Issue 119/11, 01.11.2019
What makes a family-friendly museum?
This year’s winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award is the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Dunfermline. Run by arts organisation, Kids in Museums, the award has gone to a Scottish museum for the first time. We asked the head of Kids in Museums, which runs the awards, and two previous winners what makes a family-friendly museum.
Alison Bowyer, executive director, Kids in Museums
“A family-friendly museum is somewhere families can explore, play and learn together. Families want to feel warmly welcomed and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere. They want their visit to be easy and comfortable thanks to great facilities, including clear signage, accessible toilets and affordable food. Families come in all shapes and sizes, so museums should reflect this in their ticketing and in the stories they share. A family-friendly museum provides practical information, so families know what to expect in advance, and acts on their feedback.”
Kate Fellows, head of learning and access, Leeds Museums and Galleries
“Put simply, three things: staff, programming and listening to audiences. The people you meet when you walk through the door make or break a visit to any museum. People feel welcomed if the staff are kind, tolerant, encouraging and playful. Recruit the right people to the right audience-focused job – then train, support and nurture them. When we actively listen to each other, everybody feels valued. Listen and take action together through programmes, exhibitions and organisational culture. Oh, and having a basic cheese sarnie in the cafe also helps.”
Jo Killeya, head of public programming, York Art Gallery
“The most family-friendly museums give families the chance to play, talk, learn and make memories together. They get the hygiene factors right, and the loos, food and access. And they invest time and effort in really understanding their families’ needs and catering for them at every step of their visit. York Art Gallery won Family Friendly Museum of the Year in 2016 following a major redevelopment that identified families as a core audience. We had fun designing for families – and it shows. It continues to be a thriving family gallery today.”