Accuracy and reality in historical interpretation – a reflection on ideas of inclusion, representation and relevance

I can still clearly recall my excitement when I travelled to Melbourne, from my job teaching in Katherine (NT), for my second interview at the State Library of Victoria, where I was to be offered the position of Education Officer – Medieval Programs.  I had met a range of interesting and inspiring future colleagues, I had been taken through the amazing maze of buildings that made up the Library and I had even handled a Medici Manuscript.  Before I had even begun, I was completely sold on this new professional path I had taken.

I have a great personal interest in Medieval History and I was delighted to be able to spend my working hours playing the role of storyteller to others.  I loved finding the fascinating, obscure and shocking stories and capturing children’s interest by retelling them with as much drama and intrigue as I could muster.  What’s more, this role opened to me a new avenue to use my skills in Education and open the minds of children to new ideas, an idea that had romantically motivated me to enter the teaching profession in the first place.

At the conclusion of the State Library’s Medieval Manuscripts exhibition, my role became more focused on Victorian and Australian history, and other programs relevant to the Library’s collection and services.  I was enthusiastic in delivering the mission to make students feel like it was their library: relevant, useful and accessible to them.  I also considered myself progressive and willing to share the difficult and uncomfortable stories as well as the fun and happy ones.

But since those first months working in the cultural sector I have travelled a path of my own personal and professional learning and now, 11 years on, while I still love and believe in the sector I work in, I have a more complex and less romantic idea as to my role, responsibility and influence.

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Video Conferencing Museum Education Programs

Reflections from Perfecting the Blend Conference

paper-planeOn Friday (7th December) I attended a small part of the Perfecting the Blend Conference held at the impressive Earth Ed Centre at Mt Clear College here in Ballarat.  The whole conference ran for a full two days with a huge range of presenters talking about the innovative and seamless use of technology to support learning.  Unfortunately I was only able to attend two sessions on Friday afternoon, but they were a good opportunity to look at how Museums are using Video Conferencing to deliver Education Programs.

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Education in Museums

Education in Museums – Reflections from Museums Australia Conference

Last week at the Museums Australia conference in Adelaide there were a number of presenters that spoke about Museum Education (broadly referring to museums, galleries, libraries, zoos, historic sites etc.) – about engaging school audiences.  Despite being an Museum Educator myself, I intentionally did not go to all education-related presentations, with the aim of looking more a the big picture of what is happening in Museums.  However I did go to a number of Education streams, particularly on the first day of the conference.  From these presentations I came to some general thoughts and conclusions about what is happening in our sector…

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Mobile Devices for Learning on Excursion

Mobile Devices for Learning on Excursion

Mobile devices have great potential to transform the excursion experience of students, making it more relevant, personalised and richly informative.  Traditional museums are sometimes limited to panels and labels for providing information and context to their collections, while outdoor museums, like Sovereign Hill, are sometimes limited by the absence of explicit information on panels and labels.  While museums are engaging in innovative and enriching interpretation techniques on top of this, mobile devices offer a broader, and simultaneously more explicit, interpretation experience.

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Valuing Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction – making history fun

Working in history education is great fun, especially at a place like Sovereign Hill.  I ended up working in this field, I believe, largely because of my love of reading and watching historical fiction.  I have not trained as a historian or a conservator, but I like to think of myself as having a little bit of both inside.  But I’m not a purist.  I love history for the fun, fascinating stories about the past.  I find the most pleasure in the creative imagination that comes from thinking about history’s people and their deeds.

Sure, evidence is important (and archaelogy is cool, especially when it involves Tony Robinson!) and teaching kids to read and understand sources is a necessary part of history teaching.  But it’s the stories that make it amazing and joyful.

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