As part of the summer family program events here at the Manchester Museum and in order to gain a bit of experience in public engagement, I asked the Museums Family Programme Co-ordinator Vicky Grant, if I could devise & deliver some object handling sessions over the summer holidays to members of the public. Thankfully she said yes and after having a chat to her I was on my way to go and find objects which were suitable and that I thought would be interesting viewing for visitors to the museum.
I decided on using some skulls from the Zoology collection, as these are easy to handle, quite robust and safe. I picked out 3 skulls, that of a Tiger (Panthera tigris), a Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) and a Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).
Devising the sessions then meant I needed to do a bit of research on each specimen, simple enough when just searching for each species on Google! I then created a fact sheet for each specimen in order to try and pre-empt any questions that people may have had. Thankfully this worked out quite well, as most questions were simple enough and about how big the animals get when alive and where they live. The most difficult question I received being how many teeth does a crocodile have from a toddler (I didn’t have a clue) but he was quite happy to count them!
I also got my first experience in using the Events database on KE EMu (the museums electronic database), which involved using the accession numbers of the items to record where the items were and what they were being used for.
The Crocodile skull was most peoples favourite, mostly due to the size of it with a few people thinking it was some kind of dinosaur. The skull of the Crocodile was also the most difficult to handle, as at some point in the past it had been split, as well as some of the teeth being loose and missing, so required just a little bit more care when moving it around and showing it.
I have worked in public facing roles before, but this was a completely different experience of public engagement to me. It was nice for people to want to learn about the objects I had and genuinely taking an interest in what I was showing them.