Consisting of St Albans Museum and Gallery and Verulamium Museum, St Albans Museums offer something for art and history buffs alike. The Museum and Gallery offers a mix of contemporary art, touring exhibitions and historical displays which celebrate the city's cultural heritage. Their current exhibition showcases the work of artist Rana Begum, renowned for her colourful work that spans sculpture, painting, and architecture. And on the former site of the Roman city of Verulamium, you’ll find Verulamium Museum, which will transport you back in time to Roman Britain with its collection of artefacts and reconstructions. We caught up with Learning and Engagement Officer, Caroline Wilkins, to chat all about the museums and their Big Draw events.
Interview: Lucia Vinti in conversation with Caroline Wilkins
We’re really happy to have St Albans Museums as a part of The Big Draw Festival this year! There’s such an array of objects on display and so many themes explored within St Albans Museum + Gallery and Verulamium Museum. What would your dream day out at St Albans Museums look like?
Head back in time and start the day at Verulamium Museum, exploring everyday life from the Iron Age through to the imposing Roman town of Verulamium. Marvel at the magnificent mosaics here then head across the park to the Hypocaust to view an impressive underfloor heating system. Walk up the hill towards St Albans Abbey, dedicated to England’s first Christian martyr and on through the town past the medieval clock tower built as a symbol of resistance against the Abbot. At the Old Town Hall, now St Albans Museum + Gallery, admire the stunning Georgian Assembly Room then venture down to the subterranean cells, and climb up to find yourself in the dock of the courtroom, now a café where you can enjoy a freshly baked snack!
Could you tell us a bit about your role at the museum and what it entails?
As Learning and Engagement Officer my time is split between our school and family programmes across both sites – Verulamium Museum and St Albans Museum +Gallery. During the term time we are very busy with schools visiting Verulamium to learn about life in Roman Britain. Our family activities take place in the school holidays and fit with seasonal themes and our current exhibitions.
What did you get up for your Big Draw events this October?
We created a special drawing trail for each museum ‘Drawing with Senses’ which we offered as a free drop in activity to all under 12s. We also set up special ‘Drawing with Senses’ tables in the Assembly Room at St Albans Museum + Gallery for visitors to sit and spend longer on some of the drawing challenges.
Our Big Draw Festival theme this year is Drawing with Senses which is all about looking inward and tuning into our five senses - how did your events this year fit in with that theme?
We loved the theme and created a bespoke trail for each of the two museums.
At St Albans Museum + Gallery our ‘Time for Tea’ exhibition fitted perfectly with the senses. We had a selection of fragrant teas and visitors were asked to close their eyes as they smelled the different pots then to draw an image or idea that came into their head. Our play tea room was ideal for thinking about favourite tea time treats and designing new ones.
The subterranean cells provided an exciting place to feel the textures on the walls, then climbing up into the dock of the courtroom visitors could look for interesting features in the architecture. Finally, sitting in the magistrate’s chair they were asked to close their eyes and listen to the sounds all around them. So at each stage of the trail they focused on exploring with one of the senses and then drawing in response.
In the Assembly Room we set up tables of activities focusing on ‘Drawing with Senses’ – a sound box with a selection of music types, smelling pots containing a range of aromas, textured shapes and patterns, and a challenge to draw blindfolded!
The ‘Drawing with Senses’ trail at Verulamium Museum took everyday life in Roman Britain as its focus and visitors were encouraged to discover certain elements of the museum as they explored with their drawing packs. Herbs and plants featuring in Roman cookery and still used today were provided for visitors to smell and designs on tableware for serving food were highlighted. Visitors could make rubbings from replica coins, examine intricate ear scoops, used to keep the insides of ears clean and ensure good hearing, and beautifully decorated oil lamps, which helped people in the Roman town to see at night!
Do you have any other exciting events coming up that you’d like to share?
Drop-in Origami Making at St Albans Museum + Gallery
Saturdays 11.00am - 12.30pm
3rd, 10th February, 2nd, 9th, 16th March
Still Life Drawing at St Albans Museum + Gallery
Sunday 18th February 11.30 - 1.30pm
Thursday 29th February 12.30 - 2.30pm
Sunday 3rd March 11.30 - 1.30pm
£10 per session for adults
Mosaic Making Workshop at Verulamium Museum
Tuesday 20th February 2024
£12.50 per participant
Roman Mask-making Workshop at Verulamium Museum
Thursday 22nd February 2024
Ages 4+ (younger children will require adult assistance)
£5 per participant
How do you think drawing can help people engage with what they see in museums and add to peoples experiences?
Drawing activities provide an opportunity for visitors to explore in more depth what they see in the museums. They can take the time to look slowly and carefully and also have fun experimenting with a range of suggested drawing challenges.
Do you have a top tip for getting people engaged in the collection and exhibitions at smaller museums and galleries?
A creatively designed trail featuring several top exhibits to spot, some fun facts and a challenge!
And finally, we’re asking all our sponsor-partner organisations to tell us their favourite…
Taste? A cup of tea
Sight? The sea
Feeling? Bare feet on sand
Sound? Crashing waves
Thank you Caroline!
Photo Credit: St Albans Museums
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