One of the largest regional museums in central southern England has been rewarded for its pioneering work with children and families by scooping the Daily Telegraph Family Friendly Museum of the Year Award.
© Heathcliff O'Malley, Sunday Telegraph
Haslemere Educational Museum boasts a lineage going back to 1888 when the famous Quaker surgeon Sir Jonathan Hutchinson founded a museum in his barn to accommodate his vast collection of artefacts relating to botany, geology and social history.
From the outset, education and the inclusion of children was high on the agenda and it’s a tradition championed and developed through its various incarnations in the Surrey town.
The award, which was announced today by charity Kids in Museums, acknowledges the museum’s position as a cherished local resource and a magnet for family and younger visitors.
Haslemere beat off competition from a strong shortlist which included World Museum Liverpool, Museum of London, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Brixham Heritage Museum and National Museum of Scotland.
Shortlisted museums were visited by teams of anonymous family judges who road tested the facilities using the Kids in Museums Manifesto.
The twin watchwords of inclusion and education have endured for nearly a century and a half at Haslemere where a variety of activities including school visits and outreach for community groups welcomes visitors. But it’s the quality of the day to day family visit and a well-deserved reputation for welcoming children that marked the museum out as this year’s winner.
Kids in Museums Patron Mariella Frostrup said families chose Haslemere “because of the welcome they received. Nothing was too much for the staff and volunteers. It’s a gem.”
As well as the countless natural history specimens, the kids who visit Haslemere can explore a reconstructed beehive, feed the fish, discover the herb garden and benefit from a range of lectures, kids clubs, early years sessions, gallery trails, quizzes and kid’s backpacks that encourage them to explore the collection in fun ways.
'Meet your mates' sessions even encourage teenagers to visit during the school holidays.
Culture24’s Anra Kennedy who is a Kids in Museums Trustee and one of the judges for the competition’s shortlist said she was “thrilled” for the team at Haslemere who she described as “very worthy winners this year”.
“The competition was tough,” she added, “a large and diverse range of nominated venues set a very high standard.
“When museums get it right they can become a treasured and familiar place where families have fun, talk and relax together. Haslemere Museum and indeed all of the nominated museums are getting it right. I'm so pleased this Award gives us the opportunity to celebrate their effort and their achievements.”
- Find a family friendly museum to visit near you by using Culture24’s listings which are packed with family friendly events in UK museums, galleries and heritage sites.
- Find out more about the work of the Kids in Museum campaign at http://kidsinmuseums.org.uk/