Learning from film costumes, props and memorabilia

16 Jan 2017 BY Emma Lewis

8 mins
Skyfall
Skyfall

Film props, costumes and memorabilia might not seem like the most obvious learning resource, but they can be a great way of helping young people to interpret film and other texts, while providing stimulus for engagement across the curriculum, and broadening a knowledge of possible career paths in the film industry. To learn more about these rich and inspirational resources, we spoke to Emma Lewis, General Manager of the London Film Museum.

Can you tell us about the collections at London Film Museum?

There are many collections and exhibitions of film costume, props and memorabilia across the UK, many with online resources to enable teachers to work with artefacts and costume as a stimulus for learning in the classroom.

Bond in Motion is the official exhibition of James Bond vehicles that featured in the renowned film series. It is the largest display of its kind ever staged in London, and also features set models, storyboards, concept drawings, props and costumes from 23 Bond films, from the first, Dr. No, in 1962, through to 2012's Skyfall.

How can learning from film costumes, props and memorabilia take place across the curriculum?

At London Film Museum we have visits from students from across the key stages, and teachers can use the familiar medium of film as a hook to stimulate creativity and enquiry. Introducing artefacts, whether three dimensional or images, into classroom learning can be equally as effective.

Carrying out an enquiry focused on a piece of film costume, memorabilia or a prop can form a cross-curricular study for primary pupils or support topics in the secondary curriculum. For example, many teachers work with our collection of Bond vehicles to teach Maths, Science, Design and Technology and Art. Film memorabilia such as advertising posters and marketing materials are a wonderful stimulus for English, both through the decoding and analysis of language and in supporting the development of writing skills. Focusing on the details of set, prop and costume design can also support students to decode film text and become more active film viewers, identifying and interpreting the meaning filmmakers create through the mise-en-scène. In turn, these skills can develop learners' abilities to decode meaning in written texts and create their own richer pieces of writing.

Bond in Motion is visited regularly by students interested in careers in the film and creative industries; a growing sector in the UK. Investigating film props, costume and memorabilia can inspire students to find out about the skills and roles required to produce major feature films like the Bond movies. 

For more lesson and activity ideas to investigate careers in the film industry you may like to use Into Film's Careers in Film Primary and Careers in Film Secondary resources.

What impact do you think working with collections like those at London Film Museum has on young people?

Encouraging young people to think more deeply about how and why films are made through the artefacts in collections like Bond in Motion can help students to become higher-level thinkers. Students enjoy getting behind the scenes of the film world and understanding how films are made beyond the familiar roles of actors and directors. This depth of enquiry supports students to question the world around them and analyse how ideas are created and promoted in all areas of the media.

What advice would you give to young people who are interested in working with historical collections?

  • You need a few initial attributes including organisation, problem solving, on the spot thinking and plenty of energy.
  • Work experience and internships are a fantastic start; you will learn about the background workings of a collection and can add it to your CV. 
  • Getting your name known is important. Start with your local gallery, and work your way up to collections of national importance. Employers want to see that you've worked in a range of places and have adaptable experience.
  • Within museums there are many different roles, including management, ICT and AV, events, front of house, design and marketing...  Whatever skills you have, there is potential for them to be developed. 

What tips would you give to teachers or film club leaders who would like to work with film costume, props or memorabilia?

  1. Start with the familiar. Encourage students to choose a favourite film character or scene, and carry out an enquiry into the character's costume, the props or setting design, before moving to a film text that may be unfamiliar with.
  2. If you can't find images online or suitable collections nearby, stills from your chosen film work well. Focusing on the detail in a still helps learners to build confidence as more active and analytical viewers.
  3. Ask the same questions for all texts when discussing them with students or asking for their written responses. As students become familiar with talking and writing about film texts, they will be able to transfer these skills to written texts, particularly if they are working with the same or similar questions. Into Film's 3Cs and 3Ss Prompt Cards contain a good range of questions to start students' enquiries.
  4. Encourage learners to ask their own questions and frame their own enquiries about artefacts. In a world where students have extensive access to information, this process supports students in asking relevant and well constructed questions, and effectively search, find, synthesise and present relevant information.
  5. Support students in using their knowledge and understanding to design and make new or alternative props, costumes, settings or marketing materials. These skills can be used to support students' filmmaking or theatre projects, and to create visual aids for the analysis of written texts such as novels or poems.

Visit London Film Museum and take part in the Into Film training session Filmmaking for Curricular Attainment, Tuesday 7 February 2017, 4.30pm 6.00pm. This session is for any teacher or educator of 7-14 year olds who would like to integrate simple filmmaking techniques into lessons or activities.

For more lesson and activity ideas to work with museum collections, take a look at our series of Reel to Real resources, developed in partnership with the V&A Museum, and our Into Archive: Past, Present, Future page, to support work with archive film from collections across the UK in a range of curriculum subjects.

General Manager, London Film Museum

Emma Lewis, General Manager, London Film Museum

An events co-ordinator and General Manager, Emma oversees the day to day running of the London Film Museum, managing a team of 30, working on new museum initiatives, adapting and enhancing the education programme, and facilitating customer services.

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