Stories from Objects: the Teaching Collections of the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology

Artwork for CAHA’s new podcast series

Episode 1: What can we learn from teaching collections?

We are very pleased to present the first episode in our new podcast series Stories from Objects: the Teaching Collections of the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology. The podcast involves academics and students talking about different objects in CAHA’s teaching collections. Over the course of the series, we will cover topics such as Roman coins, animal bone, Greek pottery, and Egyptian shabtis and much more. We hope these podcasts will introduce the collection to a wider audience, and listeners will enjoy learning these stories from objects. The new 2019/20 group of CAHA Archaeology Collection Volunteers have listened to the first episode before its release on the 31 October, and they have written a short blog about what they learned.


The first episode entitled 'What can we learn from teaching collections?'  introduces listeners to the incredible specialist teaching collections on campus at the university. Dr Maeve McHugh is joined by Jennifer Turner, Anna Young, and Kate Robertshaw, who discuss the important role of these collections for the purpose of teaching and research. During the conversation, we are able to take a glimpse behind the museum display cases and learn about the fascinating history of the collections, as well as gain a deeper understanding of exactly how objects are used to engage students, both within the University and elsewhere.

The podcast team in the recording roomPodcast participants (from left to right): Jennifer Turner (PhD student and collections assistant Eton Myers Collection of Egyptian Antiquities), Dr Maeve McHugh (CAHA), Kate Robertshaw (Undergraduate Research Scholar, CAHA), and Anna Young (Collections Curator, Research and Cultural Collections)

During the podcast, Anna Young, who is a curator at the University’s Research and Cultural Collections, explains that there are 1500 artworks and artefacts dispersed across the three campuses at the University of Birmingham, located in relevant departments, and also in public spaces. This made us think of all the wonderful resources on offer to students of all disciplines at the university, and how students would benefit from being more aware of these collections and using them to their full advantage. As Anna stated elegantly, ‘the campus itself is our museum.’ 

The podcast brought to light the various ways in which the collections seek to engage with the local community and beyond. It was interesting for us to learn that academics are involved with the management of collections, providing valuable knowledge as subject specialists. Jennifer Turner also introduced us to the new project ‘Research/Curate’ (https://researchcurate.com/), which is a student-led cross-discipline network promoting curatorial practices and object-based research. This project is a really effective way of getting students more involved in discussions about museums and their collections. Finally, Kate Robertshaw discussed her undergraduate research project researching the history of the Archaeology Collection.

The podcast introduced us to a variety of teaching collections on campus and gave us insight into what it was like to care for these collections. We really enjoyed learning about all the work carried out behind-the-scenes, and how much work goes into making collections accessible across the campus. A new podcast episode will be released on the last working day of each month, and we are looking forward to learning more stories from objects! The podcast will be available on Spotify and iTunes.

CAHA Archaeology Volunteers