On 22nd November 2014, 38 teachers from around the UK came to Oxford for a one-day course on how to use ancient artefacts in their teaching. The day was organised by the Ashmolean Latin Inscription Project (AshLI), and delivered by academics from Warwick and Oxford Universities. An important aim of AshLI is to demystify inscriptions, and show how well they complement the secondary syllabus for Classical Civilization and Latin. The day’s sessions in ancient art, inscriptions and coins were designed to give practical support to teachers in object-based teaching and preparing museum visits, even if they had never used this kind of primary evidence before.
Following an opening lecture from Warwick’s Dan Orrells, the teachers took part in three 45-minute teaching sessions in the Ashmolean. Dr Zahra Newby led a session on ancient art, focusing on the Cast Gallery, Rome Gallery and newly refurbished Greece Gallery. The teachers were among the first to see the new displays since they opened at the end of October.
Professor Alison Cooley and Dr Jane Masséglia led a crash-course on how to read inscriptions and how they might be presented to students, using material from the Rome and Randolph Galleries. Alison took charge of the monumental inscriptions in the museum’s Arundel collection, showing how epitaphs give information about Roman families, professions and social aspirations, while Janie focussed on everyday objects, like the sling bullets from the Roman Civil War inscribed with messages for the enemy.
Dr Clare Rowan and Dr Chris Howgego gave the teachers a chance to get even closer to their material with a coin-handling session in the Heberden Coin Room. For many, the chance to hold a real tetradrachm was one of the highlights of the day.
Mai Musié, Oxford’s Classics Outreach Officer, and Jo Rice, Head of Ashmolean Education, were also on hand to remind teachers of the variety of talks, teaching sessions and even language-teaching support available to school groups.
Following the success of the day, AshLI is now planning a similar event for Primary teachers. As for ‘demystifying’ ancient objects, the team was delighted by one teacher’s comments: ‘I run a course called ‘An Introduction to the Classical World’… I will now definitely add sessions on Inscriptions and Coins; I have previously been wary of both.’
The JACT INSET “Teaching with Ancient Artefacts”, on 22nd November 2014 was free to all participants, and travel bursaries were offered to teachers from the State sector, thanks to the generosity of Oxford Classics Outreach and Warwick’s Institute for Advanced Study. The AshLI team would also like to thank the 8 postgraduate volunteers from both universities who accompanied each group between the sessions and kept the event running smoothly.