A look behind the scenes

10th May 1996 at 01:00
IN THE NICK OF TIME. By Elizabeth Newberyand Sarah Fecher. Museums and Galleries Commission Pounds 7.50

LIFTING THE LID ON ART. By Elizabeth Newberyand Sarah Fecher. Newbery and England, 46 Lyndhurst Road, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 2LEPounds 11.99

TUDOR PORTRAITS. By Clare Gittings. National Portrait GalleryPounds 14. 95 plus postage

Make a scratch-and-sniff picture of lemons . . . make a burglar alarm . . . grow your own mould: these are some of the lively ideas in Elizabeth Newbery and Sarah Fecher's new publications.

In the Nick of Time opens up the hidden world of the conservator and aims to help pupils recognise their own role in conservation. It describes ways of tackling the actual or impending disasters which menace all objects and the dilemmas facing conservators (for example, how to cope with the deterioration of modern synthetic materials such as Neil Armstrong's space suit or what to do if some parts of an object require a moist environment, but the rest needs to be very dry). The suggested activities are mostly linked with science but also include art, technology, history and English. The photocopiable pupil sheets are attractively clear and varied.

Lifting the Lid on Art addresses the many teachers who would welcome a simple run-through of the basics. Topics include why artists bother to make art, why it matters which medium they use, and how you can create an effect through choice of texture, pattern, line and tone, with useful suggestions for pupil activities. There are more than 40 colour illustrations of artists' works from a wide range of cultures, media and periods, selected from collections around the country. This excellent feature shows the wealth of outstanding work in the regions and encourages people to value their local collections.

The gallery activities suggested in Lifting the Lid are nearly all discussion sessions (no drawing or writing). This may seem unimaginative, but offers a very desirable type of gallery visit. Looking at art should involve expressing ideas, meanings and emotions - group discussions are an excellent way to promote this.

With this in mind, the National Portrait Gallery has produced a pack of posters of six famous Tudor pictures, accompanied by "scripts" for structured discussions to be led by the teacher in the classroom. The scripts provide background information then show how to shape the discussion and where to contribute new facts.

The inventive activity ideas and clear photocopiable sheets should make this pack a godsend to teachers unable to visit the originals.

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