Last year Bodelwyddan Castle held an exciting Quentin Blake exhibition to display some of his most important illustrations within their own gallery. As a huge fan of his work I took my family to visit the Castle and also made use of the other facilities available there, it really was a fantastic day for myself, my partner and the children( see the day further down my blog).
Photo: My own photo from the exhibition
Since the visit I decided to follow the Castle on Facebook and twitter so that I could find out about any more up and coming events. Gareth Whitley, volunteer at kids museums, editor and publicist of the sites had taken notice of our interest and has kept in contact through out the year and more recently had made me an offer I really couldn’t refuse. As he is part of a team who have been making some changes to the castles visiting facilities he has been looking for different ways to spread the word and to let the public know about the exciting new changes he has made, he also needed volunteers to test the said changes!! That’s where I come into it..Gareth kindly offered my family and I a FREE day out to tour the castle, view the latest exhibitions and basically give feed back on the new editions to the castle guides and touring system.
I was over the moon with his offer, obviously as I got to have a free day out with my family at an educational venue but I also felt very grateful for his offer, I could see that Gareth was keen to update the castles visiting facilities, had a general interest in the public’s views and he was willing to do what ever it took to meet both needs of the castle and the customers I thought it was very refreshing to be part of that and hopefully help him on his mission.
So what are the changes??!!
The first thing I noticed when I entered the reception was the ‘Children’s Explorer Tools’. The brightly colored tools have been specifically introduced to enable children up to age 5 to explore each historical room easily whilst having fun interacting with them, and whats more is that whilst the children are having fun exploring, Parents and guardians get their time to join in with them or take in the sights themselves. The explorers tools include magnifiers, torches, toy cameras and tape measures. (To be returned after use)
(Photos were taken by me unless stated otherwise)
*Getting the children involved*
There was lots of other ways that Gareth and other members have thought about to encourage children’s to become involved in the gallery and history of the castle and so he has introduced drawing and coloring sheets designated for each historical room. (might I add that it is not just that children that enjoy drawing and coloring 🙂 .)
Whoops!! I don’t have the best camera skills!!
Whilst at the main entrance, children can take some pencils and a clip board so that they can take their activity sheets along their journey with them or even fill their sheets in before they set off.
Activity and Educational Booklets
Cute little activity booklets have been created to specific parts of designated rooms for children to enjoy and to easily learn about the works and history of the castle.
Something else I noticed on our tour was the really cute illustrated signs which have been placed around the building, illustrated to tell a cat and mouse story for the very young children (just the right height for them too!!) to enable toddlers who cannot yet read or write and take part in the activity booklets, to feel part of the experience.
At this point I was wondering if there was anything that hadn’t been thought of! I felt that lots of different areas had been explored within the castle personnel to ensure people and children of all ages were considered to maximize an enjoyable and educational visit.
So there is already a few new changes to aid children on their visit but there is more! More educational features have been placed in the historical rooms themselves just waiting to be discovered!! They have been carefully selected to tie in with the room itself for example, the library has been adjusted to enable visitors to access some drawers and also toys have been placed in there, like prisms and looking glasses to show what kids of historical people are associated with that room. People such as scientists and astronomers. I think the Library was just one of my son’s favorite rooms, as you will see in the following pictures.
Bodelwyddan castle have recently updated their touring system so not only is there some lovely people spotted about during the tour, who are fully educated within the history of the castle itself, and the younger generation are covered with everything I have talked about so far, they now have some really cool handheld media guides!! iPod styled media guides that are packed with everything you will need to learn about the castle and aid a relaxed tour environment!! My son was very excited about having the use of one of the new gadgets and even more so that he could wear one around his neck leaving his hands free to interact with all of the activities.
The red media guides are available at the main entrance for a deposit, which is understandable considering the cost them, and they give access to the new app which is also downloadable from your own phone or device!!! I was curious about the app so I downloaded it to my own iPhone and I have to admit, as somebody who grew up in Bodelwyddan I was surprised and very interested in the past history of the village and castle!! Do check it out!! And don’t forget to leave a review!!
All of this wasn’t just down to Gareth, The deputy director, Morrigan Mason was responsible for the trails and toys and the coloring in sheets, Whilst the visitor services manager, Laura Verga-Birtles was responsible for the media guides. Gareth Whitley, whose job role within the castle is also directed at Learning and audience development, has been busy researching visitors comments, how they use everything and finding out views and people’s opinions for future services. Further aid came from CyMAL, Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, providing funding/money from the Welsh government.
I have pretty much covered what’s new at the castle where guides and children’s learning is concerned but our day didn’t end there!! My next post covers the rest of our visit, the latest exhibition and what’s coming up. I will always be talking about the illustrator behind the new children’s activity books so keep a watch out very soon!!!!!