Each year since 2008, the Art Fund has awarded one hard-working UK museum with one of the world’s biggest prizes specifically designed to honour museums: The Art Fund Museum of the Year award. Prior to that, the award was called the Prize for Museums and Galleries from 2003-2007 and received sponsorship from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The Museum of the Year award seeks to reward museums working to have done one or more of the following: ‘undertaken projects that provide a lasting legacy or have a transformative effect; brought collections to life for audiences in exceptional ways; delivered an innovative programme of audience development, learning or outreach; and clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors and users.’
On April 25th, Art Fund announced the five finalists for the 2019 award. The institution that takes the award will receive £100,000 and the other shortlisted museums will take home £10,000. This year the five finalists are:
The HMS Caroline is the last surviving British light cruiser ship from World War I and the only surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland. The ship was saved from the scrapyard and instead received a £20 million restoration and conservation treatment, which was completed in 2018. Now, the ship is a unique, interactive space for visitors to enjoy.
Just 10 short years since it opened, Nottingham Contemporary has attracted 2 million visitors to its exhibitions. Last year, the museum held three milestone exhibitions that all focused on female artists who have been marginalized or overlooked. Through virtual tours, Nottingham Contemporary allows visitors to experience their museum from around the world.
The Pitt Rivers Museum offers a unique blend of anthropology and archaeology while encouraging ongoing research and new interpretations. In 2018, the museum offered a innovative series of programmes titled ‘Hope,’ focusing on the colonial past of collectors features, ‘Making,’ examining links between health and the production of objects, ‘No Boundaries,’ which focused on how refugees reinterpret their collection, and ‘No Binaries,’ that examined the responses to the museum of the LGBTQ community.
St. Fagans explores the history and culture of Wales and remains one of the country’s most popular sites. In 2018, the museum completed a £30 million overhaul to better gallery space and visitor experience all while the museum stayed open to visitors – three million visitors at that. Moreover, the museum worked with 720,000 individuals during the reshaping of the museum through public programmes to create a place ‘with’ the people of Wales rather than ‘for’ them.
When the V&A Dundee opened last year, it was after more than a decade of planning and construction. However, the stunning waterfront museum was worth the wait becoming the UK’s first design museum outside of London. In addition to its galleries permanently dedicated to Scottish designs, the museum features international designs. The museum has helped regenerate the area and has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors since it opened.
The winner will be selected by a panel of judges, which this year, includes: Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund since 2010; David Batchelor, renowned UK artist; Brenda Emmanus, broadcaster and journalist, previously of the BBC and Voice Newspaper; Bridget McConnell, chief executive of Glasgow Life; and Bill Sherman, director of the Warburg Institute (University of London). The recipient of the award will be announced on July 3rd in a ceremony at London’s Science Museum.