The ss Great Britain is framed within a glass-topped dry-dock. © Jon Pratty/24 Hour Museum
The shortlist for the 2006 Gulbenkian Prize, the UK's single biggest arts prize given annually to a museum or gallery was announced on April 12 2006.
Whittled down from a long list of ten, the four lucky museums making the final cut are ; The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire; The Hunterian Museum, London and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, Yorkshire.
A winner will be announced during Museums and Galleries Month on Thursday May 25 2006 at the Royal Institution of British Architects and receive a prize of £100,000.
“The panel have had a wonderful time visiting ten outstanding museums on the long list,” said Chair of the judges, Lord Robert Winston. “Selecting only four for the short list was hard, but those chosen all show innovation, variety and excitement, and each is devoted to a special area of importance but with wide interest.”
“This remarkable short list shows that the museum world in Britain is truly vibrant and alive,” added Mr Winston. “It has been a privilege for the judges to see the enthusiasm and pleasure that each of these museums generates amongst its visitors.”
Antony Lee is Keeper at The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire. Courtesy Coleman Getty
The Collection is an adventurously designed museum that houses a permanent collection of Roman, Viking and Medieval treasures as well as a current exhibition by contemporary artist Grayson Perry.
Created after local residents formed an action group to lobby councillors to build a new museum to house over 2 million archaeological objects, the museum covers over 250,000 years of history in Lincolnshire, including a 3x3m Roman mosaic found at the bottom of the museum’s lift shaft.
A massive collection of preserved medical specimens at the Hunterian Museum graphically demonstrates a catalogue of diseases. A recent £3.1 million project has completely renewed the permanent galleries of the oldest and most important medical collection in the world.
At Yorkshire Sculpture Park an underground environmentally-sustainable gallery has added a new dimension to a beautifully landscaped culture park. Costing £2.75 million, the innovative gallery was built beneath the sloping lawns of the 18th century Bothy Garden in order to protect the landscaped park above.
Anatomy specimens at The Hunterian Museum, London. Courtesy The Hunterian
In Bristol, ss Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was relaunched on a dramatic sea of glass in time for the Brunel 200 celebrations.
Now kept in condition by a giant dehumidification system, the vessel brings the Victorian maritime world to life: from objects as small as the captain’s gold ring to the soaring mainstay and crow’s nest.
Three of the four to be short-listed, The Collection, The Hunterian Museum and Brunel’s SS Great Britain have received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, was quick to congratulate the finalists.
“The Gulbenkian Prize celebrates excellence and innovation in museums across the UK. This year the Heritage Lottery Fund is extremely proud to have funded three out of the four Gulbenkian finalists,” she said.
“This is an extremely diverse group of museums, spanning from maritime heritage to medical history. Each one is a worthy and fascinating nominee and I wish them all luck for the final decision.”
Yorkshire Sculpture Park boasts a state-of-the-art underground gallery. © Yorkshire Sculpture Park
The other museums on the longlist were the Cambridge & County Folk Museum, the Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms, Dorchester Abbey Museum, The Concorde Experience at the Museum of Flight, the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea and the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre.
Now in its fourth year, the award for 2005 went to Big Pit: National Mining Museum of Wales in Blaenafon. The 2004 winner was the landscape sculpture Landform by Charles Jencks at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
The inaugural prize was awarded to the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law at Nottingham’s Galleries of Justice in 2003, for the education programme it ran with schools, young offenders and the local community.