Summer Hill kids take us on a tour

See the paintings in the State Library of NSW through the eyes of students from Summer Hill Public School.

02 September 2020
A group of primary-aged students and an adult raise their arms in excitement in front of a collection of artworks on a wall
Image: Wired for sound: Students from Summer Hill Public School with State Library Senior Education Officer Pauline Fitzgerald

The voices of Summer Hill Public School children are echoing through the rooms of the State Library of NSW thanks to an innovative project targeting young visitors to the Library’s Paintings Gallery.

State Library Senior Education Officer Learning Pauline Fitzgerald said the students were involved in developing an audio tour of the works on display in the gallery.

“This guide was designed 'with kids, for kids' and we could not be more pleased with the result,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

She said the students worked on the project over a number of weeks with the support of school principal Natalie Armstrong and teacher librarians Carmel Grimmett and Lyndal Whiley.

“The students made a huge commitment to be part of this project – they even missed out on Friday sport,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The 10 students involved in the project were first taken on a tour of the Paintings Gallery and selected a painting that interested them to research.

The students held discussions with library experts about the paintings before developing their response to their chosen work and its artist in a three- to four-minute script.

They then read and recorded their script, which has been uploaded to the State Library’s existing audio tour.

“We were very surprised by their selections and impressed with the depth and thoughtfulness of their responses,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“We are certain that visitors to the gallery, both adults and children, will enjoy seeing the artworks through their eyes.”

The audio guide is available from the library website and sits alongside an existing audio guide by State Library curators which details 20 paintings.

Included in the app is a photograph of the student (contributing curator) and a brief biography.

Summer Hill student Atticus Lee, who took part in the Student Voice project, said it was a “great experience”.

He wrote a script to accompany the painting ‘Stoneleigh’, an 1866 work by Austrian Eugene von Guerard, who Atticus tells us came to Australia seeking his fortune in the gold rushes but had to resort to painting to make a living.

“The reason behind my choice of the painting, ‘Stoneleigh’, was it really caught my eye and it made me remember my old home in Orange,” he said.

Atticus said the script took “a very long time to research and write” but taking part in the project “was a great experience and it was a great time to meet people I didn’t know from other classes”.

“I am pleased with the final result and I had a blast,” he said.

Ms Grimmett, the school librarian, said the project was a very special opportunity for the students to engage with the impressive range of artworks housed in the State Library of NSW galleries.

“The images chosen by each student, and their audio guides, are as individual as the children themselves,” she said.

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