A new animated video featuring artwork and a story by Leeds children has proven a great way of engaging new audiences in the story of the Armley Hippo.
The Armley Hippo, discovered in 1851 by workmen digging clay in a brick field near to the site of the present-day Armley Gyratory in Leeds, is one of the star items in Leeds Museums and Galleries’ palaeontology collection. For many, it can be hard to imagine that the 125,000 year old bones were once a living creature.
In 2016, our geology curator had the great idea of working with local schools to produce a short animation about the hippo as a way of breathing life into the bones.
This was one of many ideas emerging from the Geoblitz project – a three-year project funded by the John Ellerman foundation to investigate and promote the geology collection at Leeds, and create a series of public events shared with partner museums across the UK.
We made an open callout to children in Leeds asking them:
- To tell a story that involved the Armley Hippo and some of the other animals whose bones we had found in the same area.
- To draw a picture of what the creatures might have looked like.
In early 2017, the entries were judged by a panel of community figures from Armley, local councillors and museum staff. It was a close contest and the winners were:
- Holly Reeve, 10, who submitted a great illustration of the hippo together with a mammoth, an aurochs and a horse.
- Lochan Chakrabarti, 8, who wrote an imaginative short story about the hippo called ‘Stuck in the Mud’.
We took the story and illustration and had them made into a six minute video, now available on YouTube. We played this during the Easter 2017 holidays along with a range of hippo-themed activities. This included a ‘CSI Hippo’ day where families were able to identify suspects in a hippo crime scene, working with real fossils alongside the geology curator.
We have had some great feedback from young people involved in the competition. People in Leeds and beyond have enjoyed watching the young people’s animated story of the hippo. The hippo’s bones are on permanent display in the Life on Earth Gallery at Leeds City Museum.