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Collecting, Crafting, and Consuming the School Museum in Britain, c.1895-1920 - with speaker Laura Newman (DOMUS Seminar)

Room 224, School of Education (Building R19)
Social Sciences
Wednesday 20th March 2019 (17:00-18:30)
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Kew Gardens
Credit: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

DOMUS Seminar Series

This seminar traces the circulation of economic botany specimens from the Museum of Economic Botany at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to British schools from c.1875-1914

Speaker: Laura Newman, Royal Holloway/Kew Gardens

Between this period more than six hundred schools received specimens from Kew. This paper offers an insight into my work as part of the Mobile Museum: Economic Botany in Circulation project at Royal Holloway, University of London and Kew Gardens. As part of this project, my work focuses on Kew’s role as a major supplier of teaching materials, and what part plants played within the emergence and popularisation of the school museum in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century British classroom.

Beginning with a broad overview into the evolving relationship between museums and schools from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, my talk then moves on to situating the school museum – and object teaching more generally -- within the changing material and pedagogical landscape of British schools. Using Kew and its recipient schools as a case-study, I trace the ways in which object deaccessioning presented mutual benefits for both Kew’s museums and schools; yet I also consider the operational issues that also arose for both kinds of institutions as they handled, circulated, and installed large numbers of specimens. The last section traces the ways in which teachers can be seen to have positioned themselves as curators through their material expertise. By paying attention to the practices that constituted the school museum – which I have organised loosely into those of collecting, crafting, and consuming – I therefore demonstrate how teachers both incorporated and modified museological conventions into their existing classroom routines.

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