IN A MONTH that has been a whirlwind of unprecedented change and uncertainty, it is even more important to celebrate the positives and highlight hopes for the future.

Two weeks ago today, just as coronavirus was beginning to take over our lives, Lorna Robinson received the news that she had been working for five years to hear.

The Rumble Museum in Oxford, which she founded as part of a project to bring the subject of classics to more pupils, became the first accredited museum inside a UK state school.

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It is situated at Cheney School in Headington, and has officially gained full certification from the Arts Council.

Dr Robinson said: "We've been working towards accreditation since 2015 - it's been a long process of learning, because I didn't have a background in museums.

"Being in a secondary school is a really exciting thing.

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Left-to-right, Arthur Nicod, 12, David Allton and Sophie Hindley, 12, join an artefact collection day at the Rumble Museum in 2018. Picture: Ed Nix

"In a museum in a city centre, there's going to be more of a struggle to get a diverse attendance, whereas in a school, part of your audience is ready-made and you're reaching out to all sorts of children from different backgrounds."

Over the past few years, the museum has been growing throughout the secondary school's corridors and classrooms, building up collections of original and replica artefacts.

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Greek and Roman coins, lamps and vases, Egyptian papyrus fragments, women's suffrage and wartime items are among those on display, as well as modern pieces such as an iPod.

Charity The Iris Project, founded by Dr Robinson, runs the museum and promotes learning about the ancient world.

New projects, displays, events and workshops are driven by student-led museum councils, and the wider public is also able to visit at certain times.

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The Rumble Museum created an exciting new piece of public art in March 2019 in the form of a model dragonfly trail around the Cheney School site. Pupil Leri Avilo, 14, is pictured with the dragonfly she designed.

The museum was named after Jamie Rumble, a young man who devoted his life to improving the lives of young people.

His partner agreed to sponsor the museum, helping his name to live on and inspire other young minds.

Dr Robinson said: "I set up the Iris Project in 2006, originally to promote classics in state schools.

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"During that time, universities and individuals would donate artefacts and I was essentially keeping them in drawers and bringing them out [to show students]."

The collection grew and it was then that she investigated the idea of creating a museum and gaining accreditation.

Arts Council England sets out nationally-agreed standards for museums, to make sure that they manage their collections properly, engage with visitors, and are governed appropriately.

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Cheney School pupils and alumni join an artefact collection day at the Rumble Museum. Picture: Lorna Robinson

Gaining the organisation's stamp of approval is a milestone moment for Dr Robinson and her team - albeit one that has been overshadowed by the school having to shut down like all others across the UK.

Dr Robinson added: "We got the letter [from the Arts Council] on March 12.

"There are lots of other pressing things going on at the moment, but it is exciting news."

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The Rumble Museum has launched daily blog posts for pupils to look at while they are working from home, each focusing on a different object from its collection.

Anyone is welcome to follow the blog - not just the Cheney community - and Dr Robinson hopes more pupils will be able to learn from it.

The mother-of-one has a background in classics and is passionate about bringing the subject to a wider audience.

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Pupils pet a model dinosaur during the Iris Festival of Natural History at Cheney School in 2019. Pictures: Rumble Museum

Having grown up in Northamptonshire, she arrived in Oxford at the age of 18, to complete an undergraduate degree in classics at Lady Margaret Hall.

Classics covers a range of topics including languages of Latin and Greek, and the study of ancient civilisations, exploring history, art, archaeology and philosophy.

Dr Robinson completed a PhD at UCL and then began teaching, initially starting in the private sector.

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She said: "I really enjoyed that first year of teaching, but I wanted to set up something that might make a difference."

The Iris Project initially started as a magazine designed to make classics fun and accessible, which she circulated in state schools for free.

Since 2006, it has been running a programme in Oxford state schools called Literacy Through Latin.

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Cheney School pupils and alumni join an artefact collection day at the Rumble Museum. Picture: Lorna Robinson

The national programme sees enthusiastic university students volunteer their time to go into state schools, including East Oxford Primary School, to teach pupils basic Latin.

Dr Robinson, who lives in Barton, also teaches Latin and classical civilisation at Cheney School, via lessons after school.

This means that pupils from other schools can also join in if they have an interest in the subject, and can study it up to A-Level.

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Dr Robinson said: "I think over the past 10 or so years, there's been an increasing recognition in schools that classics is a really exciting and accessible subject, that should be available to anyone who wants to learn about it.

"There are a lot of organisations trying to promote classics in state schools - it definitely feels like the tide is turning and that there is more and more interest.

"Learning languages isn't for everyone, but I find that many, many people are really fascinated by history and civilisation."

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A military artefact collection day at the Rumble Museum. Picture: Lorna Robinson

This month, the Rumble Museum installed eight six-foot robot models at the school, each designed by a different Cheney pupil to represent a different vision of the future.

The installation was part of a museum-led event called Iris Festival of the Future, which was due to take place this week with more than 60 different organisations.

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Various activities and talks were lined up due to inspire pupils and visitors, but the festival has now been postponed until autumn due to the school closures caused by coronavirus.

Pupils were still able to take part in themed work in the run-up.

Rupert Moreton, headteacher at Cheney, said: "The Rumble Museum is a fantastic resource through which hundreds of children across Oxford receive a deep learning experience, widen their cultural understanding and huge amounts of joy from.

"It is the envy of many other schools and we at Cheney are very very proud.

"Its creation is down to the immense hard work and dedication of Dr Lorna Robinson, and on behalf of our community and these children, we thank her."

Visit to view the daily updates during the school closures.