In 1992, when we opened, Eureka! was a pioneer in hands-on learning in the UK. Children’s museums were largely unheard of, and many people thought of museums as quiet dusty places with old things in glass cabinets – and most certainly not child-friendly.
How the world has changed. Children frequent museums of all kinds nowadays, families are welcomed into most spaces (even the quiet dusty ones), and are encouraged to use the exhibitions to learn. Most museums have incorporated some kind of hands-on experiences for children as a necessary requirement for engaging their visitors and building new audiences.
Eureka! has paved the way for this change in the sector and served as a model for many of the hands-on spaces that now exist in UK museums. And yet we remain unique 25 years on. The key to our success is that children are at the very heart of our mission and play is at the centre of the Eureka! experience.
Eureka! has welcomed over 7 million visitors through the doors in the last 25 years, also winning a suite of awards and national accolades along the way; including being voted Children’s Outing of the Year by the Good Guide to Britain, one of the top 3 best family days out in the UK and the No.1 Hands On Museum in the UK by The Independent and more recently our newest gallery ‘All About Me’ was named best interactive exhibition for children by MumsNet.
Our project to ensure full inclusion for all families has been recognised recently with a Gold award from Visit England in 2015, and a national Charity Award for Arts, Culture and Heritage in 2016, and we continue to strive for full accessibility and inclusion for all families.
As proud as we are of all these achievements (and more!), 2017 is not about revelling in our success and self-congratulations (ok, just a little bit!), but on ensuring Eureka! continues to be relevant to today’s families and children and those who will visit us in the years to come. With the world changing at an ever- increasing pace, children’s lives and experiences are much different from one generation to the next and we know that we must continuously reinvent ourselves if we are to keep pace with this change.
One constant remains, however, and that is that children will always play; and we aim to ensure Eureka! remains a fantastic place for all children to play and learn for the next 25, 50 and even 100 years! Crucial to our success since we opened, and particularly relevant to our success going forward, is the support of the wonderful families of Calderdale, who have continued to visit us and take part in our events and exhibitions over the years. It is so rewarding to see parents bringing their children now, who first came as children with their own parents in the early days, or to see grandparents coming through the doors with grandchildren remembering visits with their own children. This is one tradition we aim to continue.
With exciting town centre improvements happening all around us in Halifax, and the re-opening of The Piece Hall in 2017, Eureka! is ready to play a central part in the next phase of our town’s development and to continue to provide fantastic opportunities for children in our local community and well beyond.
This blog first appeared as a column in the Halifax Courier.