Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Bringing Light and Colour into the Pitt Rivers – Rachel McLaughlin

One of my favourite sessions that I’ve been involved with was a pilot of “Light and Colour” at the Pitt Rivers. It is a new session as part of the Need Make Use VERVE project

The session involved three main taught sections and a more independent activity in the galleries. The three sections were:

·         How do we create light? - Fire lighting methods and lanterns. Why do we need light?
·         How do we create shadows? - Shadow puppets and how they’re used. Learning about “transparent”, “translucent” and “opaque”.
·         How do we create colour? - How to create paint from things you find in your environment. The importance of colour and its meanings.

After this, there was a “keyring” activity – finding things around the museum which create light or use it in different ways.

I was involved with the section on colour. I had an outline of the lesson plan which had been developed by the Primary Education Officer, so the different sections tied together well and delivered the aims of the Need Make Use project. I worked with this, including everything I needed to and delivering it in a style which I felt comfortable with.

Rachel delivering the session

The session began under the Totem pole, with a discussion about how to acquire a paint from your local environment and why colour is important. Through guided questioning, the group worked out that you needed something colourful (like a rock) and something sticky to glue it to the surface you want to paint. We then moved to a separate room that wasn’t a gallery space, where we made paint using red ochre and Acacia gum (gum Arabic). When the children got to paint with this, they expressed amazement at being able to paint with a rock and some tree sap.

I also created a matching game with the pigments and dyes. There are 8 tubs with 8 dyes and pigments which need to be matched to 8 colours. This was a general overview of paint colours. It introduced the concept that pigments (for painting surfaces) and dyes (for colouring fabric) are different. Some were easier: Green copper makes green. Some were harder: What colour does a sea snail make? (See the photo below for the answers.)
The group seemed to really enjoy working it out, it helped that some were easier than others as it gave them an immediate confidence, yet they were surprised by some of the ones which were more obscure.

Matching game - dyes and pigments

One of the main things which the students took from the session was an impression of the range and variety of resources which make colour and the effort required to make them. The students went away with a better understanding of the skills involved in creating some of the objects in the museum.

Positive feedback about the session

I thoroughly enjoyed the session, especially the practical aspects. I think that demonstrating or participating in the techniques used to create museum objects can add significantly to understanding of the objects, the person and the community who made them.
I found this session very inspiring and I am planning to take a similar approach in my final project.

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