A few years ago the William Morris Gallery, in Walthamstow, faced an uncertain future and possible closure. But in a ceremony last night at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the redeveloped venue won the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year.
The museum beat off competition from a strong shortlist including the Hepworth in Wakefield, BALTIC in Gateshead and the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London.
© Courtesy The Art Fund
The gallery reopened in August 2012 following a hard fought public campaign to save it from threat of closure.
A passionate fund raising campaign secured £1.5millon from the Heritage Lottery Fund, paving the way for an eventual £10 million redevelopment which transformed the gallery spaces and provided new education facilities and an orangery-inspired extension overlooking the grounds.
As well as providing a world class museum befitting Morris and his legacy, the revamped museum also engages local schools, the surrounding community and a national audience with collections which explore not only the designs of Morris but also his socialist beliefs and writings.
The judging panel, which included artists Bob and Roberta Smith and Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar, said the museum’s “extraordinary collections” had managed to “draw the visitor engagingly through Morris’s life and work and the building itself”.
The judges also praised the museum for “setting the highest standards of curatorship and reaching out impressively to its local community.”
A top prize of £100,000 goes to the museum, with the Hepworth in Wakefield taking the Clore Learning Award and £10,000 for its education programme.