2006 Awards

The diverse range of winners in the 2006 awards shows that it’s quality that matters, not size. Ten awards and six commendations were made to projects ranging from modest local schemes to nationally significant visitor attractions with budgets in excess of £1m.

Special category - inclusivity

For our special category, five awards and commendations were made to projects which showed excellence in their inclusive approach. These addressed the needs of target groups such as people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and socially or financially disadvantaged people.

Loyd Grossman, Patron of AHI, presented the 2006 awards at a ceremony at the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

The details of each Award and Commendation winner give the text of the original judges' comments.
  • Award and Special Award

    High quality wooden causeways, sensitively designed to fit in with the landscape, take visitors, including those with disabilities, on an exciting journey into a waterworld that would otherwise be impenetrable by boat of foot or wheelchair. A clear Braille booklet is available as well as an audio which includes a variety of voices of local residents who express their affection for the place and explain its place in their lives.

    At certain intervals panels, appropriately situated, explain the flora, fauna and sometimes human activity associated with the view. These panels are positioned so that visitors with visibility difficulties can listen to the birds, smell the mud and hear the water and the waterfowl.

    The judges visited the site on a quiet evening when there were no other visitors and the wooden causeways gave one a sense of entering into a kind unexplored wilderness. The site has a magic quality and its access and interpretation to all groups is outstanding. We recommend an Award.
  • Award and Special Commendation

    This is an excellent and inspiring scheme which we recommend for an Award. The presentation of the ship in the glass sea with the recreated interiors and the accompanying audio guide enables any visitor to picture clearly what life would have been like on board. The museum gives a wealth of information about the different phases of the ship although the reverse chronology is not always easy to follow. The large interactives work well, especially the steering computer animation.

    Suggested improvements and enhancements include:
    • better staff/visitor interaction especially at reception so that guides are offered to those that need them right at the start of the visit;
    • improvements to orientation, especially while on the ship. It was easy to get completely disoriented; a printed orientation guide as part of the entrance with the audio points marked on would be really helpful;
    • better (clearer) numbering for audio points linked to a printed guide (see above);
    • audio guide assumes you are moving at a slow pace;
    • foreign language provision.

    Special Commendation
    This project has a very good approach to access with a good range of material to enable access for all including excellent audio guides and BSL videos, and careful consideration has been given to physical access. To be exemplary, the provision would need to be clearly advertised and offered at the start of the visit without visitors having to ask for the guides.

    Could the tactile model be on view too rather than needing to be asked for? Also, within the literature, it needs to be clear where the audio and BSL tours are available. The content of the tours was good but it was not clear if there was any link between the audio for visually impaired and the ordinary tours. An extension of provision could be the use of tactile lettering or Braille.
    With these reservations, we recommend the project receives a Special Commendation.
  • Award

    We are happy to recommend the Hardman House for a general Award. This was a charming experience even for those in the judging team who, without a keen interest in photography, were expecting to find it quite dull. The house brought the Hardmans to life as a somewhat eccentric couple, and while our experience didn’t quite match all of the stated interpretive plan’s objectives, it made for an enjoyable and atmospheric visit.

    The tour of the house was highly engineered but worked well, without us feeling time was palling or that we were being shifted on to the next room too quickly. The guides were quite different in style, some more rehearsed than others, but the variety added to the character of the visit, and overall we felt the performance of the obviously volunteer guides was to be commended, reflecting the NT’s investment in training. We felt that the presentation of material, both spoken and via copy text was digestible and appropriate to the main target audiences, and we did not feel bombarded with facts about the Hardmans or photography.

    The one slight flaw was the trip from the back of the house round the block to the front to begin the tour, during which other buildings were pointed out. This seemed tangential and unnecessary and we wondered if a better way of starting the tour without having to go round the block could be designed.
  • Award and Special Award

    We were impressed that the technological media used facilitated rather than detracted from the human nature of the interpretive themes.

    There is clear evidence to show planned interpretation, all exhibition areas are clearly themed, identifiably regional / local in character and sensitive to the range and flow of target audiences.

    However, on entering the museum, the mechanical orientation was out of order and, despite the provision of information leaflets it was unclear to us which direction we should take to start our tour. The staff were aware of the technical problems and how long it would take to correct them BUT there are big problems with the mechanical media, a number of exhibits were broken down although continual maintenance was evident.

    We feel that there should be staff wearing ‘ask me’ T-shirts to help out with visitor understanding of the technology.

    The media are appropriate to the stated messages and audiences, they are well spaced, the sound and light levels are particularly well considered, making for a sense of uncluttered, light, clean and modern physical and psychological space. This is holistic, thoughtful design. Heights are good for all abilities.

