Mansfield Museum named UK's most family friendly

image captionChildren anonymously visited Mansfield Museum and the five other shortlisted venues to test them out

A small museum in Nottinghamshire has been named the most family friendly in the UK, beating both the Science Museum and Natural History Museum in London.

Despite what organisers described as an unpromising collection Mansfield Museum beat 100 rivals to win the 2011 Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award.

Judges praised the museum for its use of imagination, innovation and its staff's enthusiasm.

Displays include a porcelain collection and glass cabinets of stuffed animals.

Museum curator Jodie Henshaw said: "We're ecstatic. It will mean a tremendous amount to the museum and for the town. It puts us both on the map."

Award organiser Dea Birkettt said: "The feedback about Mansfield was fabulous.

"They treated them as individual families and there wasn't a one-size-fits-all approach.

"They change things all the time, they take risks and are very playful."

Ms Henshaw added that she believed Mansfield Museum won because whatever exhibition it put on the staff consciously strived to make it attractive to all family members.

Venues were entered into the competition by visitors, then whittled down by leaders in the museum world.

Six finalists were visited by undercover families and judged on criteria ranging from how welcoming they were to the quality of their food.

Family judge Jackie Shears, who went to Mansfield with her three children aged between eight and three, liked the low-tech interactive exhibits and the fact children could sit down and colour in every room.

Karla Lesingham said her children, aged eight and five, enjoyed the dinosaur exhibits and the activity trail.

"The museum has a happy family feeling," she said.

Ms Lesingham's son said it was the best museum he had been to.

The venues were judged against a 20-point manifesto drawn up by Kids in Museums, an independent charity that encourages museums to make family visits engaging and enjoyable.

Museums were judged on their interactivity, how well they stimulated children's imaginations, height and language awareness and whether children were ever told to be quiet.

Other shortlisted contenders were the Corinium Museum in Cirencester, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent, Kilmartin House Museum in Argyll, Horniman Museum in London and Abbey House Museum in Leeds.

Mansfield Museum staff collected the award at a ceremony in London on Thursday.

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