The prestigious annual award – run by charity Kids in Museums for the past 15 years – recognises the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK and is the only museum award to be judged by families.
From April to June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of museum experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of 20 heritage attractions.
The Horniman is vying against two other museums in the Best Large Museum category – the Great North Museum in Hancock, Newcastle, and World Museum, Liverpool. All three will now be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2021.
In a year when the Horniman Museum spent more time closed than open, what brought the place to life was the excitement and energy of kids and families when they could be welcomed inside.
The Horniman prides itself on being a welcoming and safe place for families to explore together – and when we were able to open 70% of our visitors were in family groups. They were in need of fun and entertaining things for their children to do, looking for inspiration and exploration and they chose the Horniman.
We’re incredibly grateful for that, and for their nominations which have put us on this year’s Family Friendly Museum Award shortlist.
The Horniman’s family-friendly highlights of a difficult year included:
- keeping the Horniman Gardens open throughout lockdown, for families to escape, explore and recharge
- reopening the toilets and Sound Garden play area quickly (with safety measures in place) and prioritising provision of buggy parking outdoors and inside the Museum when it reopened
- running virtual Busy Bees sessions for under-5s and their parents
- creating of a series of arts and crafts tutorials and videos to help with home schooling
- live storytelling in the Gardens, once guidelines allowed – for many families The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole, linked to Black History Month in October, was their first experience of live performance since the beginning of the pandemic
- finding alternative ways to engage families in the reopened Museum, such as an activity trail, colouring sheets for kids to take home, and a commissioned film especially for under-5s that encouraged touch-free interactivity
- launching an Environment Champions Club aimed at families with children aged 6 to 10, providing activities and inspiration for positive actions they can do at home, at the Horniman and in their local community, and a network for local families to share tips and ideas.
The Family Friendly Museum Award has been made possible by funding from Arts Council England. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.