jelly fish, the birds, pressed clematis and ferns, (I have currently been working with the Natural Sciences collections) I am viewing them as art objects. Rightly or wrongly, I initially ignore their scientific context, and immediately place them in an art context (remember the shapes, colour, forms, textures?) As a historian of art, I am thus intrigued by the object’s story into the museum, and how new histories can be created through new interactions and interpretations.

I view my role in the museum as thus: to discuss objects in their visual context; to engage students and visitors in the artistry of the collections – whether natural or man-made – to enable students to make connections between the school space and museum space; to develop connections between the museum and all areas of the curriculum. I have always championed interdisciplinary practices; the museum enables this blurring of boundaries between the arts and sciences – a good thing for all concerned, I feel.

Lastly, I think as an Art Historian a can also introduce new names and visuals to the curators themselves; to engage them in new ways of seeing. It is a learning curve for us all.

 

enquire is on the move November 20, 2008

Filed under: Alchemy Enquire — enquiremanchester @ 2:56 pm
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We had our first meeting with Alice from Levenshulme High School on Tuesday. I’d already met with artist Dena Bagi a couple of times before in the museum’s resource centre to talk about the project.

Bagi and Day discussing enquire

Dena and I went along to talk to art teacher, Alice, about Dena’s ideas and to discuss how we could all work best together on the project.  We ran over the aims and objectives for the project which were broken down into points for students, artist, teacher/school, museum educator and museum curator separately.  The question I have identified for the project is:  How can schools, artists and museums work collaboratively to deliver successful, sustained and sustainable art projects where each of the participants is considered to be a learner? By viewing each of the participants as learners we’ll be looking at how collaborating together can also mean that we learn together and identify our own roles within the collaboration.  In considering ‘successful, sustained and sustainable art projects’ we’ll be looking at what makes a project successful, the differences for learning between longer projects and our one-off workshops, and at how we continue to offer sustained projects to schools in the future.

As the museum educator, my learning is focused around how I foster the collaborative partnership and how I develop the framework for this model of working.  Its also about what my role as a museum educator is for this project – should I be at all the delivered sessions, how much information or support do I need to give to each of the participants, and what’s the best way to evaluate the ‘success’ of the project – what does ‘success’ even mean?

The meeting with Alice reminded me that there is no ‘perfect’ way to go about a project.  I’d suggested that Dena try not to make any hard and fast plans before meeting Alice because I didn’t want the teacher to feel outside of the project from the beginning.  However, Dena did have some pretty developed ideas about what she wanted to do – the project is to be based around her practice after all – but Alice had no problem with thinking about how Dena’s plans would be appropriate for the class or the national curriculum.  So I needn’t have worried about Dena developing her ideas in advance of meeting Alice.  This might have been more difficult for other teachers though, as we’ve found in the past.

 

Art Forms in Nature – in the Life Lab November 11, 2008

dsc004551Last week we were joined by 15 students from Droylesden High School for Girls their teacher who took part in our Art Forms in Nature session up in the Life Lab and down in the birds and insects gallery below.

The girls seemed to be interested in what was going on at the museum from the moment they arrived. Only two of the 15 students had been to a museum before, yet they were soon keying into current debates like the ethics of having human remains and animal remains on display.

The beginning of the session asked the students to interpret scientific illustrations for themselves without any prior knowledge of what they are looking at. This is not an easy task for any artist or art historian but the students were soon coming up with a range of their own interpretations which showed how just by looking and discussing they could understand how art works communicate ideas for themselves.

dsc004571After identifying a range of creative techniques, the students went down onto the galleries to draw from the real insects and birds on display. They were challenged with a number of experimental drawing techniques which reminded them to take risks with their work and not to always be so focused on final outcomes. Two drawings stood out from this, a bird and a butterfly – both drawn with the wrong hand – looked as if they could have just fluttered away.

In the final part of the session the girls developed their drawings into design ideas for furniture, jewelery, wallpaper or architecture. This part of the session involved the girls thinking about how they could turn their documentation of natural objects into a functional design. This was a big step to take within the two hour session but meant the students had the chance to experiment with a range of materials and see how their research at the museum could be turned into something useful.

dsc004502 dsc004493 dsc004631 dsc004391 dsc00466

 

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…