Autumn 2021

Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

Children & Young People

What Can Heritage Offer Them?

The other day, I was trawling through the “What’s On” listings I receive, every month, from the National Archives. I was intrigued, and delighted, to find that they have launched an online story-telling session, each month, for the under-3’s. I did a double take, and read it again but, yes it really did say what I thought it said: the National Archives are delivering a story-telling session for toddlers. The particular event I was looking at was described as interactive, and all about transport – the sounds, images, and stories associated with transport through the ages.

With very young children – whatever the topic – the key is to appeal to their imaginations, make it fun, and allow some play or activities as part of the story-telling. Children can engage in creative ways with heritage topics. Other good subjects for this age group include: maps, natural history, people and places, fashion through the ages, and pretty much anything that has a strong visual or sensory element.

Whilst many people are not aware of this, the ARA Card (allowing customers to access archives’ services nationwide) is not just for adults. The lower age limit for someone to be issued with an ARA Card (commonly called a “reader’s ticket”) is 14 years. This begs the question, what can we offer teenagers (and those who are even younger)?

Teenagers and other young people, most often come into contact with us through school visits, or group visits such as those arranged by Cubs or Scouts. By the time a teenager reaches 16 years old, they get in touch with us to ask if they can come for a week’s work experience. And by the time they are in their school’s Sixth Form, they often want to volunteer once a week as part of their wider learning, perhaps as something to include in their university admissions (UCAS) personal statement, or as part of a scheme such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

We have lots of experience of working with children, including teenagers, and especially those aged 9 – 11 years, from primary school. The sort of activities we have delivered for them, include: behind-the-scenes tours, basic conservation awareness, palaeography and writing with quills, Gloucester Olympicks (indoor games), story-telling, workshops on a range of themes (often, but not always, linked to the curriculum) and an annual take-over day,


Passport to the Past” is our online, interactive, themed sessions for those aged 6 – 13 years. This is a free after-school club (first Wednesday of the month, 4pm-5pm - pre-booking is essential). For more information visit  Gloucestershire Archives Events

There is a lot more that we’d like to do. For example, we would very much like to set up a Youth Panel, for teenagers, and ask them to get involved in giving us feedback and practical suggestions as to how we run our service. I would very much like to introduce an annual story writing competition, based on heritage or items in our collection.

Other, similar competitions for children could be around drawing a picture, or writing a letter about life as a child, in Gloucester, in the early 21st Century, and getting it added to our collections. We could even start a mini-gardeners’ activity club, especially for children without gardens – growing sunflowers, sweet peas or tomatoes and herbs, in our large community garden.


Children are often more adept than adults at using technology. We have our own film equipment, including movie cameras and tripods. A small number of children could make, edit and produce their own short film about the Heritage Hub.

The list of possibilities is endless, and there really is something for children of all ages.

One of the most exciting things that children like to do, when they visit us, is to be shown round a strong-room. I suppose it’s because it’s a little bit spooky, it’s a locked space where people do not usually go, the items on the shelves look quite large and formidable to a child, and because they will never have seen anything quite like it before! When we show children inside the strong-rooms, they are full of questions – how much space do we have? What’s the oldest document? Why is it so cold in here? How many items do we have, in total? How far ahead do we plan (for items that come into our repository)? Even a brief visit to a strong-room can offer infinite educational possibilities.

I still find it really interesting that the National Archives is now offering an online story-telling session for toddlers…maybe this is something we could try? Why not? After all, if it’s good enough for the National Archives…


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