Four museums short listed for £100,000 Art Fund Prize

Four museums short listed for £100,000 Art Fund Prize

Short list for inaugural £10,000 Clore Award for Museum Learning also announced

This evening, on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and BBC TWO The Culture Show, news of the four museums and galleries that have been short listed for the Art Fund Prize 2011 will be announced. The single, £100,000 prize for the ‘Museum of the Year’ will be presented on 15 June.

The following four museums and galleries have been short listed for the prestigious accolade:

  • The British Museum, London, for A History of the World. This was a groundbreaking and enormously successful project exploring world history through the British Museum’s unparalleled collection, initiated by the British Museum in partnership with the BBC. At the heart of the initiative was a 100 part series on BBC Radio 4, A History of the World in a 100 Objects, telling a narrative global history through British Museum objects from two million years ago to the present day. To realise the project the British Museum, the BBC and 550 museums across the country came together in an ambitious public service partnership to ensure the widest possible access and engagement across radio, television, online and onsite.
  • The Polar Museum, University of Cambridge, for Promoting Britain’s Polar Heritage – a major renovation of galleries and stores at the UK’s only museum dedicated to the Polar Regions, their exploration and science. The museum was established principally to preserve the collections relating to Polar exploration and – later – scientific research in the Polar Regions. The museum holds some 10,000 objects, over 100,000 images and the world’s largest polar archive, comprising well over one million documents. Key items include Captain Oates’s sleeping bag and the last letters from Captain Scott’s Polar party to their families and friends. The museum is run by a total of seven staff, assisted by 15 volunteers. The renovation project cost £1.75m, of which £994,500 came from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Remaining funds were raised from a range of charities, funding bodies and individual donors.


  • The new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Scotland. This £21m project involved a reinterpretation of a 10-acre multi-destination site and creation of a new museum to house the Robert Burns Collection. The museum is run by National Trust for Scotland, and comprises historic sites such as Burns Cottage, where the poet grew up, Burns Monument & Gardens, the historic landmarks of Alloway Auld Kirk and Brig o’Doon. The museum holds the world’s principal Robert Burns collection, including the largest and most significant collection of original Burns manuscripts. The project began in January 2009, and the new museum opened in January 2011. Its aim is to attract 300,000 visitors per year. The museum has 52 staff, including interns and volunteers.


  • The Roman Baths Museum, Bath, for Roman Baths Development. Funded mainly by the council which runs the museum, the £5.5m project was to maintain the Roman Baths as a leading visitor attraction and transform its accessibility. The Roman Baths is an archaeological site and museum built around Britain’s only hot spring. It tells the story of 7,000 years of human development around the Spring, focussing particularly on the Roman remains and its associated collection, which are exceptional for northern Europe. The Roman Baths is one of the four reasons for Bath’s inclusion on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. At the time of applying the museum attracted circa 880,000 visitors a year. It hopes to raise this to 910,000 by April 2011. It employs 65 full time staff.

Michael Portillo, Chair of the Judges, said: “It has been stimulating for the judges to travel across the country to visit the ten long listed museums and galleries which submitted applications for the prize, so varied in size and scope. It was inspiring to see the transformation brought about by each project and to meet the enthusiastic, dedicated staff behind each one. Choosing a short list was not easy but we are agreed that these four museums and galleries exhibit remarkable innovation and flair, which excited us and clearly draws in the general public too. We hope that the process of touring the long listed museums has illustrated the fine work being done across the UK, and that is in itself, I believe, a useful outcome of the Art Fund Prize.”

The purpose of the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries is to recognise and stimulate originality and excellence in museums and galleries in the UK, and increase public appreciation and enjoyment of all they have to offer. Each year the Museum Prize Trustees invite applications from museums and galleries across the UK. Applications must be specific to a project completed or mainly undertaken in the previous calendar year.

The long list, comprising ten museums and galleries, was announced on 2 February by Michael Portillo. Since then, the judging panel visited all ten institutions before meeting to select the final four contenders.

Lady Cobham, Chairman of the Museum Prize Trustees said: “The Museum Prize Trust is delighted to see such a strong and varied short list for the 2011 Art Fund Prize. The wide range of scope, location and collections represented shows that the museum sector in the UK continues to deliver top quality innovation, excellence and audience engagement across the country. I congratulate the short listed museums on behalf of the Trustees.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund said: “Taking the short list as a snapshot of UK museums and galleries, the sheer variety of scale, subject matter and locality goes to show just how diverse and idiosyncratic this country’s cultural institutions are – using their collections to explore history over millennia, across the globe and through many civilisations. I very much look forward to seeing which of the four has truly won the judges’ hearts and will go on to win the £100,000 prize and be crowned ‘Museum of the Year’.”

The £100,000 prize will be presented by Michael Portillo on 15 June at the winner ceremony, held this year at Tate Britain. A jewel in the UK’s crown of cultural institutions, it is an ideal platform from which to announce who will be crowned the 2011 ‘Museum of the Year’.

Michael Portillo’s fellow judges are: Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster; Jeremy Deller, artist; Kathy Gee, museums and heritage consultant; Charlotte Higgins, journalist and author; Lars Tharp, Foundling Museum curator, broadcaster and Antiques Roadshow expert and Lola Young, Baroness Young of Hornsey, Independent Cross Bench peer and writer, cultural critic, public speaker and broadcaster.

The winner of the Art Fund Prize 2010 was the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Public Vote


The public are invited to vote for their favourite short listed museum and tell the judges who they think should win, via . People who leave a comment can enter a prize draw to win an iPad. The Poll opens at 9am on Friday 20 May and closes at 5pm on 7 June.

Clore Award for Museum Learning

In tandem with the Art Fund Prize, the short list for the inaugural Clore Award for Museum Learning is also announced today. Supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation the new £10,000 award recognises and celebrates quality, impact and innovation in using museums and galleries for learning activities and initiatives. Five museums and galleries have been short listed:

  • Museums Sheffield: Weston Park, Sheffield for With Sheba and Arwa (Belonging) – engaging communities and young people in a programme of learning and co-curation inspired by the legacy of two great Yemeni queens, Bilqis (Queen of Sheba) and Arwa (Sayyida Hurra), and modern day experiences of UK-Arabic women
  • National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth for Face to Face: Documenting experiences of conflict – a film project with primary school pupils and veterans exploring the impact of war
  • South London Gallery, London for Making Play – adventures in creative play through contemporary art
  • The Pitt Rivers Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford for Making Museums – children design and make their own museums, from acquisition to exhibition, celebrating their identities
  • Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, Newcastle upon Tyne for Culture Shock – a digital storytelling project in the North East

The Clore Award is judged by a separate panel co-chaired by Dame Vivien Duffield DBE, Chairman of the Clore Duffield Foundation and Sally Bacon, the Foundation’s Director.

Dame Vivien Duffield said: “I am delighted to see such a diverse shortlist for the Clore Award for Museum Learning. It’s diverse geographically, and in terms of collections and exhibitions – spanning anthropology, contemporary art, natural history, world history, local history and the history of the Royal Navy. What unites each of the shortlisted entries is what this Award is seeking to celebrate: a commitment to inspirational, high-quality learning activities.”


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