Six museums from across the UK will battle it out to become the country’s most family-friendly venue after being named on the shortlist for this year’s Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award.
Judged on their sense of adventure and noisy ebullience rather than the usual aesthetic and academic criteria of most industry awards, the finalists will be rated in secret by members of the public using the Kids in Museums campaign’s 20-point manifesto for family fun as a guide.
The sextet includes Beningbrough Hall, an 18th century red brick mansion in York where audiences can cook edible insects, and Newcastle’s impressive Great North Museum.
The eighty-acre Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, where history is brought alive courtesy of re-constructed buildings, a 1700s 'Township' and a working farm, has also been listed together with Coventry’s Herbert Museum and Art Gallery (top of page) – which reopened in October 2008 following a £20 million revamp that challenged visitors to sample the aroma of a Medieval toilet.
The Kids in Museums 2010 manifesto will be used to judge the quality of the shortlisted venues
“Part of the remit for the redevelopment was to create a warm and engaging environment for every visitor to enjoy,” reflected Ludo Keston, Chief Executive of the Herbert, calling the nomination “a tremendous honour”.
“The Herbert was picked out as making that extra special effort for families,” revealed Kids in Museums founder Dea Birkett, who said the award had attracted more than 200 “extremely high quality” entries.
“Their work with very young children is particularly impressive – they demonstrated that they listened to young voices.”
The Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent was nominated for its vocal encouragement.
The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: Carl Sharples, © John Hayles, aeroflight.co.uk
“We were impressed that families were encouraged to be noisy, singing nursery rhymes as they wandered around one of the trails,” said Birkett. “The Potteries shone through for its imaginative, pioneering work.”
Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, praised the Museum’s “exceptional” family work.
“The museum has hosted a large number of events over recent months which demonstrate just how family friendly they are,” she observed.
“To be nominated for a national award of this calibre is testament to the staff who provide this service.”
St Nicholas Priory in Exeter. exeter.gov.uk
St Nicholas Priory, a 900-year-old Benedictine monastery in Exeter city centre, had appealed to the public to support their cause by writing to the campaign.
“Our youngest visitors now have toys, stories, activities and trails especially for them,” said Alan Caig, Head of Leisure and Museums at Exeter City Council.
“They're all tried and tested as they were designed with help from families from the West Exe Children's Centre."
The winner will be announced in April, joining a list of former champions including Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum and Weston Park Museum in Sheffield.