Royal Armouries fire up online learning - Sunday, 21 February 2010

As the Royal Armouries is Britain’s oldest museum, youngsters could be forgiven for thinking it wouldn’t be bang up to date when it comes to harnessing the latest technology to boost learning. But that’s exactly what the national museum of arms and armour has achieved, as part of its inspirational, online, interactive and educational programmes.

Produced by their education team in Leeds, the Armouries is at the cutting edge of educational interactive media, having been involved in the National Museums Online Project, a massive partnership programme involving eight other museums and funded by the Treasury’s Invest to Save initiative. It recently launched its English Civil Wars interactive at

“The English Civil Wars are a major turning point in our nation’s history,” said Gillian Waters, the Armouries’ Learning Manager (North). “If students want to understand our democracy today they have to get to grips with the English Civil Wars. The central question, ‘who rules and by what right?’ is as important to our society today as it was 400 years ago. As we move into an election year, we will begin making the same sorts of choices between belief systems, or manifestos – ones that men and women had to make in the 17th Century.”

Gillian added that making sense of the English Civil Wars is not easy, and making it engaging to KS3 students is even more challenging. Studying this period can result in lists of battles with students failing to understand the significance and consequences of the Civil Wars.

To overcome this issue, Gillian and her team decided to focus on the story of one man, Alexander Popham, to help illustrate key concepts. She said: “Telling a huge national story through the study of one man helps students to understand the significant aspects rather than be swamped with a wealth of detail.”

The choice of Popham as the focal point was an easy one for the Leeds’ Education team. The Armouries owns the Littlecote Collection, comprising Popham’s portrait, a landscape painting of his house and his own personal armour. This meant that the interactive programme could be designed using a variety of primary source material, using sound historical methodology.

Background detail:

Littlecote House in Wiltshire was the home of the Popham family for centuries. During the English Civil Wars, Alexander Popham raised a troop of cavalry to fight for Parliament. After the wars, the collection was displayed in Littlecote House and by the 20th Century was one of the few known examples of personal armouries still intact. In the 1980s the Royal Armouries rescued this historic collection and in 1996 housed it in the War Gallery in Leeds.

The online materials use high-resolution images which even show the hooks which were used at Littlecote to display the firearms. The navigation is clear and simple. Teachers and students can zoom into the picture, and get a close up view of the pictures and objects that would not otherwise be possible.

The programme was designed for use with an interactive whiteboard for whole-class teaching or with smaller groups. Links and hotspots within the main images lead to more information about the armour that soldiers wore in the English Civil Wars, and also the Armouries’ film of the Battle of Marston Moor. To complement the Interactive programme, the Armouries have also produced a Civil War Pack, featuring six weeks’ worth of task-based resources. This is also available online and can be downloaded free of charge.

What’s next for the Armouries Education team? They are currently working on their new Online Tudor Resource aimed at KS2 students to complement the Tournament Gallery. Again the focus will be on creating good quality visual resources to be used on a classroom whiteboard, and the resources will be online by September 2010.

Media contact

Tel: 0113 220 1978

Notes to editors

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