National Maritime Museum Cornwall enjoys Family Friendly Awards win

By Culture24 Reporter | 29 September 2014

Celebrations in Cornwall as the National Maritime Museum rides the crest of a wave following two important honours

A photo of groups of families celebrating with an award a museum has won
Staff and volunteers at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall celebrate with families after winning the Family Friendly Museum Awards© Courtesy National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Having spent much of the year waiting to learn if their popularity with visitors would translate into glory, organisers at Cornwall’s National Maritime Museum have broken out the cake and champagne with two awards in two days.

The 15-gallery museum – currently home to a Search and Rescue exhibition – was announced as the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award winner on Friday. It won Cornwall Today’s Best Museum in Cornwall the previous day.

A photo of three people holding an award at a ceremony
This is the second time a Cornish venue has won the Family Friendly honour© Julian Simmonds
“We’re jumping with joy, popping the bubbly, hunting down cake and indulging in a bit of back-slapping,” said Tamsin Loveless, of the Falmouth seafaring headquarters, joyfully observing a museum “buzzing” with “swashbuckling celebrations”.

“Naturally we’re celebrating with cake. We’re all so very happy. It’s wonderful to have been rewarded for all the team’s hard work.

“We could not be more chuffed if we tried – it’s everything we have been working to achieve.

“Everyone has worked so hard for this over so many years – all the volunteers and staff are so proud.

“We’re still dancing on the ceiling and now plotting on capitalising on the title.”

A close-up photo of a dark brown cake adorned with small hearts on its surface
Organisers created the "ultimate cake" in honour of their success
The Family Friendly honour was contested by six museums, judged against a 20-point manifesto and partly decided by visiting families acting as mystery judges.

“Kids are our monitor and if they like it then we’re on to something special,” said Loveless.

“We’re so touched by everyone’s messages which are just adding to the joy of winning.”

Jonathan Griffin, the museum’s Director, paid tribute to Brian Stewart, the inspirational curator who oversaw the nearby Falmouth Art Gallery’s 2006 victory before his death in a road accident four years ago.

“Everyone here is absolutely ecstatic to have won this award,” he said.

“Focusing on families isn’t an add-on for us – it’s at the heart of what we do.

“Children are the future. If we get it right for them, we get it right for families and many diverse audiences.

“We also introduce them to museum visiting and secure our future. We are 100 percent funded by the visitors, so unlike the big national museums we have to live on our wits.

“That’s why the whole place is so focused on making it a brilliant experience for visitors and especially families and children.”

Griffin said being nominated for the award, which is in its tenth year, had proved “incredibly useful as a process”.

“We have used the manifesto as a checklist for what we do. We were shortlisted last year and were really inspired by what last year’s winners have achieved.

“It’s their ambition and excitement that really encouraged us. I’ve worked in some museums where family friendliness and being accessible is an argument that has to be addressed by the education team, but at the Maritime it’s never an argument.

“Everyone instinctively wants to make the whole experience as accessible and engaging as possible for families and children.”

The museum’s keenly-supported competition came from Surrey’s Lightbox, the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Essex, Barnsley’s Museum and Discovery Centre, the Beamish in Durham and the Elgin Museum in Moray.

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