    Layout and design of contents, in keeping with media design, is excellent, well considered, clear and uncluttered. The use of the ‘dumb waiter’ to deliver stories / themes within a limited space yet making a feature of the machinery was inspired!

    Special Award
    We applaud the museum’s desire for total inclusivity and these aims seem to be met to a great extent. The museum is fully accessible to all physical abilities, language and type size for text panels is generally good and the use of British Sign Language is a good idea although we cannot verify the meaning.
  • Award

    The display of the lifeboat H.F.Bailey and its associated stories is impressive. A purpose-built building, which retains something of the air of a boathouse on the beach at Cromer, has been designed around the lifeboat, providing a through route that starts on the ground floor, alongside and under the hull of the boat, with large high panels introducing the story of its colourful history and its Captain, Henry Blogg. The route then ascends to a gallery which enables the visitor to look down on the deck of the boat and enjoy a variety of stimulating panels, artefacts and interactives.

    Under Henry Blogg, the H.F. Bailey was involved, during the first half of the 20th century in a number of dramatic rescues, none more so than in 1932 when he rescued 32 Italian sailors from the stranded Monte Nevoso. During that rescue Blogg also saved a St Bernard dog, Monty, which is used to good effect in some of the lighter interpretation along the route for younger visitors.

    The judges felt that the project had successfully fulfilled its aims, and provides a clear and absorbing story of the lifeboat and its captain, and the eponymous Henry Blogg, and using a stimulating variety of means which included material of interest to a variety of ages and levels and abilities of interest.
  • Award

    This is a brilliantly conceived, innovative, particularly well planned and well executed project that, as judges, we would have felt proud of having undertaken ourselves. The use of geocaching as a technique to encourage people to explore the Shropshire Hills and discover some of their secrets is well supported by interpretive principles and adherence to sound practice. The project deserves an Award for the concept and its execution alone.

    Our concern in making this award is that the project’s continuing and future management needs to be prioritised if all the effort and great work that have been undertaken to date are not to be wasted. There appear to be some weaknesses which it would be well to address if the project’s full potential is to be fulfilled, and before the idea takes off and is replicated at other suitable sites around the country, as we are sure it will.
    1. Audience numbers. We are most concerned that the actual take up to date by visitors appears to be quite low for the effort involved. This, on the evidence of our visit, must in part be due to poor promotion on the ground and – possibly – elsewhere. Involving the local community was not seen by the applicant as an appropriate part of this project. We would disagree.
    2. As partners and eventual advocates (through word of mouth advertising, etc) in the project, the local community – especially owners of local hotels and guesthouses – might have helped ensure greater awareness, interest and take up. Was a special ‘Try it out’ day for them, for example, considered? The Centre manager thought that our entry voucher had been a prize for some competition, perhaps this idea could be a part of any projected promotion campaign.
    3. Linked to the above in some ways, the opening hours of the Centre appear restrictive in terms of being able to drop off the ‘Treasure Trackers’ at the end for those, for example, who want to extend their exploration into the hills into the evening on a hot summer’s day and not feel ‘time pressured’. A ‘Drop off’ point at the local hotel would be ideal – and save people having to worry about getting back in time.
    4. Other concerns about encouraging mainly car borne visitors and physical access issues should be addressed as part of the project’s future development, as is indeed mentioned by the applicant.
  • Award

    The National Library of Ireland’s new Yeats exhibition is magnificent.

    The route, through a variety of means of displaying his life and work – screens showing the text against his own or actors’ voices reading some of his best known poems, artefacts such as the carved lapis lazuli stone that gave rise to the famous late poem, manuscripts, first drafts, letters, cartoons, paintings and photographs, many given or lent by the Yeats family – all amount to a stimulating experience for the visitor. They are also routed in a manner that enables the story and significance of Yeats to unfold clearly.

    Especially impressive is the information technology that enables one to scrutinise manuscripts that are behind and under glass more closely via accompanying screens, which one can operate to isolate, focus and enlarge what might otherwise be fairly indecipherable details from the original manuscripts. The public were clearly absorbed and delighted with this technology.

    We were particularly pleased to hear from one visitor in a motorised wheel chair that she felt completely enfranchised by the exhibition’s concern for physically disabled visitors.

    The exhibition directs you to further sources of information about Yeats and also has an accompanying programme of events. For example, the day the judges visited there were two short Yeats plays being preformed at lunchtime. The Library also offers regular half-hour long tours of the exhibition, picking out highlights, answering questions and explaining how the IT screens can be operated. The staff the judges encountered were very friendly, knowledgeable, clear and enthusiastic.

