“Times have changed so much this year, that Museums of the Year had to change too.”
Ryan Gander, Museums of the Year judge
In an unusual twist last night (12 October), the Art Fund surprised the five shortlisted museums by announcing them all winners of the prestigious Museum of the Year award. They will each receive a portion of the £200,000 prize money in recognition of their great work.
The award went to:
- Aberdeen Art Gallery, Scotland
- Gairloch Museum, Scotland
- Science Museum, London
- South London Gallery
- Towner Eastbourne
The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has brought such unprecedented challenges to the sector that the Art Fund felt broader recognition for the museums' work was deserved.
One of the award judges, Ryan Gander, said: “Times have changed so much this year, that Museums of the Year had to change too.”
“What the award means to Gairloch Museum, is a recognition of our achievements.”
Dr Karen Buchanan, Curator, Gairloch Museum
All five of the winning museums have received grants from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are proud to have supported these incredible museums and are delighted to see the recognition they have received.
How National Lottery funding has supported the winners
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Reopening last year, Aberdeen Art Gallery underwent a major transformation thanks to £10million from The National Lottery. Art lovers of all ages now enjoy more space for artworks, a new exhibition gallery and a refurbished Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall. Visitor access and facilities have also been dramatically improved.
Gairloch Heritage Museum’s converted former Cold War bunker opened in 2019 thanks to a £725,600 National Lottery grant. Now a first-rate visitor attraction and heritage hub, the investment secured the long-term future of the Scottish museum’s collections and transformed the cultural activities it offers.
The museum’s curator, Dr Karen Buchanan said: “What the award means to Gairloch Museum, is a recognition of our achievements.”
Science Museum, London
Nearly £10m from National Lottery players is behind two new permanent galleries at The Science Museum, completed in 2019.
Science City 1550-1800: The Linbury Gallery tells the story of how London grew into a global hub for trade, commerce and scientific enquiry between 1550 and 1800. Meanwhile, Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries brings together 3,000 artefacts in a fascinating exploration of medicine and medical treatments spanning 500 years.
South London Gallery
South London Gallery doubled in size in 2018 following the opening of new gallery space housed in the former Peckham Fire Station. Thanks to a £1.65m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, the building was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register and is now a thriving community hub.
The gallery’s director, Margot Hellar said: “Winning Museum of the Year is really fantastic for The South London Gallery. It’s such a great endorsement of everything we’re doing here.”
Towner Art Gallery, East Sussex
Nearly £2m of National Lottery funding enabled Towner Art Gallery to relocate to a new building near Eastbourne’s seafront back in 2009. The free-to-enter gallery aims to support and transform local communities through art. In 2017, a £52,400 grant from The National Heritage Memorial Fund enabled the gallery to acquire Beachy Head, 1939 - an iconic Eric Ravilious watercolour of the nearby chalk headland.
The winners appeared in a live video this morning to discuss their museums and what the prize will mean to their organisations and their future.