1. Planning

An exhibition in a museum or gallery is simply a themed display of objects, paintings, photographs, letters and other artefacts from their collection, presented for visitors to enjoy. They are also the way that museums and galleries help people tap into the unique knowledge and information they have about a topic or person. Labels, films, interactive activities and exhibition staff help bring the information and stories to life.

A school exhibition is a great way to focus and share students’ learning. It can include objects, images, music, film, students’ writing, artwork, models. Your exhibition can be large or small. It can be the result of a week’s work or the culmination and celebration of an entire topic. Work through the questions below to create your exhibition plan.

Browse the Inspiration gallery for ideas before you start planning. It’s full of photos of things you could do and will give you loads of ideas for your own exhibition.

Choose a focus for your exhibition to support your classroom topic and curriculum planning. Consider which of your topics would work well as a local history exhibition. The Making a Mark Image gallery explores the history of the Tees Valley through six themes. Each theme is packed with locally focused photographs, objects, paintings and documents, from museums and galleries across the Tees Valley and from the National Portrait Gallery in London, alongside fascinating and useful information. Browse the gallery and choose a focus for your exhibition. Try using a painting, portrait or person as an initial stimulus for classroom work.

Plan as much of your topic work as you can with your exhibition in mind. What History, English, Art, Design, Technology, Music or other curriculum areas could you cover? How does your chosen theme link to the students’ lives and where they live? Your exhibition might include opportunities for writing labels, letters and invitations, creating maps, models, soundscapes and animations, creating historical characters or becoming exhibition guides. There are plenty of tried-and-tested ideas and tips for curriculum-linked activities in the Creating the displays and Bringing your exhibition to life sections of this resource.

Using iPads or other tablets to build digital activities into your classroom work is a great way to motivate students and create engaging materials for your exhibition displays, adding interest and enjoyment for visitors. Integrating digital activities into your work needn’t be daunting. Support from Inspire2Learn is available for Tees Valley schools. The in-house team are specialists in using technology across the curriculum and have lots of classroom experience with mobile devices. They can offer staff training and even work side-by-side with teachers in the classroom.

Museums in the Tees Valley have a range of loans boxes available containing objects, clothes and other primary sources to support classroom learning and to include in your exhibition. Loans boxes are very popular and early booking is advisable, find out more here. Family and friends might also be willing to loan items and you can print out high quality portraits and other images from the Image gallery and from the National Portrait Gallery’s online collection of over 2000 portraits.

Use the Images, Teachers notes, ‘Did you know..? facts, Timeline and Links in the Making a Mark in the Tees Valley resource to find out more about your chosen theme and how it links to the local area and to children’s lives. The Researching your theme section of this resource is packed with activities to help students find out more about your chosen theme in the classroom, and information on visiting your local museum. Museum visits are popular and early booking is advisable.

In your classroom, the school hall, library, reception? When will your exhibition be? What days and times will allow working family members to come along too? What equipment will you need? Pop-up exhibition banners and display boards are available for loan from most local museums. Find out more here.

Invite the rest of the school - peer learning is powerful! Think about inviting families, and don’t forget your governors. Local councillors, elderly residents and education officers from your local museum might also like an invite. The Publicising and launching your exhibition section of this resource is full of activities and templates to help launch your exhibition and celebrate all that hard work with family and friends.

Tick these off in plenty of time:

  • Choose your theme and which half term you’ll create your exhibition
  • Set a date for the exhibition itself
  • Book the space (the school hall, library, reception)
  • Book any equipment
  • Book a research visit to your local museum
  • Book a loans box from your local museum
  • Book digital support from Inspire2Learn if needed

Inspiration gallery

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The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell Exhibition web banner

© Redcar and Cleveland Council Cultural Service, Kirkleatham Museum

Safe and Sound Exhibition poster

© Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum

Black Chronicles Exhibition poster

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Learning the ropes Exhibition poster

© Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Walkabout Exhibition invitation

© Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Voices of the Bombardment, exhibition poster

© Hartlepool Borough Council

Saxon Princess Exhibition leaflet

© Redcar and Cleveland Council Cultural Service, Kirkleatham Museum