As we have said before, objects tell stories. Small things can represent big ideas – ideas about human history, culture, conflicts, co-habitation, curiosity, inventiveness, art, music. They can also tell us how humans have tried to understand creation, beauty, religion, tradition, and what lies beyond the known world…
Museums keep valuable artefacts safe for future generations. They also research, document and interpret collections of such artefacts and store information about them. Groups of related objects in one place enable us to understand them in ways that would be impossible if the objects were scattered. Some museums focus on natural objects for study, like stones, botanical specimens, birds or animals. Some show art. Some are very specific – such as the Qunu museum of the life of Nelson Mandela. Others are museums about advanced science, such as space travel, for example.
There are museums that focus on artefacts that human beings have made. By keeping such objects for us to examine and study, we can see how families, communities, societies and nations evolved over time. In this way they can help us to understand our own lives, and those of others’. Well-resourced museums use cutting-edge technology to investigate artefacts: to show how things were once used, to show the context in which they were found, or to explain the science that tells us so much about them. But we don’t always have to have that technology: there is much we can learn without it.
Museums set up connections between objects and people, between objects and objects, between people and people – connections that extend in infinite ways through time and over space. In this chapter, we make our own miniature museum – and through it, discover some connections and history of our own.
To the Teacher
An outing to a museum
If possible, take your students to visit a museum during this project. Perhaps they have been to a museum in the past. If so, ask them questions and get them to talk about their experiences, to remember what they saw and learnt.
Some questions to start with:
What was on display?
What was most memorable to you about your visit and why?
How were the objects displayed in the museum?
Was there any accompanying text with the displays?
What kind of information did you get from the texts that wasn’t obvious from the objects themselves?
Did the text help you to enjoy the experience?
Was there any sound in any of the displays?