Meet a Museum Family #7

January 22, 2016

Kids in Museums

I am delighted to continue the ‘Meet a Museum Family’ series this year! If you haven’t come across it before, it’s a series in which I interview other museum loving families asking them to share their experiences and tips with my readers. Last year, we met Melanie and Ania from Denmark, Amanda from Australia, Mar and Katharine from England, and Maria from Germany. For our first interview of this year, we travel back to England, to talk to Jen from Derby.

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1. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your family?

So I’m Jen and I live with my partner Mark in Derby, England. We have one son, Mylo, who is three and a half. We all love museums and anything to do with history in particular. Mark runs a business selling historically accurate kit ti reenactors from the Medieval to Victorian periods. We also sell a lot of stuff to museums – we have worked with the Royal Armouries in Leeds and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland

2. How old was your son when you started taking him to museums, and what was the first museum you remember taking him to?

I started taking Mylo to our local museum in Derby when he was about a year old. The museum run some brilliant sessions for young children on a Friday morning called lots for tots. The activities are very adaptable for any child of pre-school age and are free of charge. The Silk Mill is also amazingly child friendly; Mylo is great friends with the maker-in-residence Graeme, who has created several things for him on the resident laser-cutter. He loves going to the ‘train-museum’ as he calls it, on account of the model train they have on the first floor, although there is lots more to do as it’s theme is the Museum of Making.

3. Do you remember visiting museums when you were a child?

My mum used to take us down to London to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum in London. We were really hard up at the time and she told me on a couple of occasions she ‘made-up’ business trips to London and took us down on the train! I remember the dinosaurs and a huge redwood tree cross section and just the colour and pattern in the V&A.

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4. Why do museums matter to you?

Museums matter to be for a multitude of reasons. They are an opportunity to enrich the national and local fabric of our communities and society, a place where all ages can go to learn and access beneficial experiences. I think the lack of support for funding for arts and culture from the current government is a travesty- like a friend of mine said “can you image a society without museums?” That may be something we are all going to experience very soon. On a personal note Derby Museums have really given me a new lease of life. After suffering from unexpected ill health after Mylo’s birth I have been volunteering for about the last 4 months. The chance to work as part of a team again and make a positive contribution has been an amazing experience. So far I have been developing a film around the development of the new Notice Nature Feel Joy gallery, assisted in a visit by Nottingham Trent University MA students and assisted with the reinterpretation of the ceramics gallery / cafe. More generally museums are an amazing resource that are owned by everyone. Museums have enriched my life on numerous levels and contributed to a lifelong love of learning, which I hope to pass onto Mylo. At the moment though, he just loves the colouring in and playing hide and seek around the exhibits.

5. What’s the last museum you visited as a family and how was it?

We visited the lots of tots at Derby this very morning. It was very funny. The activity was Egyptian themed; creating a decorated scarab beetle. Mylo ended up sticking glue on his nose and chin to attach the plastic jewels to himself. When he started nursery I initially enrolled him in the morning, meaning we missed the session for about 3 months. I really missed the visit with him each week so we changed his session to the afternoon – it was definitely the right thing to do. We’ve both really enjoyed the last 2 weeks we have gone again.

6. What is your favourite museum to take your son to?

Travel can be difficult for me with Mylo, so at the moment we have only really visited the local museum sites, Derby Museum the Silk Mill and Pickford’s House. We really enjoy all of them and the beauty of our local museums is that all three sites are so different, with an equally broad range of events and activities, it is really difficult to get bored with them. When Mylo gets a bit older I would really like to take him further afield and hope to visit the Natural History Museum and Science Museum in London so he can see the dinosaurs like I did.

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7. Can you share a particularly memorable family museum experience?

I think that our most memorable trip recently was the Georgian Christmas day at Pickford’s House in December. Seeing most of the staff dressed up in period gear for the event was brilliant. The Derby Museum site manager was reading Christmas themed stories with a sleeping reindeer decoration next to here. it was so realistic it even breathed. Mylo thought it was real and gently stroked it three times. They also had a great Santa ‘Claus with chocolate mice in his sack. Mylo has been petrified of Santa when we saw him the week before, but it was amazing how gluttony can overcome blind terror – he went back 3 times and even gave him a hug good bye.

8. What museum would you love to visit as a family?

As I said before I am really looking forward to taking Mylo to the Natural History Museum in London. I have a lot of happy memories visiting there as a child; not just the museum, but the train ride and the tube, and always visiting Harrod’s for an icecream in their food-hall afterward.

9. Everyone knows kids love dinosaurs, mummies, and rockets, but is there a museum you enjoyed visiting, that may be a surprising choice for families?

The Silk Mill in Derby is deceptive in it’s title – people visit expecting a historical industrial theme. The Silk Mill’s really all about making; ian idea embedded into every part of it’s building and programme. The site was the first ever factory in the world and is part of the UNESCO Derwent Valley World Heritage site. They hold some brilliant activities for kids of all ages and the staff are incredibly friendly. The Lego and brio train that is always available make it a firm favourite for us.

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10. What advice do you have for other families on how to make museum visits run more smoothly?

Ring ahead to find out what facilities they have on offer and how child friendly things are. I know most museums welcome children but some will have exhibits that are more interesting to kids than others. See if there are any planned age- appropriate activities you can join to make the visit more structured. Take snacks and know which battles to fight Find out where the toilets, lifts and stairs are, for emergencies and safety. I’ll never forget Mylo innocently pushing his buggy past me when he was about 2 and a half whilst I was talking to someone, in 10 seconds he had gone behind me, into the lift and pressed a button to go up a floor!


Thank you so much to Jen for taking the time to answer my questions! Some great tips and insights there. The Silk Mill sounds amazing, and I would love to be friends with a maker-in-residence. If you would like chat some more with Jen about her experiences, you can connect with her on Twitter

If YOU are a museum loving family and would like to take part in the ‘Meet a Museum Family’ interview series, just get in touch! And for other tips about taking children to museums, and recommended museums to visit, check out the ‘Kids in Museums‘ section of my blog. Thanks for reading!

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One Response to “Meet a Museum Family #7”

  1. Rachael Says:

    Visiting from Design Mom and I had to tell you how much I love this series! We live near Chicago, USA, and love love love the museums there, as well as our smaller local museums. I have five (soon to be six) children and definitely agree with you that museums are an integral part of raising a family.

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