For the first time, sixth-graders at the Schulhaus Waidhalde explored the world of beads at the Johann Jacobs Museum as part of the “L’Afrique des Colliers: Marie-José Crespin” exhibition. They traced the history of materials, objects and global trade relations, becoming researchers and making discoveries in the process.
The schoolchildren became acquainted with the great variety of necklaces on their visit to the museum in September 2018. They each chose an object that particularly appealed to them, drew it and researched it on the basis of the question: Which stories and associations lie hidden in materials and forms? Well-known curriculum material suddenly became tangible in the present – the Neolithic Age, the ancient Egyptians, knowledge about flamingos, the processing of stones and metals, the development of trade and the slave trade. It was particularly impressive to be able to experience and touch the exhibited objects up close.
Before their visit, the pupils were encouraged to look for and bring objects that they felt were associated with special memories during their holidays and at home. The mementoes were viewed and explored in a similar way, capturing the personal stories and materials.
Making art and history a tangible experience for everyone
Part of the project was in the form of a parents’ evening in the museum. The children guided parents and relatives through the exhibition in groups and presented their chosen exhibition highlights.
Then the actual work began in school. In the weeks that followed, each child was immersed in designing their own necklace and was confronted with all kinds of artistic questions, including: What materials or things are important to me, what meaning do they have for me, but also: How can I convey their charm to other people?
Completed necklaces were presented in a public exhibition to which the schoolchildren’s relatives and the neighborhood were invited. Exhibits were presented with key words describing the materials, the origin of the objects and their personal significance.
The pupils’ work in the museum on a necklace of their own also made connections between objective research on materials and their origins tangible, along with the histories and emotions they contain.
The school project was carried out with Schulhaus Waidhalde and the Association of Zurich Museums as part of the kuverum course on cultural mediation. The Johann Jacobs Museum took part, with 25 classes selecting one of 25 Zurich museums. The diversity of these 25 class projects – from kindergarten to high school – is summarized in a publication. www.museumwaidhalde.ch
The Johann Jacobs Museum’s educational program
As part of the Jacobs Foundation, the Johann Jacobs Museum is dedicated to supporting young people and familiarizing children and adolescents with the eventful history of globalization by exploring their perspectives and experiences. The museum’s collection of exhibits on trade goods such as coffee, cocoa, crude oil and silk provides a broader understanding of the complex interrelationships of global trade routes.
With an attractive range of activities for school classes, the Johann Jacobs Museum aims to fulfil a deeper educational mission in the future and open up new approaches to educational content through a creative learning atmosphere. In the coming months, a project team consisting of internal staff and external specialists will develop a sustainable program for secondary schools in German-speaking Switzerland. The first, multi-part mediation offerings are already being implemented and knowledge gained there will be integrated into the new education program.