Charlotte Spink, a Learning Assistant in our Learning and Engagement Team, reflects on transitioning Little Dragons under 5s group from a multi-sensory museum-based programme to a digital session families access from home during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Lockdown brought with it many changes to ways of working in museums, especially when it comes to engaging with our very youngest visitors – preschool children and their families. Little Dragons, the Oriental Museum’s group for children under 5 has been running as a weekly gallery-based session for over 8 years, attracting an average of 15-20 children per session. Each session is themed around exploring an object the children can see on display, with craft activities, songs and sensory stories. All these activities were very much based on sensory engagement, communicating directly with each individual child and personalising the session for them.
As the country moves slowly back to normal, and pubs, shops, and hairdressers reopens their doors – so has the Bill Bryson Library building! A small team of staff have been working hard onsite to provide users with the resources they need through Scan and Deliver. If, however, you would like more than one chapter of a book then over July we launched three new and alliterative services: Click and Collect, Browse and Borrow, and Stay and Study.
What do Conservators do when separated from the archives and rare books they normally work on? One answer is that they make their own! Tony King, our Senior Manager Collections Care and Conservation, describes the process of creating a historic bookbinding.
The history of Western bookbinding stretches back to antiquity and has involved significant changes in the way books are bound, sometimes leading to obvious external differences but often not. Books are complex 3-dimensional objects and working out how a book was put together several hundred years ago requires a fair bit of detective work. Very few descriptions of life in the bindery have survived so the only way to really understand the processes involved is to make a new book using what we believe to be the techniques, tools and materials of the period.
In part 2 of this blog post, Ross reflects on colleagues from Jordan visting us here in Durham…
The second part of the training was the most difficult as we needed to bring some of the trainees to the UK to complete part two at Durham. By October 2019 the trainees arrived in Durham for an 8 day training programme. The Jordanians worked with the Learning and Engagement Team with a visiting school, family activities and meeting staff from all over Library and Collections. We ate at various colleges, explored all the venues of Durham Castle, Palace Green Library and focussed many of our training sessions at the Oriental Museum. Both the Jordanian delegation and the Learning and Engagement Team found this a truly valuable learning experience on both sides!
We then spent the second half looking at other museums. We explored the venues of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) at Newcastle, went to Beamish Museum and sampled the fish and chips – I can assure you British food is not as tasty as Jordanian food, and I’m sorry, but British Levant-esq restaurants don’t even come close to road side Jordanian coffee and falafel! We even explored as far reaching as the Bowes Museum!
Murder mystery at Beamish!
Ross gives a tour of our very own Durham Castle
The aim was for the curators who have now completed both parts of the training at Jordan and the UK to now work in partnership between the private, public and museum sectors to develop a schools programme and deliver a school session.
By November, the 28th November in fact, perhaps one of the proudest days of my career. Sat in Programming Panel my phone buzzed. I naughtily checked it (sorry colleagues!) and there it was, the images of the first organised whole day, facilitated school trip to the Jordan Archaeological Museum on the Amman Citadel. The university students helping the curators to deliver a session on the archaeology of the citadel. The children made model Umayyad Palaces, based on our Castle building session on our own visit. Truly lovely to see and an amazing thought that the training had come true. As time went on, school visits started to happen.
By January 2020 word had reached UK Research and Innovation who contacted us to make a documentary highlighting the project as best practice for international example! Filming began in February and our filming in Amman was due to take place on the 19th March 2020. This has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. As has our final visit in October 2020 where we plan to hand over the reins to our newly trained curators to become the trainees and continue the legacy of learning and engagement in Jordanian Museums using the best practice of both UK and Jordanian museum and heritage sites.
Ultimately this project has been a huge learning curve. We have learnt practice on from our Jordanian colleagues and I hope the same goes the other way too. It has opened doors and I now have a huge network of culturally engaged, professional and amazing colleagues working across Jordan to deliver our passion for history, collections and understanding where we come from and to disseminate this knowledge with our future, the children we educate and learn with every day.
Coronavirus has paused the project, but together we have been sharing ideas on how we innovate digitally with some amazing projects happening with our Jordanian partners and with us. An amazing experience with amazing people in an amazing country.
Fingers crossed that Ross can write a part 3 when we are able to travel and collaborate again!
For those of you who are familiar with Sunderland, here is an image of the High Street in earlier times for you to colour in. The image is part of our Pictures in Print digital collection of printed local maps and topographical illustrations. This particular illustration comes from an extra-illustrated copy of William Fordyce’s The history and antiquities of the county palatine of Durham (1857), which is held at Sunderland City Library.
The domed building on the right-hand side is Hutchinson’s Buildings, opposite Havelock House where in 1898 the “Great Fire of Sunderland” started. Can you identify any other buildings?
Simona Martoranais one of a small group of intrepid Durham University students wrestling with medieval handwriting. They are guided by Michael Stansfield, Senior Manager of Archives and Special Collections, normally in person, but over the last few months online. During these palaeography sessions, students catch a glimpse of a past world through the many stories that surface in our archival sources. Simona discusses a document from the Durham Cathedral Archive, which our staff look after at 5 The College.
Since the beginning of lockdown in March, digitisation activities at the Bill Bryson Library as we know them have changed quite a bit! We launched our Scan and Deliver service on Friday 3rd July, and have just unplugged our Disability Support and Digitisation Co-Ordinator, Katie Skellett, to ask her to tell us more…
Durham University Library and Collections is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK), a consortium of the most significant research libraries in the UK and Ireland. As many members entered lockdown in March, Dr David Prosser (Executive Director of RLUK) took a virtual tour of RLUK member’s special collections via Twitter (#RLUKCollections), including those at Durham University, to highlight just a small selection of the extensive, diverse, and unique collections held within the member libraries and archives.
We have (with permission) highlighted here Durham’s brief entry, and provided links to each of the others, as an opportunity to quickly sample some of the many treasures held within the British Isles.
إشراك جيل الشباب الأردني في التعلم عن ماضي عمّان وتعدد ثقافاتها (ممول من المعهد البريطاني
Ross Wilkinson, Learning and Engagement Manager, reflects on an ongoing collaborative learning project which stretches from Durham to Jordan:
Back in the heady pre-lockdown days of August 2018, I received an email from a colleague in Archaeology, Dr.ArwaBadran. Arwa asked to meet as she was putting funding towards a project to help youth engagement in museums and needed the support of the Learning and Engagement Team. I had worked with Arwa previously on the Museum and Artefacts MA course, and at this point I assumed a simple engagement with local partner museums in the region or possibly wider, nationally…