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’

How we see objects March 10, 2009

St Peter’s RC High School students came to the museum and chose objects to draw without looking at the labels, then they drew broken objects, and finally they tried to make sense of a bunch of items from the ethonography collections.  What was artist Paul Needham thinking when he asked them to do this?!  And what did the students get out of it?

The idea behind all this was that Paul thinks there’s more than one way to look at an object, from making a lassoo carved from wood to an ‘impossible’ elastic band formed around a fixed rail.

St Peter’s threw themselves into the challenge of deciphering the museum objects, coming up with a whole host of ideas for their possible uses and histories as well as agreeing with some of the labels given to them by the museum!

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Research reports August 19, 2008

Exploring the museum
Exploring the museum

For each of two years of action research we produced a research report.  These reports are currently being edited and published by enquire as part of the national enquire findings.

As a preview to the published report I just wanted to highlight some of the things that stood out during the research.

The research had an emphasis on collaboration and reflection within a tripartite framework of museum, school and artist. The underlying objective was to evidence how museums, schools and artists could best work together with contemporary art to create benefits for learning.

Year one (working with a researcher from The University of Manchester, Erinma Ochu):  what we learned

  • projects need time to plan, reflect, evaluate and learn from the processes
  • the roles of partners need to be clearly identified from the beginning so people know what they are responsible for and who they can go to
  • teachers, artists and museum educators should learn together from the beginning in the form of a collaborative exploration – its easy to over or underestimate how much each other knows

Year two (working with researchers Liz Jones, Christina Macrae and Rachel Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan’s Education and Social Research Institute:  what we learned

  • the artists’ pedagogical style placed an emphasis on the young people being co-learners
  • artists and curators provided a conduit between the students and the museum, and, in so doing, breached some of the barriers that prevent certain sectors of society from accessing such institutions
  • all the young people who participated regarded accessing the museums and galleries as a positive experience
Exploring Clifton Marina

Exploring Clifton Marina

Other elements which added to the ‘positive experience’ for young people were:

•    opportunities to browse and wander in an environment that was relaxed and not overtly rule- bound;
•    creation of opportunities for the young people to pursue aspects of their personal agenda, and thus give them some empowerment over their own learning;
•    sensitivity on the part of museum staff and the artists, so that the students were not rushed but allowed to take their time when looking and handling objects,
•    provision of diverse experiences that incorporated active participation – and favoured learning in kinaesthetic and tactile modalities.

So now we’re looking forward to another year where we can develop these ideas into more work and look more closely at how we can promote an environment where they can happen.