Two years ago, Epping Forest District Museum received funding from the Arts Council and Royal Opera House Bridge to set up a Creative Network for the district. Networks have been set up elsewhere as a way of bringing together schools and creative partners to open new opportunities for young people and partnership working by raising awareness of what is available on the doorstep.
The Epping Forest Creative Network quickly took shape thanks to active partners such as Copped Hall Trust, the Epping Team Ministry, Loughton Youth Radio, Lopping Hall Gallery, local schools and the Epping Forest Schools Partnership Trust.
Our first project was the 2020 Creativity Challenge, which encouraged young people to explore different creative activities at home while also raising awareness of all the creative places in the district.
We have also just held a Wildlife Photography competition for Trust schools with guest judge, wildlife photographer Peter Warne from the Copped Hall Trust, making the final selection of some fantastic entries that will feature in a special calendar.
We are always interested in hearing from any schools or creative and cultural organisations in the district who might be interested in getting involved. Independent artists and musicians are also welcome as we look to connect people and places together to inspire great new learning opportunities.
The museum reopened on the 17 May 2021 with a special exhibition on The Boys, the young survivors of the Holocaust who came to stay at Holmehurst, a house on the borders of Loughton and Buckhurst Hill from December 1945 to January 1947.
These young people were Polish Jews and had survived the Holocaust. Most of them were the only member of their family to survive.
This subject is challenging to teach but is also an important piece of local history. If we focus on the stories of these young people before and after the Holocaust – what their lives were like before the war, and they went on to achieve – there are many important lessons to engage pupils.
One useful resource is the book After the War by Tom Palmer, focussing on the arrival of the Boys in Windermere, in the Lake District, to begin their recovery before they were transferred in small groups to other hostels such as Loughton. Tom worked with the Lake District Holocaust Project and UCL Centre for Holocaust Education to research and write this story and create learning resources. The story is a powerful and sensitive introduction to this topic. We are fortunate that Tom has offered to write a short story to accompany our exhibition; His Name is Ben will explore the story of Ben Helfgott, one of the Boys who came to Loughton and went on to become an Olympic weightlifter.
We have also worked with the Jewish Music Institute and Essex Music Services to create a resource for a music lesson, exploring a traditional Jewish song. This aims to engage pupils with Jewish life and culture in Poland before the Second World War, providing a context for thinking about the families the young people came from, and what their childhood was like, before the war changed everything.
We hope that these will become part of a permanent resource, alongside a new Holocaust Memorial planned for the district, and help young people learn about this important piece of history, and its relevance to the local area.
We are looking forward to running our new series of history days for schools once the museum reopens! These days focus on learning about history through fun, hands-on activities. Children love exploring the museum, some of which is housed in a fascinating sixteenth century Tudor house, and they often get special access to historic local objects which are not currently on public display during their visit.
The history days are based on topics from the National Curriculum, and each one comprises of three exciting sessions…
Pupils might be Discovering the toys local girl Ellen Buxton played with 100 years ago, using images from her beautiful diary and real old toys from the museum’s collection; or getting hands-on with ancient artefacts to investigate how life changed during the Stone Age.
They could be Exploring behind the scenes in the museum, with a chance to see some of our Roman treasures which are not on public display; or finding out about life in Victorian times using local artefacts from the museum’s stores.
And they might be Creating a clay pot inspired by techniques used in the Neolithic period; or creating a print in the style of local artist Walter Spradbery, to take home.
Whatever they are learning about, the children can expect a warm welcome at the museum and a stimulating and memorable day. We can’t wait to welcome schools back!
If you would like to book a history day for your school group, please contact Catherine Hammond on 07548 145669 or email email@example.com.
The museum has a range of boxes for hire relating to many different history topics. Schools have found many different creative ways to use them. One popular idea is to create a class museum. Pupils can choose an object to research then write a label on it – but to really develop their skills at writing and presenting information for different audiences, they can also learn the techniques we use when writing labels in the museum.
