Coventry Herbert Museum and Art Gallery wins Guardian Family Friendly Award 2010

By Culture24 Staff | 01 April 2010
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A photo of a curvy glass museum lit by dark blue light

Coventry's gleaming Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, which was re-imagined at a cost of £20 million in 2008, has won the Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award 2010.

Devised by campaigning body Kids in Museums, the award is a constructive response to the experiences suffered by some young visitors to galleries and museums. The prize challenges sites to heed the advice of a manifesto that emphasises inspiring exhibitions and welcoming attitudes among a host of suggestions.

"This award goes some way towards paying off the huge investment made by the city council and other key stakeholders when we completed our redevelopment 18 months ago," said Chief Executive Ludo Keston, who called the announcement "a tremendous honour".

"Part of the remit for the redevelopment was to create a warm and engaging environment for every visitor, including children and their families, to enjoy.

"We've seen the visitor figures grow exponentially over the past year because of our total commitment to making the Museum family-friendly and ensuring families are aware of our offer through new communications methods.

"Winning the Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award is also a fitting reward to the tireless work of our staff during the past 18 months, which we will be living up to for a long while yet."

The award represents further good news for the Herbert, which has reported audience figures of more than 500,000 visitors since opening and was longlisted for The Art Fund Prize last month.

A photo of a family outside a museum

A family visits the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: kidsinmuseums.org.uk

"All the teams at the Herbert have worked really hard to make the Museum as family friendly as possible," said Family Learning Officer Melanie Corner.

"A lot of work goes into creating and delivering our successful and free family activities, events and exhibitions programme to ensure that families have a great visit and come back."

Undercover inspectors were among the family judging panel, including mother-of-two Claire Jowett, who sampled the Herbert with her two young children.

"We immediately felt welcome," she reported, reflecting on a "vibe" which was "so good".

"When you go in there's a very open space – not like in other museums, where there's a desk in the middle and you have to walk around it to get in. We ran straight into a workshop on designing an outfit.

"We saw no signs saying 'do this, do that', no dictating the way we should do things.

"It was like the museum respected us. They gave suggestions and let us decide where to go or what to do."

Kids in Museums founder Dea Birkett said the unprecedented range of "very high quality" nominations had made the judging process "particularly tough".

"The Herbert was picked out as making that extra special effort for families," she explained.

"Their work with very young children is particularly impressive."

Culture24's Anra Kennedy, who was a member of the judging panel, praised the impact of the Kids in Museums campaign.

"One of the best things about judging the Family Friendly Museum Awards is being able to see the progress being made from year to year," she pointed out.

"We're seeing a steady change in attitudes and practice which is making a real difference, with families of all ages being considered and valued as museum visitors."

The Herbert saw off competiton from St Nicholas Priory in Exeter and The Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, with other shortlisted entrants including the intimate Highland Folk Museum in Lanarkshire, Beningbrough Hall and Gardens in York and Newcastle's Great North Museum.

Previous winners include Sheffield's Weston Park and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Read the Kids in Museums Manifesto 2010.