Being a Museum of the Year finalist

  • Published 18 January 2016

Thinking of entering your museum into this year's Prize? Here, some of our previous finalists talk about the huge impact being shortlisted had on their museum or gallery.

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, 2014 finalist

Lucy Jenner, learning and outreach manager

Being a Museum of the Year finalist really helped to strengthen the museum's aspiration to be a local museum with an international reach. The whole experience helped to galvanise the staff and the museums' supporters after an exhausting push towards the museum’s reopening the year before. Being a part of the competition and the accompanying national campaign was exciting, great for staff morale, and also bolstered local pride for the museum. The fantastic press and promotion gained through the Art Fund was invaluable, and helped to promote us as a significant cultural venue and as a strong contender in the competition in a way that we would not have previously imagined.

Dunham Massey, 2015 finalist

Stephen Adams, general manager

The impact of being not only the first National Trust property, but the first historic house to reach the final of Museum of the Year was huge not only for Dunham but for the National Trust as a whole. The buzz created by our nomination among staff, volunteers and visitors was palpable. Don’t underestimate the time commitment you are making but I would urge anyone to go for it, as it was so much fun and created so much excitement.

Horniman Museum and Gardens, 2013 finalist

Victoria Pinnington, director of communications and income generation

We were so delighted to be shortlisted. It was such a positive validation of all the hard work and commitment of our staff and generous supporters. It was the perfect way to celebrate the culmination of our unification project, which created both physical and intellectual connections between the museum and gardens.

The Art Fund really helped us make the most of our finalist status and supported us throughout what became a busy and productive period characterised by increased media exposure, heightened awareness of the Horniman nationwide and demonstrable community support and pride. We featured in more than 50 items of media coverage across national, regional and specialist print, online and broadcast titles, with a total audience in excess of 60 million. The video we made as part of the judging process, which captured visitors’ views of the Horniman, has now been watched almost 5,000 times on YouTube. Our Museum of the Year finalist status gave the Horniman a powerful stamp of endorsement and a lasting legacy that will enhance our reputation for many years to come.

IWM London, 2015 finalist

Diane Lees, directorgeneral

2014 was a monumental year for IWM London, and we were really honoured and proud to be shortlisted for the Museum of the Year. Being shortlisted was such a fitting way to mark our achievements – from the opening of our new permanent First World War Galleries and transformed Atrium to our digital memorial, Lives of the First World War. The prize also generated a lot of renewed press interest in the museum, and it really raised our profile across the sector and with our visitors.

Narberth Museum, 2013 finalist

Pauline Griffiths, curator

We were shortlisted for the Museum of the Year prize in 2013 – not long after the museum had re-opened after a gap of nine years. During that time, staff and volunteers had worked to save the museum from closure and re-establish it in a newly restored historic building. Developed with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh Government and a lot of local fundraising, the new museum was something we were justifiably proud of.

Being shortlisted brought our achievement to a wider audience and the national media coverage had an unparalleled effect on visitor numbers that year. Sitting alongside large, well-established museums gave us a credibility and ratification that has continued to inform everything we do. Although we did not win the prize, we felt that we had earned our place on the shortlist and drew confidence and inspiration from it.

[Pauline was recently awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year honours for services to heritage and the community.]

Applications for Museum of the Year 2017 are open until 12 noon on Tuesday 7 February. To apply, please complete the application form.

Tags: museum-of-the-yearSupporting museums