Musical cabinets of curiosities with St Mary Magdalene Academy

Wunderkammer, or cabinets of curiosities, were the precursors to the modern museum. These cabinets appeared in mid-sixteenth century Europe as repositories for wondrous and exotic objects.

In 2014/15 Islington Museum worked in partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) and the music department at Saint Mary Magdalene Academy (SMMA) on the Arts Council funded project ‘Putting the Wunder back into the Wunderkammer.’ Our project explored how museum objects can still provoke ‘wunder’ (wonder) and awe, acting as creative stimulation for young people.

Islington has a strong music heritage. It was home to many medieval monasteries, the site of georgian pleasure gardens and hosts many famous music halls, theatres and cinemas. The museum itself holds the Sadler’s Wells Archive. Our project explored this diverse musical heritage.

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We chose eleven objects from Islington Museum’s collection to create a sonic Wunderkammer. The chosen objects come from diverse time periods but all had strong historic musical connections or powerful sound characters. We wanted to explore and present this musical identity.

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The Key Stage 3 and 4 students from SMMA worked with violinist Henrietta Wayne, cellist, Jonathan Rees and Rebecca Campbell-Gay, the Heritage Education Officer at Islington Museum to investigate the chosen objects. We explored the objects themselves, as well as the historical anecdotes surrounding them. We sang Gregorian chants to evoke the original context of the monastic floor tile, then sang Arsenal chats to animate the banner. We learned Georgian clown Grimaldi’s popular ballads, recreated a Victorian ‘bus stop’ and imagined a Suffragette protest march.

These explorations encouraged the pupils to experiment with improvised sounds and structures exploring the musical identity of the objects.

The students experimented with instruments, percussion, voice and body percussion to create entirely new music, both musical “microludes” of a few seconds and pure sound art.

The final pieces were recorded by our sound artist Zen Grisdale. We invite you to listen to our cabinet of curiosities, contemplate the objects, listen to their voice and image their stories…

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Inspired by Peter Yates: St John Highbury Vale and Gillespie

Day and Night Winged Bulls: an exploration of community by pupils from St John Highbury Vale Church of England Primary School and Gillespie Primary Schoo

In spring 2016 artist Ella Medley-Whitfield and Islington Museum worked with pupils from year 4 at St John Highbury Vale Church of England Primary School and year 3 at Gillespie Primary School on an art project inspired by Day and Night, Winged Bulls by Peter Yates (1920-1982). It was a chance for pupils from different schools to make new friends, share ideas and be creative together.

I liked the opportunity to make friends with Gillespie by working with them.’ Zac

‘I think the children from Gillespie were nervous by we did well at getting to know each other.’ Eddie

‘I enjoyed talking to my partner about what it was like in his school.’ Benji L

 

‘If you look closely at the mural you can see: St Paul’s Cathedral, dolphins, a flying bull, and sword, a well and a path.’ Thalia

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Bevin Court is a grade II* listed housing scheme built by famous Modernist architect Berthold Lubetkin. Peter Yates was invited to paint a mural in the foyer reflecting the local area. He painted a bold abstract mural using themes from the Finsbury coat of arms. Since 2014 Islington Museum, with funding from  the Heritage Lottery Fund has been conserving and restoring this famous mural to its original splendour. Find out more about the mural and Bevin Court on the project website.

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Working together, pupils from St John and Gillespie explored the mural, looking at the different symbols and discussing what they thought they meant. They were particularly fascinated by the image of the dolphin and St Paul’s cathedral. Pupils then began to think about their local area, the buildings, spaces and communities that are important to them. They debated what images they would choose to represent their schools, as well as their shared identity as part of the local community.

‘I worked very well Ahmed. I was good at drawing and he was good at cutting. We made a perfect team. I loved the idea of the art project with Gillespie.’ Krishna

‘We combined the St John’s and Gillespie symbols together to make our picture. We fitted in as many different flags as we could to show that everyone is equal no matter which city or country you are from.’ Poppy

 ‘If you look closely at our banner you can see that it has landmarks such as the Emirates Stadium. There are also symbols like the London Underground sign.’ Niamh

Pupils from the two schools were paired to create these collaborative images. Once they had agreed on their designs, they drew the images on to lino. Using lino cutters, they had the challenging task of then cutting out their designs. It took a lot of perseverance!

