Art Fund Prize unveils longlist but drops public poll

List includes four new museums and three Scottish venues
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Rebecca Atkinson
The Art Fund Prize 2012 will not include a public poll following criticism last year that the judges ignored the public choice.

Manchester’s People’s History Museum gained top spot in the poll in 2011 with 26.3% of the vote but failed to make it onto the shortlist. The previous year, concerns over the validity of the public voting process were raised after it emerged that it was possible to vote using fake email addresses.

A spokesman for the Art Fund said the public poll, which was used by the judging panel to assess visitor support, caused “confusion” last year. Instead, members of the public will be invited to submit comments about their favourite longlisted museum.

The 10 longlisted museums and galleries in the running to win the £100,000 prize this year are:

  • Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, for the Life and Works of Alan Turing
  • M Shed, Bristol
  • National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh,
  • Riverside Museum, Glasgow
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter
  • The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield
  • The Holburne Museum, Bath
  • The National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
  • Turner Contemporary, Margate,
  • Watts Gallery, Guildford

The Art Fund Prize rewards excellence and innovation in museums and galleries in the UK for a project completed or undertaken in 2011. A shortlist of four museums will be announced on 14 May, with the final winner revealed at a ceremony at the British Museum in London on 19 June.  

This year’s Art Fund Prize is being judged by a panel of experts chaired by former culture minister Chris Smith.

He said: “Whittling the achievements of Britain’s museums over the past year down to a list of 10 was an unbelievably challenging task. The outstanding quality of the projects that we finally settled on, however, perfectly encapsulates the vitality and dynamism of a part of our nation’s cultural life that continues to innovate, push boundaries and engage the public, even in these straitened times.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Art Fund Prize.

Previous winners are the British Museum, London, for A History of the World (2011); the Ulster Museum, Belfast (2010); and the Wedgwood Museum, Stroke-on-Trent (2009); the Lightbox gallery and museum, Woking (2008); Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2007); Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol (2006); Big Pit: the National Mining Museum of Wales (2005); the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2004); and the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law, Galleries of Justice, Nottingham (2003).

Clore Museum Learning Award

The longlist for the second Clore Award for Museum Learning has also been announced.

Supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation, the £10,000 award recognises quality, impact and innovation in using museums and galleries for learning activities and initiatives.

Sharon Heal, editor of Museums Journal, sat on the judging panel, which is co-chaired by Vivien Duffield, chairwoman of the Clore Duffield Foundation and Sally Bacon, the organisation's executive director.

The longlisted venues are: Camden Arts Centre for Get The Message; Florence Nightingale Museum for Our Generation's Re‐interpretation; Jersey Heritage for My History Scrapbooks and Discovery Days; Leicestershire County Council Heritage and Arts Service for Held in the Hand and Touch Tables; Penlee House Gallery and Museum for Treasures from the Earth; the Geffrye Museum of the Home for Stories of the World: London; the Quilt Museum and Gallery for Unfolding the Quilts; the Whitworth Art Gallery for the Manchester Early Years Partnership; the Victoria and Albert Museum for its Schools Team Collaboration with Seymourpowell; and Yorkshire Museum for Celebrating Severus.

Chris Smith will be profiled in the March issue of Museums Journal

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