The first Takeover Day for Dorset Museum in 2019 was also the most ambitious in the country.
The museum worked with 600 pupils – an entire middle school. But as the museum was closed for a major redevelopment, they needed to think creatively about how to engage and empower young people. Luckily, they had their incredible Inflatable Museum to use as an area for display, learning and interaction.
Hannah Eastwood (Learning & Community Outreach Coordinator) and Emma Talbot (Head of Education), explain how they ran the event, and lessons they’ve learnt to be able to deliver again once the new museum is open.
“We would like to extend our thanks to the Staff at Dorchester Middle School for their communication and coordination with our staff on the day and leading up to it; to the pupils for their enthusiasm and hard work, and to our volunteers who helped encourage and support the delivery on the day.”
Takeover Day is a national initiative run by Kids in Museums, and they provide resources and support for running the events.
We worked with Dorchester Middle School, the whole school – 600 pupils and their teachers! KS2 and KS3 students had different roles and responsibilities for the day.
KS2 were to be given tours of the building site then went back to school to create posters about what they had learnt, such as building safety and the different jobs there are on the building site.
KS3 teachers and students were given inspiration packs prior to the day which included a brief to ‘respond’ to the key themes and messages which are informing the new galleries in the redevelopment. Students were asked to create their own display in groups within their classroom. How they wanted to do this was left open for them.
“Takeover Day is not only a great way to engage with youngsters, but also for raising the museum’s profile within the local community.”
What were our aims and motivations?
Engage with young people, but also build relationships that last beyond the event, for example encouraging them and their families to visit the museum on opening.
Raise awareness of the museum in the local community, amongst schools and with other museum partners and organisations.
As a partner in the Wessex Museums National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), it helps us fulfil the NPO aim to ‘Increase our engagement with formal learners, particularly Years 7 to 11’.
Inspire and inform children about the roles not just in a museum, but also in the making of a new museum – from the bricks, wires and walls to the installation of galleries and objects.
Pilot future outreach offers – this was a great way to test ideas for future outreach offers aimed at KS3.
How it worked
Coordination was led by Emma and Hannah and supported by a team of volunteers
We made contact with Dorchester Middle School, and arranged a preliminary meeting to discuss which year groups we would like to engage with and how.
We also contacted Achesons (the building firm working on the redevelopment) to discuss how they would like to be involved in the coordination of the site tours.
We created information packs which were shared with all the teachers to help inspire and inform the pupils’ responses. The packs included: information about the key themes to the galleries, pictures of some of the exhibits and ideas for how they might like to respond to these themes by way of an exhibit.
We briefed staff and volunteers and provided them with a timetable of our planned activities. This included working closely with our marketing department to ensure we recorded the event.
Unfortunately, due to torrential rain on the day, the site tours didn’t go ahead at the museum. However Achesons joined us in the assembly at the start of the day to deliver a fantastic presentation and Q&A session. Pupils asked interesting and enlightening questions about how a museum is built, and what it’s like to be an architect or a builder – including ‘How many hours are worked?’ and ‘How many cups of coffee are consumed?’.
The children worked hard in their classes for the day – KS2 children, although disappointed they couldn’t do the site visit, were inspired by the talk from Achesons to create safety posters which went on display during the ‘museum opening’.
KS3 students created some amazing artworks and artefacts based on the themes. Whole groups and individuals made incredible displays, some even brought in their own artefacts from home and curated them especially for their exhibition.
In the afternoon, pupils gradually brought their work into the school hall where the empty inflatable soon turned into an incredible full gallery space of their exhibitions!
A small group of KS3 students were selected as ‘tour guides’. This brilliant group gave enthusiastic and insightful tours to the KS2 groups that visited the inflatable museum’s exhibition in the afternoon.
As the ‘tour guides’ delivered their talks and tours to KS2 pupils, the remaining KS3 pupils were treated to an inspiring talk by Jon Murden, Director at Dorset Museum, on career opportunities within museums. The pupils also prepared questions for Jon on the realities of working in a museum.
The museum stayed inflated after school hours, so that the pupils’ families and friends could view the works on display.
“I didn’t realise there would be so much to do in a museum. It was a really inspiring talk for the pupils. ”
Year 7 Tutor, Dorchester Middle School
Data from the project
One whole school was involved
600 children participated
‘The most ambitious Takeover Day of 2019’
We generated excellent social media engagement on the day
We had recognition and national publicity from Kids in Museums
Challenges and how we overcame them
Brand new: This was the first time the museum had attempted a takeover, so there was an element of uncertainty during a time of change for the museum.
However it did mean that we could be open and ambitious. So when we had discussions with the school it was a completely clear canvas based on their needs and hopes.
Expectations from the public: We realised soon after a press release about our takeover, that there was a great interest from the public to also see ‘behind the scenes’. We needed to manage this and ensure we didn’t compromise on the children’s experience.
“This was the first time my class had all worked together on one task. The class had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve, and each pupil contributed equally. I’m so proud of their work.”
Mrs W, Year 8 Tutor, Dorchester Middle School
Lessons we've learned for the future
Time: The lead-up of time for the scale of this project would ideally be longer. We felt there could be more room for expanding on ideas with the students beforehand with perhaps a pre-visit.
Weather: We were aware that the weather that week may have imposed a problem and so we did all we could to make sure that we had a rainy weather plan.
Scale: The school was keen to include as many as possible as part of their annual learning day. However, next time we feel that a focused smaller group would benefit from more impactful learning.
Measuring the impact: We provided pupils and staff with feedback forms on the day (all available on the Takeover Day website). Onreflection it would have been useful to structure and record more conversations with pupils and teachers throughout the process. This would have given us more insight into specific learning outcomes achieved.
“It was an amazing day – in spite of the weather. A huge thank you to yourself and your whole team – you were all fantastic. Thank you to Jon Murden for entertaining such a large number of pupils in the afternoon. Thank you to the construction team who were so adaptable and put together a great presentation at such short notice. Thank you to all the volunteers who gave their time to help and work with our pupils. It was a great success, the pupils got so much out of it, and the quality of their exhibits astounding. You must be very proud of what you achieved. Please pass my thanks and congratulations to all involved.”
M Hobern Year 8 Tutor, Dorchester Middle School
Advice for other museums
Plan it well and communicate with staff to try and get commitment across the whole team.
Going big is a great way to reach many pupils but consider how to heighten the experience for each class in a more impactful way too.