Ampleforth’s School takes over Fairfax House for Kids in Museums Takeover Day

28th November 2017 - Adam Halls

What happened when the pupils of Ampleforth’s School got to run stately home Fairfax House for a day as part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day?

Kids in Museums is an independent charity working nationally to make museums open and welcome to all families, especially families who aren’t regular visitors.  Kids in Museums run Takeover Day across England and Wales: an annual day on which museums, galleries, libraries, archives, arts and heritage organisations invite young people in and give them a meaningful role. They host a huge number of accessible and exciting resources on their website to help museums and organisations to use Takeover Day to creatively engage and empower as many young people as possible. Not only have two thirds of venues involved said it has given them a better understanding of young people’s needs and interests, organisations can make Takeover Day their own and really use it to build their local (and national!) profile. Kids in Museums even have a dedicated Takeover Day team to provide support and guidance.

Fairfax House Takeover Day

Last year over 200 organisations took part, engaging over 5,000 children and young people – and it looks likely that this year’s success is even greater! Check out their moment on Twitter here.

We at IVE have been working with Kids in Museums for the past few years to host and support Planning and Sharing sessions for museums and organisations in Yorkshire and the Humber interested in running Takeover Day activities. This year’s event brought together 13 museums, galleries and heritage spaces from across the region and was the catalyst for lots of inspiring ideas for this year’s Takeover Day. As part of this, we shared tips for embedding Arts Award into Takeover Day planning and activities. Kids in Museums have lots of online resources around this ideal pairing and Kate Morgan from The Hepworth Wakefield spoke about using the Takeover model in a young person’s Silver Arts Award Unit 2.

Rosi Lister, our CEO, and Charlotte Brook, Project Support Officer for North and East Yorkshire were lucky enough to be invited by Fairfax House in York to come down and see the brilliant activities St Martins Ampleforth Preparatory Primary were getting up to for this year’s Takeover Day.

With their festive displays and feasts all laid out, pupils were given the chance to take over some of the key roles within the museum. From Curators to Marketing Assistants the year 7’s were thoroughly engaged in what goes on behind the scenes, as well as learning all about the exhibitions and the history behind the Fairfax family. Interestingly Ampleforth’s school has a deep connection with Fairfax House as Gilling Castle, which is part of the school, was owned and developed by the Fairfax family for many years. Their Headteacher, Dr David Moses, stressed how important it is for them all to understand this connection and the history they are a part of, first hand and in an engaging way.

Ampleforth’s School takes over Fairfax House for Kids in Museums Takeover Day

Rosi and I met with the new budding Marketing Assistants, who were learning all about what it takes to spread the word about new exhibitions, special offers in the shop and what it actually means to be visible on social media. Of course, the young people were already up to speed on what the most successful methods of social media are, telling us that Facebook is for old people now! It’s all about Twitter and Instagram. Their first exercise was to draft some potential tweets for the museum, bearing in mind they only had 140 characters to use. Some of these tweets included pictures and videos of the house and plenty of those all-important hashtags and twitter handles. The group discovered that it’s important to be tagging other local partners and using popular hashtags in order to increase their post’s impact.

We were then treated to a guided tour around the Kitchen, where the young people told us all about what it would’ve been like to work for the Fairfax family as a cook. They spared us no details, particularly when it came to preventing vermin, they knew it all! Then we moved on to the stunning Dining room feast, where we found out about etiquette at the table and were even given a performance on the Spinet (a type of keyboard instrument) by one of the group.

Rosi and I were totally in awe of just how much information these young people had taken on in a day and how professional they were in all of their work they contributed to at the museum. When asked, many of the young people agreed they enjoyed their activities so much that they would even consider it as a career path, which is really quite brilliant when reflecting upon the ethos and purpose behind the Kids in Museums takeover days.

At the end of the day, the children were presented with a Kids in Museums certificate for their participation in the day by the Chairman of Fairfax House, Michael Sturge, who was very impressed with them all. We would like to thank all the staff at Fairfax House who have put so much work into running this excellent day of activities for these young people and to Ampleforth who most definitely had a successful take over!

Kids in Museums continues to work throughout the year on improving the access and experience for kids in museums. Their Kids in Museums Manifesto, compiled from thousands of children and young people’s ideas and comments, provides twenty different ideas to help museums, galleries and heritage organisations meaningfully welcome families as new visitors. Tips like ‘Be positive and do away with the word ‘No’’ and ‘Be aware of different families’ needs’ emphasise how museums can engage whole families from across communities. There’s even a Mini Manifesto which condenses these big ideas down into eight easy steps.

If you’re interested in taking part in next year’s event then their resources page is the best place to start.

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