A museum of our own making

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
Like many teachers, I know students respond positively to objects that have local significance and that they can handle and look at closely.

Often a student will bring something such as a coin or spent bullet to school and it starts an animated discussion about its age, usage and the period it was used in.

My reasons for starting a museum two and a half years ago were to motivate students and encourage links with neighbouring schools. Now our archaeology club meets there every week after school and at lunch time.

The museum is housed in a metal container, which local businesses and a lottery grant helped set up with five display cabinets, dedicated to rocks, coins, clay pipes and buckles, ammunition and miscellaneous finds. An appeal in the local newspaper resulted in our first donation, some fine rocks from a reader. The Mid Kent Metal Detectors donated many finds and the Kent Archaeological Society loaned a laptop to catalogue finds.

Our museum is called the Whatman Archaeology Museum in memory of an 18th-century paper-making family and Whatman plc donated two paper moulds to the collection.

It was opened last term by Phil Harding from Channel 4's Time Team, and our mayor.

Neighbouring schools, the local museum and community have all been involved and the museum is also a link for co-operation between primary and secondary schools. Our neighbouring grammar school helped with the cataloguing, for example, and our school is now the meeting place for the Mid Kent Metal Detectors. Our next goal is to build a website so more people can see the displays and to encourage more schools and the community to use the facilities.

Pam Johnson

History advanced skills teacher, Valley Park Community School, Maidstone

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