The four finalists for the UK's largest single arts prize, The Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year , are announced today.
The list, chosen from a shortlist of thirteen, comprises a national art gallery, a travelling exhibition in rural Wales, a garden partnership project in the north west, and an educational outreach programme in Northumberland.
The four finalists are:
The Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year is a £100,000 award given annually to one museum or gallery, large or small, anywhere in the UK. The four finalists were drawn from a shortlist of thirteen that included Titian at the National Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Thinktank in Birmingham and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.
Chair of judges, Loyd Grossman, comments:
'The four finalists this year represent the creativity and innovation so prevalent in the museum world today. These four very diverse projects - a national gallery, a university museum, a local authority programme and a small independent museum - are great examples of how museums can combine excellence and accessibility to all.'
Public comments on the four projects can be found at www.thegulbenkianprize.org.uk
The winner will be announced on Tuesday May 11 th at the Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens, during Museums and Galleries Month.
The judges for the 2004 Gulbenkian Prize are:
Loyd Grossman OBE , chair
Joan Bakewell CBE , broadcaster and writer
Mark Bolland , PR professional and former Deputy Private Secretary to HRH the Prince of Wales
Sokari Douglas Camp , sculptor and shortlisted artist for the fourth Trafalgar Square plinth
Peter Jenkinson OBE , founding Director of Creative Partnerships
Mark Lythgoe , neurophysiologist and lecturer
Rosie Millard , columnist and former arts correspondent for the BBC
The winner of the inaugural Gulbenkian Prize in 2003 was The National Centre for Citizenship and the Law housed in the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham.
The finalists of The Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh for Landform by Charles Jencks
When the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art decided to redevelop its extensive grounds, it turned to the American architectural historian, Charles Jencks, whose home is in Dumfriesshire, with a commission for an extraordinary centrepiece. The result, Landform Ueda (based on the concept of chaos theory), is part sculpture, part garden, part land-art, a magical back-drop for everything from exhibition openings to the Gallery's Fun Day for families, as well as providing an exceptional platform for viewing sculpture.
The serpentine, stepped mound, with three crescent-shaped pools - has completely transformed the area between the Gallery and its sister building, the Dean Gallery,
creating an important visual link between the two gallery buildings as well as a work of art in its own right.
The Landform has proved immensely popular and has attracted many new visitors to both the galleries and the grounds. It is especially enjoyed by children. Jencks's creation has provided an extraordinary setting for exhibition openings, has itself featured in exhibitions such as Common-place (now touring Scotland) and has been the subject of educational projects. It was also the setting for the National Galleries of Scotland's Fund Day in 2003 which attracted over 3000 children and their families.
All these activities have confirmed Jencks's hopes for the work - "I pictured a contemporary equivalent of Seurat's La Grande Jatte - everything going on at once, amidst sun, water and city life. You could eat lunch, perhaps have a drink, chase kites .".
PR contact: Anita Miller, 0131 624 6314
The Museum of Antiquities, University of Newcastle for Reticulum
Newcastle upon Tyne's Museum of Antiquities, the only university museum to have ever been shortlisted for The Gulbenkian Prize, has developed a joint venture with the first schools of Northumberland to find new ways of bringing a university museum and its Roman collection into the community.
Named Reticulum [Latin for 'net'], the Museum has developed an educational programme that engages children's interest in the past through the use of objects and IT. Northumberland includes some of the most economically depressed and geographically isolated communities in the region and the UK; many of the children had never visited a museum before.
Antiquities' staff work with partner schools in Northumberland, in both the Museum and the classroom, to give children the opportunity to handle artefacts and explore historical themes and ideas and enhance their understanding of life in the North of England during the Roman and Iron Age periods.
As well as allowing children to become familiar with the Museum itself (the Museum even uses some of its project funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to subsidise the schools' transport to and from the Museum), they are introduced to the north's rich heritage of Roman and native British sites.
Between school sessions and museum visits, the children use e-mail to consult the Museum's Archaeology staff and to work with other schools in the region. The Reticulum website, which features pupils' work, keeps children and teachers up-to-date with the project. The ideas in the leaflets designed by pupils at St Andrew's First School in Blyth are now used in the Museum's own publicity leaflet. 'This Way to the Roman Frontier', a comprehensive teaching resource, is the latest addition to the Project, linking the website to the classroom through a series of well thought out and exciting activities covering much of the National Curriculum.
