PLAY THE GENERATION GAME AT A MUSEUM –AND EVERYONE’S A WINNER
The 2011 Kids in Museums Manifesto is launched on Monday 17th January. And this year, families have given a clear message who they want to visit a museum with – and why. The person they want to spend time with wandering amongst the glass cabinets of French porcelain, playing on the interactives, dressing up as a Tudor or fingering a dinosaur bone is a grandparent.
‘There’s a lot of concern about different generations not talking to or understanding each other. Museums could be the solution to this intergenerational silence!’ says Mariella Frostrup, Patron, Kids in Museums. ‘Museums are simply the best place to go with your granny. There’s nothing like standing around a real object to spark up a conversation. Older people will often spot things they remember from when they were younger and start chatting about them. Great stories emerge. Some of my kids’ favourite museum visits have been with their grandma to the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. Although, admittedly, that could be because she’s sweeter than me and always gets them a lollipop and something exciting from the shop!’
‘Visitors have let us know what they want from a museum visit. And they’ve said they don’t want to go just with one, but with many generations of their family,’ says Dea Birkett, Director, Kids in Museums. ‘Museums are becoming important places for different generations to meet and have meaningful conversations, sharing histories, prompted by real objects. My mum – in her 70s – took my nine-year-old twins to the Imperial War Museum. They wandered around the 1940s house and she pointed out familiar objects from her childhood – the wireless, the tin of powdered milk, the quilted bedspread and china hot water bottle. She rarely speaks about her childhood. The following weekend, she came round with her identity card from the war. She hadn’t taken it out for over 40 years. But a museum visit encouraged her to talk to her grandchildren about her youth, and entranced them. This conversation wouldn’t have happened otherwise. If every museum could offer the opportunities for every older person to share their past with the younger generation, there would be such benefit to society.’
London Transport Museum is hosting the launch of the 2011 Kids in Museums on Monday evening. ‘We’re continually striving to be a family friendly museum. We offer free admission to children under 16 and give each young family member a copy of our new family activity book, and all our museum displays have something to appeal to all ages,’ says Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum. ‘Our whole approach fits perfectly with the Kids in Museums Manifesto. We have taken its principles to heart in our 2012 exhibition Journeys, much of it curated by young people as part of our Cultural Olympiad project.’
The 2011 Kids in Museums Manifesto – 20 ways to make a museum family friendly – is compiled entirely from hundreds of visitors’ comments. It gives a powerful voice to families throughout Britain. Hundreds of museums use it as a guide to becoming more family friendly, pledging their support.
Other points visitors are saying they want include:
- Have a family-friendly cafe. It’s an important ingredient in getting it right – and probably the only place in a museum a family can be guaranteed to visit and allowed to sit down together to chat about what they’ve seen. Visitors wanted the cafe to be more ‘museumy’, something special and connected to the collection. Not just another anonymous place to eat a sandwich.
- Museums should make the most of their Wow! factor. Everyone finds real objects awesome. Museums should exploit what makes them unique.
- Don’t say sshusssh! Museums are places for debate and new ideas. They need to be noisy.
You can download a copy of the new Manifesto from www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk/manifesto
For further information, hard copies of the 2011 Kids in Museums Manifesto, images (including Quentin Blake illustration) and interview requests, just call 020 7022 1888 or 07545 697652.
Further information on Kids in Museums from www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk
Kids in Museums is a visitor-led charity working with museums to make them more family friendly, in particular for families who have never visited before. Kids in Museums believes in changing museums, we can change lives, giving new opportunities and experiences to families.
Among our projects are the annual Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award, the Flexible Family Ticket campaign, and Your Museum Cafe.
Kids in Museums was founded five years ago when writer Dea Birkett’s family were thrown out of the Royal Academy, London, for being too noisy. Find out more about us from www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk/about
Kids in Museums is grateful for the support of the MLA, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Philip Mould Ltd.
We would also like to thank Quentin Blake for his fabulous illustrations