Learning activities will be taking place at Next of Kin tour venues using a handling object resource made up of original and replica First World War artefacts linked directly to the exhibition themes. This post describes what school and community groups can look forward to when the Next of Kin tour arrives at their local museum.
The Next of Kin handling resource, acquired and interpreted by freelancer Lorna Irvine, consists of four collections of handling objects that relate to the family history themes in the exhibition. Home Front includes ornaments, memorial plaques and letters cherished by families at home; Active Service features handmade artworks and musical instruments kept by troops as reminders of loved ones and home; Children’s War contains games and toys showing how the war was interpreted for children; Sweethearts has brooches and cushions exchanged between husbands and wives as signs of love and affection. All of these objects are explained in an accompanying information pack that also provides guidelines for drama, craft and writing activities.
The handling resource will be used in facilitated learning events with community groups local to each touring exhibition. While the contents and activities are closely linked to the Curriculum for Excellence, the resource will also allow ‘hard-to-reach’ audiences, including teenagers and people in residential homes, to engage with and creatively respond to the exhibition themes. Having two near identical versions of the collections also means that one resource can be loaned out to a school or community organisation for the duration of the exhibition.
In November 2014, P7 pupils from Loretto School took part in a pilot workshop at Edinburgh Castle facilitated by our own NMS Enabler Ruth Butler. Participants were asked to pick an object in the Home Front and Active Service collections and question its possible owner, purpose, materials, and the feelings it evokes. The pupils presented their ideas to the rest of the group, prompting discussion with the facilitator about the personal significance of a mouth organ and crucifix made out of a bullet on the front lines.
One of the most popular items was the collection’s stereoviewer- essentially an early version of 3D glasses that allowed people at home to see images from the front line in three dimensions. Participants are encouraged to make a link between the cinema newsreel on display in the exhibition and the stereoviews showing patriotic photographs of soldiers on the front line.
Each collection theme has a range of creative activities that respond to an object in the collection and immerse you in the role of a soldier on the front line or a family member at home. For the pilot, participants were instructed to create a coded message to a loved one at home in response to the collection’s Field Service Postcard (FSPC). In his FSPC, Private Murray managed to get round the very limited communication possible by leaving specific letters un-scored (see the image below). This simple activity placed the children in the position of an injured soldier on the front line and encouraged them to consider the emotional and challenging experience of communicating with families in the UK.
To find out when the Next of Kin exhibition and handling resource is coming to your local area, visit the project website: http://www.nms.ac.uk/nextofkin. To find out about the events programme at the host museum or enquire about loaning the handling resource, contact the venue directly or visit http://www.1914.org.