Gulbenkian Prize 2007 Longlist - Kew Palace, London

By Melina Greenfield | 09 February 2007
a photograph of a formal dining room

The King's dining Room. © Historic Royal Palaces / newsteam .co.uk

The voting for the 2007 Readers' Poll for the Gulbenkian Prize is now closed

24 Hour Museum continues its alphabetical roundup of the museums on this year's longlist for the Gulbenkian Prize.

London’s Kew Palace has been placed on this year's longlist for the sought after Gulbenkian Prize. The palace, which holds a wedge of England’s royal history, has undergone a massive makeover over the past 10 years. The Gulbenkian Prize is the largest single arts prize in the UK, which seeks to recognise and reward the best new museum or gallery project of the previous year.

Prince Charles re-opened Kew Palace in April 2006 after a whopping £6.6 million repair, conservation and interpretation project that breathed life back into the fading palace.

Samuel Fortrey, a Flemish City of London merchant, built himself the swanky brick mansion in Kew in 1631. This mansion became part of the royal complex in 1729, and in 1801 it became home to King George III, his wife Queen Charlotte and their children until the death of Queen Charlotte at Kew Palace in 1818. The palace being built on the south bank allowed the Thames to become a highway for the royals.

a photograph of a large red brick Georgian building set within a formal period garden

Kew Palace exterior, showing the lift. © Historic Royal Palaces / newsteam.co.uk

During the ten-year restoration period curators thoroughly researched the period when the palace was a royal residence. Original documents were found which led the way and added richness into their plans.

The palace is decorated in its original Georgian glory, with carpets, wallpaper and paint schemes all restored to the highest standard. Visitors can listen to an audio guide ‘radio play’ as they walk round the building.

Possessions of the royal inhabitants have been found and lovingly displayed using a mixture of traditional showcasing and a more modern sensory presentation style of media.

a photograph of a stairwell leading to an attic

Staircase into the attic at Kew Palace. © Historic Royal Palaces / newsteam.co.uk

However, the upper floors have not been restored, which means the audience gets to explore original rooms that have not been open to the public for 200 years. There are still parts of 18th century wallpaper clinging to the walls, and glass that is wafer-thin.

The palace re-opens for its coming season on March 24 2007, and hopes to attract even more visitors than the 70,000 last year. And with a lift that has been built on the outside of the building, this means that visitors can reach every floor, no matter what their abilities.

The Heritage Lottery Fund donated £1.6 million towards this project, and over £1.75 million came from private donators and foundations. The rest was allocated from Historic Royal Palaces, by fundraising, retail, ticket sales, and functions and events.

Should Kew Palace win the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize? Go to the 24 Hour Museum's vote page to vote for Kew Palace or any of the other longlisted museums in the 24 Hour Museum's Gulbenkian 2007 People's Vote.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:

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