THE idea of creating our own museum at Hanson Academy came on a train journey back from London.

We had taken a group of students to the V&A Museum in South Kensington as part of a schools/museums collaboration and had been fascinated at how interested the students had been looking at products from the last century, and the conversations that were taking place between them.

Just a few weeks later our new headteacher, Sam Sheedy, asked the staff for ideas about how we could make Hanson Academy better.

It would be true to say that Hanson had not been a good school for a long time but the takeover by Delta Academy Trust showed signs of improvements, particularly as far as behaviour was concerned. The school environment was improving, with inspirational displays installed on corridors and open spaces, so it seemed the time was right to suggest turning a neglected open space into a museum. Sam was enthusiastic but was quick to point out that he didn’t have a budget for such a venture. This simply meant another challenge.

We already had a handful of glass display cases which had been donated by Currys when they refitted the store, and we also had a large collection of products which had been built up over the years, so a start was made. Coincidentally, the National Science and Media Museum was temporarily closing, for a refurbishment, and we managed to secure a lovely display case from them which we filled with cameras.

A few low-cost purchases from online marketplaces, together with some repurposing of computer workstations, and the students came back in September 2023 with a functioning museum in place. The central display wasn’t interfered with and the collection of mobile phones continues to be one of our most popular displays.

We change some displays regularly so there’s always something new to see. Polly Slater, Head of Year 13, is taking a Masters degree in Museum Curatorship and suggested the pergola as a way to celebrate religious and cultural events throughout the year. A pergola was built from benching that was being removed from changing-rooms We started with the feast of St Francis of Assis, covered Diwali, Christmas, world peace and recently completed a display on Lunar New Year.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Religious and cultural events are celebrated throughout the yearReligious and cultural events are celebrated throughout the year (Image: Hanson Academy)

Most products on display are everyday items from the last century. One wall of cabinets charts the development of playing music from turntable record players and valve radios at the start of the 1960s through to the compact disc. Changes in technology are highlighted, as well as manufacturing processes, from hand-made wooden cabinets manufactured locally to injection-moulded polymers manufactured in their millions in the Far East.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Diwali display in the museum's pergolaThe Diwali display in the museum's pergola (Image: Hanson Academy)

This contrasts with handmade products from Africa (albeit for the tourist trade) where we celebrate what people do with limited tools and manufacturing plant. Included in this display are products manufactured from recycled materials such as drinks containers. A group of Year 9 girls offered to improve the hairstyle of the child mannequin and added extensions. They were thrilled that black culture was being celebrated and they advised on skin tone when the mannequins were painted. That sort of involvement is exactly why this museum is important in this very multicultural school.

By far the most popular display with students is the telephones. Most have never seen a dial phone or a phone directory. There are many cameras on display - many students find it puzzling that people walked around with different products for listening to music and taking photos, let alone making a telephone call.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The museum explores cultural and domestic life The museum explores cultural and domestic life (Image: Hanson Academy)

There’s a display case of products from the 1940s, including tin packaging for products we still see today as well as board games from the days before television. This collection was donated by someone cleaning the home of an elderly lady. Our latest display on vacuum cleaners fills a case donated by Cartwright Hall and covers major developments up to the Dyson DC01 bagless cleaner. Many products have come from car-boot sales and donations from staff or parents. Collections of irons, kettles, lamps and hairdryers are displayed in classrooms and used to support the design and technology curriculum.

Hanson has a number of visually impaired students, and a request was made for us to consider how we could engage these students with the displays. When it was time to replace the central 1960s display with a celebration of African crafts it was decided to place many the products in a manner that they could be handled, and once again this has not been abused by our students and reflects where the academy has developed to in such a short time since joining the Delta Trust.

Having reached this point in just eight months raises the question of how we keep up this momentum.

One of the purposes of most museums is the research side and that will probably be our next big challenge. We want to start by capturing the stories of local people, particularly from the BD2 area the academy is situated in. So engaging the local community is one area for development and we are seeking help from anyone who would like to get involved. Old photos of the area which we could scan or photocopy would be especially welcome.

Bradford’s City of Culture celebrations in 2025 offer the museum an opportunity to reflect the diverse range of cultures within our cohort as well as the city as a whole. A recent donation of a large cabinet from Cartwright Hall means that we’re now able to securely display treasured items such as an Asian wedding dress or a traditional national costume as part of telling stories about how people settled in this vibrant city.

Taking students out to a museum continues to offer challenges; disrupting other lessons, organising risk assessments and transport and also considering that Bradford museums are closed on Mondays. So, having our own museum could have a major impact on our students’ learning over time.

We would also like to engage with our local schools and share this resource with them.

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