Castle of Our Skins Workshop at the Rumble Museum

We were delighted and honoured to welcome five musicians from the organisation Castle of Our Skins to deliver a workshop with musical performances to Year Tens this week.

Castle of Our Skins is is a concert and educational series which is dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music. The visit was organised by Dr Samantha Ege. Samantha is a soloist performer, and the Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, University of Oxford.

The workshop introduced influence of spirituals on classical music, encouraging the students to think about the role of music in communities, and linking lyrics and the shape of the spirituals songs to the experiences of enslaved peoples. It explored how songs can be a form of resistance, both in terms of binding a group of people and also in terms of passing on important messages. One example of this was "Wade in the Water" where it was explained to the students that dogs were often used to track down escaping slaves, and being in the water can take away the scents that the dogs are pursuing.

Musicians Ashleigh, Matthew, Francesca and Gabrielle performed each piece after introducing the context to the students, and discussed the emotions invoked by the sound of the music with the students.

It was an amazing experience and we are enormously grateful to everyone involved for such an informative and moving workshop.


Rumble Museum African Collection featured on the Earth Museum

We are delighted that a number of items from our African Collection have been featured on the Earth Museum.

The Earth Museum is an online museum which hosts objects and the stories connecting these from across the globe.

Over a few sessions in the autumn, Rumble Museum Museum Council students worked with Earth Museum volunteer Naima Mokhtar to create a series of entries about our African items. First they thought a bit about categories of object, and each chose an object or two to work with.

They then worked on short stories or pieces imagining the lives of each object. You can see each entry on the Earth Museum website here.

We are very grateful to have been able to work with the Earth Museum on this project, and look forward to adding further entries in the coming months.


Project with Robby the Robot at the Story Museum

Last week, we announced that our Rumble robots had started to speak for the first time, and that The Year Eight Museum Council students and Sixth Form Museum Volunteers had been in the know for a number of weeks, and have kept the plans veiled in secrecy, while inventing stories for the robots to tell when they finally spoke. You can listen to their stories here.

The Story Museum caught wind of our project, and were inspired to think about giving a voice to Robby the Robot who lives at the Story Museum. Robby the Robot starred in the 1956 sci-fi film The Forbidden Planet. He was groundbreaking at the time, though not an actual robot, but one operated by a human inside.

The Story Museum team invited our Museum Council team to visit their amazing museum this week to meet Robby and to start to think about the sorts of things that Robby might see and hear in the museum when he is there after opening hours. Students were able to explore the Whispering Wood and the Enchanted Library, where they were able to step inside some very well-known stories such as Narnia, the Snowman and Noughts and Crosses, while thinking about what stories Robby might tell.


Museum Project students explore the Bate Collection

 
Year Nine Museum Project students took a trip to the University of Oxford's Bate Collection of Musical Instruments this afternoon to explore one of Oxford's less well-known and very fascinating museums.
 
We arrived to be greeted warmly by curator Andrew Lamb, and were then able to explore the extensive and highly varied collection. Students were delighted to be allowed to play some of the harpsichords and pianos, as well as to explore the many other instruments on display. These ranged from the familiar - cornets, trumpets, flutes - to the less familiar, such as shawms and serpent horns. Many of the instruments were beautifully and intricately decorated, with elaborate paintings on the underside of harpsichords and engravings in brass instruments.
 
Andrew explained to us that the Bate Collection grew out of an initial collection of woodwind instruments donated by Philip Bate in 1968. There are over 1000 instruments on display, and University of Oxford students are able to borrow items, making it a unique museum. He talked about how there is an important balance for the museum to strike between preservation and allowing the items to be experienced through touching and playing on them. The group had a range of questions for Andrew, from whether the instruments get tuned (yes, regularly), to whether it is possible to hear what they sounded like (also yes - we were played a recording of what an ensemble of 19th century instruments might have sounded like).
 
It was a fascinating and very enjoyable visit, which gave the Museum Project students an opportunity to experience a very different sort of museum to ones we have previously visited. We are very grateful to Andrew for welcoming us to the Bate Collection and talking to us about it.
 

 


Sharing Stories Conference

We were delighted to welcome twelve different organisations or individuals and two highly acclaimed speakers to the Rumble Museum's Sharing Stories Conference on Wednesday 9th March. About 160 Year Elevens and Twelves took part in the event which was themed on the transformative power of sharing stories, and the role empathy and compassion can play in building a stronger and more inclusive society.

The event started with a fascinating, informative, evidence-based view on empathy by Roman Krznaric, author of books like the Good Ancestor, and public philosopher. Everyone was together for this opening talk, including staff and workshop leaders, which set up the themes for the whole day. 

Cheney Technical and Grammar School Uniforms

For the month of March, we are displaying some items of historic Cheney uniform in our front reception cabinet. Items include a Cheney Technical School cap and tie, and a Cheney Girls Grammar School blazer, summer dress, belt, hat and scarf. You can also view some old photographs of Cheney Girls Grammar pupils, and two Cheney Technical School magazines. You can find out more about the history of the two schools which eventually merged in 1972 to form Cheney Comprehensive, here. Our Museum Council students have been composing ghost stories imagining the school in earlier times, so this display in chosen to connect with their stories, which will be released soon!


