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History Blog

Teaching History with 100 Objects – 2
By Richard Woff
03 Dec
How is Teaching History with 100 Objects organised and how can it help you in your teaching?

‘Object files’
The resources are organised into what we have called object files. Each file has a lead object with a hi-res image to download for classroom use on whiteboards or in hard copy. Then we provide information about the object itself and selected aspects of history that it can lead into and external links to places where teachers can build up their content knowledge.

We also provide light touch teaching ideas: engagement activities, discussions and investigations and usually some broader enquiry questions. The teaching ideas are supported by additional images to download, links to resources from other museums, the BBC and elsewhere on the internet and suggestions for places to visit that are related to the object and its issues.

‘A bigger picture’
Each file also has a section entitled A bigger picture. This contains links to other objects, mainly from the British Museum, photos of which can be downloaded. These objects serve to contextualise the lead object, demonstrate connections with different cultures and periods or challenge students’ initial impressions. A bigger picture may set the lead object alongside other objects from the same period or show what else was happening in the world at that time or expand on a particular aspect of the object or look at similar objects across time.

Examples include:
- how the Sutton Hoo burial demonstrates the connections between Anglo-Saxon England and the rest of the world as far away as Sri Lanka;
- Erasmus Darwin’s notebook (see photo below - uploaded today) links to other important figures involved in the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution;
- a Wedgwood tea service leads to the British in China and the Opium Wars;
- a fan supporting the Restoration takes us to Charles II’s foreign policy;
- a Mexican Day of the Dead sculpture (to be uploaded in January) will draw us into global concerns of the 1970s and 1980s.


The Commonplace Book of Erasmus Darwin; 1776-87 © Erasmus Darwin House

Endlessly flexible
Throughout, we have resisted any attempts to create a ready-made package of resources that needs to be taken on as a whole or taught in a particular way. The resources are intended to be flexible so that teachers can dip into them as they wish, using them to supplement existing schemes of work or as key resources in new ones, adopting and adapting teaching ideas as will work with their students.

The objects are grouped according to National Curriculum topics, so if a teacher wanted to, he or she could use a whole set of objects to structure their work on a period. They can also be grouped by broad themes and periods so teachers can construct their own sets of objects around themes such as empires or conflict.


Feedback welcome
We had positive feedback from teachers to whom we showed the original ideas and have had similarly positive comments from teachers since the resources started going up online in September, but we’d welcome more.

Please do take a look at the resources that are up already, the new ones that go up today and the final ones that will be live on 19 January. Let me know what you think and it would be fantastic to get feedback on how you have used the object files and how students have responded. You can send any thoughts to me at

Richard Woff

Head of Project: Teaching History with 100 Objects
Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences
The British Museum
London WC1B 3DG

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