    The whole entry is totally outstanding and an unmissable experience for any visitor to Dublin interested in Irish history and culture.
  • Award

    We found this project well deserving of an award. The multi-media approach provided a ‘way in’ for all the visitors we observed, and the triumph was to bring to life the objects in the Elizabethan house. The touch screens were particularly well used, and the interactive elements managed to provide good insights into the background, design and symbolism of the objects whilst making them interesting and engaging as well. All the different media were well researched and sensitively designed and produced, from leather bound large book folders to samples of embroidery using different techniques for the visitor to feel.

    The staff were also a major contribution to this success; being, without exception, well informed, enthusiastic and welcoming to everyone on a very busy Saturday. Hardwick Hall should justifiably be proud of them.

    The judges would recommend that a further development would be to perhaps have an audio guide of ‘Bess of Hardwick’ telling the story of her house to the visitor as it is her personality that we would like to see shine even more through the interpretation. A most enjoyable visit and one of the judges was able to spend most of the day there, and the other will certainly return to find out even more.
  • Award

    Tyne & Wear Museum’s Tudor Lives is an interactive exhibition for people of all ages and backgrounds to discover the hidden Tudor history of the North East. It is a touring exhibition that aims to display original Tudor objects, provide a fun, inspirational, interactive experience for visitors to the region’s museums and galleries.

    This exhibition is an excellent facility for school groups, children and families – it offers engaging activities and self-driven interactives, supported by enthusiastic staff members and volunteers, and has clearly been well designed, managed and maintained. The school groups we saw learning Tudor dances, etiquette, building and cookery skills were clearly enjoying themselves immensely, and were excellently managed in their various activities by the on site staff and costumed interpreter. Their noisy engagement with the displays and activities did not appear to detract from the experience for other visitors exploring the exhibition that day – and arguably added to it.

    The exhibition deserves an award for the way in which it engages visitors of all ages in the lives of the Tudors in the North East and for the hands-on way children in particular are encouraged to think about life in the past.

    If we have any criticism of the displays at all, it is that the content and activities are perhaps rather less engaging for adults and for those with a specialist interest in the Tudor period in the North East, the latter identified in particular as target audience for the displays. To address this, we would recommend that further layers of information – available within and beyond the exhibition itself – be provided for adults and those with a specialist interest in the subject in future and/or for additional links to be promoted with other sites and resources across Tyne & Wear Museums and the region.
  • Award and Special Award

    We felt that the stated aims and objectives appear to have been achieved very well. The link to the Museum is made at the first panel encountered when approaching from the town.

    The mosaics are decorative and entirely appropriate, they are informative and well made and good use of redundant space has been made to house them although the first two look a bit lost in the large public shelter.

    The project was not led by an interpretive plan as such; it would definitely have benefited from a wider consideration of the interpretation of the castle as a whole. It could and should still become part of a bigger interpretive plan for the castle. We felt that, for example, a graphic panel at each end actually placed on the promenade could draw public attention to both the castle, the mosaics and the museum which is quite discreetly situated between shops in the town.

    Design, planning, content and execution of the mosaics is excellent. Closer inspection is possible but the pavement on the panels’ side of the road is very narrow which raises Health and Safety issues, particularly for people with disabilities.

    Special Award
    Participating groups are also the audience. Real efforts have been made successfully in involving a wide range of groups.

    The museum has plans to carry the project on in other forms. There are plans for a children's book about the Castle that will include images from the mosaics / woodcuts and colouring opportunities for children and a 'make your own mosaic' element.

    As half term there will be a workshop in the Museum to help children build a model of the castle and do other things.
  • Commendation

    This was a good attempt at telling, in the year of its centenary, the story of Belfast’s City Hall (‘born in Venice’ as one panel says – the architect being partly inspired by the Salute). The story is told by the Hall itself, personifying itself as a character which, while seeming slightly disconcerting to begin with, actually quickly becomes acceptable and certainly saves on repetitions in text, with ‘I was..’ standing in each time, for example, for ‘The City Hall was…’.

    More such economy in the text on the illuminated panels would have been welcomed since many of them presented rather formidable phalanxes of words. They were certainly interesting but required some tenacity to read through. There were also some infelicities of design, with text on glass over photographs not always easy to read. Clearly many visitors had enjoyed finding out the story, judging by the comments posted, despite these aspects.

