Exterior of the National Maritime Museums, Cornwall

Cornwall’s Museums outstanding work with children and young people

Posted on 27 February 2015

For schools, the cost of travel to museums is the biggest barrier to visiting. Cornwall's geography presents a significant challenge for museums' work with children and young people. We’re working with the Cornwall Museum Partnership to find new ways to give young people better access to the arts.

Cornwall has a large number of small, diverse and independent museums, without a 'lead' museum service and very limited local authority funding. That hasn’t stopped them winning recognition for their excellence. Many hold awards such as:

  • Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge
  • Sandford Award for Excellence in Heritage Education
  • Kids in Museums Family Friends Museum Award
  • Excellence in the use of Arts in Interpretation in the Interpret Britain and Ireland Awards
Three children in medieval costume pose for the camera.
Viking Schools Workshops at National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Photo © Toby Weller / National Maritime Museum Cornwall

A museum partnership improves access

The Cornwall Museum Strategy creates more affordable and accessible activities for children and young people. The partnership brings museums of all sizes together to deliver exciting programmes of exhibitions and events. By working collaboratively, the museums can pool resources and share skills. That way, smaller museums can get noticed.

Together they’ve also been able to deliver joint programmes of activity including marketing, fundraising and online retail.

In the last three years, the partnership has achieved a number of significant milestones including becoming a Major Partner Museum from 2015 and has recently been awarded charitable incorporated organisation status, which will enable the partnership to build its capacity to do more.

John Orna-Ornstein, Director Museums and Bristol, Arts Council England, said: 'The Cornwall Museums Partnership is a great example of consortium working. This partnership demonstrates that excellence can thrive in museums at the heart of their communities and in rural areas.'

Getting better connected

Shared investment in online learning resources through the Museums in Cornwall website is also helping museums provide high quality experiences on a very limited budget. 

Five children stand on one leg in a line with a museum worker.
Douglas Dapper, the Story Explorer at National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Photo © Bob Berryornwall / National Maritime Museum Cornwall

Projects supported by the partnership

Cornwall Council and the Arts Council worked with key strategic organisations such as RiO, KEAP, and Kids in Museums. They set up a range of projects including:

Kids in Museums Takeover Day

Penlee House Gallery and Museum partnered with a local secondary school to create activities that engage young people in the running of their local museum. Students used the museum's Graham Sutherland exhibition as a source for a 1940s event. They put on a performance at the museum to showcase their work to the local community.

King Edward Mine

King Edward Mine, in Troon, worked with the Museum Development Officer team to engage with young people at risk through the local Pupil Referral Unit with Arts Award.

Cornish Voices

National Maritime Museum Cornwall developed Cornish Voices, an outreach programme where museum staff in small venues worked with actors on specially commissioned performances. They created work that gets local children involved with their cultural heritage and the museum's collections.

Outcomes of the Cornish Museums Partnership

As a result of the partnership's work:

  • More children and young people are engaging with museum collections in Cornwall
  • Teachers have a greater awareness of how museums can support pupils' learning
  • There has been significant up-skilling of museum staff and volunteers
  • Museums have established a legacy of shared resources for future activity
  • There is a sustainable model for museums to deliver Arts Award at all levels in the future

The Cornwall Museums Partnership invested in appointing a shared freelance co-ordinator to transform museums' understanding of and engagement with Arts Award. As a result 10 museums now support the Award, 63 staff and volunteers have taken part in training and the Museum Development Team is a recognised Arts Award Centre.