The Postal Museum

Arts Award level: Bronze

Model: In school curriculum time

Participants: 25 year 9 pupils (13-14-year olds)

Partners: Haverstock School, Joelle Taylor, performance poet, Apples and Snakes, Big Wheel Theatre Company

Activity

Working with an English class recruited via their class teacher from Haverstock School, The Postal Museum and Archive (PMA) took the theme of the postal services and the First World War for their Communicating Conflict Arts Award project.

Students worked with performance poet Joelle Taylor to research and write their own First World War poetry inspired by the stories and objects in the Postal Museum collection. Students visited the Postal Museum archive and Museum Store in Debden to discover First World War stories in the museum and archive collections, working with curators and researching individuals’ stories through the archive.

The students also took part in theatre workshops with Big Wheel Theatre Company to roleplay individuals in the Post Office Rifles, and were visited by Danny Martin, a contemporary war poet. Students then performed their poetry at a celebration event at the Roundhouse.

Learning

The headline learning for the Museum was fourfold;

  • How to work with artists
  • How to set expectations with schools
  • How to extend engagement with collections
  • How to encourage personal connections to the stories we can tell

The project was part of, and received funding from, west London’s Arts Award Partnerships for Excellence programme, and evaluated by Sam Cairns.

Key strategic points that emerged through this were:

  • Often museums develop isolated one-off workshops. A longer-term project with the framework of the Arts Award required the museum team to consider their collection as a whole and draw out a wider range of information and knowledge. In doing so, the award drove a greater engagement with the collection by the practitioners and students and evidenced to curators the value of allowing young people access to collections
  • The project demonstrated the ability of the Award to enable personal progression for both the children and young people and for the practitioners involved. This was evidenced by the creation of new skills for students and practitioners, and increased confidence and agency felt by the young people and the practitioners
  • Museum learning staff are aware of the power of a personal connection with collections, however the project further enforced the value of using stories about individuals connected with sites or collections who participants can make personal links with
  • Museum learning teams should deliver Arts Award as part of a broad learning offer because of the strong outcomes for audiences and organisations