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Fossils hidden in sandpits, a Victorian sweet shop and a tank full of frogs. It’s the thrill of the real that visitors were looking for in this year’s entries for the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award. As we all live in more virtual worlds, museums still offer real experiences with real things. That’s what makes them so special. As one young visitor said of longlisted Mshed museum in Bristol, ‘It’s interesting because it has older things than my Nan.’
The very best family friendly museums don’t only let us look at their collection, but handle and hold it too. Children are no longer being told off for stroking the stuffed walrus or creaking open the wooden tea chest. Instead they’re being positively encouraged to do so. ‘You can get your hands on absolutely loads of things,’ wrote an 11-year-old about longlisted Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston. ‘There are touch screen games and lots of bags around the museum. In the bags are objects to feel and touch.’
From over 140 nominated museums, our volunteer panel picked the top twenty: * Beamish Museum, County Durham * Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, Falkirk * Brixham Heritage Museum * The Cardiff Story / Stori Caerdydd * Compton Verney, Warwickshire * Geffrye Museum, London * Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston * Horniman Museum and Gardens, London * Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Shropshire * M Shed, Bristol * Museum in the Park, Stroud * INTECH Science Centre & Planetarium, Winchester * National Maritime Museum Cornwall * Nature in Art, Gloucestershire * North Lincolnshire Museum * Nottingham Contemporary * Rural Life Centre, Surrey * Saffron Walden Museum, Essex * Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Devon * Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Cumbria
What Happens Next?
The 20-strong longlist is put before a panel of experts, chaired by Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The panel whittles down the longlist to a shortlist of Britain’s most family friendly museums. The shortlist will be announced in early July. This shortlist is then road-tested anonymously by families.