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Renaissance Globe Project

4 October 12 -- jsuess

Over the summer of 2012 the Museum of the History of Science, in partnership with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Ashmolean Museum and the Museum of Oxford, have been running the Renaissance Globe Project, a series of exciting events informing the public about the traditional art of Globe making and cartography. Through workshops with adults, families and schools, visitors were invited to create large globes at each museum, re-imagined by populating them with images and text in response to the collections. 

This HLF-funded project was inspired by the 500th anniversary of the cosmographer and map maker Gerard Mercator, and linked to the Museum of the History of Science’s special exhibition The Renaissance in Astronomy: Books, Globes and Instruments from the 16th Century.

Led by Chris Parkin, Head of Education at the Museum of the History of Science, education staff and HLF Skills for the Future trainees at each of the participating museums ran workshops linked to their own collections to populate their globes.  They were assisted by a team of 20 volunteers who were divided into teams supporting the development of each of the globes. Event highlights included:

  • Globe Maker workshops for adults and families and the Museum of the History of Science, inviting visitors to learn the art of traditional globe making by making their own miniature globes.
  •  Madness of Magellan sessions at the Museum of the History of Science, during which families learned about the history of early voyages of exploration handling navigational instruments and exploring the Museum’s collection of objects, and pinned drawings of their discoveries to their place of origin on the globe.
  • Postcards from Darwin sessions at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History where secondary school students examined animals that would have been studied by Darwin on his voyages, and wrote imagined postcards from Darwin recounting the finds, pinning them to the Museum’s globe at their place of origin.
  • Materials sessions at the Ashmolean, where families were encouraged to explore the Museum to find and handle objects from different parts of the world made by a certain material, for example metals, woods or shells. Images of these objects were hung from the Ashmolean’s globe.
  •  Our Sporting Heritage was the main theme at the Museum of Oxford, and families drew, painted and stuck their own sporting designs to the Museum’s two smaller globes, choosing the part of the world connected with the sport.

(c) Museum of the History of Science

The project has been successful in creating a series of interactive learning experiences for visitors of all ages, enabling them to engage more deeply with the collections through creative expression in the form of an iconic instrument of science. By conducting the project in partnership across museums with highly varied collections, visitors and volunteers were encouraged to draw new interdisciplinary connections between the objects in all the collections.

The project has also been successful in producing a community response to the exhibition on display to other visitors, providing another layer of interpretation and access.

The project will generate digital resources which will support ongoing work and be available to teachers, Museum professionals and other users via the Museum’s website.

For more information about this project please visit the Special Projects page on the Museum of the History of Science website,

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