Kids Take Charge of Dover Museum and Maison Dieu!

Kids in Museums Takeover Day

Year 5 children from Barton Junior School 'took over' Dover Museum as part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day

Children from Barton Junior School in Dover "took over" Dover Museum, as part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 November.

As part of the visits, the year five pupils found out how a museum works and met members of the team, before designing their own gallery tours, artefact-handling sessions and art workshops inspired by the town’s historic Maison Dieu. They also took over the Maison Dieu's social media channels to share stories about their action-packed days and to encourage people to visit and get involved.

Most excitingly, for many, they took over the museum shop - designing and selling child-friendly product lines, including big badges inspired by favourite artefacts, Christmas tree decorations featuring Dover Museum’s much-loved polar bear and colourful bookmarks. They also designed a Christmas shop window display.

In preparation for the event, Maison Dieu Engagement Officer Martin Crowther and artist Hannah Bryan spent a fabulous day in school, meeting the children, briefing them about their roles and helping them design and make merchandise for the pop-up shop.

Alison Bowyer, Director of Kids in Museums, visited on Friday and saw the children in action. She enjoyed young curator talks on museum treasures, watched an artefact-based role-play about Victorian crime and punishment and took part in a fun art activity to create a William Burges inspired design. She was even interviewed by the children about her own role to help make museums more family-friendly!

Alison commented: “I had a great day and was so pleased to see how much the children enjoyed themselves. Thank you to the museum for creating such a broad range of activities.”

The day went down well with the pupils too. ‘Happy, inspired, amazed, fascinated and the best day ever,’ were just some of the many positive comments.  

Notes to editors:

About the Reawakening the Maison Dieu Project

The £10.5m reawakening of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu sees the restoration of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo-Gothic architect, William Burges, and a new street-level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall, along with improved access throughout the building.

The project creates a sustainable future for the Maison Dieu by bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use, including restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let in conjunction with The Landmark Trust, and a unique new café in the space once occupied by Victorian gaol cells.

Once complete in 2025, the Maison Dieu will be permanently open to the public for the first time in its 800-year history and contributing to the creation of a heritage quarter in Dover town centre.

Project funders/partners include the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, The Landmark Trust, Dover District Council, Dover Town Council, and the Dover Society.

History of the Maison Dieu

The Maison Dieu (House of God) was founded in the early 1200’s by Hubert de Burgh and passed to King Henry III in 1227, when the earliest surviving part of the building, the Chapel (later the court room) was consecrated in his presence.

It was built as a place of hospitality for pilgrims journeying from continental Europe to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. Following the Dissolution in the 16th century, the Maison Dieu was subsequently used as a victualling yard supplying ships of the Royal Navy.

In the mid-19th Century, the prominent Victorian architect Ambrose Poynter (1796-1886) extensively restored the Maison Dieu aided by the up-and-coming Gothic Revival architect, William Burges.

Burges later went on to further remodel the building and design an assembly hall (the Connaught Hall) and civic offices, including a range of bespoke furniture and interior schemes.

The Maison Dieu is the only civic commission by William Burges, and the only intact building in England still containing his decorative scheme, furniture, and fittings.

The Maison Dieu has been in some form of community or civic use over its entire 800-year history and remains much-loved by local people today.

Maison Dieu Partners logo strip

Posted on 20 November 2023

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