It will be International Museums Day on 18th May. So what better time for us to look at some of the UK’s quirkiest museums and what they offer on the education front. 

The Hatworks%2C %C2%A9 Stockport Council

International Museums Day is an event dedicated to getting people through the doors of museums worldwide. 

Teachers in the UK will be spoilt for choice. The Museums Association estimates that there are around 2,500 museums in the UK. Below are a few of the quirkiest ones, and what they offer in terms of school trips. 

Avoncroft Museum, Worcestershire

What makes it quirky?

The Avoncroft Museum is home to the National Telephone Kiosk Collection. There are 32 in total, with the oldest dating back to 1912. There’s also a TARDIS in the collection. 

The museum also owns a varied collection of architectural fragments, building materials, slide collections, plans and photographs to aid the understanding of building types and technologies in the region.

What does it offer schools?

Avoncroft Museum offers a range of teaching sessions, covering the periods of the Tudors, the Victorians and the 1940s. Hands-on sessions are based on construction, design, technology, science and nature.

Specific workshops range from Tudor Builder to Child of the 1940s, and Playtime in the Past to a session on apples; From Orchard to Juice.

The Hatworks, Stockport

What makes it quirky?

You’ll find a collection of more than 400 hats from around the world on display at The Hatworks. The interactive museum is dedicated to bringing the history of Stockport’s once thriving hatting industry to life. It’s spread across two floors and also features a recreated hat factory with around 20 fully restored working Victorian-style machines.

What does it offer schools?

The Hatworks offers school visits for Reception through to A-Level. Example workshops include: Where Did You Get That Hat? for Key Stage 1, which covers elements of the History curriculum like Changes in Living Memory; Time Detectives for Key Stage 2, which explores what life was like in the 19th century and links to the curriculum requirement to study ‘a site dating from beyond 1066 that is significant in the locality’; and Textile workshops for Key Stage 3, which give pupils the opportunity to make a hat using a technique like batik or screen printing. 

The Shoe Museum, Northampton

What makes it quirky?

Located inside Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, the Shoe Museum features 12,000 shoes ranging from Egyptian footwear to contemporary British design pieces.

Sister collections in the museum and gallery focus on social history, fine and decorative art, military history and include 35,000 geological specimens and 5000 items of leather.

What does it offer schools?

Both self-led visits and guided sessions are available at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. Workshops include The History of Shoes for Key Stage 1 and 2, during which pupils get to handle different examples of footwear and explore how materials, fastenings and shoe shapes have changed over the years.

There are also Local History sessions such as the Stone Age to Iron Age workshop, which allow pupils to handle original items from the period.

The Old Operating Theatre, London

What makes it quirky?

This makeshift operating theatre, dating back to 1821, is located in the roof of St Thomas Church in London. It features a viewing gallery, where trainee surgeons of the past would watch bloody operations in the days before anaesthetic. A range of surgical instruments and specimens are also on display.

What does it offer schools?

Education sessions for both primary and secondary schools are available at the Old Operating Theatre. Primary pupils can look into the theatre’s history and explore what it would have been like to be a patient in St Thomas Hospital during the 19th century. 

Secondary students can study Medicine Through Time and investigate the broader context of medicine in the 19th century including its links to science and art.

The Fan Museum, London

What makes it quirky?

Located in Greenwich, this museum showcases more than 4,000 fans. It has a permanent collection and a programme of special exhibitions. For example, a collection of biblical fans is currently on display. 

What does it offer schools?

The Fan Museum offers educational activities for primary and secondary schools including thematic tours of the museum, children’s activity trails, lectures, handling sessions and fan-making workshops.

Photo credit: The Hatworks © Stockport Council