I was most proud of my partner because he tried really hard with the lino tool.’ Eliza

The lino cutters were very difficult to use because they hurt your hands but the hard work paid off because the prints look wonderful.’ Phoebe

‘I learned how to use a lino tool. It was fun although it was really difficult because the lino was so strong.’ Martha

 

Then the really fun bit happened, as pupils used printing ink to print their lino block on to fabric. Each pair printed two fabric artworks, one for the St John banner, and one for Gillespie. The fabric pieces were finally sewn together by pupils to create the two textile banner.

 ‘I found the printing challenging, but I love challenges!’ Eddie

‘I felt very proud when I saw my print because it looked excellent.’ Milo

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The final banners were displayed at Islington Museum in June 2016, alongside photos of the project.

Look at the banner to explore what is important to our pupils. Join us in celebrating our shared identity as part of the same local community.

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What we thought about the project:

‘I noticed that Gillespie call their teachers by their first name instead of their surname.’ Ruby

 ‘I really enjoyed working with Alice. It was fun to meet her.’ Cali

 ‘I enjoyed working with my new friend, Lucy. She had really good ideas.’ Thalia

 ‘I worked with Maya. She has loads of good ideas. It was good because they didn’t just talk to their friends, they let you join into their chats.’ Polly

 ‘I enjoyed working with my partner because he was really kind and we made friends really quickly.’ Benjy P

‘I am most proud of learning how to use lino because it is a fun skill. I also learned to sew!’ Benji L

 ‘I enjoyed using the lino cutters because I have never used them before.’ Precious

‘It was very funny when my partner Michael got yellow paint on his nose.’ Leyla

 ‘It was really funny when I got orange paint all over my face!’ Martha

 

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Inspired by UV light therapy goggles: Ella Phillips and Robert Blair Primary School

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In 2016 artist Ella Phillips worked with teacher Emily Evans and Year 1 at Robert Blair Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington. Ella supported Emily to design and deliver a 5 workshop programme for the classroom, inspired by Islington Musuem’s UV light therapy googles.

Ella also worked alongside the pupils in their classroom to create her own new artwork inspired by the goggles and the pupils.

Why we chose the goggles:

‘The U.V goggles and some intriguing photographs of U.V treatment therapy, first made me curious about this object. As I continued my research, I discovered the connections between this object and the Finsbury Health Centre. Not only a leader in free healthcare, this centre was also an architecturally innovative space designed by Berthold Lubetkin. I decided that I would like to explore two areas inspired by the object: how can we reimagine/ re-design our environment? And, what are the effects of light & colour on mood? Bringing together art and science, I wanted the project to embrace the idea of experimentation. This meant repeating activities to discover our favourite results. The class loved the freedom offered by experimentation and enjoyed creating stories about their favourite colors.

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Our Artwork

The class experimented with a wide range of techniques including creating colour, printing with UV and experimenting with colour and emotion. The final installation piece is the outcome of these explorations.

Light Therapy 

Each student painted a light bulb in their desired colours which have been used to create a light installation, transforming the space into a living painting. 

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Blue Window 

Children mixed coloured light using gels, created their own paints with natural materials and used sunlight to create x-rays of objects from their classroom. I have collaged their x-ray ‘cyanotypes’ onto acetate, so that they can act as windows/ frames through which to view the exhibition.

By placing objects onto light sensitive paper, the spaces in between them turn blue. These x-rays have been collaged and printed onto acetate. These windows, printed with translucent blue traces are suspended at various points around the exhibition space. As you move between them, the room shifts between shades of blue.

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Inspired by WWII embroidered postcards:Sarah Pimenta and Morelands Primary School

In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Louise Murtagh and Year 1 at Morelands Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington. Sarah supported Louise to design and deliver a 5 workshop programme for the classroom, inspired by the collection of embroidered postcards from the Second World War.

Sarah also worked alongside the pupils in their classroom to create her own new artwork inspired by the postcards and the pupils.

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Why we chose the embroidered postcards:

‘We chose the postcards to fit into a topic the class were already covering and also because of the story of Leonard & Margaret. We thought the idea that Margaret had kept the postcards from Leonard so safe for so many years was a lovely message about treasuring and valuing things given to us by people we love.

