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Press release

Finalists announced

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

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

Notes to editors:

  • Details of the four finalists, with contact details, are follow.
  • Photographs are available. Loyd Grossman and the judges may be available for interview. Please contact Colman Getty.
  • The full shortlist, announced in January, for The Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year was:
    • Thinktank, Birmingham for its Futures Gallery - a cutting-edge and challenging exhibition at Birmingham's museum of science and discovery
    • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh for the dramatic Landform by Charles Jencks - part sculpture, part garden, part land-art
    • Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow for Sanctuary , a thought-provoking project that used contemporary art to address human rights and the plight of asylum seekers
    • National Trust, Sutton House, Hackney for Black History Month 2003 , a pioneering project for the NT in the oldest domestic residence in London's East End
    • Henry Moore Institute in association with Leeds Museums and Galleries, Leeds for Sculpture in 20th-century Britain , a landmark exhibition examining how we understand sculpture.
    • Royal Armouries, Leeds for The Knight is Young /Princely Weapons and Armour of Childhood , a fascinating exhibition both for and about children
    • National Gallery, London for Titian and ' Titian After Dark ' - one of the most high profile and highly acclaimed exhibitions of 2003
    • Prescot Museum, Merseyside for Creating History - The Story of a Lifetime , a joint exploration of local history by former Merseyside factory workers and school children
    • Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle upon Tyne for Reticulum , an innovative partnership between local schools and museum staff
    • Pembrokeshire Museum Service, Wales for Varda , a travelling exhibition based in a Gypsy caravan that explores local Romany history and culture
    • Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham for its Heritage Education Project , a community and oral history project meeting Basic Skills needs
    • Norton Priory Museum, Runcorn for Positive Partnerships , working with people with learning disabilities, as featured in BBC 2 "Hidden Gardens" Medieval Herb Garden project
    • Tyne & Wear Museums, Segedunum, Wallsend for Pontis , an innovative and witty public art project that captured the public's imagination
  • The Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year is administered by The Museum Prize, a charitable company created in 2001 by representatives of National Heritage, the Museums Association, the National Art Collections Fund and the Campaign for Museums. These organisations agreed to put aside award schemes they formerly ran (including the National Heritage Museum of the Year) and lend their support to the prize.

    The Museum Prize is chaired by Lady Cobham. Trustees of The Museum Prize include representatives of all four founding organisations.
  • The Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year is funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The UK Branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is responsible for grant aid in the UK and Republic of Ireland and runs funding programmes in arts, social welfare, education and Anglo-Portuguese cultural relations.

    The Foundation’s founder, Calouste Gulbenkian, was one of the most distinguished private collectors in the world. The Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon is well-known and loaned several major pieces of Lalique jewellery to the V & A’s highly acclaimed Art Nouveau exhibition in 2000 and simultaneously mounted a major exhibition of its treasures at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

    The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is supporting The Gulbenkian Prize by guaranteeing prize money of £100,000 a year over five years; it is also providing some of the funding for administration.
  • The Gulbenkian Prize is also supported by Museums, Archives and Libraries Council and by Sir Christopher Ondaatje CBE, who is passionately interested in raising awareness of the range and quality of museums and galleries in Britain.
  • Additional sponsors of the 2004 Prize are Blackwall Green, specialists in insurance for museums and galleries, Lloyds TSB Private Banking, D& F Wine Shippers, Ernst and Young, and Keeley & Lowe Ltd, printers.

For further information and press enquiries please contact:
Ruth Cairns, Nicola Dodd or Liz Sich at Colman Getty PR
Telephone: 020 7631 2666 Fax: 020 7631 2699