In a competition where embracing the digital age is vital to victory, the ten finalists for this year’s Art Fund Prize are already putting the power of Twitter and Facebook to vote-winning effect as the battle lines are drawn for the industry’s flagship award.
Ten venues were announced on the longlist by head judge Michael Portillo earlier this week, with many rewarded for specific projects – the British Museum’s A History of the World and the Polar Museum’s finesse at promoting the country’s glacial heritage both look strong.
Developments and embellishments consume the rest of the chosen few, acknowledging the Victoria and Albert Museum’s encyclopaedic Ceramics Study Galleries, Bath and North East Somerset Council’s five-year project to renovate The Roman Baths and the extension of the new-look Mostyn gallery in Llandudno.
The £21 million Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Scotland and the new People’s History Museum in Manchester cap their openings with the chance of immediate glory, joined by development and reopenings at the Hertford Museum, Leighton House in London and the Yorkshire Museum.
“The judges said in their report that they were impressed by the ambition and originality shown by our application,” revealed Janet Barnes, the chief executive of York Museums Trust, which oversaw the £2.2 million project resulting in axe-wielding galleries on Roman York, Medieval York and Extinct.
"Almost 40 museums and galleries applied this year, so it is a fantastic achievement to get this far and a testament to everyone who worked so hard on the project."
Online voting has already opened, with the four hopefuls who can lobby most fervently likely to make the final cut on May 19.
“It’s the museum equivalent of the Oscars,” the Burns Birthplace Museum told its fans.
“We are the only Scottish museum on the list and up against some long-established museums like the V&A and the British Museum, so we need your support.”
The People’s History Museum used its Twitter page to claim an early lead in the poll, urging supporters to mark its card. In the Mostyn corner, one voter was less ebullient.
© Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
“There are some giants in the running,” they told the venue’s Facebook page. “Hey ho – fingers crossed.”
The public vote cannot directly affect the destination of the £100,000 prize, but Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar emphasised its influence.
“We hope people will go and be inspired by these spectacular projects, and that they’ll come back and let us know their thoughts via our online poll,” he said.
“The coming weeks will be crucial for the judges in assessing which museums make it onto the shortlist. The public’s participation has an important part to play.”
Visit artfundprize.org.uk to vote, and follow the Art Fund Prize on Twitter
- British Museum, London A History of the World
- Hertford Museum, Hertfordshire Hertford Museum's Development Project
- Leighton House, London Closer To Home: The Restoration and Reopening of Leighton House Museum
- Mostyn, Llandudno, Wales Refurbishment and extension of Mostyn gallery
- People's History Museum, Manchester The new People's History Museum 2010
- Polar Museum, University of Cambridge Promoting Britain's Polar Heritage
- The new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Scotland
- Roman Baths Museum, Bath Roman Baths Development
- V&A, London Ceramics Study Galleries
- Yorkshire Museum, York Letting in the Light - Revitalising the Yorkshire Museum for the 21st century