 The simple designs of the postcards depicting images from France and England was also an interesting point to start thinking about heritage and identity visually.

 We also thought the postcards would tie in with an upcoming topic our class would will be doing called ‘Hurrah for the holiday’s. We thought it would be interesting for the children to explore the idea of why people send postcards and who people choose to send those postcards to.’

Louise

 Our artwork:

Year 1 created an installation piece inspired by Leonard’s postcards. The installation combine screen prints and a sculptural mobile.

Hung on the wooden frame were wooden postcards printed with the pupils’ designs exploring their cultural identity. The images referenced those on the postcards sent by Leonard.

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Alongside the mobile were three screen printed artworks. Sarah worked with the pupils to create these screen prints from their drawings. Sarah cut out the pupils’ drawings to create stencils, which she then composed on the screen. The pupils screen printed these stencils onto a fabric background. Once dry, Sarah added a different colour wash, chosen by the pupils, to the three works. The final collaborative artwork expresses the vibrant cultural backgrounds of the class.

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Sarah worked alongside the pupils to create her own artwork inspired by the embroidered postcards. She explored her own cultural links to Goa and Kenya. She collected objects from both countries, including images, postcards, stamps, adverts and even shopping bags.

‘I decided to focus on print methods that I don’t normally use in my practise, I chose to do lino cutting as I thought it was a technique which was better suited to working within a classroom setting. It awakened a love for lino printing that I hadn’t felt for a long time ( I first did it over 20 years before as an art student). As part of my own work, I printed my blocks in a Print studio on a professional press & had the chance to experiment a bit and learn some new processes including chine-collee which inspired me in my classroom delivery .  I learnt that despite being a printer there is always something new to learn & the importance of experimenting.  I am definitely going to continue to learn more and develop even more techniques! I’ve a feeling that it’s the beginning of a new creative journey, I definitely intend to continue with my experiments.’

 

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Dad’s Flamingo

Sarah’s dad when living in Nairobi, was given a flamengo as a pet by one of his students. Sarah referenced this unusual pet in a lino and chine-collee print inspired by her cultural heritage. The pose of the flamengo is taken from her father’s photograph, while the background text is from a piece of newsprint collected from Kenya.

‘I loved the idea of exploring the concept of cherishing something that had been sent by a loved one far away.  The story of postcards being sent between countries by loved ones is a theme from my own migrant history, messages flying across the worlds from Kenya in Africa & Goa in India to England –  some probably during the same time frame as when Leonard was sending cards to Margaret. I’m  pleased to have finally made some work which explores my heritage.

By some serendipity at the beginning of this project two people dear to me travelled to Kenya & Goa.  I explained the project to them & they both agreed to send me stuff from their travels; postcards, bits of fabric, scraps of paper, money etc which I could use a impetus for my artwork.   I decided to make some simple lino prints using imagery and ideas from this collection of well travelled inspiration with a view to gifting a print back to Lucy & Ruth to complete the cycle of giving & receiving.’

Sarah

KENYA Ruth

 

Kenya Ruth uses chine-collee to incorporate the ephemeral brought back by Ruth from Kenya.

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Dahlia string

Dahlia string, feathers and coins from Kenya are relief printed on to fabric, the dye from the string merging with the ink.

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GOA Lucy

Mirroring the techniques used by the pupils and referencing the visual language of the WWI postcards, Sarah combine layers of lino prints and chine-collee.

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What we thought about the project:

‘It was a pleasure to see the pupils responses to the artwork they had created themselves and see their enjoyment in the printmaking process which was their first attempt at this type of arts activity.  They were also very receptive to my work & were full of questions!’

Sarah

‘I learned that it is possible to use a historical object and turn it into a really interesting art project. I liked the idea of making it personal for the children so they felt connected to their work and could see the importance of why Margaret kept the postcards safe. The children enjoyed talking about their family and what they know of the countries in which their family live.

It was important not to limit the children’s interpretation of what our idea was important too. The outcome was not what I had imagined but the results were personal and have a story to them and so I think they are real works of art as they have so much thought in them.

