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Kids in Museums Manifesto

The new 2010 Kids in Museums Manifesto, launched this week, is compiled entirely from visitors’ comments. This year families have made it clear – they don’t want interactive to mean passively pushing buttons. They want to finger real fossils, dress up, and get messy. Attending the event, Roy Clare, MLA Chief Executive commented; “The Manifesto is the voice of people and families. It is encouraging to see them actively engaged and inspired to drive museums to be more family-friendly."

Hands on doesn't mean hi-tech, says the new 2010 Kids in Museums Manifesto, launched today (Thursday 14 January), compiled entirely from visitors' comments. This year families have made it clear - they don't want interactive to mean passively pushing buttons. They want to finger real fossils, dress up, and get messy. Families can sit in front of a computer screen or play on a Wii at home. Museums should be different. They have the thrill of the real.

Attending the event, Roy Clare, MLA Chief Executive commented; "The Manifesto is the voice of people and families. It is encouraging to see them actively engaged and inspired to drive museums to be more family-friendly. Many museums already get it right but more needs to be done to help make museum-visiting a lifelong habit for all ages. I am delighted the MLA is able to support Kids in Museums do great work helping museums offer quality family experiences that entertain, educate and amuse and we also welcome DCSF's support of the initiative."

'I remember my first visit to the British Museum with my father at the age of eight. I was fascinated by the Rosetta Stone. I was thrilled to be able to touch it - it was uncovered at the time - and physically connect with history,' says Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum.

'Of the thousands of visitors' suggestions we received for the 2010 Manifesto, hardly any mentioned technology and gadgets. Families talked about making paper planes in a gallery like Leonardo da Vinci, or shining a torch into a dark corner of a glass cabinet as if they were discovering something for the first time. There's nothing hi tech about that,' says Dea Birkett, Director, Kids in Museums. 'Museums need to listen to families, and provide sensual experiences, not clean and clinical ones.'

The demand for better hands-on, interactive exhibits is just one point in the 2010 Kids in Museums Manifesto - 20 ways to make a museum family friendly. The British Museum is a signatory to the Kids in Museums Manifesto and a place families have always enjoyed.

Other new points in the 2010 Manifesto include:

Provide a place to leave prams - Families are fed up of being told there's nowhere to store their prams and pushchairs in museums. Museums and galleries should provide a place for families to leave all their baggage, so they're free enjoy Picasso, ancient pottery or prehistoric artefacts without being encumbered by buggies stuffed with changing bags and piles of winter coats. And if the galleries weren't crowded with unwanted prams, visitors without kids would have a better time, too.

'Don't touch!' is never enough - Families tell museum staff - be positive when you speak to us! Stop telling us off. Say things like, 'Isn't that a great painting. Let's look at it together from further back.'

Have flexible family tickets - Don't dictate the size of a family. Families come in all shapes and sizes. We want a family ticket even if we have three kids, or are a lone parent family with a grandparent too.

Notes to editors:

1. Kids in Museums - a Brief History - In 2003, writer Dea Birkett was thrown out of the Royal Academy's Aztec exhibition when her youngest son, aged two, shouted 'Monster!' at a statue of Eagle Man who looked rather like - well - a monster. Four days later, Dea wrote a piece about her family's expulsion in the Guardian. By the end of that day, hundreds of families emailed to say they were fed up being treated badly in Britain's museums, and wanted to see change. Kids in Museums was born, a voice for every family visitor. Today Kids in Museums is an independent charity, working with museums to make them more welcoming to families, in particular those who have never had the opportunity to visit before. A Kids in Museums believes in changing museums, we can change lives, giving opportunities and experiences to new families. We are grateful for the support of the Museums, Libraries and Archives council (MLA) in our work. Visit website www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk

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