The University of Cambridge Museums have a long-term partnership with local charity Centre 33’s Young Carers project, supporting the young people’s engagement with our collections for over ten years. This year, for the first time, we led sessions across the county as well as within our museums.

The young people worked with artist Rachel Dormor over the summer exploring the diverse materials in our collections at UCM. Rachel and the young people spent three days at the Museum of Zoology, Kettle’s Yard, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and at Dormor’s own artist studio researching the collections and creating their own responses to them.

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Kettle’s Yard joined Rachel at one-day workshops in March and Ely armed with handling objects and an assortment of art materials to enable young carers in rural areas of the county to creatively engage too.

Painted pebbles at Ely

At the Museum of Zoology, the young people learnt how the physiology of animals enable them to undertake amazing feats, from flight to running at speed. Using their knowledge, participants then created their own new creatures giving them characters, names and ensuring their bodies would be able to undertake any required physical challenges.

Happy chappy creatures at the Museum of Zoology

At Kettle’s Yard, the young people visited the House drawing any object which they associated with the sea or water which inspired them. They then visited Rachel Dormor’s studio where they created decorated nautical clay tiles and tried their hand on the potter’s wheel!

Centre 33 pottery showdown! Hand-thrown pots at Rachel Dormor’s studio.

At the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the young people explored the newly re-displayed Pacific cases looking at the amazing pattern and variety of materials used in the objects. We then made our own garments from upcycled materials before discovering a variety of printing techniques to design and make our own t-shirt.

Exploring sustainable materials at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

In March and Ely, participants got up-close and personal with handling objects from the Pacific and found sea-side objects from Kettle’s Yard. From this, the young people made their own ceramic ‘pebble’ which they were invited to decorate with patterns from the objects and images they had been looking at. Pebbles featured spirals from Kettle’s Yard, patterns inspired by Maori tattoos and marks like the dolphin’s teeth and shells used in jewellery and textiles.  Using their understanding of pattern, the group then created their own plate decorated how they wished, before making their own printed t-shirt.

All the work undertaken by the young people will contribute towards their own Arts Award certificate at either Discover or Explore level.

“I love having time to make drawings and really look at the animals in the museum.”

“It’s so great to meet up with my friends and make new ones during the holidays. Otherwise I would just be at home.”

“I’ve never been to an artist’s studio before. I thought I would be rubbish on the potter’s wheel, but I did much better than I thought!”

“I can’t believe I know so much about the Pacific now. This morning I thought it was just about palm trees and coconuts, but now I’ve held clubs, discovered how some people store food and found out about tattoos. Who knew I knew so much!