For Teachers: Making the Most of your Local Museum or Gallery

A brick wall with a red sign in the centre and two red doors either side. The one on the left is open.

The Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton

© Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

    • All museums and galleries can act as unique and powerful tools to support classroom learning. And there is no denying that some of our more famous, national museums and galleries – like the British Museum and the Tate Gallery – offer their visitors a world-class experience. But, unlike the larger venues, which can sometimes seem a little impersonal, your local museum is part of your community. This can lead to unique opportunities for learning and engagement for schools.

      Your local museum can, of course, be used to support learning like any other. But with a bit of imagination, your school can develop a special relationship or partnership with the Museum which can be of great benefit to all. As well as this, having a good relationship with your local museum or gallery could be really beneficial to students of local studies.

      Here are some ideas for making the most of your local museum or gallery:

      1.    Little and often: if it’s within walking distance, get used to using it as an extension of your classroom. Take the whole class or small groups on regular visits to have a look at just one painting, artist, group of objects or the building itself.  

      2.    Behind the scenes: does the museum or gallery have an archive or store that they would be willing to open up for the pupils? What expertise do the staff have that they would be willing to share with you? What expertise do you have that you could share with them?

      3.    Projects and partnerships: how could you work together to help each other and meet some common aims?
      •    Develop community-centered exhibitions together, drawing on the museum or gallery collection, the pupils’ lives or work, and the wider community
      •    Choose pupils to ‘guest curate’ or ‘co-curate’ an exhibition that would appeal to their peers and families and attract new visitors
      •    Create a youth advisory group which meets regularly at the museum or gallery, to advise on appealing to young audiences. The Youth Advisory Group at the National Maritime Museum has a handy blog to give you some ideas.
      •    Create oral history or reminiscence projects to extend the reach of the museum or gallery to families or elders for example, while broadening pupils’ literacy, IT and historical enquiry skills.
      •    Exchange expertise: hold INSET sessions at the museum or gallery to broaden teaching staff’s knowledge of curriculum-linked topics and subjects covered by the collection. In return, offer your expertise in learning, children and young people to help your local museum or gallery create exhibitions, programmes and resources which adults, families, children and young people can engage with, enjoy and learn from.

      There are so many ways that you can genuinely work together for mutual benefit. And working in partnership across your community can be very attractive to funders. Some examples to inspire you are; The Bailiffgate Museum and Hipsburn School Project and the Sumbarine Museum project - Alliance of Poetry. Additionally, the Historic England 'Heritage Schools' project has produced a number of classroom resources for key stages 1-5.

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