St Fagans National Museum of History wins Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019

  • 3 July 2019

The winner of the £100,000 prize was announced tonight at a ceremony at the Science Museum, London.

St Fagans National Museum of History has been announced as the winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019, the most important museum prize in the world.

David Anderson, director general of National Museum Wales, was presented with the £100,000 prize by artist Jeremy Deller at a ceremony this evening (3 July 2019) in the spectacular setting of the Science Museum, London.

St Fagans is the first Welsh winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year and Wales’ most visited heritage attraction.

The winner was chosen from five finalists: HMS Caroline (Belfast), Nottingham Contemporary, Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford), St Fagans National Museum of History (Cardiff) and V&A Dundee. Each of the other finalist museums receives a £10,000 prize in recognition of their achievements.

Art Fund awards the prize annually to one outstanding museum, which, in the opinion of the judges, has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement across the preceding 12 months. It is the largest arts award in Britain and the most prestigious museum award in the world.

The judges for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019 were: David Batchelor, artist; Brenda Emmanus, broadcaster and journalist; Bridget McConnell, chief executive, Glasgow Life; Bill Sherman, director, Warburg Institute.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund and chair of the judges, said: 'St Fagans lives, breathes and embodies the culture and identity of Wales. A monument to modern museum democracy, it has been transformed through a major development project involving the direct participation of hundreds of thousands of visitors and volunteers, putting the arts of making and building into fresh contexts – social and political, historic and contemporary. This magical place was made by the people of Wales for people everywhere, and stands as one of the most welcoming and engaging museums anywhere in the UK.'

Judging panel member Bridget McConnell said: 'Everyone I met and saw at St Fagans was in constant, lively conversation about their shared history, culture and lived experiences. This is their place – and it is strongly felt on every visit. It is heartening that the museum’s major supporter, the devolved Welsh government, has put culture at its core for the wide benefits of everyone in the country. This is truly a role model museum, and thanks to Art Fund Museum of the Year the world will now see its groundbreaking work.'

Among the 400 guests at the ceremony dinner hosted by Deuchar were museum directors, artists, curators, arts leaders, media and philanthropists.

About the winning museum

Wales’ most visited heritage attraction, St Fagans explores the history and culture of the country. This living history museum just outside Cardiff includes over 40 historical buildings, transported from across Wales, which have been faithfully re-erected and set within 100 acres of parkland.

Last year the museum completed its Making History project, a £30 million redevelopment to become Wales’ National Museum of History, opening new galleries and workshop spaces and transforming its visitor experience. A beautifully restored 1970s entrance building now offers a warm welcome to all visitors. Volunteers helped recreate Llys Llewelyn, a 13th century Prince’s Court, based on archaeological evidence from Anglesey. Bryn Eryr is St Fagans’ newest oldest building – Iron Age roundhouses recreated based on an archaeological site from the time of the Roman conquest. Meanwhile, Gweithdy (Welsh for ‘workshop’) is a new eco-friendly space surrounded by woodland, where visitors can celebrate and learn the centuries-old skills of makers. Working in partnership with makers and community organisations, children and adults can now experience a wide range of craft skills including, quilting, pottery, stone carving and woodworking.

The redevelopment has provided an eight-fold increase in dedicated learning spaces. They have created an active participatory learning environment, underpinned by the new Weston Centre for Learning, designed with the Youth and Teacher Fora. Since the opening of the Weston Centre for Learning in September 2017, 67,384 children have used the Centre. The long-term active involvement of 120 third and public sector partners has transformed St Fagans' learning programmes, supporting skills, creativity and health and wellbeing.

Throughout the six-year development, the museum remained open, welcoming 3 million visitors.

720,000 people were involved in shaping the museum’s transformation through an imaginative public programme – reflecting the museum’s aim to create history ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ the people of Wales.

Previous winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year include Tate St Ives (2018), The Hepworth Wakefield (2017), V&A, London (2016), the Whitworth, Manchester (2015) and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2014).

Tags: Art Fund Museum of the Year