Pivoting into practice: UP Museums move to Mapungubwe online school engagement

Posted on April 22, 2021

The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums have welcomed a diversity of audiences back into the physical museum spaces, since reopening their doors in February 2021. While all visitor groups remain limited to ten persons at any given time for compliance, the museums continue to be aware of their social responsibility in reaching out to the community.

Kicking off bespoke Mapungubwe package tours this year has been very successful, as the museums continue to widely share the world-famous collection. To accommodate the increasing demand and request for wider access to this iconic collection, accommodating school groups of Grade 6 learners as part of the Department of Education’s school curriculum is crucial.

Some South African schools have moved to blended learning models during the pandemic since physical school visits to museums are suspended during the lockdown. Pivoting the UP Museum physical tours to online visits to its collections forms a core part of its proposed digital strategy. This move has been successful and well-received among many schools, both public and private, including home schools.

According to Nicole Hoffmann from the UP Museums, “offering such alternatives such as an online tour or digital talk on Mapungubwe is specifically designed for learners as an extension of the Grade 6 curriculum. The interactive online introduction comprises of an hour-long presentation with an interactive question-and-answer session”. 

Learners have taken to interactive critical questioning of the topic and its relation to what they are taught in social sciences, providing practical and in-depth questions about Mapungubwe and the collection at the University of Pretoria beyond the textbook.

Since opening, the UP Museums have engaged online with 11 different classes and over 304 learners, including teachers from schools such as St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls (DSG), Lonehill Preparatory School and Garsfontein Laerskool as examples. Both social science teachers and the learners have provided exceedingly positive feedback on their Mapungubwe learning experience. 

Bringing the Mapungubwe collection from the UP Museums to schools has contributed to new online involvement, leaving memorable experiences that may not have been previously possible. The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the school sector has allowed museums to innovate their educational offerings and expand both the physical effects and online influence that museums can have on society.

Pivoting the UP Museums to virtual engagement links the institution’s collections online, primarily with specialist knowledge from the Interpretative Officer and Tourist Guide. School learners enjoy hanging out, as many of them are children born from the digital generation. 

The increasing focus on the community, accessibility and widening diverse generational audiences and meeting visitors where they are, brings the Mapungubwe Collection directly to them. The museums aim to demonstrate and highlight how museums can operate and creatively adapt in uncertain times and continue to experiment and explore new avenues for civic engagement.

For further information visit the UP Museums webpage or get in contact at [email protected]

- Author Sian Tiley-Nel & Nicole Hoffmann

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