Through observing Sarah, the children were able to see a range of ways to design and print work and also to see how a professional artist works and the amount of time and skill that is required. They could see the importance of thinking and improving your work.’

Louise

Inspired by 53 Cross Street: Ella Medley-Whitfield and Montem Primary School

In 2016 artist Ella Medley-Whitfield worked with teacher Ed and Year 1 at Montem School on the exhibition Imagine Islington. Ella supported Ed Musgrave to design and deliver a 5 workshop programme for the classroom, inspired by the collection from 53 Cross Street.

Ella also worked alongside the pupils in their classroom to create her own new artwork inspired by 53 Cross Street and the class.

Why we chose 53 Cross Street:

‘I am drawn to objects or remnants left behind that can tell a story or have a narrative. I realised that these objects would be food for children’s imagination, they understood the historical aspects and were able to think imaginatively about how the objects had arrived at the house and the museum and who they had once belonged to. All three objects were things that had once been worn by a person and the fact that the shoes had come from the Victorian times gave the children a real historical idea about how long ago this was. This aspect fitted into the curriculum as the group had previously done some work on Victorian times and had some background knowledge for us to develop.

 The objects inspired many art ideas for me and the group as it was easily transferable to look at lost objects in the children’s school situation, it is a Victorian school so lent itself well to thinking about the schools history and things at school we could preserve. We particularly looked at the school’s lost property, which I think was a very successful approach as it made the children think about things they overlook everyday.’

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Our artwork:

Ella collaborated with the pupils to create the Museum of Lost Objects, an installation piece.

The installation contained sculptures of lost objects created by the pupils, and installed on an old school display board. These were presented alongside a framed installation of object labels, that identified the sculptures. Referencing the unique history of the Cross Street artefacts, pupils’ lost objects are similarly elevated to museum pieces.

‘I view my practice as relational and socially engaged, I work with people to collect stories and accounts. I believe it is my responsibility as an artist to retell these stories or accounts creatively for an audience. For this project I was concerned with collecting stories and information from the children. I devised a museum of lost objects, the students recreated in clay objects that they had either lost or misplaced that they really miss. By remaking these objects, they were preserving the memory, so it almost became an object graveyard. I used these clay pieces to incorporate old lost objects taken from the school, taking ownership over the way they were presented and narrated for an audience.’

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Alongside the Museum of Lost Objects  is a sculptural installation. Pupils created plaster of paris bricks. Peaking out from inside the bricks are found objects, which pupils salvaged from their playground. Lost property has been cast in to the fabric of the bricks, hidden from view but preserved for prosperity, again referencing the history of the Cross Street collection. The bricks are presented within a perspex box.

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What we thought about the project:

‘Each week, Ella used different artistic media for the children to use and respond to the artefacts, they created some fantastic artwork which encompassed skills of sculpture, drawing and painting. Resources including plaster, sculpting wire and photography were used effectively and were well above the calibre of normal art materials the children use at school.

Having a full-time artist in class exposed children to the idea of pursuing a career in Art in the future.

Ed

‘I have worked with objects for many years and really enjoyed this experience to develop my practice with objects. I had never worked with objects taken from a museums collection. It made me think about the historical context of the object more and made me feel more responsible to responding to this object correctly as I didn’t want to get my facts wrong. I also really enjoyed the process of devising creative interactive and educational activities around a single object, this was a challenge but a very positive challenge with many avenues to explore.’

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Installations inspired by Joe Orton’s Book Covers: Ella Phillips and Vittoria Primary School

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In 2016 artist Ella Phillips worked with teacher Helen Roberts and Year 4 at Vittoria Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington. Ella supported Helen to design and deliver a 5 workshop programme for the classroom, inspired by the Joe Orton book covers held by Islington Museum.

Ella also worked alongside the pupils in their classroom to create her own new artwork inspired by the book covers and the pupils.

Why we chose the book covers:

‘As an artist, I often work digitally and found the materiality of the objects appealing.

I was interested in how different places invoke certain behaviours and how Orton & Halliwell chose to subvert this within the library space. I wanted to create a connection between their history and contemporary culture, through playing with the idea of ‘hacking as a method of cutting and technological subversion. What does changing an image or text with your own ideas, say about ownership and personal agency? Collage offered an effective way to explore this, with children of all abilities able to make impacting images quickly.

