The end of the year. A time when people’s thoughts naturally drift towards life’s big questions; how many mince pies is too many? Are they ever going to go home? Did I keep the receipt? And, of course, what have I done with the last 12 months?
At NESM we’re no different. We ask ourselves all the same questions (except for the mince pies one – the answer to that is seven). And this year we can look back with a great deal of satisfaction on a good job well done.
We started 2023 as officially the UK’s best #familyfriendlymuseum; a title that was bestowed on us in October 2022 by Kids in Museums at their Family Friendly Museum awards. It’s safe to say we enjoyed our year as holders of this prestigious title (for ‘enjoyed’ read ‘milked’). It was such a huge achievement for us and we were super proud of our victory, so of course we were going to make the most of it!
Credit: msc1photography for Kids in Museums
Our CEO, Matt Wakefield, reflected on what it has meant to us in a blog for Kids in Museums. He said: “As well as having a really positive impact on our team, winning the award has had other benefits. Our annual visitor numbers were higher than they have ever been, and we have expanded our networks thanks to the positive publicity the award has brought us.”
That positive publicity included welcoming Lauren Learns History to the museum this year for a special short film to highlight what the museum does for families; receiving a whole host of offers to present at conferences and networking events; being invited into local and national conversations; and opening up opportunities to work with national partners. We also became an official Blue Peter badge attraction; very exciting!
Matt said: “We’re now linking up with organisations across the country, and being asked to share our best practice with people who had never even heard of us before. Our reputation has really grown.”
We passed the crown on in October to Craven Museum and Gallery in Skipton (yes, another Yorkshire winner!) We hope they enjoy it as much as we did!
The publicity we gained from the win – which covered local and national press – helped us to a brilliant year for visitor numbers. We had our biggest summer holidays and October half term, and topped off the year with our best-attended Wartime Christmas event ever. What an amazing festive present that was! It’s been fantastic to see the museum buzzing for so much of the year, and to welcome many people who have discovered us for the first time.
Of course, numbers themselves don’t mean anything if we aren’t giving people a brilliant time when they get here. But….drumroll…we are! Our visitor reviews this year have been fantastic, with top reviews across the board and some wonderful feedback. Here’s just a taster of some of the comments we’ve received this year.
“We had a fabulous day. Lots to see and learn for all ages. Definitely worth every penny. Staff were amazing, helpful and so friendly.”
“Brilliant, a gem of a museum.”
“I love love love this museum.”
“Was very taken back by how big and educational the museum was.”
“Great museum with so much to see and do.”
“The staff were brilliant and couldn't do enough for us. They were warm, friendly and welcoming.”
“If you only have couple hours in Sheffield to spare, this place is a MUST!”
“Fabulous entertaining afternoon spent here, something for all ages and oozing info!”
We absolutely love to hear from happy visitors, so reading comments like these really warms the cockles of our little hearts. And all this helped us start and finish 2023 as Sheffield’s number one museum on TripAdvisor. Result!
There was plenty of exciting stuff for our visitors to explore this year too, including two new mini-exhibitions which we unveiled in 2023. In August we opened a new exhibition in partnership with the RSPCA, ‘200 years of saving animals’ lives’, looking at the amazing work of the emergency service for dogs, cats, birds and everything in between! This was followed in September by ‘Pilots, Paramedics and Propellors’, celebrating the work of the Air Ambulance. This exhibition was created in partnership with Yorkshire Air Ambulance and partly sponsored by the Church Burgesses Educational Foundation.
We packed in plenty of events too. Arms and Armour in February (our first big event of the year) is always a popular one and our superheroes event over Easter gave us all an excuse to dress up in capes, tights and whatever else took our fancy – some of the costumes were more elaborate than others! Steampunk took over the museum in June and we were buzzing with activities over summer and October half term before closing the year with our ever-popular Wartime Christmas weekend. We always say that having such a busy programme of events is one way of making the year fly by; no sooner is one out of the way than we’re looking towards the next!
Which brings us neatly to what 2024 will bring for NESM. Well, lots more exciting events for a start – they’ll be up on our website in the next few weeks. We’ll be refreshing a few areas of the museum, including our Blood, Bandages and Blue Lights exhibition, and are working on a ‘museum on the move’ that we will unveil later in the year. Behind the scenes we’re working towards accreditation and continuing to build our reputation regionally and nationally. And, of course, we’ll continue to strive to make our museum bigger and better!
I can’t complete this review of 2023 without saying a big thank you on behalf of everyone at Team NESM to all our friends and supporters and, most of all, our fantastic visitors. You’ve been brilliant this year! Thank you for coming to see us, at the museum and at the many events we attend throughout the year around the country. And thank you for taking time to share your comments on social media and online review sites, and for recommending us to family and friends. As a self-funded, independent museum we wouldn’t be here without you! So from us all have a very happy new year and a healthy, prosperous 2024. We look forward to seeing you.