‘Back to Skool’ by Stephen Irwin

Victorian Childhood Loan Box, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

2 September 2020

By Stephen Irwin, Education Officer, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery


As the new school and college terms loom large I want to take this opportunity to look at the service that we offer to schools, college, other groups and individuals, both locally and further afield.

Blackburn Free Library & Art Gallery, now Blackburn Museum, opened in 1874. From the very beginning, it may have been unspoken but a large part of its remit was education. It was informal and self-directed but vital in a world where the majority of people left school at the age of ten, or younger. Those oft mocked Victorian values of hard work and ‘bettering yourself’ were built into the building. More than that, the building, with its collections of fine art, was also able to feed the soul as well as the mind. It embodied aims similar to those of Lord Reith who, when he was appointed to run the BBC in 1922, said his remit was to “educate, inform and entertain”.

So, how do our two heritage sites – Blackburn Museum and Turton Tower – meet those needs today?

The Museum and Turton Tower are living institutions and education, in all of its forms, is a large part of their work today.

Our ‘bread and butter’ work is with school groups, mainly from Primary schools. Most of our visits are from local schools and schools from Lancashire; however, we regularly work with schools from as far afield as Lancaster, Blackpool and Manchester.

In addition to working with schools, we also work with College and University groups who come into the museum and use the collections as a resource for teaching and as inspiration for their work.

Victorian Domestic Items Loan Box, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

We offer taught sessions to schools visiting our two venues and we operate a loans service to schools and community groups. For some schools or for community groups, sometimes an outreach session is more appropriate.

We continue to work with groups of people from a range of backgrounds and with a variety of needs.

As the shadow of COVID-19 has passed over all of us, the education services at Blackburn and Turton Tower have been adapting, working to find new ways to engage with people and to continue the work that we were established to undertake 146 years ago.

If you would like to find out more about the services we offer, please email us: 

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