Kids in Museums Manifesto – Are You Signed Up?

Museum Explorer

Teddy Bears Picnic at Chelmsford Museum

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Seek to reflect your community and include it at your heart in your displays, interpretation and events.
  4. Be positive. Say ‘Hello!’ Welcome enthusiastic comments (which may be loud), have things to touch and explore, challenge your staff to never say ‘No’
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

#VolunteersWeek: Volunteering with Kids in Museums

2012 London Volunteer Awards

Jane at the 2012 London Volunteer Awards (back row, fourth from left)

Jane Allnutt is a freelance museum educator based in Essex. Here she shares her experiences of volunteering with Kids in Museums.

Volunteering takes you to places you wouldn’t normally reach….. it has certainly been true for me, in the six years since I began volunteering with Kids in Museums.

This charity has a Director, Trustees and a TV personality amongst its Patrons, but more importantly, it has a large number of valued and committed volunteers who rarely – if ever, meet together. We co-operate, support and keep in touch through the internet and by email. Back in 2009 this was unusual, but it is now ‘normal’ working practise for a lot of organisations. Each of the volunteers has a different role and we have recently appointed our first Volunteer Co-ordinator to ensure everyone who volunteers can contribute to projects which use their skills and ensure they feel valued by the organisation.

So what’s my role? Since I teach most of the time, I tend to volunteer on an irregular basis, but I still feel what I do is valued. I help out with one day events like the Family Fortunes, Teens, and Babies Workshops, usually held in a London museum – although we recently held a workshop in Kensington Palace and we have one in September at London Zoo! I log and monitor the documents downloaded from the website each month, I conduct the volunteer interviews and hopefully select the people with the skills we need. I also help out with Takeover Day in various venues and collect information and write Case Studies. In August I’ll be collecting feedback from the ‘under cover’ family judges who visit the 6 short-listed museums for the Most Family Friendly Museum Award. This involves lots of time spent on the telephone but it’s fascinating to hear how the families score the museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto – 20 points to encourage museums to become more family friendly, and it’s their judgements which choose the final winner.

Over the years I have undertaken research (paid) for the Family Ticket Watch Report – to find out what museums, and families want from a Family /concessionary ticket. Sometimes the volunteering has led onto paid work for particular projects which is always a bonus!

I’ve attended a report launch at the Houses of Parliament, been to Private Views and Exhibition openings mingling with the rich and famous. I’ve also met some people I hugely admire – Michael Rosen, Judith Kerr and Quentin Blake (who drew the Kids in Museums logo) along with various Minsters, TV personalities, ‘top brass’ in the museum world and other inspiring people who support this unique and influential organisation.

Best of all I’ve met some awesome volunteers with fantastic drive and energy, fully committed to promoting Kids in Museums. Some like me have been volunteering for quite a few years, others volunteer for a short time on a particular project where they have specific skills. Check out the website www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk for more information on Kids in Museums.

Kids in Museums are currently recruiting for new volunteers. If you are interested in giving-back to the sector while broadening your experience for your CV, click here for more information.