Bringing the First World War to life for schools through the Next of Kin handling kit

In this guest blog post Learning Facilitator Francesca Purvis describes her use of the Next of Kin handling kit at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and the amazing feedback she received afterwards!

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Francesca Purvis shows a local family story case in the exhibition to a group from Daviot Primary School

Between September and November 2016 Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (IMAG) hosted the travelling exhibition Next of Kin. An incredibly poignant and beautiful exhibition, it tells the stories of individual Scots’ experiences of World War One. Each host museum had the opportunity to contribute two local stories from their own collection. The exhibition provided a wonderfully personal insight into the War and the people who lived through it.

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Daviot Primary School pupils look at the Hubbard family display case

I was lucky enough to run the school workshops in IMAG and had a fantastic time doing so. National Museums Scotland provided the most fantastic learning resources, including two large trunks filled with fascinating objects relating to the exhibition. My workshops were all working with school children, from Primary 3 all the way up to 6th year. Having to select which objects to show the children was difficult- the choice was amazing and I wish I could have shown them all!

But eventually I selected two large albums filled with original wartime postcards for the children to peruse, and two stereoviewers and their accompanying pictures- beautifully intricate viewers used to create 3D images, a favourite wartime pastime and a hit with the children! I chose these objects as I think they really help to give an idea of what life was like for people living through the war, and how important communication through writing and pictures was in keeping up morale.

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A pupil tries on a replica gas mask

Depending on the size of the class (sometimes we would have to split in two) I would take the children up into the gallery and give them an overview of the exhibition. We would discuss the two local men’s stories and they had the opportunity to pass around various objects including an identification disc, a replica gas mask and a periscope. World War One was one of the first wars where poisonous gas was used as a method of attack, and I think trying on the bulky mask helped them to step into the shoes of a soldier.

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Pupils working on their wartime postcards

The periscope also proved popular, and I think it’s rudimental design really struck home how far technology has advanced since the War. After the exhibition tour the children had the chance to design their own War time postcards, using the exhibition as inspiration. I was so impressed by the variety and thought that was put into them, with some extremely touching messages and beautiful designs. I received some really lovely feedback from the schools, mentioning how much the children had enjoyed themselves and that they hoped to return. This included the amazing thank you card below from Kinlochbervie school.

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Pupils watching the exhibition archive newsreel film

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