    However, notwithstanding these reservations, the judges were impressed with what the designers did with a fairly confined space in one of the Hall’s grand entrance lobbies. The panels forming a kind of ‘henge’ on either side of a screen set in the floor and related the history of the hall and the City, including some of the recent highlights like the visit by President Clinton, civil rights advances, and the funeral of George Best. The illustrations and artefacts were well chosen and presented.

    For those in families or for children, who may not want to study every panel, the screen in the centre of the floor, with an accompanying ambient sound track, presented the viewer with newsreel and TV highlights of the City’s story as a whole. The judges felt that the exhibition was informative, entertaining and, on the whole, accessible and therefore worthy of a Commendation.
  • Commendation

    This is an important exhibition, bringing together the British Museum with five regional venues. The choice of theme was imaginative, with a broad appeal to all age ranges and across social, economic and cultural divides. The objects chosen for display were fascinating and it really was an extra-special event to see the Lewis Chessmen on tour. The combination of the collections and opportunities to play the games was irresistible. The presence of a highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic enabler at Lincoln added considerably to the experience.

    To produce a touring exhibition including collections of international significance for under £100,000 is quite an achievement. The budget and the need for flexibility and for ease of transport limited the interpretive media used, but this was no bad thing. The exhibition focused on the objects on display and was all the better for that. The wide range of support activities offered at each venue was a major bonus. Three cheers also for the supporting website.

    The main graphic panels needed additional attention to make their content more accessible, but this was the only real weakness and we would recommend that Across the Board be given a Commendation.
  • Commendation

    The Laxey Wheel and its setting are exhilarating and the visitor, on first seeing the huge waterwheel with the steep valley rising behind it, must be delighted at the opportunity to explore and understand the site. The wheel was designed in the 19th century to pump flood water out of the underground zinc and iron mines further up valley with its industrial remains of mine shafts, water cisterns, pump houses etc.

    A route of panels takes one up the wheel, from which the views of the whole site are thrilling, and then up the valley alongside a viaduct (or ‘rod-duct’ as it turned out to be) to the mine workings. Well-positioned panels explained the functions of the various remains and the social history of the communities who worked there. Some of the panels displayed huge photographs (at least 10 feet tall by 15 feet wide) showing, for example, communities of miners who had gone on to find work in the diamond mines of South Africa. In most environments such large panels would have been intrusive, but here, because of the backcloth of a steep ‘hanger’ of woods behind, they were daring, acceptable and impressive.

    The standard of the panels was good, but the judges were left with one nagging doubt, and that was whether the functioning of the wheel was ever clearly explained – in one place – to the average visitor. Basically the wheel moves a huge wooden rod backwards and forwards by a timber shaft along the ‘rod-duct’ to activate the pump higher up the valley. No single clearly illustrated panel seemed to explain this at the start of the route, and although one was able to speculate enjoyably and probably work out the answer during the course of the route, the lack of an early succinct explanation might have been frustrating to some. Other visitors made similar comments to the judges.

    With that one crucial caveat, the judges were hugely impressed and regard the entry well worthy of a Commendation and only just short of an Award.
  • Commendation and Special Commendation

    Tyne & Wear Museums have created a range of new media for five of its eleven museums and galleries, to increase access to its sites and collections for visitors of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. The organisation has consulted comprehensively on how best to engage visitors with particular needs, including the blind and partially sited and those for whom English is not their first language.

    We would like to award TWM a Commendation for these engaging new initiatives and for the provision of comprehensive information and interpretation before, during and after a visit. Particular highlights include the entertaining new children’s tour of Segedunum Roman Fort, the thought-provoking tactile interpretations of artworks at the Laing Art Gallery and the robust tactile trail and wind up sound stores at Arbeia. These and the other initiatives have received very positive feedback from visitors, staff and volunteers to date and the service plans to continue adding new media to the benefit of all visitors.

    However, the scheme misses out on achieving an Award for several reasons – while the provision is very good in itself, we felt that there was insufficient promotion at the sites for these valuable new elements (and this is also reflected in the evaluation). It was easy to miss such things as Arbeia’s Snifferama and the paid-for audio tours at Segedunum. This seems to be compounded by a lack of awareness amongst some of the staff and volunteers and/or a limited desire to promote them. Indeed, on a busy weekday afternoon at Discovery the welcome desk was unmanned throughout the duration of our visit and we had to help ourselves to the audio tour.

    We would therefore urge TWM to address these issues as they continue to increase access provision, as it is a real pity that some visitors are missing out on exciting opportunities to engage more effectively with the sites and collections.

    Special Commendation
    TWM has worked closely with users groups to establish how best to engage with visitors with special needs. The works judged here are the first phase of initiatives to enhance the experience for visitors of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and we applaud the service for the positive response its initiatives have received from visitors so far.

