Meet our 2021 finalists

Discover the five fantastic museums that are in the running for the prize in 2021.

Experience Barnsley


Located in Barnsley Town Hall, Experience Barnsley opened in 2013 and is part of Barnsley museums. It traces the known history of Barnsley from pre-historic times to the 21st century. Its collection has developed over many years, created thanks to the thousands of local people who have shared precious memories and objects. Their generosity continues as they regularly donate items. There is a dedicated gallery for temporary exhibitions which recently featured the story of the Barnsley Canister Company. Experience Barnsley also displays community-curated exhibitions.



10% off in shop

Firstsite is the East of England’s contemporary visual arts organisation based in the heart of the community in Colchester, where visitors can experience a diverse mix of the very best historic, modern and contemporary art from around the world, in a fun and inclusive environment. The gallery hosts a vibrant programme of exhibitions, films, workshops and events. Firstsite works to make art more accessible to more people in order to address societal challenges, in particular equity, diversity and inclusion.

Firstsite’s curved building, designed by Rafael Vinoly, creates a unique environment - with dramatic frontage leading through to stunning gallery and studio spaces and a state-of-the-art cinema.

This year, Firstsite celebrates its tenth anniversary.

The Thackray Museum of Medicine


The Thackray Museum of Medicine is the UK’s leading independent medical museum located between Europe’s largest teaching hospital and some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in West Yorkshire. It opened in 1997 and has its origins in a small family-run chemist shop, opened in 1902 by Charles Thackray in Leeds. Charles’s grandson, Paul, established the museum to enable the wider public to learn more about the story of medicine. The museum building first opened in 1861 as the purpose-built Leeds Union Workhouse. New buildings were gradually added to the workhouse complex including a separate infirmary, later to be renamed St James’s Hospital. By the 1990s, the old Leeds Union Workhouse building was considered unfit for modern medicine and Parliament gave permission for it to house the museum. It now has a reimagined immersive visitor experience and eleven new galleries showing how people have triumphed over disease.



Timespan is a cultural organisation in Helmsdale, a village of around 800 inhabitants in the north east of the Scottish Highlands. It comprises a local history museum, contemporary art programme, public archive, geology and herb gardens, shop, bakery and café. Timespan responds to urgent contemporary issues, which are rooted in the local context of remote, rural Scotland, approaching these from a global and multi-disciplinary perspective. It commissions four major projects a year, each aligned with broader social movements. Timespan is primarily supported by Creative Scotland and the Highland Council.

More about Museum of the year

Back to top
One moment please