Essential Information

Queen's House
Key Stage Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, GCSE, Post-16
School Subject Art, Design & technology, Drama, History, Literacy

What was the project?

Over four weeks the National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House Collections acted as inspiration for theatre and drama students taking part in the Know Your Worth programme at Lewisham College.

The students took part in digital workshops that challenged them to use their theatrical skills to think critically, be creative, and connected with and express fresh perspectives on our past.

The students’ final challenge was to creatively respond to the Museum and its collections.  This case study outlines the approach the students followed week by week and showcases their work.  If you want to use our collections as a stimulus for creative work in the classroom, email with the subject line 'Museum as Muse'.

View the students' work inspired by our collections.

Museum as Muse

Collaborating with Know Your Worth programme and Lewisham College

The Learning team worked in partnership with Know Your Worth and Lewisham College to plan a four-week digital project (Museum as Muse) that would act as a stepping stone between theatre and heritage sites.

The project's core objective was to make the Museum’s collections relevant and accessible to students who may never have been to a museum or gallery and were unlikely to do so. The aim of the project was to make the National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House Collections truly accessible and highlight potential career routes for young people in the cultural sector.

Week one

Using the iconic Elizabeth I, the Armada Portrait as a starting point, we explored how to unpack the meaning of artworks and use them as stimulus to creatively respond.

To do this, students learned about the approaches of a range of leading contemporary artists and key artworks in our collection including:

Peter Adjaye’s A Proposal For Radical Hospitality, Mat Collishaw Mask of Youth, Kehinde Wiley’s Ship of Fools, BLKBRD collective’s Ghost Meridian and Whose Government.

Guided by our team, we challenged students to think outside of the box and to use these different techniques to respond.

Michael – Production Arts student

"I wanted to express the colour and culture of Nigeria in my eyes as a proud Nigerian man and spread the beauty of African queens all over the world and not just Nigeria."

Week two

Art curator Sue Prichard delved into the use of clothing to construct identity and give the wearer confidence to create alternative versions of themselves. We looked at Queen Anne of Denmark and how she used clothing to break away from social norms in the 16th and 17th century, George Villiers used clothing to accentuate his presence in court and get the attention of King James; and Mary Frith, who caused much controversy for cross dressing.

Led by textile artist Jeanine Woollard, students experimented with costume to make quirky yet meaningful recreations of master pieces using everyday objects.

Athena Rose – Acting student

"My podcast is in a way like a painting brought to life allowing the real-life voices and opinions symbolised in the painting to be heard right then and there; it's raw."

Week three

Before being set their final challenge, students explored using written or spoken language as a creative response. Drama practitioner Shermaine Slocombe introduced us to creating monologues on a variety of important themes. Tatiana Ellis gave top tips for creating a spoken word performance. Curator Megan Barford shared artist Rachelle Romeo’s embroidered map as inspiration for a written response.

Tatiana shares how to write spoken word poetry

Asante's spoken word poem

"I tried to embody a character that really went through one of the most tragic events in history. For me as a black male, it is important to reflect on the way black people have been treated and to see how far we have come as a race." 


Week four

Students reflected on their work and discussed opportunities and barriers to working in the cultural sector. Read some of the students' reflections on the project below.

Courtney Dill – Production Arts Student

"My art work is a piece inspired by the BLKBRD Collective's work, Ghost Meridian. Everything in this painting has deep meaning but also it’s open to interpretation. My artwork shows respect for migrants and their history and how their struggles are not heard about enough. Although they have struggled I’ve tried to show light and colour for positivity."

Watch Courtney's poetic response
Athena Rose – Acting Student

'Being an actor, our first response is usually ‘how do we bring the script or character to life?' but this time we had a painting.  The main reason I chose Queen Anne of Denmark was largely to the links I could make not only to my personal life but also globally. She pushed past all the people who made comments about her or tried to push her down.

I looked at her as a massive powerhouse for creativity and woman of power and ended up doing two kinds of creative response: a painting and a podcast. My podcast is in a way like a painting brought to life allowing the real-life voices and opinions symbolised in the painting to be heard right then and there, it's raw. This project opened up my mind to new depths that I didnt know were even there."

Listen to Athena's podcast
Michael Enamejewa – Production Arts student

"Queen of Nigeria was inspired by the Queen Anne of Denmark painting in many ways because of the way she grounded herself in a strong way. That made me think of black African women. I wanted to express the colour and culture of Nigeria in my eyes as a proud Nigerian man and spread the beauty of African queens all over the world and not just Nigeria."

Look at Michael's artwork
Lakeisha Nibi – Acting Student

'Working through the pandemic was hard because of limited resources, however, it made me work with what I had at home and [I] ended up using creative abilities I didn’t know I had. I wanted to think outside the box when it came to the final project by portraying the duality of Queen Elizabeth I taking inspiration from the Armada Portrait.

I recreated the portrait by using materials I had at home and split the page in half. One side portrayed her as being the golden queen and the other portrayed her as being a warrior. I used the song choice of ‘You Don’t Own Me’ by Lesley Gore because it supported my artwork because I felt that Elizabeth wasn’t ‘owned’ by anyone as she wasn’t married and was an empowering monarch."

Discover Lakeisha's work

Next steps

  • Find out about our digital and on-site sessions and resources
  • Get in contact by emailing to receive resources to run a similar project with your students