Guest Blog: Erin Tattersall and the Loan Box Knowledge Exchange

As part of our 50th Anniversary Celebration, we are featuring guest blogs from various researchers and project partners that we have worked with over the years, discussing some of our best research collaborations. Today’s blog post is from Erin Tattersall, Interpretation and Learning Officer for York Archaeological Trust.

In April 2022 a member of our Learning Team, Erin, was invited to run a day-long workshop on the Loan Box service from the JORVIK Group Learning Programme as part of a Knowledge Exchange event for WRoCAH (White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities), speaking to doctoral researchers from the Universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield.

Loan boxes, which are collections of real and replica historical items available for short-term loan to learning groups, have been offered by the JORVIK Group since 2005. Object-based and tactile learning has long been a key part of our attractions’ engagement activities, and while the boxes are principally designed to support Primary-level history curriculum themes and develop historical enquiry skills, the universal appeal of seeing or handling an object can help to support learners of all levels, and facilitate meaningful engagement with archaeology and its many related disciplines.

During the workshop, participants from a range of study programmes had the chance to try out our Loan Boxes and supporting resources for themselves, before working in groups to design their own around a topic of their choice. 

One group took primary school children as their focus and built character-based narratives around the fictional contents of sixteenth-century peoples’ pockets, adding sensory elements of interaction by including a variety of textures and materials. Short supporting videos of costumed interpreters brought in a technological element, bringing history to life in the classroom.

The second group sought to engage GCSE-level students, choosing to challenge the traditionally Eurocentric narrative of the early settlement of the Americas through connection with, and appreciation of, traditional and replica objects based on Native American culture. Museum experts would advise on the creation of video resources, and perhaps provide a live video call option (where time differences allowed), to guide students through their discussion and adapt it to their needs and interests.

The event organiser cited “excellent” feedback on sharing “a way of engaging with an audience that [the attendees] may never have even considered possible… I was deeply intrigued too – if I could, I would have spent the day in your workshop!”  We look forward to returning next year to champion object-based learning with Early career researchers, and draw inspiration from them in turn.

For more information on Loan Boxes see our website