Jenni’s Museum Awards 2011 (Part 1)

January 9, 2012

Travel, Croatia, Germany, News, Scotland

After visiting all those museums last year, I thought I would do a kind of ‘Museum Awards’ to pick out some of the highlights.

Best Food

  1. No question, the award for best food experience has to go to the National Library of Scotland, simply for their selection of gluten free cakes! No, they’re not made fresh in house, they are pre-packaged from a gluten free range, but at least they recognise that they have customers with a need for this and they have three or four different varieties!
  2. When you are in the mood for a light lunch, your options are usually sandwiches or sandwiches. Not the best if you’re on a wheat or gluten free diet. However, at the Deutsches Technikmuseum I enjoyed some very fine sweet potato wedges with a cream fraiche dip. Perfectly seasoned, not too heavy, just right. Thank you.
  3. If you are in the mood for a bit more of a substantial lunch, then the restaurant at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is the place for your. Their haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky sauce are heavenly.

Honourable mention also to the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, where a visit would not be complete without sampling some of the Currywurst in question at the end.

Best Audio Guides

  1. For the Zeitgeist & Glamour exhibition at the NRW Forum I was able to download the audio guide in advance for free from iTunes on to my phone. The recordings themselves, which elaborated on selected photographs of the exhibition, were also very interesting and just the right length.
  2. The Queen’s Gallery has traditional audio guide handsets you borrow at the entrance but are included in the ticket price. As with last year’s exhibition The Heart of the Great Alone, the audio guide for Marcus Adams Royal Photographer was so engaging I listen to all the additional tracks too.
  3. The Röntgen Museum also has traditional handsets, but again they’re included in the ticket price and really enthusiastic and engaging: “Welcome to the German Röntgen Museum, the home of x-ray history. Good to see you! (…) Be prepared for a lot of experiments and thrills of discovery!” They also have a children’s version.

Honourable mention also to the fantastic “tapestry of sound…interwoven with background music” in the Pergamon Panorama at the Pergamon Museum, which really gave you the feeling of going back in time to the ancient city.

Most Accessible Venue

Last year being the first time I’ve navigated round museums with a pram, I realised that I’d come to take barrier free access for granted in the UK, where law dictates certain accessibility standards. But this is not necessarily the case in other countries, where I’ve struggled with steps, doors, or not even been allowed in with a pram. To be fair though, out of the 28 venues I visited with #MuseumBaby, most were quite accessible, but these three stood out especially as being stress free visits:

  1. The National Museum of Scotland has automatic entrance doors and hardly any interior doors, several lifts throughout the building, and toilets big enough to wheel in a pram. A museum to float in and out of without once having to bump up or down steps and wake a sleeping #MuseumBaby.
  2. The National Library of Scotland is similar to the museum, just on a smaller scale. Automatic doors, wheelchair lifts at the entrance steps which also work well for prams, and spacious toilets. A favourite coffee meetup place with #MuseumBaby.
  3. The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum includes the old cottage that can’t be made fully accessible due to the historic architecture, but they have copies of the sound recordings, which play in the rooms, available to listen to and an album of photographs for those who can’t see the cottage for themselves.

At the other end of the scale, only the ground floors are wheelchair accessible at Schloss Charlottenburg, which they overcompensated for by giving all of us free day passes to both buildings, and prams are not allowed inside at all (something which they don’t tell you on their website) so the husband had to take #MuseumBaby for a walk while the rest of us looked around. The Bergisches Museum also does not allow prams, which is probably sensible as there are too many steps and narrow passage ways, but in this case we knew in advance so left #MuseumBaby at home with Oma. And the Märkisches Museum allows you in with a pram but is impossible to navigate. The staff watched my struggle up the 20+ steps to the front door, then after selling me a ticket told me I’d have difficulty getting around inside the museum – I’d need to find someone to help me with all the steps between floor and mezzanine floors where there aren’t any lifts, not that anyone was offering.

Best Interactive Experience

  1. National Museum of Scotland – Interactive family galleries, discovery zones, numerous other interactives scattered throughout the museum; sure, it’s big, so it can pack in more interactives than museums with less capacity, but what sets it apart is not the quantity of interactive but the fact that they have a section aimed at under 3s. #MuseumBaby agrees it’s a number one choice.
  2. Deutsches Röntgen Museum – As their audio guide says, “Be prepared for a lot of experiments and thrills of discovery!” Look, listen, read, watch, play and even taste your way through the history of Mr Röntgen and his amazing discovery. Probably not so suitable for really young kids (though they have a children’s audio guide for the older ones), but hey, adults like to have fun too!
  3. Deutsches Currywurst Museum – Billed as an ‘Erlebnisausstellung’, i.e. an exhibition to experience, though ‘Erlebnis’ can also translate as ‘adventure’. This is another museum where you can look, listen, reach, watch, play and smell, and don’t forget the interactive Currywurst eating at the end ;-) They also have a nice trail for children

Honourable mentions goes to the Robert Burns Museum & the DDR Museum, which both had a great selection of interactives throughout their exhibitions, though my respective visits were too short to try them all out.

Friendliest Staff Experience

  1. Jüdisches Museum Berlin – Whenever I’m in there the staff at the ticket desk ply #MuseumBaby with sweets and stickers, and a couple of times when I’ve been standing at the end of yet another long security check in Q with him balanced on my hips, they’ve called us to the front.
  2. National Library of Scotland – The staff at the café here are super friendly, and every single time I’ve been there juggling #MuseumBaby and my purse, they’ve offered to carry everything over for us, even though it’s not table service.
  3. HT Muzej – The enthusiastic young man and the impromptu personal guided tour he gave me will always remain one of my most memorable museum visits from Zagreb.

Our unfriendliest staff experience was probably at the Martin Gropius Bau, where the gallery attendants started herding visitors towards the exit 15 mins before closing time, and 5 mins before closing time they just turned off the lights without warning or saying anything. I heard from someone else they had the same experience.

Most Curious Collections

  1. Museum of Broken Relationships – what started as an art project is now a unique museum documenting broken relationships of all kinds, from betrayal to death.
  2. Deutsches Currywurst Museum – a museum dedicated entirely to Germany’s favourite fast food sounds crazy, but it’s actually very educational in terms of fast food history and culture.
  3. Wuppertaler Uhren Museum – a private collection with clocks of all kinds, shapes and sizes, from water clocks to sun dials, wrist watches to bell towers, made from ostrich eggs, encrusted with jewels, or hidden inside daggers. You name it, they have it!

In Part 2 I will be concluding with my favourite events and temporary exhibitions, unique experiences and WOW moments, and my personal favourites and highlights of 2011.

For an overview of all the museums I visited, see 52 Museums in 52 Weeks.

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Please note that these are entirely personal recommendations and assessments. Also, I did not eat, use an audio guide, try to access with a pram, use all the interactives, or interact with the staff at each of the 56 museums I visited in 2011. So, just because a museum is not mentioned does not mean it had bad food, no interactives or unfriendly staff. It’s just a small selection of my personal highlights.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jenni’s Museum Awards 2012 | Museum Diary - January 9, 2013

    […] time last year, I did an extensive review, that stretched over two posts (here and here), of all the museums I’d visited in 2011. And I held my very own ‘Museum […]

  2. Jenni’s Museum Awards 2011 (Part 2) | Museum Diary - March 3, 2013

    […] For Part 1 of the Museum Awards 2011,  including Best Food, Best Audio Guides, Most Accessible Venue, Most Interactive Visit, Friendliest Staff Experience, and Most Curious Collections, see Jenni’s Museum Awards 2011 (Part 1). […]

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