Killhope Is Guardian's Family Friendly Museum Of The Year

By David Prudames | 06 February 2004
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Shows a photograph of four people standing in a line. The two in the middle are holding a silver-coloured plaque.

Photo: (left to right) Dea Birkett and Andy Pietrasik of The Guardian congratulate Jackie Hamer and Ian Forbes from Killhope. © The Guardian/ Frank Baron.

Killhope, the North of England Lead Mining Museum in County Durham has been named as the winner of the first Guardian Family Friendly Museum award.

Launched as part of the newspaper’s Kids in Museums campaign in September last year, the competition was aimed at finding the best family friendly days out in the UK’s museums and galleries.

As well as a plaque to commemorate their achievement, Killhope were given a £15,000 interactive exhibit and a digital camera.

Developed specially for the prize by Redman Design, the computer exhibit is called What are we doing here? and encourages children to investigate museum collections, to ask questions and look for clues.

The award was presented to Ian Forbes, Manager at Killhope, who told the 24 Hour Museum how shocked he was that his institution had been declared the winner.

"Apart from being totally astonished, I wasn’t expecting it at all," he said.

Shows a photograph of a cartoon image depicting a large pink elephant, which is being stared up at by a group of children and adults.

Photo: the Kids in Museums campaign poster and logo was designed by cartoonist Quentin Blake. Courtesy The Guardian.

But in accepting the award, Ian was quick to praise his colleagues: "This success is entirely due to the staff at Killhope," he said."It’s their award."

"We’ve always tried to make sure the visitors are more important than the objects we are showing them. Our policy is always that the staff are focused on visitors having a good time and learning something incidentally on the way."

As far as being family friendly goes, Forbes added: "We really like the feeling that we are sending children away inspired."

After receiving over 300 nominations from members of the public and museum professionals, a panel of judges including environmentalist David Bellamy and Mark Taylor of the Museums Association produced a shortlist of five.

Shows a photograph of a child putting on a miner's helmet and lamp.

Photo: Killhope is the only lead mine in the North-east open to the public and explores the life of North Pennine lead mining families.

Joining Killhope were Falmouth Art Gallery, the Museum of Farnham, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the V&A.

Each was 'road-tested' before Christmas by family groups armed with a point system against which the institutions were measured.

"The scores were incredibly close," explained Dea Birkett, Guardian writer and competition judge. "All the museums were fabulous."

It was Birkett who launched The Guardian’s Kids in Museums campaign after she was asked to leave the Royal Academy of Art’s Aztec exhibition last year, because of her child’s behaviour.

"What started as a complaint, has become a celebration" she said before adding "the shortlist is the tip of a very wonderful iceberg of innovation."

Shows a photograph of two women standing in front of wall, on which pictures have been hung. The woman on the left is holding a framed certificate, while the one on the right is holding a book.

Photo: the runners-up were each given a certificate and a copy of Anthony Browne's The Shape Game. Claire Fuller (left) and Jo Lumber of Falmouth Art Gallery. Photo: Anra Kennedy. © 24 Hour Museum.

While Killhope came out as the overall winner, being included on the shortlist of awards such as this one prove prizes in themselves for museums.

Ann Jones, Curator at the Museum of Farnham said: "It has meant a terrific amount to us because we are a local authority museum and it has been a recognition of our value to the community and it’s justifying our existence."

Her words were echoed by Claire Fuller, Education Officer at Falmouth Art Gallery, whose institution is also funded by a local authority.

"Getting the nomination and becoming a finalist," she explained, "showed the council that giving us money was actually worthwhile."