Year Nines Explore the History of Humans through Skulls

In today's Year Nine Museum Project session, we were very lucky to welcome Sarah Lloyd from the Oxford Natural History Museum who had brought a collection of skulls!

As she brought the first one out, she explained that the skulls were all replicas, made from 3-D printing, and asked everyone how that made them feel. She observed that people often feel disappointed when they hear that something is a replica, but there are various reasons why museums might use replicas, such as handling, ethical considerations concerning human remains, and also simply that the museum does not own an item, but would like a copy.
 
This was the case with the first skull. She explained that it was a human skull - human being defined as a mammal with a large brain which walked on two legs. She revealed that this was a model of the skull of the famous "Lucy".

Lucy was discovered in 1974 by palaeoanthropologist Donald Johanson, who was exploring the Afar region in Ethiopia. Lucy was a type of early human called a "Australopithecus afarensis" and her remains are just under 3.18 million years old.

Sarah asked you to put several skulls of different chronological order. You tended to order them on size, but some of you used other things such as the shape of the jaw or the brow. Sarah explained how a researcher had once tried to work out what the brow was for on an early human skull, so he had made a model of it. He discovered that it wasn't much use in stopping the rain or sun getting in his eyes, but it did make him look a bit threatening. He concluded that it must have had some sort of social function. 

Discovering Oxford Stories with the Story Museum

On Thursday afternoon the Year Eight Museum Council, and Sixth Form Museum Volunteers, set off on a journey to the Story Museum to discover some of the places in Oxford connected to well-known stories and authors. We were greeted at the Story Museum by Isy Mead who started by taking us to a passageway next to St Mary's Church, where she explained that C.S Lewis had been inspired on a very snowy day in the 1940s by looking up the passageway and seeing a lantern, and looking at a door with what looked like a lionesque carving. 

Aidan Meller introduces Ai-Da the Robot to Cheney Sixth Formers

On Friday 4th February, we were privileged to welcome Aidan Meller to the Rumble Museum and Cheney School to deliver a fascinating talk to our Sixth Formers about his journey into the world of art, and how this led, unexpectedly, to the creation of Ai-Da, the world's first ultra realistic robot. 

Aidan had brought two original pieces of Ai-Da's art, both self-portraits, which he displayed to the Sixth Formers. He started by talking about how he developed a passion for art as a young person, and wanted to become part of the art world. He worked very hard educating himself on art, and over the years gained a lot of knowledge. In the very early days, he spent time as an art and history teacher in Witney, before deciding that he wanted to set up his own gallery. He ran the art gallery for over 20 years. In the process of doing so, he realised that 1% of all artists, made up most of the art world. He spent a long time trying to work out why that might be, and what might connect all those artists. Eventually, he decided that it wasn't to do with their background, education or anything like that, but that it was that each of the most famous and enduring artists of their time reflected back to society something that was causing anxiety and uncertainty at the time to people. For example, Tracey Emin's Unmade Bed reflected the looming awareness that the internet and ability to see inside our lives was at hand, which it turned out to be.

Christmas Gifts through the Ages Display

For the month of December, Year Nine Museum Project students have curated a display in our front cabinet in Cheney School's main reception.

The students chose Christmas gifts through the ages as their theme, and items ranging from a set of Russian "nesting" dolls to a 1980s ZX Spectrum computer can be viewed in the cabinet. Other items featured are our music items (a Gershwin tape, U2 CD and i-Pod, as well as a vinyl), and a Princess Mary Tin, given to all serving British soldiers in 1914.

You will be able to view the students' display until the end of December.

Calendar Displays in our Front Reception Cabinet

Our Year Eight Museum Council students were given the challenge to come up with the first display of New Year in our front reception cabinet.

They thoughtfully chose calendars as a theme. In the display, you can find four interesting examples of calendars, spanning eras and cultures. There is a Japanese woodblock print page of a calendar dating to the Showa Period; an 1887 calendar made by the Eastern Telegraph Company; an Agricultural Almanac from 1910; and finally a replica astrolabe, a multipurpose instrument with calendar, navigational, and astronomical capabilities. Astrolabes became popular in the early Middle Ages in the Islamic World and Europe.

You will be able to come and enjoy exploring these items throughout February.

A Tour of the Rumble Greek Underworld Gallery at the Ashmolean Late Opening

On Friday 26th November, Year Eight Museum Council students, with amazing support from Sixth Form Museum Council volunteers, ran their own gallery themed on the Greek Underworld. The students spent few weeks planning stalls and activities, and preparing displays and costumes. They were finally able to put all their efforts and plans into practice on Friday evening!

Lots of visitors were welcomed into the Greek Underworld at the entrance to the Ashmolean by Melinoe, Persephone and others. There was an elm tree where visitors could hear about the false dreams that hid under its leaves at the underworld's entrance. People could make their own dream-catchers here to hang them on the elm tree or take them home. Visitors at the entrance could also make an obol based on replicas on display from the Rumble Museum's collection, and pick up a passport!