In Exchange: Putting archives to work

  • Judy Wilcocks: Head of Museum and Study Collection, CSM

Brief description of session and activities

Art schools have always used objects in teaching, knowing instinctively that the use of objects in the classroom can strengthen and deepen learning experiences (Paris 2002). However Object Based Learning (a phrase coined by Paris) is still a relatively new discipline.

As a museum curator working towards my PG Cert I feel uniquely placed to explore the opportunities offered by Object Based Learning. Undertaking the PG Cert has helped me to develop my teaching practice from naive ‘show and tell’ sessions to fully embedded, formally assessed projects.

Through one such project - In Exchange - I have been using uncatalogued archive material to teach MA Culture, Criticism and Curation students about archival theory, curatorial practice and the emergence of radical fine art pedagogies in the 1960s and 70s.

The students have a series of introductory lectures and workshops covering the history of archiving, archival theory, preventative conservation and exhibition theory and are then introduced to a collection of uncatalogued material which they order, list and interrogate before mounting a display, which is formally assessed by holistic assessment. This live project gives students important new skills and paves the way for further research.

I feel that In Exchange is a framework that could be applied across a number of disciplines using either archives or 3D objects but as a lone ranger I find it hard to second guess what those projects might be.

I would like audience members to split into groups of 6. Each group will be given a list of objects (taken from across UAL’s special collections) and asked to discuss ideas for how those objects could be used to support teaching and learning within their subject specialism. The groups will then feed back their suggestions to the wider audience.

How will students be involved in the session?


What will participants take away from the session?

This activity will enable me to meet teaching staff from across UAL and explore ways of using OBL to support teaching and learning in their discipline. It will also help to raise the profile of special collections across UAL. Most teaching staff aren’t aware of the breadth and quality of UAL’s special collections, nor do they know that these wonderful objects are there explicitly to support teaching and learning. Ideally I would like to come away from the session having made firm arrangements with at least three colleagues to work together in the future and having introduced a further three colleagues to a collection in UAL that could be useful for their professional practice.