Kerry County Museum is delighted to announce that it has added the Sandford Award to its impressive list of accolades. The Sandford Award recognises excellence in the provision of heritage education, particularly to schools but also in the area of informal learning such as family programmes. It is managed by the Heritage Education Trust in the UK in partnership with Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, and it encourages opportunities for children to explore their heritage outside of the classroom.
The Judges’ report noted:
“The standard of delivery observed was generally very high. Critical thinking, emotional learning and creativity are at the centre of planning for learning programmes. Kerry County Museum is blessed with the most important resource of any heritage learning facility, a dedicated and knowledgeable team, which develops and delivers meaningful and instructive programmes at all levels”.
Helen O’Carroll, Museum Manager, is thrilled with the Award and with the Judges’ findings: “This is a fantastic achievement by the whole team and I am really pleased that the Judges identified the dedication, commitment and sense of community that is so necessary in a small group such as ours. We mightn’t be the biggest museum in the world or have the largest budget but we have one of the most important core ingredients – a terrific bunch of people who are passionate about what they do. Our team is small but our energy and enthusiasm are huge and that’s why we are able to deliver programmes that engage and inspire”.
Kerry County Museum is now a member of a select group as one of only four holders of the Award in Ireland, joining Muckross Traditional Farms, Fota Wildlife Park and the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. The Award is granted for a period of five years, and each site is reassessed before regaining the imprimatur. Kerry is perhaps a hot-spot for the Award as the first time it was granted outside of the UK the honour went to Muckross in 2003 and they have successfully retained it ever since.
The Report highlighted the team’s skill in delivering enjoyable and interactive experiences that suit a range of ages, abilities and learning styles. Education Officer Claudia Kohler says that adaptability is the key to using all of the Museum’s resources so that programmes can be tailored to different groups and abilities: “the Museum as a whole is an amazingly rich resource that can be drawn on in all sorts of ways. Our exhibitions cover 8,000 years of the history of Kerry, telling local stories set in a national context. We have different themed trails throughout the displays and we use activity sheets, interactive exhibits as well as guided tours to draw out stories that are relevant across the primary and secondary school curriculum”.
Claudia is delighted that the Judges picked the Medieval Experience as the highlight. “They point out that it is a superb teaching resource for schools and a great tool for comparative social, environmental and scientific studies of the local area. It includes our archaeology workshop, ‘Bone Investigators’, where children get to dig up two Viking skeletons, a man and a woman, along with exciting replica grave goods”.
The Sandford Award’s official citation declares that:
“Kerry County Museum offers learning programmes that are very well developed and delivered in a sensitive way by a knowledgeable and talented team. Schools, families and community groups will benefit from a visit, as the collection and galleries cover the history of settlement and life in Kerry for over eight thousand years, bringing it alive with dioramas and stories of real people and communities. It is a living history that educates and entertains”.
The awards ceremony will take place in November, but in the meantime, Kerry County Museum can now add its name to an august list of winners, and take its place as one of the leading providers of heritage education in the country.