Yesterday Bailiffgate Museum & Gallery was named winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2021 in an online ceremony hosted by art dealer and broadcaster, Philip Mould (BBC’s Fake or Fortune?) pictured above.
Run by charity Kids in Museums, the national award is awarded annually to one museum, gallery, historic home or heritage site in the UK that goes the extra mile to provide a great experience for families.
Competing against 19 other shortlisted museums across the UK, families praised its welcoming volunteers and relaxed atmosphere. They loved exploring the Viking camp, following the museum mouse trail, being encouraged to get hands-on throughout, seeing information displayed at child height and the practical family facilities.
Since it launched in 2004, the award has become a benchmark of excellence in the heritage sector. Each year Kids in Museums receives hundreds of public nominations, which are whittled down to a shortlist by an expert panel. The final say goes to families, who visit each shortlisted museum over the summer holidays, and decide the winner.
One family judge said: “This was our first time here and we had no expectations really, but it was such a big hit. We loved how relaxed it felt. The children were actively encouraged to touch and play with the exhibits. The youngest ones loved searching for the museum mice, which was a lovely touch as it gave them something to focus on. The Viking exhibit was small and perfect… we had to drag them out for lunch otherwise I’m sure they would have stayed longer. We would definitely go back.”
Philip Mould, President of Kids in Museums, said: “This year’s winner really exemplifies what the Family Friendly Museum Award is all about. At its heart is a group of devoted volunteers working hard to welcome and support their local community. Thanks to their efforts, Bailiffgate Museum & Gallery has excelled in allowing families to feel free to be themselves and to have fun and engage with the history inside the museum. After another difficult year for museums, it is great that we can highlight the excellent work that staff and volunteers are doing in Alnwick and across the UK. Many congratulations to all this year’s winners.”
Previous winners of the award include Leeds City Museum, People’s History Museum in Manchester and the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London. In 2019, the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle clinched the Medium Museum category.
Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary next year and prides itself on being family friendly. A dedicated team of volunteers ensures the content of the changing exhibitions and activities will be exciting and educational for a range of ages, with children able to dress up and get hands on with the exhibits.
Jean Humphrys, Chair of Trustees, said: “Our volunteer team are absolutely delighted with this award. Everyone works so hard to make sure the activities, displays, workshops and guided tours are interesting for all ages, interactive and above all fun. This summer children loved learning about the Vikings and next summer they will enjoy being ‘Beside the Seaside’ in the centre of Alnwick.”
Three London museums were also recognised for their excellent work with families in yesterday’s ceremony, including in the new Best Accessible Museum category. Museums in Wales and Manchester also received prizes for their digital activities for families.