Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Taking Museums to the Libraries - Rachel McLaughlin

This summer, I spent two weeks going out to 12 different libraries around the county with museum objects. Our session included a story, handling  5 different museum objects and a craft activity. 

Planning the session for this series was one of the first projects I started when I arrived at the museums in June. It was a lot of responsibility, but also really exciting to be able to see a project through from beginning to end. I chose the objects, wrote the story to introduce them, decided on the objects and craft to go with it and prepared all the resources. The session is dragon-themed to link to the Summer Reading Challenge; a national scheme run by the Reading Agency, which challenges children aged 4 to 11 to read 6 books of their choice over the summer holidays.

I was nervous going out with Nicola (one of the Museums’ Community Outreach Officers) for the first session, especially as hearing someone else reading my story was quite strange.  By halfway through the first week, I’d seen Nicola and her colleagues Susan and Caroline all deliver essentially the same session but in very different ways. This was very interesting, but I was glad that I could watch Susan present several times and get a better idea of how I might run the session. 

In the second week, I was leading the sessions myself. I started by reading the story and having help with the handling session. By the end I was leading the whole session, and at the last one I ran it entirely by myself from beginning to end – Susan was hiding so I could find out how it felt to be there alone!
I enjoyed telling the story and really noticed myself improving and getting more confident each time I told it. Leading the object handling was a steeper learning curve, as the groups were often a very wide variety of ages, it turns out that 4 year olds and 8 year olds react to questions very differently!

It did seem a bit strange to go into a library representing a museum, as the groups were expecting stories and library activities. Bringing objects in was something a bit more unusual, and sometimes  offering object handling between the story and the craft meant that groups seemed to be looking forward to the craft more than engaging with the objects. In other places, the museum object-handling held the group’s attention and I felt that the audience connected with the museums as well as the activity.
The families enjoyed the sessions, especially as there was a mixture of listening and doing, so there was something for everyone. It also tied in well with the Summer Reading Challenge - some children even came to the session wearing their Summer Reading medals!

As for me, I really enjoyed getting to grips with one session in different places, though with 12 libraries in 8 days over 2 weeks, it was a bit of a whirlwind!

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