Museums can be fun. Seriously. Games are a great way to engage with visitors young and old. Have you noticed how old school board games have had a resurgence thanks to popular TV shows (Game of Thrones Monopoly, The Simpsons Cludo)? The same can be done in museums to engage families and schools – and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. When I was Head of Learning at the Lakeland Museum, Kendal, the learning team created two such games – linked to the collections – to reanimate a tired learning space in a fun and accessible way.
Museum Timeline. Timeline is a brilliantly simple card game that comes in a range of editions – from British history to film. How does it work? There is a deck of cards, each card has an image and written prompt of an event or object on one side / and the date that thing happened or was invented on the reverse. Eg. Thomas Edison invents the telephone / 1879
Players have 10 cards each and aren’t allowed to look at the dates. The game begins with one card (date side up) then players take turns placing cards from their hand to create a timeline. If you get a date out of chronology, you draw another card. First player to dispense of their cards wins.
For Museum Timeline, we adapted this simple parlour game using items in the collection and the dates (or date ranges) they were made, peppered with a few popular inventions and events in history to give a broader context. It’s the kind of game which lends itself to visual observation (not just an established knowledge of history) so museum and art collections in particular, are ideal. It could also be used as a schools resource to support the learning of chronology. Imagine, you could create deck of cards with painting from your collection and sell it in your shop!
The second game we ‘reinvented’ is Museum Balderdash. Very quickly, Balderdash contains several cards with real words nobody has heard of. After one of these words is read aloud, players try to come up with definitions that at least sound plausible and points are awarded for every opposing player who guesses that your definition is the correct one.
It can be easily adapted by ANY museum by simply using all of the specialist terminology you have removed from your interpretation labels to make them accessible to the general public.