New areas of the Roman Baths museum, 14th April 2010 ©Bath & North East Somerset Council Heritage Services and Freia Turland

Judges ignore public choice for Art Fund Prize shortlist

Rebecca Atkinson, 19.05.2011
Four contenders for £100,000 Museum of the Year award revealed
The museum that topped the 2011 Art Fund Prize public poll has not made it onto the shortlist for the £100,000 accolade.

An online poll allowing the public to back their favourite longlisted museum saw Manchester’s People’s History Museum gain top spot with 26.3% of the vote.

But it did not make it onto the final shortlist. Instead, the Art Fund Prize panel of judges has revealed the museums in the running for this year's prize are: the British Museum (for a History of the World); the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum; the Roman Baths Museum; and the Polar Museum.

The public poll saw the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and the Roman Baths Museum (pictured) come in second and third place with 14.3% and 13% of votes respectively, while the British Museum came in fifth place with 7.5%. The Polar Museum came ninth with 5.2%.

For the remaining longlisted museums, the results were as follows: the Yorkshire Museum (9.2%); the Victoria & Albert Museum (7.3%); Hertford Museum (7.1%); Leighton House Museum (6.6%); and Mostyn (3.5%).

The judging panel, which is chaired by broadcaster and former Conservative MP Michael Portillo, visited all of the 10 longlisted museums and art galleries ahead of making its selection.

Portillo said: “Choosing a shortlist 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.”

A second public poll has now opened for the shortlisted museums.


Meanwhile, the shortlist for the inaugural Clore Award for Museum Learning has also been announced.

The five contenders for the £10,000 award are: Museums Sheffield: Weston Park, Sheffield, for With Sheba and Arwa (Belonging); National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth for Face to Face: Documenting experiences of conflict; South London Gallery, London for Making Play; The Pitt Rivers Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford for Making Museums; and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Newcastle upon Tyne for Culture Shock.
Supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation, the new award recognises quality, impact and innovation in using museums and galleries for learning activities and initiatives.

The winners of both prizes will be announced at a ceremony at Tate Britain on 15 June.


The Art Fund Prize shortlist public poll

Read an interview with Michael Portillo, chairman of this year's Art Fund Prize, in the May issue of Museums Journal


This story was updated to include the shortlisted museums for the Clore Learning Award.


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MA Member
01.06.2011, 13:14
I am sorry Kathy but although your comments have some validity I am still inclined to agree with Colette I too think that the reason the PHM did not make the short list was political basis. I do think that the result of the ‘peoples vote’ should have been given more weight. I am so annoyed at the result that I am seriously considering whether I should continue to support the Art Fund. I certainly shall not be taking part in the ‘public vote’ on the shortlisted candidates as I agree with Colette that the Panel does not seem to give much weight to the ‘public view’. I should add that I am a Member both of MA and the Art Fund and I did vote for the PHM!
30.05.2011, 17:32
I think one of the problems may be that the public vote appeared to be a vital component of the judging criteria up to and until the People's History Museum topped the poll.  With a high-profile former Conservative MP at the helm of the judges and the subject-matter of the PHM being undeniably working-class focused, you cannot therefore escape the perception (and perceptions are important) that somehow personal political beliefs came into play. I find this particularly ironic, given that the issue has arisen from members of the public's own views expressed through voting. I, for one, will not be voting in the new poll - having realised that my personal preference appears not to be of value. (Yes I did vote for PHM.)
25.05.2011, 18:59
As a judge on this year’s prize, perhaps I can explain? There are several criteria for the prize, couched in official language, but what we are looking for are museums and galleries that excite us with their flair or innovation, and which clearly excite the public too. They need to show how enjoying and understanding museum collections contributes to a richer life, and to enable people in different parts of the UK to see excellent museums, which will continue to provide entertainment, inspiration and education for years to come. The Online Poll is a really important way of assessing public support for each individual museum – one of the criteria – but the voters will not all have been all ten museums so they cannot judge how they compare when assessing all the criteria.

It is fantastic that so many people have supported their favourite museum by voting for the long list and The People’s History Museum should be very, very proud of its supporters.