We start off by doing a lot of research on an object first. Pupils can start by reading the information on their object in the topic box resource pack. Information from this might lead them to do further research in books or on the internet. At this point it will be useful to discuss which websites might provide the most reliable information for research – another museum’s website is likely to have good information on objects.
Now comes the hard bit. After all that work work, pupils must decide what are the most important things visitors to your class museum should know about their object. They can’t fit all the information on to their label as that would be too much for a visitor to read. Remember, visitors will be looking round the museum at lots of objects, so they aren’t likely to read or remember more than one or two facts about each one.
However, this is also the fun bit – pupils are now the expert on the object, so they can decide what they think the most important thing visitors should know about their object. It might be an historical piece of information, a quirky fact, something funny or amazing – you really want to grab visitors’ attention, so they are encouraged to find out more for themselves. Can you think of another good way of grabbing a visitor’s attention? You can ask a question on the label (see what I did there?!) This will encourage the visitor to talk or think about their object.
We usually try and write no more than 50 words on a label, so pupils can try making that their word limit. Other important things to include are the title or name of the object, the date it was made and / or used but if you don’t know this you can say so.
Now think about the design of your label. You want people to be able to read it easily, when typing them we use a big font size – about 16 points for a title and 14 points for the information about it. We might use a different colour for the title or make it bold. There are lots of different font styles you can choose, but we usually go for something plain and simple like Arial or Century Gothic as these are easy for people to read. If you are handwriting them, then neat and clear writing will work just as well.
If this sounds a bit boring, then you can have a lot more fun getting creative with a poster design for your classroom exhibition. More on that, with some top tips from the museum’s exhibition design expert in a future blog!
We’ve come across some fascinating stories of local people while researching our new school workshop, Local Legends.
Did you know that Jill Barklem, author of the popular Brambly Hedge children’s books, was from Epping? She grew up surrounded by the gently rolling patchwork of fields and forest we are so lucky to have in the District. Jill loved this countryside and enjoyed nature watching.
While Jill was at Loughton High School, now the site of Roding Valley, she developed a serious eye condition and was advised not to take part in games lessons to avoid this getting worse. Instead, she spent her time in the school art studio, allowing Jill to focus her efforts on honing her artistic talent.
Jill went on to study at St Martin’s School of Art in London. Each day she travelled there and back on a packed Central Line train, passing the time by imagining what the small animals of the fields and hedgerows around Epping might be doing while away from watchful human eyes. Something Jill didn’t imagine on these long commutes was that she would one day turn these fantasies into books, and become a celebrated children’s author. Jill said later, “I did not have a very clear idea of my future but assumed I would earn my living by illustrating other people’s books. I certainly never imagined that one day I would write my own.”
After getting married, Jill put pen to paper and started work on her first story about a resourceful family of mice and their animal friends, and the Tales of Brambly Hedge were born. Each book took Jill up to two years to craft, and was filled with extraordinarily detailed illustrations which have an enduring appeal to this day. Jill was fastidious in her research, even trying out recipes at home to check the food featuring in her stories!
Jill’s stories have sold millions of copies, and in 1996 were made into a television series featuring the voices of Jim Broadbent and June Whitfield. Jill died in 2017, but her stories continue to be enjoyed around the world today.
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) takes place each year on 27 January. We remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The museum will be hosting a special exhibition The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District from 8 May to 4 September 2021. This will tell the incredible story of the young Holocaust survivors, young men between the ages of 16 and 21, who came to stay at Holmehurst, a house on the borders of Buckhurst Hill and Loughton from December 1945 to January 1947 as part of their recovery. We think up to 30 young men came to Holmehurst, and they became known as the Loughton Boys.
The Loughton boys were part of the first group of around 300 young survivors who were brought to Britain after the war. A total of 715 children eventually came to Britain. They are collectively known as ‘The Boys’ as, despite the mix of genders and ages in the group, the majority were teenage boys.
You can find out more about them and their incredible personal stories of recovery in the new education resource packs available on our website, which include profiles of each boy.
