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June 20, 2012

Art Fund Museum Prize Winner Announced

By Spear's

Following a six month nationwide search, and with tough competition from a shortlist consisting of three other widely-praised and much-loved museums, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum has this evening been named as the winner of the 2012 Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries

Following a six month nationwide search, and with tough competition from a shortlist consisting of three other widely-praised and much-loved museums, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum has this evening been named as the winner of the 2012 Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries.

The museum reopened to the public on 15 December 2011 following a £24 million transformation. Founded in 1868 and established in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband, the museum’s founding principles were based on the cultural ideals of the Prince Regent, who aimed to bring art and science, design and technology together into one universal vision.

In the course of its 144-year history the museum has pursued these values by amassing over a million objects in a wide array of fields; from gemstones and taxidermy to medieval coins and modern art. The new museum offers a dramatically reinterpreted display of the museum’s collection, one which both reveals a range stories about the local region and the wider world, and the history and character of this unique museum itself.

Chair of Judges, Lord Smith of Finsbury, said of the Museum: “The new Royal Albert Memorial Museum is quite simply a magical place, modest in scale but vast in its ambition and imagination. The Victorian aspirations to bring the world to Exeter are stunningly realised through some of the most intelligently considered displays on view in any museum in the UK. Every exhibit delights with a new surprise, and provokes with a new question, and at a time when local authority museums in particular are in such danger, this brilliant achievement proves how daring, adventurous and important such institutions can be.”

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum staved off competition from three other shortlisted museums, which were:

·         Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire

·         Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

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·         Watts Gallery, near Guildford, Surrey

Exeter Council Leader, Pete Edwards, said: “We are over the moon at winning the Art Fund Prize. RAMM’s redevelopment has been a labour of love and shows what can be done when popular support is backed by the local council and aided by central government and the HLF. Together we’ve taken a great museum, made it even better, and now with your help we’ve really put RAMM on the map.”

He continued: “This is an honour for the people of Exeter, Devon and the Southwest and I hope also a source of inspiration for all the far flung parts of Britain that like us have the ambition and drive to compete with the best. Exeter has a long and rich history which is well recorded in RAMM. It’s great that today it’s the museum that is making history.”

The Art Fund Prize was decided by an independent panel of judges chaired by Lord Smith of Finsbury, former Labour MP and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The judging panel includes Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster; Charlotte Higgins, Guardian journalist and author; Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, author and broadcaster; Sir Mark Jones, Master at St Cross College, Oxford and former V&A director; Rick Mather, architect; and Lisa Milroy, artist and Head of Graduate Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

The Art Fund Prize is the annual celebration of the very best UK museums and galleries. The purpose of the £100,000 award is to recognise and stimulate originality and excellence in museums and galleries, and to increase public appreciation and enjoyment of all they have to offer. 

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund said: “The Royal Albert Memorial Museum is a wonderful winner from an exceptional shortlist.  Curators and designers have joined forces to display and interpret a huge and eclectic collection with great clarity, creativity and wit. The end result is a masterpiece of museum presentation.”

Penelope, Viscountess Cobham, Chair of The Museum Prize Trust said: “The redevelopment of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum has been a truly wonderful success, and is a most deserving winner of the tenth annual Prize for Museums. It is a shining example of the innovation and imagination that makes our museum sector so special.  Congratulations to all involved in this most inspiring enterprise.”

The winner has been announced live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row and at an event at The British Museum on 19 June 2012.

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