Dante and Celebrity at the Ashmolean

On Thursday 7th October, Year Eight Museum Council students visited the Ashmolean to explore the Dante and Celebrity exhibition. The students will be devising activities and displays themed on the Greek Underworld as presented in Dante's Inferno for the Ashmolean Late Night Opening on 26th November, and the trip was an opportunity to meet the curator of the Dante and Celebrity exhibition and take inspiration for their own plans.

We were met outside the museum by Professor Gervase Rosser, curator of the exhibition, and Liz Green, TORCH programmes director. Gervase then took us straight into the museum. He started by talking about the role of celebrities in our lives today, and how we have people we look up to, and those we don't. He pointed out that this idea of celebrity is an ancient one, and what the Italian poet Dante was doing in his most famous poem, the Divine Comedy, was to turn people into celebrities of sorts through his poem.
He pointed out that the structure of the poem was that Dante, with his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, would meet individuals in the three sections of hell, purgatory and eventually paradise, and he would find out about their stories and why they were there. One of the first characters he meets is an old friend of his, for example, who was so obsessed with eating in his life, that he now spends his time in the inferno bloated and eternally hungry. Gervase showed us some interpretations of the poem in different drawings and texts. He told us the story of the character who carries his own head as a lantern as a punishment for being violent in life. 

Natty Mark Samuels Launches Black History Month at the Rumble Museum

On Friday 24th September, we were delighted to welcome Natty Mark Samuels, poet and founder of the African School and Library in Blackbird Leys, to visit the Rumble Museum at Cheney to launch our Black History month. In the month of October, we will be running a series of talks, events and exhibitions celebrating and exploring aspects of Black History, details of which will appear on our website and in the school newsletters.

Natty first delivered an assembly to our Year Twelves, where he introduced students to the flourishing centre of research, scholarship and science at Timbuktu. Timbuktu was home to the oldest university in subsaharan Africa, where advances in a range of scientific fields were made. Natty did some interactive cartography to show where Timbuktu was in Africa, and how trade in salt and other goods took place across Africa at the time. He did a group reading of one of his poems about Ahmad Baba who was a well-known philosopher and researcher during the Golden Age at the university. 

It was a fascinating assembly which introduced students to this fascinating site of learning in the medieval world in Africa.

African Artefact Community Event

On Friday 16th July, we were delighted to welcome a range of students, staff, parents and other visitors to explore our African artefacts collection for the first time.

In December last year, we were gifted an extensive and fascinating collection of artefacts from a range of countries in Africa, and over the coming months, we are working with Natty Mark Samuels, founder of the African School, the Earth Museum and groups of students and community members of African heritage, to create striking displays, and resources around these artefacts.

Yesterday, visitors were able to read Natty Mark Samuels' poems on each of the items, and experience interactive workshops, which included poetry readings and chanting, as well as geography quizzes! We also collected ideas about how and where the artefacts might be displayed.

We are very grateful to Natty Mark Samuels, and to everyone who attended, and we will be holding more events to display our collection over the next few months.

You can hear some of the group chanting of one of Natty's poem's here:


Our first Moth Night at Cheney

On Saturday, the Rumble Museum held its first ever Moth Night at Cheney School!

15 Year Seven and Eight students were very privileged to meet moth expert and illustrator Richard Lewington. Richard first of all set the students the task of painting some of the pine trees with a thick treacle-and-rum mixture. This mixture can attract moths to the trees. He set up a few moth traps of different types, and explained to the group how these worked.

He then showed some of the many moth illustrated guides he has made, and the students were then able to use these to identify some of the many moths which Richard had brought from catching in his garden the night before. Everyone was amazed by just how many different sorts of moths visited an ordinary Oxfordshire garden. There were a few elephant hawk moths, which are a stunning pink and green colour. There was a cinnabar moth, with a vibrant red splashed across its dark wings. There was a brimstone moth, named, just like its more well-known butterfly counterpart, after its yellow wings.

Putting Names to Faces: Cheney Girls Grammar School Photograph

The Rumble Museum at Cheney is running a project to find out more about the history of Cheney School, by connecting with past pupils from the two schools which moved to the current site in the 1950s, Cheney Technical School and Cheney Girls School. In recent years, the Rumble Museum has installed large display boards in its canteen so that current students can learn more about the long and interesting history of Cheney School.

Lynn Ferris, a Cheney Girls Grammar School alumna, recently met with Museum Project students in Year Nine to share her experiences, and she kindly donated her old uniform and some photographs. One of the photographs is an old school photograph of Cheney Girls Grammar School, and a group of Lynn's friends are keen to identify the other pupils featured in the photograph. The Rumble Museum would like to invite any former pupils from the Cheney Girls Grammar School to get in touch, with stories, information and objects, as it is keen to digitise these, and to organise an event where former pupils can visit the school site.

Moths and Butterflies Workshop at the Natural History Museum

On Friday 25th June, our Museum Council students visited he Oxford Natural History Museum to explore moths and butterflies as part of a Rumble Museum project to explore the moths and butterflies in our collections and on site at Cheney. We were met by museum learning officer Sarah Lloyd who took us to a classroom to show us some specimens on moths and butterflies and to introduce some important themes and characteristics.

The first thing we explored is the great diversity of the insect population, and what tends to define an insect (six legs, three segments to its body, and often two pairs of wings). We then looked at some beautiful specimens and Sarah asked the students to work out which ones were moths and which were butterflies. People tended to sort them out according to colourful and less colourful, though in fact, moths can be very colourful indeed.

