Saturday, 3 November 2012

National Maritime Museum

We love Museums and something that we find, time after time, is that it is people that make museums for children. Little ones are clever, with minds open to new information, but you just need to present the information in the right way.

The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth seems to have it all. Great exhibits updated regularly, displays to inspire awe (think a flotilla of flying boats), an observation tower facing out across the harbour, interactive explanations, boats to play on - it even has a good cafe. Best of all it has people.

Can you imagine a better way to be introduced to a museum that by Mr Dapper weaving his storytelling magic? We wove our way around the museum, following poetic clues - stopping occasionally for stories. He called them stories, a boring teacher would call them lessons. With a grandmother from the Isle of Wight I have often attempted explain how it became an island, with little success; armed with an air bed, a picture of the moon and a magnet it all became clear in the hands of the Magical Mr Dapper. As his tour came to an end he promised real pirate treasure and in this, as with all else, he surprised and surpassed expectations - rather than plastic or chocolate coins - he produced real doubloons from a privateer ship for the children to handle.

Earlier he had noticed that we had a pushchair so he confined it to the ground floor, a classic example of the thoughtfulness shown throughout the museum. He had recommended we visit the tidal zone where we could go under the sea to see the harbour's fish and examine the height at which low and high tide appear on the big glass windows. Above in the lookout a volunteer could point out all the points of local interest and the histories of the boats below. Next we dashed over to learning zone to make paper plate fish and 3-d models of turtles - in a frenzy of glue, glitter and tissue paper - observed and assisted by the ever present helpers and guides.

We were there for about four hours but we barely as we had touched the surface, as we left I was using severe distraction techniques so that they did not see what we had failed to explore. I am searching to think of sage advise as to what to avoid or things that I could do differently - but alas my only advice would just be to go!

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