There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the damage which is being done by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has forced all of us to make changes to the way that we live our lives. Staying at home has not only altered how we work but also the way that we educate our children. In order to help with some of that some of that home schooling, many museums have kept their doors open digitally and are providing online access to their collections and a wide range of learning resources.
Here are some of my favourite places to visit not only in real life but also online. I hope you take the chance to explore what they have to offer and you get some great ideas about exploring the past from the comfort of your own home!
This fantastic museum in York was one of my favourite places to visit as a child. The sights and smells of Viking York aren’t accessible right now but they do have a wealth of videos and activities on subjects as varied as Viking weaponry, food, musical instruments and wildlife. There are also some excellent video resources about the archaeology which unearthed Viking York. You can explore the full range of what they have to offer here.
Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham hosts a glorious opportunity to explore life in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. During the lockdown they have created a Beamish From Home section on their website which includes interactive videos about education, transport and there’s even a singalong video. They’re growing the page all the time so click here to see their latest accessible content.
This social media ‘absolute unit’, also loving referred to as The MERL, makes their exhibitions available online for you to explore whenever you wish (there’s a wonderful one about farm toys and another about the history of farming). They are also making the activities which accompany their workshops accessible too. As I write they have a wonderful project based around beekeeping which includes activities and information for families to share at home. You can access their online resources here.
While their doors are closed, this exceptional window into the history of urban transport has set up an ‘Activities at Home’ page which includes activities, games and projects. My favourites are their ‘Make Your Own Transport Museum’ project and the ‘Bus for the Future’ activity. Oh, and you can design your own TFL poster too. They are also adding more resources to their page so visit their website here to find out more.
As well as hosting loads of information about the discovery and preservation of Henry VIII’s warship, The Mary Rose website provides a rich resource of detail about what life on the ship would have been like. There is also a packed page of ‘Things to Make and Do’ which includes science activites, colouring sheets, knitting projects, and even instructions for how to make Mary Rose items with Lego (genius!). Their resources can be found here.
Since closing their doors temporarily in March, The Royal Armouries have developed their Home Learning Hub. This site is regularly being updated but already full of videos and downloadable activities which can be searched by curriculum or subject. They also have a YouTube series called Armchair Armouries in which their brilliant curators talk about their work and the objects in the collection. You can search the Learning Hub here.
The newly created Derby Museums From Home not only hosts access to their gorgeous Joseph Wright of Derby collection but also a Play and Learn section filled with activities and videos. I love the ‘Make an Artbot’ video and their resources related to their current exhibition on Florence Nightingale. You can find out more by clicking here.
I’m very lucky to have Bletchley Park right on my doorstep and I’ve spent many hours exploring the huts where the codebreakers worked during the Second World War. It’s also the place I take my little one to see Father Christmas every year so it holds a special place in my heart. Although they haven’t created any new content specifically for the lockdown period, there are some wonderful codebreaking activities and education resources for Key Stage 2 and 3 students which are perfect to use at the moment. Click here for more details.
The Roman Baths in Bath was a brilliant source of inspiration what I was writing the very first Histronauts book. The unique venue is very child-friendly and even have an audio guide especially for younger visitors. On their website, the informative Children’s Pages hosts fun facts, stories and online games which will teach younsters all about life in Roman Britain. You can explore their website here.
Part of the Birmingham Museums Group, this wonderful place is home to The Staffordshire Hoard and a magnificent collection of Pre-Raphaelite artworks. They have a wonderful children’s area right beside their Edwardian tearooms and it’s one of my favourite places to visit in my old univeresity town. Their website hosts a BMAG for Kids section which has information and activities relating to ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Victorians and the Second World War. You can explore it here.
There are tons of activities and projects on this Manchester-based museum’s website. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t visited them in person yet but the content on their site has really made me want to go as soon as I can! There are things to make, games to play, writing tips from author Matt Oldfield, and some great resources which would usually accompany their hands-on school sessions. They also have a Sporting Memories group for the over-50s which is currently meeting twice a week on Zoom to discuss their memories of the game. Visit their Stay at Home Activities page here.
Yet another set of venues that I haven’t been able to visit yet (I am going to be so busy on the other side of this pandemic) but their learning team have put together an extensive and imaginitive collections of things to do from home. From drawing like David Hockney to exploring Victorian style toys to making a spider to painting with water and writing in code there is enough on here to keep a family entertained for days. There are also printable colouring sheets for every letter of the alphabet. You can scroll through their What’s Online activities here.
All of the biggest museums in the UK provide access to online learning resources. At the British Museum website you can do everything from a virtual tour with Google StreetView to a search of the stunning objects in their collection. They also have some extremely detailed resources on their ‘Schools’ page which are tailored to the appropriate Key Stage age groups. National Museums Scotland has a ‘Museums at Home’ page which brings together activities, games, films and their own StreetView tours. I’m really impressed by the amount of resources on the National Museum Cardiff website; they have everything from colouring sheets to a Minecraft challenge. National Museums NI provides some interesting resources and, although they do mostly relate to physical visits to the museum, their teacher resources have great ideas for lesson plans and activities which can be done at home.