The Horniman is the joint holder of the Telegraph's Family Friendly Museum Award 2013 organised by Kids in Museums. This pioneering award is voted for by families to create a shortlist and then inspected by family ls"mystery shoppers' to determine the winners. We are proud to have been chosen by visiting families themselves for this competitive award.
We believe it was capital investment in our Museum and Gardens, the development of our family learning programmes and the creation of an inclusive culture and visitor-facing teams that led to this Award.
ls"The Horniman has always been a big hitter in the world of family friendly museums, offering events and supporting activities for families which are pioneering in the field. Family friendliness touches everything the museum does, whether it's the lower handrail for kids to hold on to going down the stairs to the packed-out regular storytelling sessions, they prove that a world class collection and catering to families goes hand in hand. The strong community engagement was particularly noted by the panel of expert judges.' Dea Birkett, Kids in Museums
This award, the first museum Award in Britain to be judged by families and children, has an interesting history. It is run by Kids in Museums, an independent charity established 10 years ago and dedicated to making museums open and welcoming to all families.
The award was the inspiration of British journalist and mother, Dea Birkett. In 2003 Dea visited a major London art gallery with her two-year-old son who, seeing a statue of Eagle Man, shouted ls"Monster!' They were thrown out of the gallery. Dea wrote about her experience in her newspaper column and hundreds of families responded with their own experiences of being made to feel unwelcome in museums and galleries.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens was given to ls"the People in Perpetuity' in 1901 by tea merchant and philanthropist Frederick Horniman, for their ls"recreation instruction and enjoyment'. His gift included a newly-built Museum, our founding collections, an aquarium and Gardens.
Through 100 years of fieldwork, donations, transfer and purchase, the collections have grown to number 80,000 Anthropology objects, 250,000 Natural History specimens and 8,000 Musical Instruments. Our vision is to use these high quality collections, and our living collections and 16.5 acres of Gardens, ls"to encourage a wider appreciation of the World, its peoples and their cultures, and its environments', locally, nationally and internationally.
Museum and Gardens developments
Since 2002 we have expanded the museum and re-landscaped the Gardens, adding new public engagement spaces, galleries and facilities. We have trebled our visitor numbers to 860,000 in 2013/14, and built a strong, loyal and still-expanding family visitor base. Our repeat visitation rate is around 70% and, of our General Public visitors, 81% are families with children.
Built into these developments was the desire to cater better for our growing family audience. Our old buildings struggled to accommodate visitors, and had displays with poor circulation and many barriers to physical and intellectual access. Improvements ranged from installing low-level handrails on stairs, and low-level basins in the toilets, to building inspirational areas for handling objects, creating performances or art works.
Child friendly does not mean dumbing down our work, however. Our Aquarium was redisplayed with child-height viewing areas but is also a centre for coral research. More recently we have developed collections appealing to families, which link the Museum and Gardens - a Sound Garden and animal walk linked to our musical instrument and natural history collections, and a dye and fibres garden linked to anthropology.
We support the interests and passions of our young audience, increasingly now in the virtual world, nurturing the future generations of subject specialists and researchers.
But family-friendly buildings and collections are not enough. For the day-to-day visitor, it is the culture of our people on the ground interacting with families - be they the learning team, Gardens staff, front of house, cafeacute; or shop staff - that plays a key role in creating a welcoming environment. Our visitor survey shows it works; 98% of our visitors would recommend a visit to their friends.
Our approach to families and learning
Families are made up of all ages and generations, and identify with a number of ethnicities, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds - so we need a variety of ways to engage and inspire. We also recognise that parental involvement in children's learning increases children's attainment levels more than any other factor.
The breadth of our family programme - object handling, nature exploration, storytelling, craft workshops and participatory dance and music - ensures there are regular opportunities for families to enjoy and learn together. We encourage curiosity, imagination, mutual respect, enhanced motor skills and critical thinking through activities designed to accommodate all literacy levels, and overcome language and other barriers to participation.
Storytelling is a great way for families to access the Horniman''s collections. Last year we delivered 350 storytelling sessions attended by 15,092 people. We are also well-known for our object-based family sessions, run in our inspiring Hands On Base housing a handling collection of 3,500 objects. One visitor commented, ls"Absolutely loved it, the kids did too! Great to be able to do what I have wanted since my first visit to the Horniman as a child "Touch"'.
Families from marginalised communities
The Horniman is committed to reflecting the diversity of London and building non-traditional audiences - this includes our family audience.
We attract around 40% of our visitors from lower income groups, and 5% of our audience identify themselves as disabled. Visits from ethnic minority groups account for 29% of all our general public visits and our audience is becoming more diverse, reflective of the increase in diversity of London's population.
We regularly carry out projects and events to welcome minority family groups. The scope and range of our collections allows us to speak directly to and with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) audiences. We take a collaborative and consultative approach, working with partners in our community.
A successful example is our annual Crossing Borders events, run in partnership with refugees and asylum seekers. Last year families working with the Children's Society and with Fairbeats! Rainbow Club, a group supported by Action for Refugees in Lewisham, created a Rangoli pattern made from foods of the world, and presented food preparation tools, techniques, cookery and food tasting, to our visitors. The Rainbow Club also gave a celebratory performance for their parents and visitors - the culmination of a project to explore and celebrate cultural diversity through shared stories, objects, costumes and art work.
We are arguably the largest community museum in London, and play a highly valued educational and social role, actively welcoming a very diverse range of families - new arrivals as well as established Londoners - many of whom make us a key part of their lives.
It is the fact that these families nominated the Horniman in a competitive national campaign that makes us most proud of our Family Friendly Museum Award.