Museum Mum’s Summer Postcards

I’ve been on holiday this summer – not just a blogging holiday, but actual family holidays. The type where you spend lots of time together away from home, eat ice-cream on a slightly chilly UK beach, and the kids squabble in the back of the car on the way back. As well as our London outings, two short breaks to Kent and a couple of weeks camping in Hampshire meant we got to explore outside the capital. I thought of you guys every time I went to a new museum – so, a little belatedly, here are my virtual postcards. Short, to the point, and hopefully bringing a bit of summer cheer to our increasingly dark days.

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Carsten Holler: Decision at the Hayward Gallery.
Irrelevant choices, playing with perception – and of course, those slides! Fun but forgettable.

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Powell Cotton Museum
Amazingly full-on Victorian diaromas – think animals falling off cliffs – and a hands-on exploration room. The place where my son thought the lion was eating the buffalo with jam (it was blood, I didn’t tell him that).

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Fort Nelson
Atmospheric tunnels, sea views and BIG guns. The kids squealed excitedly through the loud, live gunfirings. A good outdoor army-training style playground that even had the tweenager up on her feet.

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Knole, National Trust
Yes, this had spectacular grounds with free roaming deer. Inside, it was stuffed with Tudor relics from the courts of Henry VIII. The toddler spotted animals throughout (torch provided) and Museum Dad was fascinated by the ongoing conservation work. But, more memorably for us it was the best activity we have undertaken as a family, ever. Like, we actually all produced something we were proud of (hand stitched monogrammed book anyone?) And they even let my toddler join in. Awesome.

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Turner Contemporary
Spectacular sea views and excellent art exhibitions in this small, friendly gallery. We bashed cymbals in a group participative piece, and showed the kids Grayson Perry’s work (rushing them past the more explicit pieces). All next to a sandy beach – a good family day out.

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The Mary Rose

Wow! A  spectacular place that engaged the whole family. The tweenager was inspired by the video on the conservation of this Tudor warship, informing me  knowledgeably about its treatment. We played period games in their event space, which even had a special play spot for babies. At the handling table, the toddler asked lots of unintentionally gruesome questions about surgical tools which made the volunteer giggle with embarrassment. The use of dark and light in the displays was magical, with brilliant interactives, videos and people stories.

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Petersfield Museum and the Flora Twort Gallery
Two small, local museums, within a few minutes walk of each other showing local history, costume and art. Made to feel very welcome, with train set brought out for toddler to play with. Offer a family quiz trail to the pretty village of Petersfield – with a sweet reward at the end! Part of a very relaxed day out.

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Stonehenge
The place where the toddler chipped his front tooth on a showcase, shoving the tweenager to try and see the very small screen embedded in it. A bus ride or very long walk to see stones, couldn’t listen to audio guide as kids moaned so much. I cried (at kids, not monument). Go without young children. Enough said.

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Hampton Court Palace
We took part in a focus group, reviewing the family audio guides – the best being the tour of the Tudor kitchens, complete with grumpy spit boy! Toddler loved being chased around the maze (three times), beautiful outdoor spaces with plenty of places to sit and relax.

That’s my summer – well, almost, I’m saving my favourite visit for a full review, coming very very soon. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to -why not send me your own postcard? Comment below, or tweet me @museum_mum and I’ll share the best.

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