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 Our artwork:

Pupils created an installation, Library: Hacked:

Each student created ‘hacked’ text, book jacket covers and concertina books. These were put together alongside their ‘spliced portraits’ to create a topsy-turvy library.

Bringing together all of these elements, the class created a library installation with our own ridiculous rules to help you understand how to behave! Look around and you might see our spliced portraits, but nothing is as it seems in the ‘Library: Hacked’.

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Ella created While Reading 

This installation was composed of a hand carved book, created from a hacked library text with a video nestled inside. From the book was a pair of headphones playing a video. Sense and nonsense, everybody is welcome!

Ella Phillips_While Reading, video installation, 2016

 

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The Origins of Islington Play Association

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By Jordan James

Islington Play Association was created in the early 1970s, when a rumour spread through Islington’s Playgrounds that an “outsider” was going to set up a play association. A group of Islington locals got together and decided to create an Association of their own.

“…But meanwhile we had pre-empted him, we’d had a meeting we decided we’d set up a Play Association already. So I remember when he said I think we should have a Play Association one of us put our hand out and said actually we’ve already set one up. That took the wind out of his sails; we didn’t want to be set up by somebody else.”

Margaret Pitt talking about the decision to set up Islington Play Association

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In the summer of 1973 Islington Council went on strike. This gave IPA the chance to organise the play schemes themselves, working with local community groups and hiring summer staff. Play workers at that time were paid very badly and were often students interested in working in the inner city. Many didn’t have anywhere to live so the IPA had to provide accommodation.

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 “We needed somewhere for them to stay…. So I went down to the GLC Northern District Office down at Kings Cross and I said to the manager ‘I’m desperate I absolutely need a house to put up about twenty people’ so he said, ‘Let me see what I can do for you’. So he gave us this house in Stanmore Street, it’s now been demolished and it had cold water and electricity, it had an outside loo and we just put lots of mattresses from the PDSA which is Peoples Dispense of Sick Animals which was just beside Martin Luther King Playground in those days. Then we plonked them down there with some bedding and we left them to it, and I dunno it was a bit shocking really but some of them ended up working in play permanently so it can’t have been a totally ghastly experience.”

Margaret Pitt – talking about recruiting new playworkers.

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 From such beginnings the Islington Play Association has grown and developed. It now manages six of Islington’s twelve adventure playgrounds.

To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

A Sense of Place

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In 2015/16 Islington Museum partnered with Morelands Children’s Centre on ‘A Sense of Place’, kindly funded by Islington Giving Supporting Families Programme and the Bunhill Councillors.

Over 5 day long workshops we worked with local families from the King’s Square Estate. Families joined us at Islington Museum for an interactive storytelling session with Dani Bradstreet. In the storytelling sessions we explored our local buildings, transport networks and parks. We pretended to drive the tube, ride historic horse buses, visit local buildings and play in the park with our local guide, Finsbury the fox. There was lots of masking tape, colourful scarves, ‘rain,’ and music involved.

Families then looked at historic images of the local area. They were fascinated to see how the King’s Estate has changed. While many of our older participants were able to share lovely stories about their memories of the local area. We used these images as inspiration for our own drawings.

The adults then used cutting tools to turn the archival images and our drawings into stencils. While the children got messy with play dough, giant drawings, watercolour experiments and printing.

Our project artist Sarah Pimenta worked with families to do mark making on pieces of fabric using tools as varied as leaves, bricks, stamps and hand prints- a particular favourite with the babies!

 

Sarah then screen printed the stencils on top of the fabric. She was guided by our very enthusiastic helpers!

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The resulting printed have been turned into a fabric book telling the story of our local area through art and written memories. To see the beautiful screen prints in this tactile artwork follow this link.

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Sarah also took the artworks and re-interpreted them as a digitally printed map of the local area. This beautiful art piece celebrates the creativity of our local families and the things that make our local area special to us. A copy of the map will hang in both Islington Museum and Morelands Children Centre for our family audiences to enjoy.

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The exhibition of the artwork was opened on the 5th July 2016 by our artists and the Mayor of Islington. The private view was a success with everyone:

‘This is the best party ever!’

‘What a fabulous event, so wonderful that so many families came to the museum to celebrate our great project!’

