Keeping Creative at Home: How to transform your home into a museum

Arts researcher and practitioner Sarah B Davies outlines ideas for creating and displaying historically interesting artefacts all about you

31 March 2020

Whether you're a teacher, a parent, or both, we hope our Keeping Creative at Home blog series will help you and your children through this tricky period of adjustment.

We're aware there's currently a lot of pressure on parents in particular around home education. So, first and foremost, all of the activities in this series are designed to be fun, creative experiences for your children (and hopefully for you too!) but there is also potential for learning in all of them.

Most activities will be suitable for children of any age and can be scaled up or down accordingly. The activities can build day by day, or can be done as creative activities on their own. Many will also suit, or can be adapted to, children with special educational needs.

Museums have artefacts of different types – writing, drawings, photographs and everyday objects – and they are places where you can learn new facts about people or things. We might not be able to get to museums right now, but why not create your own one at home - all about you!

1. Design your museum building

Some museum buildings are new and modern with interesting shapes and curves on the outside, others might simply look like normal buildings like houses and homes.

Start by drawing your own home and imagine how you can transform it into a wild and interesting building. Perhaps it grows much taller or goes deeper underground? Why not try making an architectural model out of boxes and other objects lying around at home?

You can find examples of museum buildings here.

A 'Museum of Lockdown' by @bubbygrubby

2. Create artefacts for your museum

Your museum will need artefacts, or objects of historical interest. Create your own using any materials you can find such as pens and paints on paper, modelling clay, old magazines for collaging, or rubbish destined for the recycling bin for models.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Myself - make an alternative portrait of yourself that describes you, where you live and your likes and dislikes, without actually creating an image that looks like you!
  • My family – make or draw shapes that represent each member of your family and imagine them in different places and situations – for example, doing an activity you all enjoy or eating your favourite meal
  • Today’s word - think of a word that describes how life is today and then think about more adventurous words that might mean the same thing, e.g. ‘busy’ could be changed to ‘eventful’, ‘full-on’, or ‘diligent’. Make or draw something that expresses that word, but don’t tell others what it is. Experiment with assigning colours to words. This could be something you create daily to build an exhibition
  • I wish – think about different creative ways that you can tell the world what you wish for; for yourself or for other people

Want to go further? Try one of these:

Cave of hands

Changing Backgrounds

3. Make a family magazine

Many museums display written artefacts such as letters, newspapers and diary entries. They might contain facts about people, places, routines and feelings.

Ask each family member to make their own page to create a magazine artefact about your lives at the moment. The pages can be stapled together once complete.

Here are some ideas for articles:

  • Interviews with family member about humorous things that make your family special
  • A poem or a one-minute play about something that happened to you that day
  • A diary or journal (you could even write a diary for an object or pet!)

Use lots of imaginative and adventurous words to set the scene for your readers.

Want to go further? Try one of these:

Comedy Club 4 Kids worksheets

Digital magazine builder

Twinkl Diary writing checklist

If you don’t have a Twinkl account, parents can use this code for access: CVDTWINKLHELPS

4. Create photographic artefacts

Take some photographs of your home for your museum. First, research photos you have already, and think about what makes them interesting. Is it how they’re composed? What’s happening in them? How they make you feel?

Next, make a viewfinder using two L shaped pieces of paper to make a square to look through. You can make it larger or smaller by sliding the L-shapes closer together or further apart. Use this to explore your home. Find 10 tiny things in your house you have never noticed before; viewing them close up and far away.

Use your viewfinder to imagine how you might arrange a picture of an object. If you can, take a photo and print it, or you could draw what you see instead!

What to go further? Try one of these:

A day in our life

4 things to do with your camera phone

5. Curate your museum displays

Museums have displays on walls and use shelves and display cases filled with drawers of interesting things. They even have digital elements using iPads and computers.

Is there a space in home you can dedicate to your own museum display? It could be….

  • A cabinet or a bookshelf
  • A secret private space in your bedroom
  • An area you have never really paid attention to before
  • An area in a busier part of the home like a shelf next to the TV
  • A window or windowsill, so that other people outside can see it too!

You might like to group your artefacts in different ways, e.g. in the order that you made them, or by themes or type. Why not create labels for your artefacts and give them fun titles?

Want to go further? Try one of these:

The Natural History Museum

Exhibition windows on Google Street View

V&A writing for galleries

Mark Dion, Tate Thames Dig, 1999. Photo: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

6. Think about the visitor experience

Prepare for opening day! If you have visited a museum recently, try to remember what was enjoyable about your experience. Challenge your family members to design and make their own paper money they can use in your museum.

Think about how visitors to your museum (your family!) will engage with your museum, whether live or ‘virtually’ from afar.

  • Will they be greeted by you and given a tour?
  • Will there be a bowl of treats at the end (and what might ‘virtual treats’ be)?
  • Will there be music playing as they explore the artefacts?
  • Can you create a treasure hunt of artefacts for your visitors to find?
  • Can you set up a museum café with an enticing menu, with food, whether real or pretend?

7. Make a museum gift shop

Museum visitors love museum gift shops, which often include postcards of artefacts in the museum, books about exhibitions, and specially created themed objects.

To create your own postcards, you could make quick silly drawings of yourself, or write one word or a short sentence that references what you explored while making some of your artefacts. Use colourful paper or cut down card to postcard (A6) size.

What else do you like to see in a museum shop? Are there other ideas that your family might want to purchase with their paper money?

Want to go further?

Think about how your gift shop contributions might benefit a good cause – you could even ask for the equivalent of real donations to support a local charity helping those in need.

Looking for further inspiration?

You can visit many great institutions around the world via a virtual tour from the comfort of your own home. Upgraded Points have put together a list of the best, which you can check out the below:

The 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World

Further support for home educating - if you are looking for further advice on how to teach your children at home as a parent, here is a useful website to get you started.

More Keeping Creative at Home blogs

Sarah is an artist and arts consultant specialising in research, evaluation and participation within a range of contexts including contemporary public art, community arts programmes and education.