Louise Symons, one of the teachers participating in the Reticulum Project, says: 'The Reticulum Project has been fantastic to be involved with as the Museum staff really do have the children and their learning as their key priority.'
PR contact: Melanie Reed, 0191 222 5791
Pembrokeshire Museum Service for Varda: a travelling exhibition of Romany history and culture
Varda is a travelling exhibition run by Pembrokeshire Museums Service. The museum works with the local Romany Gypsy communities in the county to explore and preserve their traditions, history and culture.
The project began when Beverley Stephens, a specialist teacher of Gypsy pupils at Monkton Priory School, approached the museum service about a possible display of children's work on Gypsy history. Working with specialist teachers, the Museum service put together an exhibition that reflect the historys of what is Pembrokeshire's oldest and largest ethnic minority. Theirs was a hidden story, despite the huge impact their presence has had in Pembrokeshire's rural past.
The Gypsy community was asked what was important to them. They showed an overwhelming interest in an association with a traditional horse-drawn wooden wagon, the varda. The varda was the centre of a Gypsy family's life and remains a strong cultural symbol.
Varda was fitted out with social history collections and examples of traditional Gypsy crafts; the collections reflect the customs and rites of passage, employment, cooking, animals, music, art and language. It has become the focus of a travelling exhibition that has travelled to a number of sites around Pembrokeshire and also been on public display in the County Museum at Scolton Manor. Last October, it
it was the centrepoint for a week of arts activities in Pembroke.
At each Gypsy site, local families have acted as 'keyholders' to look after Varda and foster a sense of community ownership and pride in the exhibition. Members of the Gypsy community have recorded their memories and donated family photographs for display.
The amount of interest generated in the UK, Ireland and as far afield as Poland has established Varda as a core service for Pembrokeshire Museums Service in the years to come.
Varda was 75% match-funded through the Council of Museums in Wales (CMW) Innovations Fund.
Liz McIvor, Museums Officer, says,
"We are Pembrokeshire Museums Service are absolutely delighted to reach the final four. It is a real achievement for a small service like ours that has to work in a county as large as this. One of the most important aspects of getting to the final is the recognition it gives of best practice on a small budget."
PR Contact: Liz McIvor, 01437 779500 / 07977 996914
Norton Priory Museum, Runcorn, Cheshire for Positive Partnerships
Norton Priory Museum is an independent museum, established in 1975 to care for a one of the country's most important monastic sites, which encompasses in its 38 acres museum galleries, the ruins of a medieval priory and a formal Walled Garden.
Postive Partnerships is the result of Norton Priory's special relationship with Astmoor Day Services, a day centre run by Halton Borough Council for adults with a learning disability. This partnership has seen adults from Astmoor working at Norton Priory on a variety of projects. This partnership is not ad-hoc but one that is integral to the working of the whole museum and one which is embraced fully by both staff and visitors.
In the last year, Positive Partnerships projects have included the re-creation of the medieval herb garden at Norton Priory where adults from Astmoor Day Services have been a crucial part of the team. Asmoor people have also made bird boxes for use within the historic woodland surrounding Norton Priory and have helped create a wildflower meadow, planted a glade of quince trees near the museum's Victorian summerhouses and have maintained and developed the Priory's "Tots Garden", a sensory garden and play area for the Under 5s.
The creation of the medieval herb garden was featured in BBC2's Hidden Garden series earlier this year; in February, Norton Priory was used as a case study for a training video on the Disability Discrimination Act, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. Norton Priory Museum has also received a Tourism for All Award for its excellent disabled access from the North West Tourist Board.
Steve Miller, Director, says, "Norton Priory is thrilled to be in the final four of this prestigious and exciting award for our special relationship with Astmoor Day Services. I hope that it sends out a message to other organisations that with a little ingenuity, enthusiasm and creativity, museums can be places where long-term community engagement can result in a stunning visitor attraction."
Jo William, Chief Executive of Mencap comments, "[Norton Priory] is an exemplar of good practice and, if successful, it would give a strong message about how all museums might improve their facilities, especially for people with a learning disability."
PR Contact: Steve Miller, 01928 569 895