Future Careers with David Livingstone Birthplace Museum
A partnership project between the David Livingstone Birthplace (DLB) museum and 32 pupils from David Livingstone Memorial Primary. Romy Galloway, DLB Learning Officer, shares how the project helped to foster a connection between the school and museum, and through learning activities built knowledge of museums as places of work.
Over the course of six workshops, the DLB Learning Team welcomed the pupils from Mr Burns’ primary 7 class into the museum to get behind-the-scenes access. The workshops introduced pupils to the varied job roles of the sector and provided opportunities to practise museum-based and transferable skills.
Activities included interviewing staff, researching the daily tasks of different job roles, and hands-on exercises in object handling, curating, interpretation writing, storytelling with museum collections, and presenting tours. In the final workshops the pupils used these skills to help create an audio tour for young visitors to the museum. The workshops were designed to gather pupils’ responses to the museum collection to celebrate their engagement in the project and embed local voices within the museum. The DLB Kids Audio Tour is now available for free for young visitors to the museum. Illustrated and narrated by the pupils, visitors can listen to P7’s voices as they pick out objects and aspects of the exhibitions and use them to tell the histories held within the museum.
The children had a great experience working with David Livingstone Birthplace Museum. They felt valued and excited to see their work coming together and loved the finished product. Already, lots of children have been proud to show off their learning to their families by visiting the museum.Alistair Burns, Primary 7 Teacher David Livingstone Memorial Primary
Challenges and successes
- Blantyre has a strong, active, and inspiring community. However, within the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation it is ranked low, indicating the barriers many of the pupils face to accessing cultural spaces, both as audiences and workforces. Despite the school being a twenty-minute walk from the museum, only three of the pupils from the class had ever been in DLB before the project. Moreover, none of the 32 pupils knew someone who works in a museum or the heritage sector.
- The project’s structure of repeat sessions was a great opportunity for consolidating learning and building relationships. It was designed to give the pupils as much time as possible in the museum exhibitions. Within this different learning environment, they had the opportunity to build confidence and practise skills like teamwork, communication, and presenting.
- One of the challenges faced was the pupil’s unfamiliarity with museum spaces and contexts. Understandably this could manifest in a lack of confidence and focus in engaging with activities. Creating the audio tour helped to give pupils focus for completing a task and maintain enthusiasm for the activities. Activities that involved face-to-face interactions with museum staff members also proved very effective, like a quickfire interview series led by the pupils with different staff. These proved a good way to learn about job roles by personalising them with a face and a name.
- A challenge was how to design and create an effective output with limited staff capacity and physical resources. The audio tour was a good solution as it’s resource-light and required minimal installation, but it has good visibility both in the museum and online and is something that can be updated easily with minimal, if any, additional costs.
- Since the end of the project pupils have come down to the museum at weekends, chatted with staff, and attended events within our wider public programming.
- Pupils demonstrated an increased understanding of museum work and knowledge of job roles that exist, shown through their Personal Meaning Map. At the beginning of the project, they wrote on it words that made them think of museums, such as ‘old stuff’ and ‘dinosaurs’ and at the end it contained more details of what they had encountered like ‘Curator’, ‘labels’ and ‘tours’.
- The project structure, workshop plans, resources and developed output, have all been created to be redelivered with a new school partner each year.
- The project has helped develop a strong and fruitful partnership with David Livingstone Memorial Primary. We continue to work together, support and contribute to each other’s programmes and learning structures.
- The DLB Kids Audio Tour has created engaging additional interpretation for young visitors, who are an underserved audience within the museum.
- Plan ahead! The creation of the audio tour was well-planned from the beginning, providing opportunities for pupil input and development of the tour’s focus, through activities like storyboarding and script editing built into each session. The sessions that engaged the pupils the most were the ones with a good balance of allowing for their input or action, but with a very structured approach and defined actions.
- This project benefitted from having the involvement of Julianne Stewart, an MSc student in Museum Education from the University of Glasgow. This had multiple advantages for the project: offering practical experience for someone in the early stages of their career, while also greatly supporting the capacity of the small learning team at DLB.
- Each pupil received a free year pass to the museum for themselves and their families to support continuing their engagement with the museum.