Bringing our museums to life online: how the History Trust adapted and improved education programs in 2020

Necessity is the mother of invention they say, and this year has seen many new systems, processes and ways of communicating emerge thanks to COVID-19. School education programming is an essential piece of the History Trust of South Australia puzzle and in 2020 the History Trust team adapted to find new ways to share our rich South Australian collections to reach students and teachers, overcoming challenges and finding many positives along the way. 

Poetry Takeover

In May we launched the inaugural Poetry Takeover challenge, a key education program delivered through the History Trust’s South Australia’s History Festival. This month-long poetry competition asked students to write a poem inspired by an object found in a museum. When the festival was sadly cancelled earlier in the year, the Poetry Takeover still forged ahead, asking students instead to explore online collections. Students all over South Australia—from metropolitan to regional area schools across the state—submitted poems inspired by objects found at museums like the Parndana Museum on Kangaroo Island, to the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, as well as from our very own History Trust collections at the National Motor Museum, the South Australian Maritime Museum, the Centre of Democracy and the Migration Museum. We were thrilled to see so many students exploring and thinking creatively about the fascinating, moving and sometimes seemingly mundane museum objects from around the world.

Teachers’ professional development webinars

Later in 2020 the History Trust’s education team together with our curators delivered a range of online professional development opportunities for teachers. Each webinar explored different aspects and eras of history and incorporated virtual visits to different cultural institutions around the state. We received wonderful feedback from teachers who loved having the flexibility to attend virtually, having access to subject experts and the ability to ask them questions, and enjoyed the informative discussions. As one teacher in a rural location noted, ‘being given the opportunity to be involved with like-minded others in hearing from high quality presenters, online is excellent’.

Virtual visits and digital resources

Delivering our much-loved museum programs for school groups faced many hurdles this year, both during closure of our museums and even when we reopened with COVIDSafe restrictions.  Our education team swiftly created an online model of delivery. As a pilot program, a virtual visit was developed at the Migration Museum and presented to history students at St Michael’s College. Students were able to interact with Museum Officers and view some interesting objects close-up. You can watch a student-made video of their experience here. Virtual visits are a cost-effective, safe and accessible way for teachers and students all over the state to access our objects and interact with museum experts. The team also created a raft of new digital resources to support classroom learning, including a series of videos and teacher resource booklets about Governance in the Early South Australian Colony, and Social Movements in SA. The videos have been viewed 336 times so far, and the booklets downloaded 399 times. The Digital Wall from the Centre of Democracy was transformed into the Picturing Democracy website, allowing students to explore the people, groups, and social and political movements that have made Australia what it is today from home or the classroom.

As we move into 2021, the History Trust is committed to improving access to history and museums for all South Australian students and teachers, but especially those in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas of our state. During 2020 we have learnt the value of providing enriching digital experiences and learning programs for students and teachers. Now, on the cusp of 2021, there is no going back. We can’t wait to bring more of our wonderful history to life for everyone in 2021, so sign up to our mailing list and stay tuned.


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