Our third post of 2020 comes from APAC member Dr Christopher Hilton, Head of Archive and Library at The Red House in Suffolk, who tells us about using their collections to inspire learning and creativity.
Last autumn The Red House set out to tailor these sessions for SEND learners, hosting four visits from local special schools. The learners were typically in Years 9-10 and their needs varied considerably: some pupils were non-verbal and/or required mobility aids, and positions on the spectrum of learning difficulty and/or autism varied considerably. We liaised with the schools in advance of each visit to get a rough picture of each group’s profile of needs, after which each session was tailored to the needs of the group. Each, however, was built around a similar basic set of elements: an introduction in which pupils met the four main groups of instruments (percussion, brass, woodwind, strings), a visit to the House itself, a professional musician playing for them in the Library, a visit to the Archive and finally a chance to make music of their own drawing on the experiences of the day.
For the more able groups the archive material we showed included written items such as Britten’s school report card and a sample score, as well as more visual materials such as set designs. For higher-needs pupils the focus was upon visual materials, showing the animal masks used for Britten’s Noyes Fludde beside replicas that the pupils could try on. Those of us who work with archives know how varied any collection is: the different directions that it can be made to point in, and the different interests that it can spark. Using widely-varied materials meant that there was something for each group to pick up on: one pupil with an interest in dogs wanted to know more about Britten’s dachshunds, for instance, whilst the fact one of the sets was by a designer who also worked for the BBC on “Dr. Who” sparked a discussion about what made the design conjure up the right atmosphere for an opera featuring ghosts. For groups without mobility needs, there was also a visit to the strongroom; swinging open the steel door and taking them beyond the “Staff Only” notice was a new and dramatic experience for them.