    We wish to recognise this project with a special commendation, to acknowledge the work undertaken to date and in recognition of the fact that future works are planned to maintain this positive momentum. We would however strongly urge TWM to continue its programme of staff and volunteer training, and to work towards ensuring that the new media are promoted better in future, as these aspects weakened the overall scheme and prevented it from achieving a special award. However, it is worthy of a Special Commendation.
  • Commendation

    The Tweed Forum is to be commended for providing an opportunity to learn more about the salmon and its fascinating migration story. along with opportunities for viewing salmon in the wild and for self-guided walks on the wider estate.

    It is very pleasing to see well thought-out and easily digestible exhibits, featuring small amounts of text and user-friendly illustrations arranged in clear and simple layouts. However, some messages are still difficult to grasp and better attention to detail in scripting and editing would have resulted in fewer errors of grammar and spelling.

    We assume the live video images work well when salmon are present. At other times, visitors watch patiently for salmon to come into view, only to feel disappointed and slightly foolish when they eventually realise that none will. It might be better to turn off the live video or to give clear information when no fish are present. Showing archive film of salmon doing some of the things discussed on the panels would also make additional use of the video facilities and heighten the interpretation’s impact.

    Overall, the exhibition appears to deal successfully with the facts of the salmon’s life, although it could perhaps be a little better at inspiring people about the salmon and the Ettrick, and at powerfully communicating the scale and drama of one of the world’s great wildlife journeys.
  • Commendation

    If it was physically possible, given the restrictions of the building itself, everyone should go to see the York Cold War bunker and hear the story it has to tell. It is the largely untold story of how the ‘Yes Ministers’ of the 60s, and later decades, tried to face up to the day-to-day realities of imminent nuclear annihilation in this country.

    English Heritage deserves a commendation for bravely attempting to tackle this raw and emotionally powerful subject. The introductory film is disturbing… to think this was going on in places literally below our feet. As our guide said, visiting this place changes your view (for a certain CND / Greenham Common generation - one of the main target audience groups) of your childhood forever.

    Current interpretation has its limitations however (certainly, from the evidence of our visit, betraying a lack of guide training), and needs some tweaking to fully realise the potential of the site:
    1. The stated aim is ‘to provide information…’. Please read Tilden again. It should be engaging, provocative, interactive (in terms of encouraging and trying to answer questions), etc.
    2. Much of the interpretation is dependent on the performance and skills of the guides. Our gum-chewing guide’s skills - and awareness of guiding as an interpretive technique – was woefully lacking. To be fair, he was very good at ‘providing information’ though – see i. above. But no attempt was made at the outset to engage with the audience (assess our background and interests, where we were from, etc), or to encourage questions or discussion on what was likely to be a very emotive subject, or even set the context for the building as a whole right from the start. The ‘introductory’ film was not that – we sat and watched it about half way through the tour. No attempt appears to be being made to monitor guide performance and the messages / stories being communicated.
    3. Linked to the above, much more effort could be made to communicate with teenagers (an identified target group after all) who, on the evidence of our visit, were almost totally ignored. If the guide had at least looked at them it would have been an improvement. They might have been asked, for example, to comment on what they feel are the greatest threats today, to try to raise some discussion on the comparison between fears of the Cold War in 60s to fears of Terrorism today – ie relate (Tilden again) to their own lives in some way! We wonder if the EH could target teenage groups studying history / politics GCSE or A-Level to visit and use as starting points for debate. Even performing arts or arts students, or design graphic students, would find the site interesting and could look at fascinating issues such as, propaganda v. brainwashing or justifiable public concern.
    4. There are undoubtedly some fascinating stories to be told here by the ex-ROC volunteers themselves. What motivated them to serve? How did they deal personally with the threat of Armageddon on a day-to-day basis? Unfortunately they are not currently involved in the face-to-face interpretation of the building, and sadly there are apparently – and wrongly in the opinion of these judges – no plans to involve them directly in the future. Rather, they are seen only as possible source for future oral history testimonies. Get them involved first hand (Tilden yet again) through ‘live interpretation’ with the visitor while they are still around, rather than second hand though the EH tour guide!
    5. Post visit opportunities to follow up the stories were limited (as our guide had to rush off for the next group) to the possible £14.99 purchase of a weighty tome on the Cold War.
    6. At the time of booking, EH staff should be trained to enquire about any requirements to cater for special needs on the tour (eg for physical access, hearing, etc.).
    We sincerely hope that current planning permission restrictions and other factors can be overcome in the future to enable more visitors to access this remarkable and frightening survivor of the Cold War.