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Think you saw the Mary Rose at school? Think again!

A lot has changed in the Mary Rose Museum since you came on that school trip 25 years ago…

When Learning Officer Clare saw this post on Twitter, it made her think how much has changed in the Mary Rose Learning Department since the days of the misty old ship hall and museum.

The old museum was separated from the Mary Rose herself, and schools had to trudge up the dockyard to see the hazy outline of the ship’s hull through mist-covered windows. Our old classroom was tiny and only housed half a class at a time.

The old museum classroom

The old museum classroom (leaky roof not pictured!)

A longstanding feature was a large dustbin, artfully disguised with hessian material, to catch the rain from the leaky roof! One of the most common pupil questions was “what’s behind there?”

The gun bay held our full-size replica Tudor cannon which allowed pupils to work together to load and fire a Tudor gun. By popular demand the gun came with us to the current museum, pupils now have an amazing view of the ship while they test their teamworking skills.

Tudor gun drills in  the 1990s

Tudor gun drills in the 1990s

Our classroom facilities also had a massive upgrade when the current museum opened in 2013.  The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Learning Centre has a purpose-built classroom and science laboratory, toilets, bag storage and an office for the Learning Team.

Modern gun drills at the Mary Rose Museum

The heart of our programme has remained the same; we want to give pupils unique experiences and a real insight into both history and science relating to the Mary Rose. Artefact handling has always been essential – both real and replica objects help pupils understand Tudor life through sight, touch and even smell! Our real rope has a fantastic smell of tar even after 437 years underwater.

New research refreshes our workshops and tours. Some of the skeletons from the Mary Rose were analysed, and the results presented in the Channel 4 documentary “Skeletons of the Mary Rose: The New Evidence”. The isotope and DNA analysis proved the crew of the Mary Rose were much more diverse than many people would have believed. The story of the young people working on the Mary Rose, and those coming into Tudor England from elsewhere, really resonates with today’s teenagers. There is always a moment of stunned silence when they realise that could have been them on the Mary Rose, 500 years ago.

We have made great strides in making the current museum and programme more inclusive for all our visitors, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

The faces may change but there has always been a committed team of staff and volunteers ready to help pupils explore objects, foster their curiosity, and show them what museums have to offer. The number of school visitors who bring their families and friends in the holidays suggests it works!

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Experience inspiring educational visits to the Mary Rose

Our award-winning Learning Department provide expert-led sessions designed to enrich teaching and learning in both history and STEM subjects.

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