A few months back I was asked if it would be possible to do a Skype chat with a school in Virginia, USA. A teacher had got in touch through the website after they had learnt about the sorts of school sessions that we do.
They thought it would be really useful to learn more about abolition from a British perspective and were also keen to hear more about the economics of slavery and the impact it had on cities like Liverpool. After a bit of head scratching and a few calls to some people with more technical know how than me, we discovered that it would be possible. The request just goes to show the importance of our museums and collections, and how people from all over the world can learn from them.
Normally our sessions are very hands on, from art sessions, like batik or object handling sessions like Life in West Africa. So I knew it was going to have to be something a bit different but thought it would be worth giving it a try. I adapted our key stage 3 handling session which focuses on Understanding Transatlantic slavery and picked objects that could tell them more about the subject and also emphasised the narrative that runs throughout the museum; looking at transatlantic slavery from the perspective of enslaved people. Through the objects I was able to talk about a number of subjects we explore both in our regular handling session as well as on gallery. These included traditional life in West Africa, conditions on board the ships, resistance on the plantation as well as abolition.
I was a bag of nerves before we started. Give me a room full of students who I can talk to and I’m fine, but put me in front of a camera and I looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Thankfully doing a practice run helped calm my nerves and overcome some technical issues. Thanks to the help of Phil Phillips in IS and Adam in our education team helping me out, I think it went pretty well. The students made notes, asked questions and didn’t make fun of my accent! Yay! They also asked if I'd do a talk with another group so they must have thought it went really well too.
I would do another Skype chat again but don’t think it can beat visiting in person. You’ll be pleased to know, I won’t be running off to become a TV presenter anytime soon, that stuff is harder than it looks!