8 – 15 December, Kim Biddulph

This week, we have Kim Biddulph, director of Schools Prehistory. She will be talking about prehistory in relation to contemporary research, schools and teaching whilst bringing in other voices from the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Charles Darwin Trust. It’s sure to be a fascinating and inspiring week! I’m (Emma) really looking forward to it! 

Hi, my name is Kim Biddulph and I’m curating @WeTheHumanities this week in my capacity as director of Schools Prehistory (@schprehistory though I also tweet at @kimbiddulph). I set this business up to support schools and museums to get to grips with changes in the primary school history curriculum in England, particularly studying prehistory. The prehistory of Britain and north-west Europe was my main focus of study at under- and post-graduate level, and since university I have been pursuing a career in museum education, so the new curriculum was like a special gift just for me.

I have found, with surprise, that the term prehistory itself is not widely understood so I will spend Monday defining that term and exploring the history of research into the pre-literate communities of Europe and the British Isles through archaeology, studying the objects that people left behind. I like to tease my historian friends by saying history is just a subsidiary part of archaeology, as written texts are objects too. They usually object! I’d like to discuss what you think about the relationship between the two approaches to studying the human past.

On Tuesday I’ll move on to exploring how academics, museums and commercial organisations interact with teachers and students to support them to develop new topics. The change to the primary history curriculum in England was contentious and many teachers felt like this change was thrust upon them without much preparation. Is it ethical that my company seeks to make money to help teachers with this topic? I’ll talk about my struggle to sell services commercially when I’m used to working for government organisations or national museums and providing advice to teachers for free, and how I have come to terms with it.

On Wednesday I’ll start showcasing some of the work my team and I have done for various organisations and schools, for instance writing for the Teaching History in 100 Objects website from the British Museum, and where we’d like to develop. I’d like to hear about other great initiatives that aim to popularise your particular subject in the humanities and maybe we can bounce ideas off each other on how best to go about it.

By Thursday I’d like to move on to sharing the topics and themes that interest me in prehistory and what it is that schools would like to know about. I’ll be meeting with old colleagues from the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to talk about developing a couple of new workshops for them, so I’ll tweet some of our ideas. I also have a particular interest in the lives of children in prehistory and people’s appearance – but is there enough academic research out there for me to develop some resources for teachers to use? Who directs the course of academic research? Which topics go in and out of fashion? Can a change in school curricula open up new avenues for research?

On Friday I am meeting up with some old colleagues at the Charles Darwin Trust, who I first got involved with when I developed an education programme at Darwin’s home, Down House in Kent, for English Heritage. I’ll use the opportunity to talk about the links between the humanities and science, especially in the area of evolutionary biology and human evolution, but also in literary scientific writing, which I think Darwin was a master of.

At the weekend I am away visiting family so may not be quite so busy on the account. Who else is freelance or maybe doing loads of unpaid work in their free time? How do you manage your work/life balance? How do you manage to be a working parent? I’d like to hear from any men who find children impact your work or career, only because it seems such a rare thing but I am willing to be proved wrong! I’ll also take the time to promote the work of other people working in my field and the long tradition of women working in archaeology through the Trowelblazers project, which I am a contributor to.

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