The Kids in Museums Manifesto is not a new thing. The charity has been doing great work promoting the importance of engaging with children and family audiences for many years now. They run high-profile annual schemes such as Takeover Day and the Family Friendly Museum of the Year Award (nominations are currently open) and deliver regular training on subjects including Babies in Museum and Autism Awareness. The Manifesto is the backbone of all of these areas of work, informing their work and the work of many museums around the UK (and possibly the world…?)
The 20-point manifesto is made of really simple things, most of which you are probably already doing including saying hello to visitors and sharing stories. Last year they launched a “mini-manifesto”, covering all the key points:
- Reach out. Begin the welcome beyond your door. Help families find you, go out to meet them, start friendly conversations on their home patch and make your museum easy to reach.
- Get to know your families. Some have babies, some toddlers, teenagers, parents, grandparents or foster children. Embrace these differences, from your programme to your ticketing.
- Seek to reflect your community and include it at your heart in your displays, interpretation and events.
- Be positive. Say ‘Hello!’ Welcome enthusiastic comments (which may be loud), have things to touch and explore, challenge your staff to never say ‘No’
- Make it easy and Comfortable — with a family friendly café, pushchair friendly toilets, seating in the galleries, a place to store skateboards and teenage kit, child-height stair rails, tap water. Just a few of the very practical ways to help a family relax and have fun.
- Be accessible. Families with disabilities may make an extra effort to reach you. Include their needs in everything you do and say — from how to get there to exploring the displays. All your visitors should be equally supported and welcomed.
- Tell your story. Families aren’t only coming to see your collections. They’re coming to enjoy your museum and hear your stories. These are what they’ll share when they get home. Find a way to include their stories too. They’ll add new insights and make the museum belong to them.
- Communicate well. Let families know what you offer. Include this on your website and social media. Chat with families before they visit and after they leave. Build relationships and include them in long-term decision-making. These families will become your greatest advocates.
So, I was surprised to discover that only 17 Essex venues are signed up to this wonderful initiative. Kids in Museums are an Arts Council funded “National Portfolio Organisation” (NPO) so signing up will look good on your Accreditation returns. It is also worth mentioning on funding applications as part of your commitment to broadening audiences and supporting young people. You could also put it on your website and share that fact that you’ve signed up on your social media or in other publicity.
Registering your organisation’s commitment to the manifesto is really easy. Just fill in the short form on their website. You can also have a sneaky look at which other museums are signed up (and which ones aren’t).
While you’re there, why not nominate yourself for Family Friendly Museum of the Year…