Working as historians: new and revised school workshops

The Autumn 2019 term has been a busy one at the Norfolk Record Office with the Education and Outreach team delivering workshops at The Archive Centre and in schools. As well as delivering our popular Second World War workshops for KS2, we have supported both primary and secondary schools to research the history of their local area and trialled our revised ‘Working as an Historian’ workshop which explores the different skills historians need and how these are used to look after archives.

The first school to test our new ‘Working as an Historian’ workshop was Wreningham Primary who brought a coach full of students from Years 3-6 to learn about the work of historians and the history of their village.

First, we played a game based on a type of document called an indenture, where children found out interesting facts about the Norfolk Record Office and how documents were made in the past. This included handling parchment and handmade paper and learning how ink was made using oak galls – growths on oak trees formed when wasps lay their eggs in the bark!

Indenture game

Playing the indenture game and looking at a copy of our oldest document

Next, we looked at a variety of copies of documents in the archives, dating from the 11th century to the present day, and placed these into chronological order. The children were encouraged to think about how we date documents and demonstrated great teamwork and palaeography skills as some of the documents were undated and written in Latin!

Timeline activity

Placing documents into chronological order

Afterwards, we learned about the difference between conservation and preservation by watching a video showing some of the many tasks carried out by our collections care team. This included repairing a book, sewing socks for wax seals and wrapping maps in Tyvek, a protective colourless material which stops the maps getting dusty. Each table was then given their own ‘conservation kit’ and the students were able to explain which task the conservation materials were used for. This launched us nicely into some document handling training where students looked at an image of bad practice and told us what we should not do around archives before making suggestions that would help us to care for them better, e.g to use pencils rather than pens when making notes and not to eat or drink around original documents.

Watching conservation video edited

Watching a film of conservation tasks

Using conservation kit

Handling materials in a conservation kit

Finally, the students looked at original documents from their area and took a tour of the strongrooms to see how our documents are kept in climate-controlled conditions. One of the documents was the Wreningham baptism register for 1880-2018 as we felt it might include some people the children would know. This paid off as one child found his own name in the register.

Working as historians

Looking at original documents relating to Wreningham

New and revised school workshops for 2020

The ‘Working as an Historian’ workshop was just one of many activities the Education and Outreach team were busy creating over the summer holidays. Another workshop for which we created a new activity was our KS2 First World War event. In this workshop, as well as using service records to learn about some of the Norfolk citizens who fought in the First World War, students also investigate the roles men, women and children at home played in the war effort by visiting different locations on a map. This activity gives students an understanding of the wide range of industries in Norfolk during the First World War from the manufacture of army boots, flying boat hulls and munitions to the production of food at home.

Norfolk Record Office SO 36.7

One of the images of life on the home front includes this photograph of Scouts on sea watch at Sea Palling in 1914. Norfolk Record Office, SO 36/7.

Next February we are excited to be delivering our new ‘Strangers’ workshop for the first time which explains who the Strangers were, why they came to Norfolk and their legacy. Keep an eye on our blog to see the new Tudor costumes our volunteers have been busy making!

We wish all students and staff a restful Christmas break and look forward to welcoming more schools to the archive in 2020. If you are interested in arranging a visit for your school you can find out more about our free workshops for schools here.

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