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The Family Friendly Museum Award 2015: The Winner

Some brilliant words from Jack about our recent win at Kids in Museums – a great blogger about museums – thank you Jack!

Jack's Adventures in Museum Land

The scores are in, the families have spoken, and the time has come to crown a new holder for the title of Most Family Friendly Museum in the UK. Previous winners have included museums such as the wonderful Horniman Museum in South London, the Haselmere Educational Museum in Surrey and everyone’s favourite conjoined museums, the Pitt Riverls and the Oxford University Natural History Museum.

Kids in Museums

That list alone should give you an idea of the level of overall awesome-ness that families and the team at Kids in Museums are looking for in their winners. The winners would have to be awesome, because this is the biggest museum award in Britain and the only one to give a powerful voice to families.

Before I tell you who won, I’d like to remind everyone of the shortlist from the length and breadth of the country:

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#askthecurators Even More Questions Answered!

Following out Natural Science special our curators have been racking their brains to answer more of your great questions on our #askthecurators board in What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice exhibition.

First up, Tim our Curator of Archaeology is tackling Caitlin’s question How do you make pottery, can you do a fun day where you make pottery?


costrel“Pottery is made of clay which is a sticky type of soil which is often found near rivers and lakes. This is collected and all the bits of twig as well as stones are removed. It is then thumped to make a block that has no air bubbles in it. It is now ready to use. The block is then shaped into the kind of pot that you want, such as a bowl or a jug. This is allowed to dry out and then it is ready to be fired. The pot is placed, with others that have been made into a type of oven called a kiln (although it is possible to use a bonfire, a kiln is more efficient). The kiln is then heated up slowly to over 1000 degrees centigrade. This causes chemical changes in the clay, making it hard and water resistant. The kiln is then allowed to cool and the pottery is removed. It can be used as it is or be decorated with a glaze. Glazes are chemical coatings that stick to the surface of the clay and give a shiny surface that is waterproof as well as being decorative. The pots are heated in the kiln again to make these chemical changes happen. Finally when they are cool, they are ready to be sold and used. Pottery is very long-lasting as pieces have been found in Cumbria that are over 3000 years old, and the basic process has always been the same. Pottery is very fragile and easily broken so it is usually the pieces rather than the complete pots that survive.”


In terms of pottery fun days, we have run sessions on making pottery before—coming up we have a drop-in session to make clay tiles as part of our Eye for Colour opening weekend on Saturday 27 June, from 1pm until 4pm.

yak yak

On a similar note another visitor asked Can you do a fun day for over 12 year olds? Thanks for you very much for your question. We have family fun days at the start of family exhibitions and at Christmas with activities for all the family. We also have a two Tullie Time Travellers club, one on Wednesdays from 4pm – 5.30pm, and another once a month on a Saturday from 1pm-3pm, especially for 10-14 year olds and our Yak Yak Youth Group for 14-19 year olds meet once a month on a Saturday.

Tim, our Curator of Archaeology and Edwin, our Curator of Social History have been thinking about some really tricky questions from Charlotte and Caitlin, first Charlotte asked What is your favourite thing here and why?


Edwin answers

My favourite thing at Tullie isn’t a ’thing’ as such, it is probably the sense of place captured in the museum. This is hard to define but it involves the coming and going of exhibitions, the familiar and less familiar objects, our diverse museum disciplines, the interaction of visitors and the past and present staff who make it all come together. I am proud to be a Curator here and part of the museum’s very own history.


Tim answers

I like the selection of coins that are on display. I think it is a great example of someone coming up with a really good idea – standardised pieces of metal that can be exchanged for ‘stuff’. I love the way the basic idea has not changed for over 2000 years. It is also fascinating to see how the idea has been used in different ways – design, metal used, size, way the coins are made – at different times. Also some of the designs are good examples of miniature works of art.

Caitlin set our curators a very tricky question, asking Why do people go to Tullie House?

othTim said

There is no one answer to this question. I go to museums when I am on holiday for many reasons and I think that some of them are the same as why people come here. I go to see things I have read about in books or seen on the internet as well as to see new things. Often the buildings themselves are interesting. With some museums, it is a case of nostalgia when you see something that you used to own (or your parents used to own) and it brings back memories.

Edwin saysfamilies

People come to the museum for a variety of reasons. Some may come with their family on a day out. Others make specific visits to see a particular object or examine collections and historic themes in more detail. Tullie House also provides many people with a place to meet friends. I come here with my young children and they are already seeing that the museum offers something completely different and enjoying trying to understand what a ‘museum’ is all about. I think people come here to discover and can find inspiration amongst the buildings collections and associated history.

