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.
Secondly, it tells us that we're doing something right! It's been such a busy, topsy-turvy couple of years - for lots of reasons - that we often as a team don't have the time to step back and assess what we've done. It's usually a case of, "right, that's done, what's next?" So this just reminds us that the hard work of everyone at Team NESM is paying off.
What makes this nomination extra-special, though, is that it is supported by testimonials from our visitors; actual, real people who have come through our doors and loved what they've discovered. If you were one of those who submitted a family nomination for NESM this year, or given us feedback during your visit, or have left us a review on Google or TripAdvisor, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! It means the world to us and, as a self-funded, independent museum, we couldn't survive without your support.
As part of our submission we've also been collecting feedback from younger visitors. Comments have included:
“I think that the National Emergency Services Museum is very fun…you are family friendly because there is lots of things to explore and for children of all ages”
“I like the museum because there are lots of interactive things on all floors…I am definitely coming again”
“We’ve had the best day ever!”
“We love visiting!”
“This place is amazing. The dressing up is fantastic. It’s lovely to have access to history so local”.
“The trip was so fun...thank you for creating this amazing museum.”
Thank you so much for all these lovely comments - and keep them coming!
We'll have to wait a few months until we find out if we're the winners in our category. Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges (we're on high alert for anyone turning up in a trenchcoat, Trilby hat and sunglasses) who will assess the museum 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 2022 which will be announced at an awards ceremony in October. We're not sure if we can stand the tension!
You'll be hearing a lot more about our award nomination over the next few months and all the things we are doing to make NESM the best family museum in the UK. Nay, the world!!! (Possibly getting a bit carried away now.....)