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Teaching with museums and archives

Tips and tools for helping your pupils examine documents, objects and paintings.


  1. Describing the object 
     • What are the colours of the object?
     • Is it made in one piece or several pieces?
     • Is it complete or broken?
     • Is it decorated? If so, how?
  2. What is the object made of?
    wood  paper  clay    metal
    cloth  glass  bone  plastic
  3. What do you think this object was used for?
  4. Who might have used it?
    adult  child  rich   poor
  5. Is it like anything that we use today?

Written documents

Here are some questions to think about when you are looking at written documents.

  1. What type of document is it? (letter, diary, report, newspaper)
  2. Who wrote it?
  3. Do you know anything about the writer?
  4. When was it written?
  5. What does it say?
  6. Why was it written?
  7. Does it give us any clues about the past?


Ask pupils to think about the messages given by the:

  1. sitter’s clothes
  2. pose
  3. expression
  4. background
  5. accessories/props (things the sitter has with them)
  6. composition (if the portrait shows more than one sitter).
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  Created by the Museum of London, in partnership with The National Archives, London Fire Brigade Museum, National Portrait Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives.