Technology brings heritage museum into the classroom

The Museum of Orange Heritage is doing its bit to bring history directly to the classroom.
Dr Jonathan Mattison during the virtual museum pilot project with pupils from Tandragee Junior High School in Co ArmaghDr Jonathan Mattison during the virtual museum pilot project with pupils from Tandragee Junior High School in Co Armagh
Dr Jonathan Mattison during the virtual museum pilot project with pupils from Tandragee Junior High School in Co Armagh

A new Virtual Museum Visit pilot project, which got under way this week, aims to give children access to the museum and its resources without ever leaving their desks.

Schomberg House annually hosts hundreds of children from schools across Northern Ireland and the Republic. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought all such educational visits to a grinding halt.

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As a result, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Outreach Officer, David Scott, and museum curator Dr Jonathan Mattison, have turned to technology to help fill the void.

“We enjoy opening the doors of our museum to dozens of school groups on an annual basis,” said Dr Mattison.

“The young people – from all backgrounds – come along and are given a tour and the chance to learn something about their own backgrounds or indeed, a culture they are not too familiar with.

“Covid-19 has caused much upset to the normal way of life and with visits out of the question, we decided to utilise the technology we had at our disposal and bring the museum to the classroom instead.”

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Using video conferencing technology, Dr Mattison was able to interact with the year eight pupils of Tandragee Junior High School some 35 miles away.

Pupils had the chance to learn about evidence and history, as Dr Mattison explained the significance of items associated with the Glorious Revolution, including military uniform, different types of weapons and instruments used for battlefield surgery.

The two 20-minute sessions included lots of interaction with the pupils as they were afforded the chance to ask questions and were given an insight into what the Museum of Orange Heritage has to offer. The second session also included a virtual tour of the museum.

Staff and pupils alike welcomed the opportunity to engage with the museum.

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Teacher, Miss Mattison said: “I was thoroughly delighted to have the opportunity to work with Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland to enhance pupil’s understanding of using evidence.

“The pupils were delighted to learn about the weapons used in the 17th Century and especially enjoyed hearing the gory bit and learning about the type of tools a field surgeon would have used.

“With the current situation it is unfortunate that there are no educational visits, but the online lesson has definitely enhanced their learning. I was delighted with the interaction and participation of TJHS pupils in the lesson.”

Key to the success of the project will be the learning experience for schoolchildren.

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One pupil, Tommy, said: “I liked the uniform and the guns because you had these balls that could shoot out of the gun and you had the apostles that held all the balls.”

Another,Matthew, said: “I thought it was great to chat to them on google meet. I liked the weapons, first-aid kit, King Billy and the money.”

Outreach and Education Officer David Scott explained outreach was of great importance to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and the work with schools was to the forefront.

“The chance to teach children about the history and culture of the Orange Institution is something we really did not want to miss out on and we were determined to develop a programme that brought the museum to the children when they couldn’t come to us,” he said. “We are grateful to the schools who have agreed to take part in this initial phase and hopefully we can look forward to rolling this project out further in the weeks and months ahead.”

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It is anticipated that the pilot project will continue over the coming weeks with a number of schools already committed to taking part.

If your school would like to avail of a Virtual Visit to the Museum of Orange Heritage contact David Scott on 028 9070 1122 or email [email protected]