British Butterflies Mosaics Project

This term, the Museum Council students are exploring butterflies and moths through our collection of beautiful British butterflies on display in Brighouse.

The students are taking part in a mosaics project to brighten up the outside walls of the school and to show off some of the amazing native butterflies through eye-catching mosaics. Each student has picked a favourite butterfly from the collection, and they are working every Monday afternoon with local mosaicist Clare Goodall to create mosaics of their chosen butterflies. These will then be cemented to the walls outside the school. The students have chosen well-known butterflies such as the peacock, red admiral and brimstone, as well as some other stunning butterflies such as the comma, common blue, small copper, chalkhill blue, clouded yellow and orange tip. One butterfly chosen from our collection, the black-veined white, has sadly now become extinct in Britain.

Cheney Tree Trail

On Saturday 22nd May, students from the Rumble Museum Council opened their long-awaited Cheney Tree Trail.

After months of hard work, identifying all the beautiful trees on site, creating themed sections and activities, and recruiting staff and celebrities to do voice-overs, the trail was finally opened to the public. Visitors were able to collect a trail map and in each area, students were ready to tell people about the trees: their type, their uses, and their appearance in folktales, Greek myths and more. Younger visitors were able to collect a trail activity bag, with puzzles and quiz questions about the trees. In each section, there were different craft-based activities too, from mosaics in our Greek myth section, fairy doors in our 'Secrets' section, and ribbon-tying in our 'Fun Facts' section, to snowflakes in our Wintry Section, and butterfly jewellery and identification in our Butterflies section.

Visit from Cheney Grammar School "Old Girl"

Yesterday, the Year Nine Museum Project group were privileged to be able to welcome back Lynn Ferris to the school for the first time since the 1960s. Lynn Ferris attended the Cheney Girls Grammar School in the 60s when it had recently moved to the site. It occupied the area of the school we now call C-block (named after Louisa Chadwick, a much-loved headmistress of the Oxford Central Girls School, which became 'Cheney Girls Grammar School' when it moved to the Headington Hill site in 1959).

Lynn had brought a range of old uniform items, including a navy blazer, with the motto "vitam impendere vero", which means "to pay one's life for the truth", and is a quote from the Roman satirist Juvenal. She had brought a summer dress, as girls wore different uniforms in summer and winter, and a pair of sport shorts, which were navy and made of very rough wool. She bought a panama hat and belt with a pouch where "dinner tickets" would be stored, and which all girls wore. She also brought her school scarf. 

Working with Natty Mark Samuels on our African Collection

We are delighted to be working with Natty Mark Samuels, founder of African School on our African collection.

The Rumble Museum was very fortunate to have been recently given a beautiful and wide-ranging collection of artefacts from Africa, ranging from musical instruments, to every day objects, baskets and an exquisitely carved door frame.

Natty founded African School in 2009 to introduce African Studies to the general public. African studies involves The Carribean, African America as well as Africa. The African School Mobile Library started in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natty is creating a booklet of narratives about our items, and he will also be meeting students at Cheney to explore the items together, and share knowledge about them.

Alongside this, our Museum Council students will be working with Naima Mokhtar, a researcher, to create entries for the items on the Earth Museum website, and we are planning some exhibition events later in the school year, so watch this space!


Natty Mark Samuels Workshop on African Objects

On Thursday 27th May, we were delighted to welcome Natty Mark Samuels, founder of the African School, to run a workshop about some of our African artefacts for a group of sixth formers of African heritage.

Natty started by talking the students through some of the different countries in Africa, and some of the many languages spoken in those countries, before looking at some of the items. Natty introduced the students to items such as a beautifully decorated African doorframe, an embuutu drum, and an agaseke basket. In each case, Natty had composed a poem about the object, which gave information about how the object was used, in traditional style. The students were able to take part in some of the chants. We will be making these poems available online soon both as a booklet and audio recordings.

Natty will be working with us over the coming months to deliver more workshops, as well as poetry readings. On Friday 16th July, visitors will be able to come and explore our collection, and meet Natty and our students, who will be collecting stories and information, displaying our objects, and running workshops. You can find out more about this event here.


Museum Council Visit to Wytham Woods

On Tuesday 11th May, the Year Eight Museum Council were fortunate enough to be able to visit beautiful Wytham Woods and see nesting boxes with Sam and Keith from the Edward Grey Institute team.

We heard how birds' eggshells are made of calcium which the birds get from eating snail shells, and that at a particular point, the birds are able to release the calcium they have stored to coat the egg. We saw some blue tit eggs which had been abandoned by the mother. Sometimes the mother gets the timings a bit out, and doesn't have the energy to devote to the eggs, which is why they get abandoned. We were told how climate change has caused a gradual shift in the intricately timed ecological systems which enable birds to be ready to lay their eggs, and this process now occurs two weeks earlier than before. We also found out that blue tits grew more yellow on their breasts if they had eaten more caterpillars. 
We saw a baby chick, which was recently hatched, and didn't look much like a bird at all! We also saw some blue tits flying from the boxes. We saw some mechanised feeders, which used infrared technology to ensure that only certain birds could feed from particular feeders, and heard all about the various other projects being explored and developed. 

Most of this took place during an atmospheric thunderstorm, which made us all a bit soggy, but created a very special experience in the woods!  

The Wytham Tit Project was set up in 1947 and involves studying great tits and blue tits. Wytham Woods was given to the University by the Ffennell family in 1942. The woods are used by scientists to research environmental changes and behaviour of different species. There are over 1000 fixed location nest boxes in the woods, and the students were able to find out more about the project, as well as to see inside some of the boxes. You can find out more about Wytham Woods here.