Since November, eight families have been training to be volunteer tour guides for the new Europe galleries that opened in December 2015. Led by storyteller Diana Olutunmogun, families take part in six training sessions before delivering tours for other families during February half-term 2016 as part of the Family Art Fun programme.
The first three training sessions took place before the galleries opened, so we met in various spaces throughout the museum and focused on techniques of storytelling, learning about some of the objects that will be on display in the Europe galleries and getting to know each other.
In session one we played games such as the ‘interactive Europe geography quiz’ – and looked at maps from across the period of 1600-1815 and the present day. We explored museum objects that were chosen as family labels and thought about what questions the public might want to know and how to present this information in an interesting way. Do we speak, play music or maybe mime?
In session two, Diana focused on storytelling techniques such as how to start a story and create a short story. Part of the session included everyone telling a story about Debbie the Donut. Whilst the link between Debbie and the Europe gallery was not immediately apparent, it highlighted that everyone can tell a different story about the same object as everyone is a unique and creative person. It also showed that even if you don’t immediately like an object, if you explore it, and ask questions, it’s amazing what you already know and what you can find out. Every object tells a story and each tour given by a family will be different and special, even if they are talking about the same objects. Within this session we also explored the family label objects further.
In session three, we had a special guest – David Hibberd, Chair of the V&A Volunteer guides. He told us about what it was like being a guide at the museum and gave us all some top tips about how to lead tours in a busy museum space. He highlighted how to present yourself to the audience including where to stand, making eye contact, ensuring your voice can be heard by the whole audience and speaking clearly and maybe slightly slower than normal. Diana also added the importance of repeating a question so that other people in the audience can hear it, and animating your stories through voice and gestures. We then had a Q&A session with David. Questions ranged from ‘What if everyone leaves your tour?’ and ‘What if someone knocks over an object during your tour?’ to ‘What happens if you don’t know the answer?’ More time was then spent on exploring the family label objects and presenting this information to the group in a game show style. It was then time for chocolates as this was the last session before Christmas!
Europe Family Tour group exploring The Temptation in the Garden of Eden with Curator Dawn Hoskin
Session 4 took place after the Europe galleries opened so we were able to go into the galleries for the first time! Dawn Hoskin, Assistant Curator who worked on the Europe gallery project for four years gave us a tour of four objects. The families were able to find out what it was like to install some of the heavy pieces, the special role of monkeys and other animals and how to look after a wax sculpture. In this session we also thought about who was going to deliver tours on what days and at what times during February half-term. We also agreed that the tour should have about a maximum of 16 people on it, so that is our aim.
Session 5 takes place tomorrow and will be a chance for families to really research and plan their tours. One more group session will then happen in February before the official tours begin!
We hope that you will join a Family led-tour of the new Europe galleries for other families during February half-term. Tours take place from Monday 15 – Sunday 21 February at 11.30 and 13.30 and last approximately 20-30 minutes. We look forward to seeing you.
Europe 1600–1815 learning activities generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.