Running Royal Navy museum is child’s play for bright pupils

TAKING AIM Stamshaw Junior pupils, from left, Josh Mills and Mitchell Powell.    Picture: Steve Reid: (112492-8660)
TAKING AIM Stamshaw Junior pupils, from left, Josh Mills and Mitchell Powell. Picture: Steve Reid: (112492-8660)

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IT’S a job usually carried out by grown-ups with years of experience on their side.

But yesterday more than 50 pupils from Stamshaw Junior School took over the running of the National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, in Portsmouth’s historic dockyard.

Guided tours of Nelson’s flagship, showcases of the dockyard’s hidden treasures, sailor hat-making sessions and the museum shop were all in safe hands thanks to the enterprising 10 and 11-year-olds.

Courtney Hinks, 11, who was showing visitors the fearsome weapons on board Victory’s middle gun deck, said: ‘We decided to focus on the weapons like the cannons, the axes and the whips used on sailors who were misbehaving, and that entertained the visitors.

‘I’ve learned so much from this experience because we had to train a lot and produce leaflets with facts about the ship.

‘It’s been such an honour and I feel very special.’

Aislinn Whitehead, 11, spent the day conducting behind-the-scenes tours of the museum’s stores of rarely-seen treasures.

She said: ‘I chose some of the artefacts I liked best to show which included the bell of HMS Ark Royal. But the most popular item was the punishment book for sailors who got into trouble.

‘I was nervous before today but when I started the tours I relaxed as it was so much fun.’

The unique event coincided with the 100th anniversary of the museum as well as the official launch of its shop, which has moved to a new location in the dockyard.

Learning officer Claire Jordan, who organised the day, said: ‘Sometimes people think museums are not places for children, but these children have taken ownership of ours and made decisions every step of the way about how they want to run it.’

The youngsters handed back control of the museum at the end of the day, but walked away with an immense sense of pride and achievement.

Chloe Barge, 11, stepped into the shoes of the museum’s director, uploaded blogs onto the museum’s website and kept a running commentary on Twitter.

She said: ‘It’s not every day that children get the chance to run a great museum like this one.

‘I’m incredibly proud of all of us.’