Discover for families

Caroline Bray, Arts Award Associate for Museums, Heritage and Libraries writes about an exciting new approach to Discover coming out of museums and galleries.

Have you ever heard about something new only to find it’s suddenly everywhere? This is what’s happened with the idea of using Arts Award Discover as part of family learning programmes in museums and galleries across England.

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Black Country Living Museum

For me, this started with the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) creating their own arts log `Discover the Fitz’, a beautiful booklet that families could buy in the museum shop.  Using the Ancient Egyptian and Impressionist collections, the log guides families around the museum as they complete Discover, finding Egyptian art forms, learning about Monet and his work and taking part in family art workshops.

After testing this version out UCM created a new trail linked to the Tour de France, encouraging families to explore several of their museums.  They have since created others, which have been used in projects with young mothers doing Bronze Arts Award while completing Discover with their child.

The UCM arts log and those created through the Museums and Schools programme for `Discover in a Day’ were shared at events like the Museums Association conference and soon other museums were creating their own trails.

Oxford University Museums created an A3 arts log trail around their museums, The Museum of Wigan Life commissioned an arts logs to encourage families to explore their collections and Tyne and Wear Museums have produced a folder with pages for each section that can also be used to keep tickets, flyers and small art works.  I’m sure there are more out there (please tell me about them!)

At the same time, other delivery models were developing: MK Gallery offer Discover and Explore to families through 3 one hour sessions at the gallery, signposting activities at the gallery, like their Saturday Studios, and at other arts organisations in the area.  This approach is `light touch’ for the adviser while still giving families a rich experience of the arts, encouraging them to try out new experiences.

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Discover in a Day A3 Map

Maidstone Museum, originators of `Discover in a Day’, are running Discover days for families, with one planned for 24 June based on `Weird Creatures’ with rumours of an appearance by the Gruffalo!

With all this activity, questions have inevitably come up: if a family completes their arts log together who gets the certificates?  How to manage costs so that all families can afford to take part?  How can a museum encourage families to complete and return their arts logs?  If a museum already has an entry charge would people pay again to do Discover?  A pilot is underway in four museums to look for answers to these questions and test out new approaches to Discover with families:

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter is creating trails around the museum and beyond, briefing front of house staff and gallery attendants about Discover so that they can signpost art works and activities to families with the arts log.

Nottingham Museums are developing their Arts Passport, which they have used with refugee families to introduce them to the cultural life of Nottingham, to fit the Discover framework.

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Black Country Living Museum

The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley is looking at how Discover can work at an

open air museum

The Bowes Museum in County Durham is going to use the Discover framework to develop a partnership with The Witham, a Community Arts Centre in Barnard Castle

We’ll share the outcomes of the pilot later this year, but in the meantime if you would like to be kept informed about Discover for families, are running something similar or have any questions or comments please get in touch: caroline.bray@artsaward.org.uk.

If you are planning on creating your own log book as part of a project you are doing please do take a look at our guidelines for doing this and get in touch if you want support with the content.

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