Bowl-ed over by BBC’s History of the World!

This guest post is written by Sarah Cowie, Museums Education Officer for East Lothian Museums

I’ve jumped blogs this week to be a ‘guest blogger’ – not a very attractive title, I know. In reality, I usually go by the title of Education Officer for East Lothian Council Museums Service.

Recently, we were lucky enough to have one of our objects chosen to be part of the initial collection on the BBC’s History of World site. Our Bronze Age Beaker is amongst the earliest version of its kind in Britain still intact. You’ll probably have heard about the BBC’s project in one way or another, it’s basically about creating an online database of objects which represent…‘The History of the World’ (cue dramatic music).

Objects are now being uploaded from museums and individuals. Even Neil Oliver is getting involved by choosing his personal object (I know, it’s like he’s never off the TV). So I tried uploading another object to see how it would work.

I registered as a user on the website which was really simple. (Hint – make your username your museum name!) I instantly received an email which meant I could register an object. I chose a Mak’Merry bowl because I knew a bit about it already and thought it had an interesting story. I was asked for some details which I already had on our collections database – size, colour, material, age of object and so on. The BBC have made it really simple – lots of tick boxes and drop-down lists. I also had to write 150 words on the ‘story of the object’. You might find some of it a bit too simple for museum standards, for example when choosing what size it is you might be debating between “Tiny – it fits in my hand” or “Medium – I can put my arms around it”. (I suppose it depends on the size of your body parts). From my education point of view, it’s a perfect way of getting the general public thinking about how to categorise their personal objects as part of history.

What are the benefits for you of putting an object up online? We use a lot of different sites to promote our collections – Scran, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Blog, plus our own website. If you don’t or can’t use any of these, the BBC is a really easy way of sharing your collections instantly, without worrying about the issues of copyright and managing such a site. As an experiment I did a Google search for ‘Mak’Merry bowl’, the BBC page came up third, after Flickr and our own online exhibition about pottery. Scran came up 5th. I imagine most people around the world would recognise and trust the BBC brand meaning they are instantly more likely to look at this search result. As an added bonus, you can also put links to your own website beside your object so that interested parties can link directly back to you. So go on, you’ll be bowl-ed over by how easy it is!!

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