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This is an archive site and is not updated. It represents works conducted by Oxford University Museums funded by Arts Council England between 2012-2018. For information about our current work please visit

Visual Storytelling

26 May 15 -- jsuess
Becca McVean, Primary School Education Officer at the Pitt Rivers Museum

This post is part of a series highlighting outcomes of the Innovation Fund in 2014-15 - Read about the Innovation Fund

What was the project?

The Visual Storytelling Project was a joint venture between the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Story Museum.  The aim was to create a new storytelling session for primary schools visiting the Pitt Rivers which would develop children’s creativity and literacy skills whilst also enabling them to achieve a Discover Arts Award. The project was run by Kate Sayer, Education and Outreach Officer at The Story Museum, and Becca McVean, Primary School Education Officer at the Pitt Rivers Museum.  The vision was to utilise Kate’s expertise in storytelling and Becca’s knowledge of the Pitt Rivers collections to create a session centred around objects which record stories in a visual way.  By looking at stories depicted on objects such as the totem pole, pupils were then inspired to record their own stories in a variety of ways.

Over two days a Year 3 class were introduced to visual stories recorded by key objects in the Museum, such as the totem pole, the Native American Many-Shots robe and the Aboriginal Paintings.  For the activity involed creating a symbol for each object story , which students collected and incorporated into a quilt panel.  Panels showed symbols representing each participant's family, their community, an important journey and something important to them.  The panels were then sewn together to form a storytelling quilt which was presented to the class back at school as a record of their individual and collective stories.  These activities also enabled the children to achieve a Discover Arts Award. The project was then repeated with a Year 4 class to better evaluate the successful elements.

What was the main impact?

We are launching a new story building session for KS2 pupils in the Autumn term which is a refined version of the Visual Storytelling Project.  Teachers will be able to opt for the session leading to Discover Arts Award for which we will be the registered Arts Award centre. We are also looking at using this as a tenplate for offering Discover Arts Award in a day at the other museums. The project also equipped Becca with techniques for encouraging pupils’ storytelling skills which will be shared with other colleagues across the museums.