It has Tudor racing bells, Georgian ball gowns, Suffragette photographs, over 100,000 insects, 16th century bandits’ armour and one of the oldest violins in the world. It welcomes toddlers for weekly baby sessions and Brownies for sleepovers, and has family-friendly tray liners in the café with mazes to trace your way back to a Roman fort.
The winner of this year’s Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award is 120-year-old Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, Cumbria, close to the England-Scotland border.
Tullie House describes itself as a meeting place for nature, history and art. With collections ranging from the decorative arts and Pre-Raphaelite painting to Roman archaeology and an entomology collection of 100,000 specimens, it’s an excellent place to explore the heritage of Northern Cumbria. It also prides itself on being a family-friendly venue, with welcoming galleries and a restaurant, family drop-in sessions specially for toddlers and a range of special activities laid on throughout the year.
The winner and special commendation were announced on Thursday 24 September at an award ceremony at the Telegraph Media Group, sponsors of the Family Friendly Museum Award.
The Family Friendly Museum Award is the biggest museum award in Britain. This year, the Award broke all previous records with over 850 nominations, from tiny one-roomed galleries to mighty museums of international reputation.
It’s the only Award where families pick the winner. Six shortlisted museums were road-tested by undercover families against the 20 points on the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery shone through as the most welcoming on all counts, from the temporary exhibitions to the toilets.
Shortlisted museum, the Winding House in Caerphilly, Wales, was given a Special Commendation for Outstanding Contribution to their Local Community – the first time any museum has been given such a commendation. This is in recognition of the testimonies local families gave to their museum, saying how much it meant to them.
The centrepiece of this vibrant museum in Caerphilly is the Grade II-listed winding engine that was used to take miners down to the Welsh coal seams hundreds of feet below. But beyond this living insight into the fascinating industrial heritage of the area, Winding House hosts a rolling programme of exhibitions, a local history research centre, a fascinating social history collection and, of course, family-friendly events throughout the year, ranging from crafty historical workshops to talks and gallery trails.
Other finalists include:
- Geffrye Museum
The Geffrye’s period rooms tell the story of how homes and home life have evolved over time - starting in 1600 and concluding at the end of the 20th century. But as well as showing us where and how we lived, their programme of free art, design, craft, cooking and baking workshops and weekend programme of activities, family-friendly audio-tours, quizzes, trails and activity back-packs also makes them a fine destination for a family museum visit.
- Royal Albert Memorial Museum
Anyone who has visited the RAMM will know how well this recently refurbished museum of local and natural history and art welcomes kids and families.
From the little bee costumes for younger visitors to the explorer bags for older children, the museum knows how to let youngsters get the best out of the collection. Add in the handling sessions, kids’ workshops, interactives quizzes and treasure trails and you have one of the most family-focussed museums in the south west.
- National Coal Mining Museum
What better adventure is there than going on an underground mine tour to meet a miner? At the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, kids and families get to do just that.
But as well as being one of the most atmospheric industrial museums in the UK, family visitors are enticed by holiday workshops, family story writing, wacky Wednesdays for the under-fives and weekly themed activities to keep the kids entertained during the school holidays.
- The Diving Museum
The co-inventor of the diving helmet, John Deane, lived in Gosport from 1835 to 1845, during which time he discovered the Mary Rose.
He would be proud of the way this entirely volunteer-run museum tells the story of diving from the earliest divers and diving equipment to the latest underwater cameras and the way it puts family and kids visits at its core.