BARTON UPON HUMBER
A Town With A Past --- And A Future
 
Page 11

 

 

Letter From America

Forging links between Queen Street, Germany and the Netherlands.

 

Professor Fletcher Du Bois, a long-standing friend of Queen Street School and a leading education specialist of the National-Louis University, Chicago and Heidelberg, has for many years appreciated the importance of Wilderspin and the significance of Barton’s Queen Street School. Professor Du Bois visited the School last year, furthering his research on the great educational pioneer, before travelling to the National School Museum in the Netherlands and the Froebel Museum in Germany.

“ Since I have received several enquiries regarding my recent travels to make connections for the Queen Street School project with other, already established, school museums, I want to give a brief account of what I saw, how it went and what we can hope for”, reports Professor Du Bois. “ Not to keep you all in suspense, I will say outright that the interim director of the National School Museum in the Netherlands (in Rotterdam) was very positive in his reaction to what we intend to do. He said – this is more or less a direct quote – “if we had a building like that in Holland we would be very, very happy”. In other words we can look to creating a good relationship with that museum in some form or other.

The people I spoke to in the Froebel Bad Blankenburg Museum (in Germany) were likewise enthused about what I shared about us, just as I was about what I heard from them. I think we can expect a good supportive reciprocal relationship with them.
So the results of both visits were very positive.

Now for a few details: The National Museum of Education is quite big – it is the largest school museum I have ever visited. It has a number of reconstructed classrooms; it has special exhibits and a great deal of archive material. The interim director, Mr. Van Huiten was very welcoming and very knowledgeable. He has some great ideas for things he wants to do in the museum. One idea that particularly caught my attention was to create rooms where visitors can write or share their own school experiences – not just the positive ones but also what they hated about school. I believe accepting that people also can have very unhappy memories of their own schooling and dealing with that somehow will make more people interested in attending a school museum since it shows that it is connecting with real lived lives. Going through the different reconstructed classrooms from the middle ages on up was a wonderful way of experiencing the history of education. I recommend this museum to any of you who happen to be in Rotterdam. The link for this museum is www.schoolmuseum.nl/start.htm.

The Bad Blankenburg museum is much more like what we are trying to create. First of all it is housed in the building where Froebel started his first kindergarten on 28th June 1840. It has a small staff. It is dependent upon teachers not only bringing their classes to visit but also on them coming for professional development activities. Their setting is in a small town which is “on the map” due to its connection with Froebel (and for being a place famous for producing lavender). Though the head of the museum was on vacation when I visited, I did talk with two other women who are very engaged in the museum. One has been there from the start and the other for six years. They are experienced in the field of early childhood education and in other areas like philosophy. We had a fine time sharing stories and thinking about what makes a good museum and how one can serve the community as a whole making what one offers a real boon to all. I spoke with the director Frau Rock at length sometime ago and will keep in contact with her and the others there. I can envision some fine sharing between us and them. We can learn much from how they have sought to continue even in trying times. The displays are attractive and not overwhelming. There are places for people to sit as a group and discuss what they have seen. I watched a group of adults doing just that and was impressed. There is also a room for children to experience Froebel’s approach to early childhood education. The link to an English version of their web site is www.heidecksburg.de/froebelmuseum_eng.htm

All in all I am very glad to have started this dialogue (a trialogue actually, when we connect the Barton-Rotterdam-Bad Blankenburg notes we get a picture of exciting trans-national school museum action).”

Many thanks, Fletcher Du Bois, for making such valuable continental connections with our cousins. We look forward to building on these foundations!


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