We were able to share some VERY exciting news earlier this week (and not before time...keeping it to ourselves has not been easy!) On Tuesday it was officially announced ...drumroll...that NESM has been shortlisted in the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Awards in the best small museum category. And we're all over the moon!
We're shortlisted alongside four other fantastic museums; the Egypt Centre in Swansea, Ely Museum in Cambridgeshire, London's Water and Steam Museum and the Story Museum in Oxford, all doing amazing things to engage and enthuse youngsters in history and heritage. We're flying the flag for the North of England in our category and proud to do so!
Overall 16 museums have been nominated for awards across five categories; best large, medium and small museum, best accessible museum and best family engagement team. (Congratulations to our fellow South Yorkshire nominees, Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre, who have been shortlisted in the best accessible museum category.)
The charity Kids in Museums has run the prestigious annual award for 16 years, which recognises the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK and is made possible by funding from Arts Council England. It celebrates museums, galleries and heritage attractions that go the extra mile to provide an excellent family friendly experience. It is the only museum award to be judged by families and is supported by nominations from real visitors and supporters.
From late March to early 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 those who made it on to the shortlist.
We know the competition is fierce and any one of the shortlisted museums in our category would be a worthy winner. Would we love to win? You bet we would! But the nomination on its own means so much to us, for so many reasons.
Firstly, it's a big 'thumbs up' for all the work we've done over the last couple of years to improve our museum and make sure that there's something for all our visitors, whatever their age. Every time we put together a new exhibition - something we've done a LOT of recently - we put a great deal of thought into how we can engage even our youngest visitors, providing plenty of things to touch, climb in and try on! Our special events - like our forthcoming Mega Machines summer - are designed to include something for all ages to enjoy, from craft workshops to treasure trails, and new initiatives like our under-5s sensory play sessions have proved very popular.
This immersive, hands-on approach was praised by the panel of judges, as were the positive steps we have taken towards improving access. They were also impressed by what was being achieved at the museum by such a small team (at the expense, occasionally, of blood, toil, tears and sweat!) and our ongoing efforts to keep a day out at our museum affordable for families; a ticket at NESM is automatically upgraded to an annual pass for no additional cost.