Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life is situated in a Tudor merchant house in Thetford, Norfolk, and is part of the Norfolk Museums Service. The museum holds regular engaging heritage learning clubs and events for visitors of all ages. The museum has been offering Arts Award since 2011.
Tabitha Runacres, Skills for the Future trainee and member of Girlguiding at Ancient House, identified uniformed groups as an untapped audience for Arts Award and the museum.
A unique sleepover experience was developed incorporating a programme of varied museum activities and completion of Arts Award Discover, while also enabling the Guides to use the experience towards their Girlguiding Nights Away badge.
The museum marketed the event to the local Guiding units and via the Norfolk Girlguiding website. The venue had to have an informal inspection by a local Guiding Adviser to confirm that it was appropriate for a sleepover, this helped to spread the word among local Guide units. Guides were charged £20 per person which covered all project costs.
To increase the appeal to uniformed groups the museum had a special Ancient House woven badge made which could be added to a blanket or uniform. The strength of the centre’s delivery was in adapting activities which were tried and tested for Arts Award and giving them a ‘Night at the Museum’ twist. Guides also had the opportunity to go into areas not normally open to the public (such as the museum cellar).
14 Guides and their leaders from 1st Thetford and 9th King’s Lynn units took up the opportunity to learn about the 500-year-old building’s fascinating past and to sleep over at the museum.
The girls met costumed characters, tried out historic crafts and handled genuine artefacts before trying a Palaeontologists Pudding for a late night treat. In the morning they explored a recreation of an Anglo-Saxon burial site and dug up pieces of pottery, coins and learnt about Thetfordware.
Part A: discover Guides played art form charades in groups and explored the museum by torchlight to identify a range of art forms. They took part in a Tudor object handling session and identified the range of art forms used to create them. At bedtime the girls sang traditional Guiding songs and rated their enjoyment of the songs using colour coded stickers. The young people learnt Tudor dancing and curated their own mini museum.
Part B: find out Guides found out about Prince Frederick Duleep Singh and his artistic skills through object handling, exploring the museum print and photography collections and a sticker trail around the museum.
Part C: share The girls shared their experiences and enjoyment in pairs and with the group.
To aid easy evidence gathering, the museum created a bespoke Sleepover log book and made use of stickers. Lead Arts Award adviser Melissa Hawker said: ‘Devising your own log books takes time in the run up to the event but you will get it back when it comes to delivery and particularly for assessment. It is worth the effort.’
All of the Guides had a positive experience and the wide marketing of the event has helped to forge links between two Guiding units at opposite ends of Norfolk.
‘The sleepover allowed young people to see the museum in a new light. It’s a great opportunity to give them a chance to explore the museum when they aren’t normally allowed, and it adds an extra air of excitement. I am constantly surprised by the flexible nature of Arts Award. I love using it to accredit young people's work, especially for young people who struggle in more traditional learning environments.’ Melissa Hawker.
Event organiser Tabitha Runacres, said: ‘Rarely can you touch historical objects and see behind the scenes in a museum, but to actually sleep inside a building five centuries old with thousands of years of history around you? That really is something else.’
Comments from the Guide Leaders: ‘You had organised so many interesting and varied activities for the girls, so that we could just turn up and leave it all to you.’ ‘Particularly liked the log book record.’
Comments from the Guides: What did you enjoy about the sleepover? ‘Everything!’ ‘Meeting new people.’ ‘Having lots of fun and doing good activities.' ‘I enjoyed all the thing’s we did, especially going in the cellar.’