St Fagans National Museum of History wins Museum of the Yearsento
The Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019 has been awarded to St Fagans National Museum of History, near Cardiff. The open-air attraction beat four other finalists from across the UK and is the first Welsh venue to receive the prestigious title and £100,000 prize money.
The Museum of the Year Award seeks out museums and galleries across the UK that have shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement in the preceding year, with past winners including Tate St Ives, The Hepworth Wakefield and V&A London.
This year’s shortlist of five featured a design museum in Scotland, a contemporary art centre and an ethnographic and archaeological museum, both from England, and a floating museum devoted to naval history in Northern Ireland but it was St Fagans, a national history museum in Wales, that took the title.
Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chair of the judges for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019 said: “St Fagans lives, breathes and embodies the culture and identity of Wales. A monument to modern museum democracy, it has been transformed through a major development project involving the direct participation of hundreds of thousands of visitors and volunteers. This magical place was made by the people of Wales for people everywhere, and stands as one of the most welcoming and engaging museums anywhere in the UK.
Art Fund Museum of the Year
St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff
Wales’ most visited heritage attraction St Fagans is a people’s museum, exploring history through people’s everyday lives. Since 1948 over 40 original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland surrounding St Fagans Castle near Cardiff.
People can visit buildings including a woollen mill, ironworkers’ cottages, a Victorian country school and an Anderson air raid shelter, as well as watching blacksmiths, bakers and clog-makers demonstrate traditional skills.
Last year the museum completed its Making History project, a £30 million redevelopment to become Wales’ National Museum of History, opening new galleries and workshop spaces.
The transformation was shaped through an imaginative public programme that involved 720,000 people and reflected the museum’s aim to create history ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ the people of Wales. Throughout the six-year development the museum remained open, welcoming 3 million visitors.
Volunteers helped recreate Llys Llewelyn, a 13th century Prince’s Court, based on archaeological evidence from Anglesey. Bryn Eryr, is St Fagans’ newest oldest building – iron Age roundhouses recreated based on an archaeological site from the time of the Roman conquest.
The redevelopment has provided an eight fold increase in dedicated learning spaces, including the new Gweithdy (Welsh for ‘workshop’), a new eco-friendly space surrounded by woodland where visitors can celebrate and learn the centuries-old skills of makers.
HMS Caroline, Belfast
Located in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter HMS Caroline is a floating museum offering a unique insight into naval history, maritime warfare and the story of Irish sailors. HMS Caroline is the last British World War One light cruiser still afloat and the sole survivor of the Battle of Jutland.
Decommissioned in 2011 the ship opened to the public in June 2016 and features recreated historic spaces such as the captain’s quarters, marines’ mess and engine rooms, while the newly renovated Victorian pump house surrounding the ship offers an innovative learning programme and an immersive introductory exhibition to HMS Caroline’s career.
Opened in 2009 and housed in a RIBA Award-winning building, Nottingham Contemporary is one of the largest contemporary art centres in the UK. Over the past decade they have hosted more than 50 exhibitions of international art, with the aim to stimulate important discussion about culture and society.
Previous exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary include The Place is Here (2017), a landmark survey of Black British Art, and From Ear to Ear to Eye (2017-18), an exploration of the politics of listening across the Arab world. Virtual reality tours of the exhibitions allow online visitors across the world to engage remotely in fully immersive 3D.
Pitt Rivers, Oxford
Founded in 1884 Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum houses over 500,000 objects, photographs and manuscripts from across the world. Rather than be arranged by geographical or cultural areas the artefacts are gathered together by type in a ‘democracy of things’ which reveals distinctions and parallels across cultures.
In 2018, the museum embarked on a series of innovative programmes: ‘Hope’ asked radical questions about their collection’s colonial past, ‘Making’ examined the link between making objects and health, ‘No Boundaries’ worked with refugees to reinterpret collections and ‘No Binaries’ encouraged queer responses to the museum’s collections.
Scotland’s first design museum and the first UK design museum outside London opened in Dundee on 15 September 2018 after 11 years of planning and construction. Designed by renowned Japanese architects Kengo Kuma & Associates the building sits at the centre of a £1 billion transformation of Dundee’s waterfront.
V&A Dundee presents the brilliance of Scottish creativity and the best of design from around the world through their museum’s permanent Scottish Design Galleries, new commissions by emerging artists and designers, and a programme of major exhibitions. Over 500,000 people have visited since it launched last year.
The winner was chosen by a judging panel chaired by Stephen Deuchar and including David Batchelor, Brenda Emmanus, Bridget McConnell and Bill Sherman.