Friday, 11 December 2015

Hands-on History


This is a small wooden box. It is exactly the sort of 'prop' I take with me when I'm facilitating heritage walks and exploration. Often, with an object like this, I will hold it so that folk can see it. I may even take a peep inside now and then. It is an Intrigue Object. Just as folk like to walk to the top of hills and mountains to see the other side, so they like to know what's inside something they are excluded from. 

An object like this can be used to enhance the experience of an audience in so many ways. It might contain, say, a letter from the past recounting a dramatic act - only then you reveal that it is a spoof (playful perhaps - but you can make the point that we must approach our sources with caution). It might contain a series of genuinely historic artefacts that relate to different areas of the route you are taking. It might have some sensory materials: things to touch, smell - even taste. It is kinaesthetic, encouraging hands-on history

A box of wonder and intrigue like this can help to activate a group. It can occupy a restless youngling. It can engage someone with a visual impairment. It can prompt people to relate some small thing in hand, to larger events; to a seemingly distant past. Above all else, it helps participants to Relate, and all the evidence shows that where folk relate something to themselves, they engage more actively with the information, taking 'ownership' of it and retaining it more effectively. 


2 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more Colin. Great post.

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  2. Thanks Colin - it's always amazing to open a box like this and inhale - place seems to get caught in objects. Like you were saying it sparks all kinds of questions - who owned a box like this, what did they put in it, where did they take it - the hypothesising can sometimes be more exciting that knowing 'the answer'!

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