Photograph from Industrial and Technological Museum, Melbourne, Charles Nettleton, 1872
This activity challenges students to become the curator of their own history, compose an exhibition label to accompany a personal item of realia, and, as a class, curate an exhibition to share each others' stories.
This activity is not linked to an inquiry unit and is suitable for students in Years 2 to 6.
- Select episode 14 of the Collectors on ABC TV and fast-forward to 22 minutes 49 seconds to watch the 'Mystery object' segment (two minutes).
- Download and print images of the acorn-form nutmeg grinder, small illustrated box, key to Captain Cook's cottage and Nellie Stewart's ring from the Library's collection. Ask students to form small teams and use the see, think, wonder routine to hypothesise the story behind the object.
- Introduce the term realia: what do we need to know about an object to bring a story to life?
- Invite students to bring an item of realia to school to use as a prompt for telling a story about themselves and their personal history.
- Watch the Creating a family heirloom short video from Museum Victoria.
- Explain that students will begin to reveal the personal story behind their realia by creating an exhibition label like those found in galleries and museums. Download and print the 'Exhibition label exemplar and template' at the bottom of this page, which uses a version of the Library's exhibit label for Ned Kelly's armour – on display in the Dome Galleries – and distribute this to your students. Discuss the features of an exhibit label.
- Ask students to take a photo of their item. Create a title and three tag words to describe it.
- Prompt students to offer a sensory description of their item while blindfolded. How does the object feel? Does it make a sound? What material is it made from – is it man-made or natural? What size is it? Record findings.
- Explain the importance of categorising items in cultural institutions like the State Library of Victoria, whose collection numbers more than five million items.
- Place the class realia on a table and arrange it into categories of like objects. What names would you give the categories? Can items belong to more than one group? Is any item in a group all of its own? Arrange items on butcher’s paper with their category titles and take photos to document them.
- Have students ask each other three questions about their object. Record the story behind their object in the 'Historical notes' field of the exhibition label.
- Allow students time to construct a mind-map of their story.
- Invite students to be the caretaker or curator of their own story by sharing it with others.
- Plan a visit to an exhibition with your students. Visit exhibitions in your local area or at larger cultural institutions such as the State Library, Melbourne Museum or the National Gallery of Victoria. At the exhibition, consider the storytelling devices used by exhibition guides to engage the group and think about how the exhibition is curated. Examine the exhibit labels – what information has the curator included to help visitors understand the story behind the item?
- Support students to curate their own exhibition using items of realia accompanied by exhibition labels.
- Invite other classes for a tour of the student exhibition.