Galway City Museum is busily working on a new object-based learning project for schools, ‘A History of Galway in Objects’, that focuses on a number of key pieces from its exhibitions, including the earliest-known Claddagh Ring (c. 1700), the elaborate Great Mace of Galway (1710), a rare Victorian Penfold post box (c. 1866-79), a piper’s cap worn by Irish revolutionary Éamonn Ceannt (1908), and the iconic statue of Irish-language writer Pádraic Ó Conaire (1935).
Among the key project aims are: to teach about the events and personalities that have formed the character of Galway; to develop civic awareness and increase a sense and pride of place; to spark curiosity and support critical thinking; to develop historical empathy; the improve the ability of the pupils to shape their own view and perspectives on history, culture and art; to stimulate imagination, memory and cognition through the sensory experience associated with thinking about objects.
Working with primary school teachers, artists, storytellers and performers, the Museum is developing education resources for use in the classroom, which will include various creative activities that encourage deeper interaction with the objects.
As part of its pilot phase, Brendan McGowan, Education and Outreach Officer with the Museum, visited Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile Chláir na Gaillimhe in Claregalway, with artist Jojo Hynes and drama facilitator Órla McGovern, to trial the project in the classroom. For this first session, pupils focussed on the statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire and the Great Mace of Galway. They were shown detailed photographs of both, and asked to examine the objects, observe the details, and draw conclusions. Afterwards, they learned the fascinating stories behind each piece, and wrote their own labels for the objects. Then, led by Órla, the pupils improvised news reports about the 1999 decapitation of the statue. And, guided by Jojo, they tried their at the chasing and repoussé techniques of the silversmith using tinfoil, framing board and plastic sewing needles.
The activities were documented on film by GK Media, and the feedback from teachers and pupils was positive. Special thanks to principal Carmel Burns, teachers Darragh Moran and Vincent Daly, and the enthusiastic and engaged pupils of Rang 4, Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile Chláir na Gaillimhe.
Galway City Museum will continue to trial the lessons and creative activities with schools in 2023 with a view to launching the project next year.
This pilot project was funded by Galway City Council under the CreativeIrl programme 2023, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.