Local schoolchildren enjoying the activities at Falmouth Art Gallery - one of this year's shortlisted institutions. Courtesy Falmouth Art Gallery.
A panel of the most discerning judges in the land is to be assembled to pick the winner of this year’s Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award.
For the first time a national museum award in the UK will be judged by children. They’ll have to select a winner from a shortlist including Compton Verney, Falmouth Art Gallery, the Wordsworth Trust, the Museum of Farnham and the Pitt Rivers and Natural History Museums in Oxford.
As one of the judges responsible for drawing up the shortlist, which was revealed on May 25, Anra Kennedy - 24 Hour Museum Head of Learning and editor of kid’s site www.show.me.uk - welcomed the decision to put the final choice in the hands of children.
"I'm really pleased children will be the final decision-makers," said Anra. "All too often we as adults make assumptions about the things kids will be interested in or appreciate, and all too often we underestimate them."
The Golden Store exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust used illustrations of the poet’s work to draw children in. Last year, the number of family visits increased threefold. Courtesy The Wordsworth Trust.
Children aged eight to 16 can apply for a spot on the panel by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and completing the phrase: ‘I want to be a judge of the Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award because…’ The closing date for entries June 8 2005.
"It'll be very interesting to see how the kids' panel reacts to the wide ranging subject matter and the different approaches of the shortlisted institutions," added Anra. "Also, as children and families have been the driving force behind the Kids in Museums campaign from the beginning, it's fitting they're involved as much as possible in the Award process."
Their choice will be revealed during a presentation ceremony on July 5 when the winning institution will get a digital camera provided by Sony, a number of hipseat baby carriers provided by Hippychick and a plaque to commemorate its victory. The other shortlisted museums will receive a certificate.
Compton Verney's workshops based on the films of Peter Greenaway earned the art gallery a place on the shortlist. Film still from The Tulse Luper Suitcases, 2003, by Peter Greenaway.
The Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award was established in 2003 following a visit by Guardian columnist Dea Birkett and her family to the Royal Academy’s Aztecs exhibition.
When Birkett's son shouted 'Monster!' at a statue, the group was asked to leave. A resulting column provoked an enormous response from readers both fed up with being made to feel unwelcome in the UK’s museums and galleries and full of praise for those that did welcome them.
In 2004, the inaugural award saw Killhope the North of England Lead Mining Museum beat off competition from the V&A, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Falmouth Art Gallery and the Museum of Farnham.
Now in its second year Falmouth and Farnham are once again contesting the prize along with Compton Verney, the Wordsworth Trust and the Pitt Rivers and Natural History Museums in Oxford.
Falmouth Art Gallery's Surrealists on Holiday exhibition earned it a place on the shortlist by maintaining a high level of academic content, but also translating it into activities for all ages. Courtesy Falmouth Art Gallery.
The shortlist was drawn up by a panel of experts including chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Liz Forgan, Dea Birkett, Anra Kennedy, the Guardian’s Heritage Correspondent Maev Kennedy and Mark Taylor, Director of the Museums Association.
"We had hundreds of nominations for the award from museums, galleries, parents and children," said Liz Forgan. "This year we were looking for initiatives, projects or schemes designed to increase the enjoyment of families. Each museum on the shortlist has demonstrated a serious commitment to offering a truly family-friendly experience."
More information on getting involved in the judging and on the competition on the whole is due to be published in the Guardian newspaper on June 1 2005.