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Children takeover UK museums and reach 2m+ on social media

Judge for the day. One youngster getting involved in Takeover Day at the National Justice Museum. Photo by George Archer for Kids in Museums

Last week 70 museums, galleries, archives and heritage sites across the UK were taken over by children and young people for the annual Kids in Museums Takeover Day and show an extraordinary amount of engagement not just within museums but across social media.

Takeover Day sees young people take over jobs normally done by adults at museums and heritage sites and since 2010 more than 40,000 children and young people have taken part, from toddlers to university students.

Climate action-themed Takeover Day

Coinciding with the end of COP26 in Glasgow, Takeover Day 2021 on Friday 12 November, was themed by Kids in Museums for the first time to encourage museums to address issues that matter to young people and promote climate action.

The event saw the return of in-person Takeover Days for the first time since the start of the pandemic, involving around 1,900 young people. Young people and museums shared their events across social media using the hashtag #TakeoverDay and on Twitter alone their tweets reached more than 2m people.

Alison Bowyer, Executive Director of Kids in Museums, said: “It has been fantastic to see so many museums put the issues that matter to young people, most of all climate change, at the centre of their work this Takeover Day. As always, we are struck by the meaningful conversations and positive change that happen when young people and museums come together.

Children given insight into museum careers

“Now in its 11th year, Takeover Day continues to be a valuable way for museums to connect with new groups of young people, particularly after the challenges of the last year. Children and young people are given a unique insight into careers both in museums and more widely. Thank you to all those involved in this year’s event.”

At least half of this year’s participating venues joined in the theme of climate action. From Perth to Penzance, young people:

  • acted as sustainability consultants and carried out museum audits
  • created climate themed exhibitions
  • debated whether the Vikings and Victorians were environmentally friendly
  • promoted pollinator friendly gardens and the benefits of houseplants
  • created their own protest signs and slogans
  • considered the impact of space travel
  • carried out experiments with visitors to explain ocean acidification
  • made their own reusable bags and recycling signs
  • became documentary film makers
  • learnt about the impact of climate change on heritage preservation

Many museums held climate-themed events. National Justice Museum Takeover Day. Photo by George Archer for Kids in Museums

Here is a snapshot of the Takeover Day events:

  • London Transport Museum
    The museum held a Live Stream where primary school children put their questions to grown-ups in the transport industry to find out what actions they are taking to look after the environment for future generations.
  • Perth Museum & Art Gallery
    Young people curated a local photography exhibition illustrating factors affecting the local environment.
  • National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh
    Pupils attended a film screening of three short films they created on how museums can help tell the story of the climate emergency. They then discussed with senior leadership how the museum can better convey and act on the climate emergency.
  • Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum
    This Toddler Takeover featured a range of activities, such as selling tickets for public transport, sorting recycling and running a toy and book swap shop.
  • National Justice Museum, Nottingham
    Young people helped to develop the new Young People and Protest exhibition. They made their own protest placards, working with an artist, and debated climate change in one of the museum’s courtrooms.
  • PK Porthcurno, Penzance
    University students delivered a climate themed workshop for Year 6 pupils, including mono printing and games. They explored the environmental and ethical implications of the use of Gutta Percha to insulate telegraph cables, as well as learning about the effects of light pollution.

View all participating venues on the Kids in Museums Takeover Day Map and catch up on the day’s events in the @kidsinmuseums Twitter Moment and Instagram Highlight.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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