Archive for July, 2014

Family Learning with Museums Archives Northumberland

Last year I started a project with Museums, Archives Northumberland to increase their family learning offer. I worked with the staff at each venue to think of new family learning workshops they could run in the holidays and to make a family friendly trail for each museum.

Jim flying his kite

Museums, Archives Northumberland is made up Woodhorn Museum, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Hexham Old Gaol, The Bagpipe Museum and Northumberland Archives. The four museums are very different each one presenting different opportunities and challenges for a project of this nature.

Felt making


Family time is special time and I think we should feel flattered if a family chooses to spend their leisure time with our organisation. My idea of family learning is an activity that every member of the family, from toddlers to grandparents, can get involved in. I think these activities are even richer if they stimulate the family to share memories and stories together. For these activities to work they need to have cross generational appeal, and allow members of the family with all levels of ability to contribute.


For each museum we wanted to come up with one or two workshops that would fit in with the collection of that
museum. At Hexham Old Gaol we  made marbled papers, simplified versions of the ones we found as end papers in the old ledgers used in the days when the Goal was a Solicitors office. We also made bracelets from leather thongs to celebrate the leather industry that Hexham was famous for in days gone by.  At Woodhorn we made paper bag lanterns and miners’ tallys.  To take advantage of the windy beaches five minutes walk from Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, we made kites.  At the Bagpipe Museum we made felt, a reflection of the woollen tartans that cover some of the pipe bags and beeswax candles as the Chantry was a church for hundreds of years.

front covers

To evaluate these workshops I devised a poster where families could place a sticker in a box to indicate how they felt about the workshop. This allowed every member of the family to give their opinion of the workshop without having to hang around at the end when young children are often keen to move on to the next activity.

For the trails I teamed up with illustrator Daniel Weatheritt. Daniel and I explored each museum looking for features and objects that we thought would appeal to a family audience.

back covers

Then we sat down to sketch out our ideas to make a  trail that was exciting to use and intriguing to look at. Jo Raw, Anne Moore, Janet Goodridge, Debra Moffat  and many of the front of house staff at the museums contributed their ideas, told us about the things the visitors loved and checked our facts. We spent months working out every detail.  We wanted a trail that would also be a souvenir of their trip and so we made a map inside a little booklet. hexham insideI feel strongly that children appreciate good design and would enjoy something that felt like a small object of desire. Something that feels nice in your hand and that opens itself to reveal lots of treasures. I hope  that this comes across in the final product. I love the characters that Daniel has drawn to welcome visitors to each venue!


hexham side2The trails are now available at the museums, pick one up this summer and have some fun finding out more about Northumberland’s heritage.

Check out the website for each museum to see when the  family learning workshops are available.

Berwick side 1
To find out more about the other projects Daniel has worked on take a look at his website

I really enjoyed working on this project and I hope that the families that visit the four museums will enjoy the trails and workshops.