Hands on History Day was a fun, interactive day of workshops, kicking off our ‘Street Museums’ project, working with Durham University Museums to connect the former mining village of Blackhall with thousands of years of history in the university’s collection. 

Facilitated by enthusiastic volunteers from Durham University Museums and East Durham Creates, Hands on History Day took place on the 28th of October 2021 at Blackhall Community Centre.

The day began with a brief introduction to the Street Museums project and an overview of the way the rest of the project will pan out and how people can get involved.

Then the day commenced! Attendees had been split into five groups so that each smaller group could get a more ‘hands-on’ experience at every activity, and have a chance to ask questions and learn more – which is what this project is all about! The activities included…

Museum Object Handling: Participants put on lab coats, goggles and gloves and got their hands on some ancient objects, which included items from Ancient Egypt, Greek weapons and Tudor and Roman objects!

Egyptian Shabtis: In the main hall participants could learn about shabtees, items which were put in tombs alongside Pharaohs, to be their servants in the afterlife.  There was also a chance to make your own clay servant, a very messy activity…but lots of fun!

Weighing of the Heart Ceremony: Visitors wore costumes/masks and took part in a ceremony to weigh the heart of a Pharoah who had died. This ceremony in Ancient Egypt was believed to weigh up all the good and bad deeds in the Pharoah’s life to see if they were worthy of going to the afterlife.

Archaeological Dig: An opportunity for participants to do a bit of hands-on excavation, and dig for objects and discover hidden treasures (and Halloween surprises).

Gory Tudor Curses: A fun game in which players found out how the Tudors cured illnesses and then had a chance to feel and smell what life was like in Tudor times!

In the Cafe Kamal from Durham University showed examples of 3D printing and scans of museum objects and Carol from Blackhall Library provided books about history.

The day was concluded by re-grouping in the main hall with a dragon dance, accompanied by drums and gongs!

Using the Ancient Greek method of voting, the Ostracon in which people scratched the name of the person they wanted to be ostracised, attendees were asked to vote for their least favourite theme/activity of the day! This kind of feedback really helps us to plan future events that will be fun and engaging for the community.

Lastly,  we had a cup of tea (of course) and a catch-up, with goody bags being distributed to everyone who got involved in the day!

Thanks to all of the Street Museum Team, Blackhall Community Centre, Learning Team Durham University and volunteers for such a fantastic, immersive experience and thank you to everyone who attended for showing their enthusiasm and trying out something new! We can’t wait to see the progression of the Street Museums project.