HMD is for everyone. Each year across the UK, thousands of people come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. We know they learn more, empathise more and do more.
If you would like to take part in Holocaust Memorial Day, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s website has suggested activities you can do at home to mark the day.
The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation, and genocide must still be resisted every day. Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all.
While you are staying at home we thought we would share some great craft activities you could do!
Week 1: Big letters
Leanne has been making some art resource boxes for the museum. Lots of the ideas in it are very simple things you can do at home with everyday things. To start off, try this big letter activity – think of a word that means a lot you and have fun GOING BIG WITH IT!!
Resources you’ll need
paper or card (cereal boxes are perfect)
pencil, colouring pens or pencils
Draw outlines of your letters on card – don’t worry about making them perfect – think about turning a letter into a bubble shape. Decorate the letters any way you like by colouring them in, sticking things to them etc. You can keep them separate and stick them up, or make a little hole in them then thread them on to wool or string to hang up.
Here are some ideas for you:
The Y is made from sticking on buttons
The F uses fabric we had lying around
The L is made from felt
The M uses tissues screwed up into little balls and stuck on
On Wednesday 20 November, year 8 students from King Harold
Business & Enterprise Academy, took over the running of the museum as part
of Takeover Day.
Visitors took part in a tour, activities and a trail all
devised and led by the students, and were in charge of our Twitter and Facebook
accounts for the day.
Three students were even interviewed live on BBC Essex radio
– something they only found out about an hour before going on air.
The 10 pupils worked with staff, in a series of preparations
days, to learn more about the day to day running of the museum; they were given
a behind the scenes tour, handled objects from the collections, created posters
and content for their tours.
They themed their take over around climate change, linking
it to the current Ice Age exhibition; this period was a natural form of climate
change, comparing it to now as more manmade through global warming.
One gallery had been declared a ‘no go zone’ to represent
how, through climate change, parts of the world will disappear and be submerged
in the oceans. Another gallery was filled with one week’s worth of rubbish to
show how much waste each household has and to encourage visitors to recycle as
much as they can.
One activity the year 8s run was to make little trees from
cork, a cocktail stick, beads and ripped paper. Each tree represented a real
endangered tree and was given a label with details of where the tree currently
survives and why it is under threat of extinction. This small forest of trees
will be on display until the beginning of December.
A word from the
We asked the pupils what they did as part of Takeover Day,
what they enjoyed and what they learnt that surprised them about working in a
museum – here are their answers:
Mark: I did the tours [and enjoyed] all of it.
Rhianna: I was posting on social media updating Twitter and Facebook for the public and update our #takeoverday . I enjoyed making captions and doing the social media.
Obinna: I did a tour, [and enjoyed] doing tours and being on the radio.
Dmithry: I did the tours with Mark, [enjoyed] all of it and [learnt that working in a museum] is really fun.
Joni: I took part in the tree activity. I enjoyed making trees and helping others make them. I was surprised that I was going to be on the radio.
Louie: I advertised outside, I had a go at a tour, I spoke to the chairman and helped people make trees. [I enjoyed] speaking to the chairman 1 on 1 (I found that really exciting). I’m quite good at advertising and drawing people in.
Lilly: We learnt about climate change and we done tour and other jobs that people who work here do. [I enjoyed] everything. I learnt a lot about climate change and how people work in the museum.
Rhiannon: I was posting on social media updating Twitter and Facebook about our takeover day. I enjoyed making the different captions for our tweets and taking the pictures, I also enjoyed spotting our woolly mammoth. I learnt how much work, effort and time goes into the takeover day.
Archie: I made trees, helped with snakes and ladders and made a poster. [I enjoyed] making trees. [I learnt working in a museum] is easy.
Takeover Day is a
national celebration (created by Kids in Museums) of young people’s
contributions to museums, galleries, arts organisations, archives and heritage
sites. It’s a day on which they work alongside staff and volunteers to
participate in the life of the organisation or venue.