Perhaps though we should turn this question on its head and get the Curators to ask you? Why do you visit Tullie House or other museums?


Thank you again to all of our visitors for your questions, there is still plenty of time to visit What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice at Tullie House and leave your own question for our curators, and there’ll be another blog shortly with more answers to your questions.



Creative Responses to Kiefer Unveiled!

As our ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition enters its final weeks we are unveiling some brilliant creative responses from groups that we have been working with – you can see these in the flesh by visiting Tullie House.


Starting in the reception area we have an impressive display of torsos created during workshops with NACRO and Carlisle Key – two local organisations working with young people.

The workshops explored identity a key theme in Kiefer’s works. The young people thought about what makes us who we are, and how much of that is linked to a ‘national identity’.

sideThe resulting decorated mannequins are a representation of themelves; their inspirations, their aspirations, and the things that influence the direction they have taken and who they have become.

They range from being a celebration of the music they enjoy, the colours that make them smile, or a tribute to lost loved ones.


The Tullie Toddlers were even inspired by the work of of our young people and created their own mannequin!

As well as the mannequins our Community Room is playing host to a large scale mixed media piece created by visitors to our Kiefer inspired Museums at Night event. The Mob Masterpiece uses some of Anselm Kiefer methods and media, and was created over the evening.


Many hands make art work!

The work our family visitors created during February Half Term inspired by the exhibition is also still on display in the Community Room.


As well as art works some of the young people we work with have also developed an innovative new gallery trail. Kiefer2Music explores the use of music and song lyrics as a way to express their thoughts and feelings about Kiefer’s work. You can check out the blog here or use your phone or tablet in the exhibition to experience the music and art works together!

That isn’t all – we have one more exciting response project to come. Local school James Rennie have been working with Prism Arts to develop an exhibition of creative responses to the Kiefer exhibition which will be on display in our garden from the 27 May!

Your Art Space – Half Term Family Fun

Print, splodge, spray, kneed, shape, stick, paint, fold and fun time comes to Tullie House this half term. Our Family Learning Officer Geoff lets us know what our family visitors have been taking part in this week.


Just over a week ago our ARTIST ROOMS Anselm Kiefer exhibition opened in the Art Gallery. We’ve got lots of exciting events linked to the exhibition, including some family friendly activities over the half term holidays.

‘Your Art Space’ is our weeklong series of art and craft based family workshops running every afternoon this week until Sunday. I write this as we hit the half way mark of the event, which has been hugely popular with visiting families.

Producing family friendly activities linking to Kiefer’s often controversial work was initially a little tricky, but the problem was solved by local artist Helen Walsh, who came up with the idea of basing the workshops on Kiefer’s mixed media approach and materials rather than the subject matter of his work.

Each workshop is based upon a different artist technique. We kicked off on Monday and Tuesday with clay, which as anyone who has worked with children in any clay based event will tell you, is immensely popular. The two days did not buck this trend with over 200 people through the door making tiles, pots and a whole host of animals as well.

Art6On Wednesday we replaced clay with recycled materials, with families creating printing blocks using a range of materials and then to use them to print. As I type my trusty team of staff and volunteers are working away on the last of recycled sessions.

Starting today we finish the week off with a weekend of painting and drawing workshops.

Kiefer uses many materials in his work, including real plant material so Helen decided to use this to try to tie all seven workshops together. So far this has had mixed results; many families inevitably will do there own thing and others will push the envelope in directions we couldn’t even hope to imagine. This approach is never to be discouraged as family fun and creativity is something we encourage in all our visitors.


Linking to the Artist Room aspect of the exhibition, we’ve been displaying the work of our families as they finish it, both print works and the clay creations from earlier in the week. Not only will the display help us to record what our visitors have done here, but more than that, families will hopefully see their work on display, take pride in their achievements and take a little ownership of their museum too.

If you want to get involved our drop-in Paint and Draw sessions are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-4pm. Come by anytime and drop-in for FREE.

Families Made Festive Exhibitions of Themselves

If we cast our minds back to the sparkly events of last month, Geoff our guest blogger, tells us how the festive spirit was alive and well at Tullie House.  Great job everyone! Over to you Geoff…


Christmas has come and gone and some of us may well breathe a huge sigh of relief. To me, it all seems a long time ago however Making a ‘Festive Exhibition of Yourself only came down last Monday.

