A group of  pupils from Years 7, 8 and 9 visited Chester on Saturday 11th July to experience a 'Night at the Museum'. The Grosvenor Museum was the venue for this exciting venture organised by Big Heritage, an award winning social enterprise with a mission to engage communities with the past.

It was a rare opportunity for the pupils to visit the museum after hours and enjoy the privilege of having the galleries to ourselves for a private viewing. After an introductory talk the pupils had chance to look around the museum and get their bearings. Then it was time to assemble in the Stones Gallery  for 'lights out' and with the galleries having no external windows it went pitch black as the lights were extinguished. Dean Paton, from Big Heritage, used torch light to focus on individual Roman tombstones as he explained to pupils the stories behind the engravings. The group were fascinated to learn so much about life in Roman times from the stories of the stones and the darkness made it very atmospheric as pupils imagined themselves in a graveyard at night.

Next it was into the Newstead Roman Gallery, again in darkness, and the pupils had chance to explore the Roman artefacts and archaeological remains by torchlight. As well as impressive swords and pottery exhibits it was small items such as the Roman luggage tags which really emphasised how the Roman civilisation operated.Then the group gathered around the skeleton of a young man discovered in a well and used their historical detective skills to consider what might have happened to him. There was a spine chilling silence as Dean explained why not many groups visit the museum after dark and everyone watched the skeleton closely for signs of movement...

In another gallery the pupils learnt about burial customs through the ages and year 9 pupil, Adele, demonstrated different burial positions. Pupils also enjoyed exploring the artfects for themselves by torch light and the need to focus intently on a small illuminated area really encouraged them to study the exhibits carefully. Dean coined the term 'Darchaeology' to describe looking at archaeological evidence in the dark and the pupils agreed that 'Darchaeology' was a fun way to learn about History.

Earlier in the day the students had worked in four teams to follow clues around Chester city centre. There were  historical riddles and code breaking challenges to solve at different locations around the city as part of the Deva Codex Mystery. Pupils also enjoyed tracking down items on the Hoot Route, a historical trail which has artefacts from the museum placed in different shops and cafes and each one is overseen by Hoot the Owl. The teams earned bonus points by completing extra challenges such as reading a proclamation at Chester Cross, re-enacting the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene and finding an elephant.

The pupils also visited the Roman Amphitheatre where they took part in some impromptu Roman style sports and St John's Church with its fascinating coffin set high within a wall.

A gallery of photographs from the trip can be seen below. Please click on an image to enlarge it.

Mr L Mackin

Assistant Head of Humanities


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