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For my finial post I have been looking into the Shared Learning Project that Salisbury Museum has been developing with Salisbury and Sarum U3A as part of an initiative to improve intellectual and physical access to the collections in the new HLF archaeology galley. The initial project began in 2011 to develop content for the gallery and finished in June 2013, ready for the building work to begin in October. Salisbury Museum is looking to continue working with the U3A on future projects, and are hoping that some of those who have been involved in developing content will want to get involved with the HLF gallery when it opens in Spring 2014.

“Part of the aim of this project is to develop a longer term relationship with the local U3A – some of the people involved will develop specialist knowledge about the collections so will hopefully go on to steward the gallery once it is open, or undertake guided tours and object handling with visitors. Some of them took part in the decant of the old galleries and will be taking part in other collections projects such as documenting the Pitt-Rivers collection and photographing the collections in preparation for an online database.” – Jane Ellis-Schön, Project Curator.

The Shared Learning project involved 13 U3A Shared Learning volunteers working with Director Adrian Green and Project Curator Jane Ellis-Schön to select and research objects for open storage drawers that will go below the interactive desk stations in the new gallery. The drawers will contain artefacts that cannot be handled because they are too precious, but will provide visitors with greater access to more of the collection. The volunteers were divided into smaller subject study groups based on their interests and given training on object identification and research so that they were able to choose interesting objects to go on display. The topics for the drawers were chosen in consultation with the Project Curator and the U3A Shared Learning volunteers and include Palaeolithic handaxes, Neolithic tool kit, Bronze Age metalwork, Pitt-Rivers, Roman Jewellery, Anglo-Saxon textiles, and Pottery through the ages.

Jean McFarane, who is a member of Sarum U3A, volunteered for the Shared Learning Project because of a long time interest in archaeology. She has said about the project:

“Our U3A was interested in supporting Salisbury Museum and for 18 months we have been working in pairs on aspects of the new gallery. I’m working on the proposed Pitt Rivers Hub. My partner and I have been exploring the collections and store cupboards in order to put together items that will demonstrate Pitt Rivers’ contribution to the world of archaeology as an excavator, scientist, collector and inspector of Ancient Monuments.”– Jean McFarlane, Volunteer.

In July 2014, during the Festival of British Archaeology, the museum will have a weekend event to celebrate the opening of the new gallery. In the new gallery visitors will be able to truly explore the archaeology collection, making their own discoveries as they search through the themed drawers and interactive elements.

As part of the event there will be various activities such as a living history demonstrations (including flint knapping and bronze casting), spot light talks in the gallery, and a series of U3A ‘Tea and Talk’ events to showcase the Shared Learning Project. There will also be stalls and activities led by partner organisations such as the National Trust, Salisbury Cathedral, Young Archaeologist Club and Wessex Archaeology.  The celebrations will also be taken out into the community so that people who are unable to access the museum can get involved, with activities taking place in areas such as Bemerton Heath and Amesbury.

With so much going on a Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum next year, be sure to check the website or contact the museum to find out what’s on. And if you would like to get involved in volunteering please get in touch with Bridget Telfer, the Volunteer Coordinator: bridgettelfer@salisburymuseum.org.uk; 01722332151.