As my earlier post elaborated, the idea of the exhibition was to encourage families to share their Christmas stories with each other based upon putting together a small display of their own Christmas objects. This was done primarily through three workshops. Unfortunately, I wasn’t around to see any of these delivered myself, however, on returning to work last week, I was really happy to see that the families had gone to town with their displays.
Several ingenious methods for displaying objects were developed by the families after a crash course in exhibition design from our trusty staff of Cathy and Sally for our toddlers and Eloise, Laura and Andrea for the school holiday workshops.
First to kick off was our toddler session. The toddlers families, the Richardsons, Branchs and Edgars, brought along a small selection of objects based upon memories of their youngsters growing up. Christmas stockings, Christmas decorations and photographs were produced, some of which were from the toddler’s first Christmases. Short simple, but effective labels were paired with each of these beautiful objects.
The Barratt family
Next up was the first of our two school holiday workshops, booked by the Barrett family. Mr. Barrett had a plan up his sleeve. He booked the workshop as an early Christmas present for his family, who were naturally rather suprised when they arrived for their session. After a short period of coming to terms with what was being asked of them, the Barretts dreamed up an amazing display using the objects Mr. Barrett had secretly assembled beforehand. These included a range of board games, advent calendars, decorations and a tree branch. Their theme was based upon their journey through a typical Christmas Day in their household. Careful thought was given to what and when events took place during the day and created their display accordingly, producing time based labels to elaborate on the story they were attempting to convey.
The final workshop, just after Christmas, was enjoyed by the Waite family. They, similarly to the toddler families, decided to base their display case upon memories from their children over the years. As with the toddlers, objects included family photographs, stockings but additionally jewellery, a Santa hat and some craft accompaniments to complete the ‘Waite’s Crafty Christmas’. Once again, some beautifully simple and elegant stories were told on the object labels.
The Waite family
To polish off the exhibition, I can’t forget the contribution of the families who didn’t attend a workshop, but did visit the exhibition to create some beautiful works of art on our display wall. This asked families to produce art based upon what Christmas meant to them. A creative and diverse range of work was produced and filled the wall by the time the exhibition drew to a close.
So it only leaves me to offer a sincere and well deserved thank you to all the families that contributed to the exhibition. I sincerely hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and New Year.
Geoffrey McCarthy
Family Learning Officer
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

Help Tullie get festive!

We need your help to get Tullie ready for Christmas.  Our guest blogger Geoff tells you how you can put your own fesitive exhibition in THe Shed.

Our tree’s looking a little bare so we need you help!
Making a Festive Exhibition of Yourself, 16th December 2014 – 4th January 2015
With Christmas literally on our doorstep and schools on the verge of breaking up for the festive period, this time is always important for museums such as Tullie House. Families are often looking for things do both before and after Christmas Day itself. So with this and our Shed exhibition project in mind, a family exhibition about Christmas seems an excellent fit.
When planning any activities, families or otherwise, it is important to consider engagement. This can vary depending upon the audience you are catering for and with families, interaction and the provision of fun things to do is paramount. Families often like interaction where they get involved and afterwards, a legacy for their work is often a great means for each family to look back at the activity and say “We did that!!!” Additionally, when working with families, we must think of the children, but also toddlers, teens and of course adults, whether they be parents or grandparents. Any combination of these people can form a visiting family. It’s therefore important that we try and engage with all family members with each group. It’s not always an easy task.
So our Christmas exhibition will allow families to work together to produce something, in this case an exhibition, that they can take pride in. This will be done through a series of family workshops, one for our Tullie Toddler group, the other two for visiting families over the Christmas School Holidays. The families will also have the opportunity of displaying their own Christmas objects. These could range from old presents, decorations or a turkey roasting tin!!! Whatever they choose, we’re hoping there are stories linked to the objects; each family will have the opportunity to share those stories not only with each other in the workshops, but also on the labels they create about their own objects. Stories are something we can all relate to and families are often full of them.
For other families visiting in between the workshops, they can also contribute by adding Christmas artworks to our exhibition banner. As with the workshops, we’ll ask them to draw something important to them and to tell us why that object is so special to them.
In taking part in these activities we’re hoping to give the families a great opportunity to find out some behind the scenes tips and secrets about how we put on an exhibition, whilst at the same time, giving them a fun family visit to Tullie House.
If you would like to book a place on one of the family workshops, call us now on (01228) 618700. We look forward to seeing you.
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