Using this Website


Each of the objects on this website has been selected from the collections of a UK museum or archive as a means of kick-starting conversations with young people about topics relating to sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity.

We have provided lesson ideas based around each object including group discussion suggestions and linked activities. We have also provided a generic session plan for running a session with young people based around a historical object.

When and where to use these resources

These resources are designed to be used in Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) as part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE). However many can be used to form part of other school subject lessons, such as History, Sociology, Psychology, English, and Drama, as well as out-of-school youth settings.

During 2017 you may want to tie these lessons in with marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In any year you wish to coincide your sessions with specific events, for instance: 

If you are local to a collection which holds an object featured on this website, you could arrange a visit with your group to see the object and have a discussion session afterwards (see details on visiting each museum or archive).

However the lesson ideas are designed to be effective without having visited the object in person, using images of the objects in your classroom or youth setting. You can download a high resolution image of each object to show on screen or print copies off for your group. All lesson ideas are also available as a downloadable PDF document (provided on each object page).

How historical objects can help discuss sexual and gender diversity today

The past has a powerful way of creating distance from contemporary concerns and at the same time providing an important critical perspective on today's attitudes and assumptions. Drawing upon object-based learning developed in museum outreach programmes, the Sex & History Project has developed a methodology in which historical artefacts:

  1. Encourage young people to reflect critically on the past, present and future context of sex and gender, and to consider cultural and historical diversity.
  2. Discuss sensitive topics via historical objects which can act as a distancing mechanism, focusing the discussion initially around past cultures to allow participants to talk more safely about sensitive issues.
  3. Open up discussion of topics that are particularly difficult to address, for example gender identity.
  4. Enable recognition that people have been talking about, thinking about and depicting sex and gender for millennia, and therefore increase confidence in talking these topics today.
  5. Allow participants to focus on relationships, attitudes and emotions rather than the biological aspects of sex and gender.

Please see the Generic Session Plan for how to prepare for and safely run a session with young people on sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity. Here you can find out about the establishment of ground rules, as well as see further ideas for delivering a session based around a historical object.