{Germany} Be a knight, do it right!

November 4, 2013

Kids in Museums, Germany

I mentioned on Friday that there was a whole host of museum family festivals taking place in Berlin at the weekend. Since the boy has recently discovered the wonders of “Mike the Knight” – giving poor old Postman Pat a run for his money – we opted for the Family Day at the Märkisches Museum, with its knights, knaves & damsels theme. The museum tells the story of Berlin through a series of themed rooms and exhibitions, giving an insight in to the life, work and culture of the city. The family day theme fitted right in with the medieval collections.


I had some reservations about going, as it’s one of the few museums in Berlin where I’ve previously had a negative experience visiting with children – surprising for a museum with exhibitions aimed at kids and even a kids’ play room. But they’ve been making some changes recently, and with an entirely family day on the programme I thought perhaps they’d turned over a new leaf. The programme itself was great.


Things got off to an exciting start, with fencing demonstrations in the great hall where you could see some ‘real knights’ in action! Older kids could also have a go at wielding some swords and trying to spear some rings, and there was a stall where you could have a look at their swords and chain mail up close. Then there was a whole host of crafts activities dotted around the museum. They sadly ran out of crowns and cloaks to make before we could get there, but we still got to make a sword and shield which #MuseumBaby was super excited about. He kept telling us for the rest of the day that he was a ‘Mike the Knight’ now!


Other craft activities included designing a coat of arms, making pointy damsel hats, and your very own shadow puppet theatre out of cardboard boxes. There was also a large shadow puppet theatre, which is part of the museum’s toys and games display, where there were performances of Rumpelstiltskin running throughout the day.


Of course, there were also the museum’s exhibitions themselves to look round. One that particularly caught #MuseumBaby’s attention, was a nature diorama with a set of torches (flashlights, for my US readers), which you could use to explore what lay behind the various flaps and doors in the base of the display. It’s part of the exhibit “Frag Deine Stadt!” (Ask Your City!) which encourages children to explore the historical development of Berlin and what it was like before it became a city. The animal diorama refers to Berlin’s first ‘inhabitants’.


Now, I hate to say anything negative about a museum, but since this is the second time in a row, I was encouraged to share a word of caution. First up, let me say that some of the staff we encountered on the day were absolutely lovely. Sadly, quite a few of them were unfriendly, gruff or outright rude, which spoilt the day a little for us. I saw a mother almost reduced to tears when a gallery assistant chastised her for carrying a slightly too large bag – one which, mind you, his colleague checking the tickets at the entrance had obviously deemed small enough. I myself was told off, in no uncertain terms, that I’d need to pay 2 Euro for a photo license to take any pictures. Fair enough if that’s their policy, but it didn’t say so anywhere and why can’t you tell people nicely? (I refused to delete the photos of #MuseumBaby though, but that’s the reason there are no pictures of anything else except the fencing where it seemed to be allowed – mixed messages again).  I don’t want to go on – though I could name more examples – but suffice to say they would do well giving their staff some schooling on how to interact better with visitors. Go on, Märkisches Museum, be a knight and do it right!

By the way, I don’t want to discourage people from visiting this museum – like I said, some of the staff were very nice and the exhibitions themselves a worth a visit . But if you do go, be prepared and then if it happens you won’t be taken aback so much. I’d also recommend leaving your pram or pushchair behind if you’re visiting with kids, as it’s a really tricky building to navigate with lots of stairs and mezzanines all over the place.

Address: Märkisches Museum, Am Köllnischen Park 5, 10179 Berlin

Opening times: The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm, and the Cafe is open Fridays to Sundays and the 1st Wednesday of the month from 12 to 5.30pm.

Admission: 5 Euro, 3 Euro concessions. Kids under 18 go free. Free admission for all on the 1st Wednesday of the month.


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