The Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department welcomes a wide array of visitors, from scientists coming to study our extensive insect collections to designers and artists exploring the diversity of shapes, colours or patterns of the many thousands of creepy-crawlies deposited here. On the 17th of June, the Entomology Department was visited by Ms Eleanor Mulhearn <email@example.com>, a teacher on the Design and Visual arts BA at Stockport College. Here are her first impressions following that visit.
How can HE students learn from museum collections?
I am just beginning some research around this subject and this was my reason for a recent visit to the Entomology department, as a “test run” to learn about the process of accessing the collection through arrangement. I hope, by making visits for research, to increase my ability to work effectively with students in the museum environment linking research and creative practice, beginning in September (I teach part-time on the Design and Visual arts BA at Stockport College). Data analysis from recent student feedback I gathered identified inspiring visual research material as the most effective source of confidence leading students to make more creative work.
I began the process the students will be asked to follow. After feeling inspired by seeing magnified flower models in several of the gallery displays, this prompted interest in bees and I arranged to meet Dmitri, the Curator of Insect Collections at the Manchester Museum. We talked about parallels between the study of Entomology and art and learning from close observation resulting in reflection and ideas generation was identified as a key common skill. I was offered the opportunity to view a range of interesting specimens and have my questions about them answered. I was drawn (again by the gigantic) to some greatly magnified (20x), beautifully crafted models of insects, including an Armadillidium vulgare (woodlouse, to me, pre-visit) made by Ecofauna and used as learning material in the department. The meticulous layered card system, pinned into position under the specimen, and hardly larger, was written in the most unusually small, delicate handwriting, I learned, by Harry Britten (former curator of Entomology at the Manchester Museum, 1919-38) in a style he developed himself. This was equally inspiring in its crafting, precision and care in terms of the miniature.
It would have been possible to stay all day in this welcoming department, but at this point I only had time to briefly record some specimens through photographs and sketches. The sense that I had hardly scratched the surface was positive when I noted down ideas later in the day and so this visit gave me some concrete experience about where to help students begin and continue. I was interested to note the effective drawing techniques used by the Manchester College staff (recorded on this blog) are also those we use on the Illustration BA at Stockport College.
Thank you Dmitri, I look forward to coming back.
I am grateful to Eleanor for sharing her impressions with me (Dmitri).