The Mary Rose Museum: CC4D Case Study


What is your project called?

Black Tudors: Diversifying the Learning Programme.

When did it take place?

Summer 2018 – Autumn 2019.

How much did it cost?

£0 + staff time in kind.

Did you receive any external funding?

We received a small grant from the Historical Association for travel to a training day in Oxford.

What key area of Diversity did your Project focus on?

Diversifying our public programmes/events, exhibitions or collections to be more representative of under-represented groups.

Please describe the aims of the Project.

Following the publication of Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann in 2017, in 2018 through a call out on Twitter, the Learning Department became involved in a nationwide working group of secondary teachers interested in creating resources to challenge misconceptions about diversity in Tudor England. We were particularly interested as the first example in Black Tudors is Jacques Francis, from West Africa, who lived in Southampton while working as a salvage diver on the Mary Rose in 1545.

In response to a training day for the group (funded by the Historical Association) held at Oxford University in September 2018, we took the decision to incorporate the theme of diversity in history into our workshops at all levels. We used the Kids in Museums Takeover Day in November 2018 to flesh out these ideas.

In March 2019, a C4 TV programme revealed exciting new DNA and oxygen isotope research from our collection of human remains which confirmed that sailors on the Mary Rose hailed from across Europe and North Africa. ‘The Many Faces of Tudor England,’ a temporary exhibition at the museum, shared the findings with visitors. The Learning team integrated this new evidence into educational workshops, including new artists’ impressions of the men.

Who did you work with?

  • Teachers and students
  • Staff and Volunteers

What work did you do together?

Teacher CPD. Information on the new exhibition and the benefits of visiting heritage sites was disseminated to members of the teaching group. Teachers were signposted to Black Tudors events at the museum.

Takeover day event: 16 pupils from a  local secondary school

We used the Kids in Museums Takeover Day in November 2018 to flesh out our ideas with the title ‘Uncovering Hidden History.’ Pupils from Portsmouth High School discussed how history is made and how complete our picture of life in the past really is? They considered the ways in which the museum presents evidence and both what we know and what will don’t know. We discussed which areas they felt were most interesting for further research or investigation. It was agreed that the Mary Rose was particularly helpful because we have objects ordinary people would have used like nitcombs and shoes which rarely survive elsewhere. The day was written up for M & H Advisor.

School pupils visiting the museum have had access to new information about the Mary Rose not previously known. Staff and volunteers at the museum have shifted the focus of teaching sessions to ‘how do we know what we know’ using an interdisciplinary approach to history making the most of new scientific and archaeological discoveries.

What did you achieve?

  • A new history and science session, ‘Mary Rose International’, has been developed for secondary school pupils use in conjunction with the temporary exhibition. Key parts of this will be able to be used even after the exhibition closes next March.
  • New slides have been incorporated into our top selling Henry’s Heroes workshop highlighting the diverse origins of the crew of the ship. All pupils who take part in this session now have the opportunity to consider a more diverse Tudor world than previously known.
  • New online resources are in preparation for school age children.
  • Staff and volunteer upskilling. Miranda Kaufmann talked about Black Tudors at a special event at the museum and Onyeka Nubia spoke about his new book England’s Other Countrymen bringing new audiences to the museum. A member of staff completed her BSc Archaeology dissertation on Tudor trade routes featuring examples of artefacts from the Mary Rose which originated from across the world. This complements the information on the origins of the crew and was made available for staff and volunteers.
  • In September 2019, Clare Barnes, Learning Officer, talked about the project at a meeting of regional museum educators and Mary Kinoulty, Head of Learning, was asked to speak at the Children’s History Conference in Greenwich on engaging young people which allowed us to publicise our work to early career researchers and academics.
  • We wrote an article for Teaching History a journal for secondary school teachers outlining the latest findings about the crew as well as our enquiry approach to be published Winter 2019.

What are the long term impacts of your work?

Teaching a more diverse history than previously is firmly embedded in the work of the learning department alongside a more challenging approach to investigating evidence for pupils of all ages.

Working with secondary teachers has given us new insights in to current classroom practice and attitudes to museum visiting.

Staff and volunteers in the museum anecdotally report great interest among visitors especially those from abroad who now have more of a connection to the Mary Rose.

Have you embedded this work into your organisation’s practice?

Please see above.

What lessons have you learnt?

The variety of people involved in the project was an advantage: staff, volunteers, teachers, students and academics.


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