Kids in Museums campaign launches 2010 manifesto

By Culture24 Staff | 12 January 2010
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A picture of an illustration of families staring in awe at a pink elephant

The Kids in Museums Manifesto 2010 will be launched at the British Museum on Thursday

As political parties squabble over election policies, a far clearer manifesto has been launched by Kids in Museums, the tenacious campaigning organisation intent on making museums and galleries more family-friendly.

Each year the independent charity forms a hitlist of aims based on visitors' comments – this year the theme is noticeably hands-on, urging sites to introduce Tudor dressing up and messy activities in contrast to the passive constraints of computer screens.

A photo of children taking part in Medieval re-enactment fun on grassland

The group has improved the visitor experience for families at sites across the country, including Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park

"Of the thousands of visitors' suggestions we received for the 2010 Manifesto, hardly any mentioned technology and gadgets," says Dea Birkett, who launched the scheme in 2003 after receiving empathetic support from similarly concerned parents when she wrote an article for the Guardian recounting her two-year-old son being thrown out of the Royal Academy for shouting.

"Families talked about making paper planes in a gallery like Leonardo da Vinci, or shining a torch into a dark corner of a glass cabinet as if they were discovering something for the first time. There's nothing hi tech about that."

A photo of children working with camera equipment outside an ancient brick building

Inverness Museum

Birkett says museums need to listen more closely to families and provide "sensual experiences" rather than "clean and clinical" attractions. She's persuaded charismatic British Museum Director Neil MacGregor to support the cause this year, who echoes her plea for tactile titillation.

"I remember my first visit to the British Museum with my father at the age of eight," he recalls.

A photo of children working with textiles and boxes

This year's manifesto is urging museums to organise more hands-on activities

"I was thrilled to be able to touch it - it was uncovered at the time - and physically connect with history."

Their paper will be launched at MacGregor's institution on Thursday (January 14), and includes demands for pram space, warnings to grumpy museum staff and advice on family ticket provision for single parent parties.

Head to the Manifesto online to see their plans for this year.

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