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This activity introduces pupils to the Great Exhibition as a key event in the Victorian era. The task for pupils will be to produce one of the following:

A newspaper report about the opening of the Great Exhibition
A diary entry about a visit to the Great Exhibition


KS2 - Victorian Britain
KS3 - Britain 1750-1900
KS2 - Writing: composition, planning and drafting
Speaking and listening: group discussion and interaction


Here you will find some ideas to help you prepare yourself and your pupils for a visit to the British Galleries.


We strongly recommend that you visit the Museum prior to bringing your class. This will give you a much clearer idea of how you can use the galleries. We suggest that you familiarise yourself with the spaces in the Victorian gallery and the route from the Exhibition Road entrance. Spend some time studying the display on the Great Exhibition in the Victorian galleries and explore some of the interactives. These have not been designed for use by school groups but you might find them useful for supporting information. The following are particularly relevant:

Explore the opening of the Great ExhibitionGallery 122
The construction of the Crystal Palace videoGallery 122
The film 'A Day at the Great Exhibition'Film Rooms in Gallery 56 and 122

This film was made with the KS2 curriculum in mind. When you visit the British Galleries, you will be able to take your class to see this film. It is shown in the Film Room adjacent to the Great Exhibition display.

Decide how long you are going to spend in the Museum and which galleries you are going to use. This activity is based on the British Galleries and the Museum tasks have been designed to take half a day. There are other galleries relevant to the Great Exhibition that you might want to visit if you have more time. For a list of other galleries, to find out more about the Great Exhibition and to view some images see supporting information.


Talk to your class about the Great Exhibition so that they come to the Museum with some idea about what it was and why it was important. Some key questions might include:

What was the Great Exhibition?
Where was it held?
When did it take place?
Who was involved in it?

The following tasks are suggested as two possible focuses for the visit and focus on slightly different aspects of the Great Exhibition display. It will be much easier for your class to navigate the space if they are divided into small groups and split between the tasks.


Pupils should imagine they are reporters for a Victorian newspaper. Their task is to write a newspaper report about the opening of the Great Exhibition which they have just attended. At the Museum, they will gather information and ideas to help them write their reports.

Get pupils to compare a modern newspaper with a Victorian newspaper. Talk about the differences and similarities.

Discuss pupils' experience of newspapers. Do they have them at home? Discuss the differences between newspapers - tabloid, broadsheet.

Discuss the features of a newspaper (e.g. articles, pictures, headings, written in the third person, about specific events).


The task for pupils is to write a diary entry about their visit to the Great Exhibition. They should pretend they are visiting the exhibition for the first time and that they live a long way away and have never visited London before. At the Museum, they will gather information and ideas to help them write their diary entries.

Discuss what a diary is and explore the pupils' experience of diaries. Do any of them keep diaries themselves? What kind of things do they write in them? Have they read any published diaries, e.g. 'The Diary of Anne Frank'.

Discuss the differences between a diary and other types of text - what features does a diary have that other texts don't have? (e.g. written in the first person, includes date and time, personal, includes information about specific events, places and people).

Show pupils examples of Victorian diary entries.


During their visit, pupils will find out what it was like to visit the Great Exhibition through an examination of primary sources, including some of the objects from the exhibition, paintings and contemporary accounts.

Make your way to Gallery 122 in the British Galleries and find the display on the Great Exhibition. The task for pupils is to make notes and drawings on the Great Exhibition to use as the basis for writing their newspaper reports or diary entries. You can use the worksheets for pupils which have been designed to help them with their tasks. These will help to focus pupils and make suggestions for things they could include in their writing.

You may want to watch the film 'A Day at the Great Exhibition' as a class. This will introduce pupils to the Great Exhibition and give them some background information for carrying out their tasks. The film lasts for approximately 10 minutes and runs in a loop with other films. You may have to wait your turn while other visitors watch the film.

After you have watched the video, make sure your class has been divided into small groups. Each group should already know whether they will be writing the diary entry or newspaper report.


Using all the ideas and information gathered at the Museum, pupils will now complete the tasks. To do this, they will first need to organise their information and decide how they are going to structure it in order to write the newspaper report or diary entry.


Newspaper report

What is the most exciting thing that the readers will want to know?

What angle will the report take?

What style will the report be written in?

How will pupils design the page layout for the newspaper? They could use the layout provided in the worksheet section.


Diary entry

What are the things that pupils most want to write about?

What was their experience of the Great Exhibition?

Did they like it/dislike it?

What will their diaries look like?

As an extension exercise, you could encourage pupils to think about the wider context of the Great Exhibition by discussing the following questions:

What was the purpose of the Great Exhibition? Did it succeed?
What can studying the Great Exhibition tell us about Victorian society?
What can the Great Exhibition tell us about Britain's relationship with the rest of the world in Victorian times?
What was the legacy of the Great Exhibition?
What can objects tell us about the Great Exhibition that other sources can't?


We are keen to get your feedback on this activity as well as any suggestions for other ways of using the British Galleries. Use the online evaluation form here

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