It’s not enough to keep museums free – they must be fun too
Top marks to Dea Birkett, a mum with more chutzpah than Roseanne and Miss Piggy rolled into one.
When, just over ten years ago, her two year old son was thrown out of the Royal Academy for shouting, did she a) Put him on the naughty step, b) Say “My mistake” and head straight for the Science Museum or c) Create a huge fuss and start a charity to make museums more kid friendly? Hint. Ms Birkett is a Guardian columnist and her son is called River.
Of course she did, and it is thanks to her, and the now teenage River, that the charity she founded, Kids in Museums, launched its Kids in Museums Manifesto, this morning, with 20 simple things museums can do to make children, teenagers and families more welcome in their hallowed halls.
Now, there is an argument that says that if adults can’t escape the attentions of a noisy two year old in the Royal Academy, then where on earth can they, but equally, the poor little thing was in his buggy and was clearly doing his best to show willing. His crime was to shout “Monster!” at one of the Aztec statues of a bird man, a reaction his mother, not unreasonably, on a rainy Saturday afternoon out with twins, declared a result.
So, given that in towns and cities all over the country, a museum will always be a refuge for frazzled parents on a rainy weekend afternoon, it does make sense to make them as welcoming as possible for all of us. After all, the way things are going, they will soon end up being the only free place in town.
Top of the manifesto, which was compiled solely from visitors’ comments, is to draw families in by making them feel welcome, greeting them, ensuring teenagers have a place to hang out, and most importantly of all, not telling them off the moment they step through the door.
And, after my moans last week about the price of food for children it was lovely to see, at number 16 in the manifesto “Provide healthy, good-value food and unlimited tap water”. Yes, please, so let’s see a few fewer meringues the size of our heads and a few more bog standard cheese sandwiches please – V & A I am looking at you!
Let me know how you would improve your favourite museum to make it more welcoming to your children and get involved in the Kids in Museums campaign.