Museum of the Year shortlist – from a battleship to a Prince's court 8/5/2019

The Art Fund’s shortlist for Museum of the Year 2019 has been announced, with museums included from all four UK countries. The finalists are:  

  • The HMS Caroline in Belfast. The ship survived the 2016 battle of Jutland and has been restored in a £20m project with oversight from the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
  • Nottingham Contemporary, which has achieved an audience of two million and a worldwide reputation since it opened a decade ago.
  • Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford which has recently been rethinking how it offers access to objects and works with communities, evolving a museum first opened in 1884 to address modern concerns.
  • St Fagan’s National Museum of History, which tells the story of pre-industrial Wales and completed a £30m development in 2018 which added new galleries and workshops.
  • V&A Dundee, which opened in September 2018 showing historic and contemporary design and providing a new popular civic space in the city.

  The Guardian asked a group of well-known figures for responses to each of the five museums on the shortlist. Broadcaster Kirsty Wark said that at V&A Dundee “visitors have been phenomenal because people go to enjoy the building as well as see the exhibits…[it] has quickly become a valued place of community, identity and gathering”. Art historian Nana Oforiatta Ayim who has been involved in work to decolonise museum narratives praised the Pitt Rivers as “one of the first to be so constructive in trying to sow the seeds of a new kind of museum…[it] is engaging with people who represent the original context of the objects, for example those from Maasai communities, on equitable terms, rather than as one-off encounters”. Actor Matthew Rhys remembers visiting St Fagan’s as a child and is impressed by its newly recreated 13th century Prince’s court, adding that “the way that the museum has engaged with Welsh history means an inordinate amount to the country and how it sees itself”. The winning entry will be announced on 3rd July. Guardian, Art Fund, Museums Journal