‘Really fun, it was lovely to see all the work together and lovely to see everyone again and share memories.’ 

‘When I told the children this morning, they said, ‘mommy, mommy, let’s go now!”

‘It’s been lovely to come and see all the work, the food was great and nice to meet the Mayor, great she got involved with the kids.’ 

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Art ideas for the classroom

Museum collections can be fantastic starting points for art activities. Collections are full of beautiful, intriguing and unusual objects, artworks and archival documents. They can help your pupils get close to the past and investigate different material cultures. They can help you to explore different creative techniques, materials and styles. They can also inspire new discussions within the classroom and encourage pupils to re-interpret history, making it relevant to their interests and ambitions.

Below are a range of creative activities, inspired by our collections, for you to try in the classroom. We hope they will encourage you to look at the past differently, take creative risks and use new materials. Do get in touch if you’d like to visit to see any of the collection objects.

Halliwall Collage 021. Collage: Kenneth Halliwell

Use the work of local artist Kenneth Halliwell to explore collage, with a particular focus on combining human and architectural elements, and exploring colour and texture.

KS1 or KS2

 

 

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2. Mark making on giant paper

Experiment with pupils from Samuel Rhodes Secondary to use different and unusual drawing tools including paint, chalk, wheels, extended pencils, the body and music on a giant, collaborative artwork.

Great for EYFS, KS1 and SEN.

 

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3. Mail Art: printing stamps and image transfers

Copy pupils at Highbury Grove Secondary School, who were inspired by the works of historic and contemporary mail artists to i create their own mail art envelopes from home-made stamps and image transfers.

KS2 and KS3 predominately

 

 

iphone upload May 2016 14844. Water logs: art inspired by nature and water

Learn more about our 17th Century wooden water pipe and how Hugh Myddleton brought fresh water through the New River to Islington and London. Then replicate our successful printing project with Blessed Sacrament Primary, combining mark making, rain makers, rubbings, mono printing and collage.

KS1

 

Picture85. Joe Orton Book Cover Collages

Learn more about our famous, or infamous, collection of collage book covers. Then replicate our successful five lesson project with Vittoria Primary, combining literacy, design and technology, hacking, ICT, collage and splicing!

KS2 and KS3

 

 

IMG_35796. 53 Cross Street: Victorian art inspired by found objects

A Georgian house, a Victorian family home, a hidden gem filled with fragments of wallpaper, lost objects, hidden messages and secrets. 53 Cross Street is the ideal project to link to the Victorians or Georgians and let you imagination run riot. See how Montem Primary were inspired by this house and its stories to experiment with a wide range of creative activities. A whole term’s worth of experimental art with links to history, literacy and play.

EYFS and KS1

 

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7. WWI Embroidered Postcards: sharing cultures, sharing lives

During the First World War, teenage Leonard Mansfield sent embroidered postcards from the Western Front to his mother and girlfriend back home in Islington. Moreland Primary used these postcards as the starting point to explore their own cultural heritage in this mono printing postcard project.

EYFS and KS1

01bf610c-3df2-4b4a-9e01-8f0215123ea68. Gas-Air machine: exploring bodies and the senses

The Gas-Air machine from the 1940s was used as virtually the only form of pain relief for women giving birth. Samuel Rhodes SEN School took this unlikely object as the inspiration for their sensory art project exploring their bodies and how they work.A unique, creative, discussion based and active project for exploring what our bodes look like, how they work and even what they sound like.

SEN, KS1 and KS2

 

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9. UV Light Therapy Goggles: art and light

In the early 20th century rickets was a very common disorder among children, caused by a lack of vitamin D from food and sunlight. UV light therapy was a new treatment used to help treat children. Inspired by the UV Light Therapy goggles Robert Blair Primary explored light and colour combining science and art in a range of creative experiments.

KS1 and KS2

 

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10. Inspired by Peter Yates, an exploration of community

In spring 2016 artist Ella Medley-Whitfield worked with pupils from year 4 at St John Highbury Vale Church of England Primary School and year 3 at Gillespie Primary School on an art project inspired by Day and Night, Winged Bulls by Peter Yates (1920-1982). Pupils created a mono printed textile banner using lino.

KS2