Exploring the British Museum’s collections online is fun – and now free – via its Young Friends scheme

Back in April 2023, the British Museum announced that its Young Friends scheme would be a free access resource. This means that, by subscribing online, families can explore its collections spanning two million years of history from the comfort of home.

Joining Young Friends is quick, and open to families around the world. Even though material provided is designed for young people (most for the 8-15 age group) the museum asks that an adult (18+) fills in the short subscriber form with their own email address. Once subscribed, you can expect bi-weekly emails with family-friendly craft activities, museum trails and quizzes.

As with all cultural institutions, widening access has risen up the agenda in recent years. Developing and refining online resources – already a key priority – became critical when the pandemic struck. The proliferation of accessible resources is good news. Children’s museum stamina needs careful nurturing and online material can be invaluable ahead of physical visits, as well as providing an alternative means of viewing and understanding exhibits.

Membership of Young Friends also gives access to the museum’s archive of children’s activities and Young Friends members are sent a digital copy of the British Museum’s Remus magazine three times a year. Also expect advance warning of family events – including the regular sleepovers that give children a chance to bunk down in the galleries with mummies and more. Sleepovers come at a cost (currently £60 a head, one responsible adult per four children) but have acquired bucket list status for the 8+ age group. Obviously, accompanying adults suffer sleep deprivation on nights in the museum, so you could opt instead for one of the softer stay-at-home sleepovers available to Young Friends.

While fun is firmly in the mix, membership is great for art, history and geography homework and projects. Accessing the archive online also helps young people to improve their general knowledge and build independent research skills that will serve them in good stead down the line.

* To sign up for British Museum Young Friends, visit britishmuseum.org/membership/young-friends

Culture online – fun for young museum explorers
British Museum’s Young Friends scheme also gives children access to other adventures, including its museum nights. Photo above and top: Benedict Johnson

Five more museums to explore online

* Metropolitan Museum of Art#metkids bills itself as ‘made for, with and by kids’ and it’s a fun and interactive way to explore 5,000 years of global art metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metkids

* Australian Museum – whether it’s test tube volcanos and rock engravings or spiders, clouds and the dinosaurs Down Under, tap into a bank of engaging projects and facts australian.museum/inside-out/homeschool-resources

* Van Gogh Museum – inspiring art activities (making a diorama, colouring in masterpieces) plus background on the artist and his times vangoghmuseum.nl/en/art-and-stories/children#craft–play

* National Museum of Ireland – discover Eire’s Bronze Age archaeology and Viking treasure alongside nature and craft ‘make-and-learn’ projects museum.ie/en-IE/Museum-at-Home/Museum-at-Home-Children-and-Families

* The Louvre– learn more about the sensational 1913 theft of the Mona Lisa and the context of treasures such as Delacroix’ Liberty Leading the People through short films and narratives louvrekids.louvre.fr

Further reading: The reinvented Young V&A