Charity Kids in Museums has run a prestigious annual award since 2004, recognising the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK and is the only UK museum award to be judged by families.
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 a shortlist of 18 heritage attractions.
Maidstone Museum is vying against two other museums in the Best Accessible Museum.
This category celebrates museums making excellent efforts to include families with children or young people who have special educational needs and disabilities. Shortlisted museums will also be given feedback on how they can further improve their offer for families.
Maidstone Museum is owned and manage by Maidstone Borough Council (MBC). Cllr Claudine Russell, Cabinet Member for Communities, Leisure and Arts at MBC said:
" It is such an honour for our wonderful museum to be nominated for this prestigious award. I know the staff work so hard to be as inclusive as possible and always warmly welcome everyone into the Museum.
“They are particularly proud of the Fidget Backpacks which they created after noticing a need to support access for family visits and this was done in consultation with a family who regularly visited.”
The family said:
“Spike and the backpack have changed our family life. Before Maidstone Museum introduced Spike and the backpack, our average museum visit was 20 minutes. Any thought of a day out to a heritage or museum site was filled with dread. By being able to interact with Spike and use the backpacks we were able to normalise family visits.
“All of that is because Maidstone Museum made time and space for JJ to be himself and encouraged him to use the backpack to help with his sensory needs and be at peace in the museum. He is at the stage now where he will just wander off, find a chair or space and just sit or stand and engage. He now often asks to go to museums or heritage sites and encourages others to do likewise.”
Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto, a set of guidelines on what makes a great museum visit for all ages. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2023. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.
Follow the Family Friendly Museum Award on social media by following @kidsinmuseums and #FamilyFriendlyMuseum.
The Family Friendly Museum Award has been made possible by funding from Arts Council England.
Photo: JJ using a Fidget Backpack