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Cambridge and Canterbury museums shortlisted for prestigious national award

  • Date: 5 April 2013
  • Area: National, South East

Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Credit: Guy Gardener

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, have been named in the 10 finalists for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013, the UK's single largest arts prize.

The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year recognises and rewards the achievements of museums and galleries, large or small, anywhere in the UK. The finalists will find out who will win the £100,000 prize at a reception at the V&A on 4 June.

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge - otherwise known as the Beaney - is a historic museum and library in the heart of Canterbury, which is run by Canterbury City Council and supported by Arts Council England's Renaissance strategic support fund. It recently reopened following a £14 million restoration project that saw the Art Museum, Library and Visitor Information Centre brought together under one roof - bringing in a record number of visitors.

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is part of one of the Arts Council England's Renaissance Major partner museums, University of Cambridge Museums. It boasts world-class collections of art, artefacts and archaeological discoveries from around the world. In 2012 a stunning two-year redevelopment was completed, transforming the ground floor and creating a striking new public entrance. A key element of the refurbishment has been the establishment of a new display dedicated to Cambridge and the surrounding region, giving audiences unprecedented access to its archaeology and history.

The title of Museum of the Year will be awarded to those institutions that have achieved the following:

  • Demonstrated excellence, originality, innovation and imagination;
  • Successfully brought its collection to life for audiences - engaging, inspiring and extending public understanding;
  • Clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors and users;
  • Embarked on an activity that will provide a lasting legacy or has had a transformative effect on the museum.

Each of the finalists will be visited by an independent panel of judges.

Janice McGuinness, Head of Culture and Enterprise, Canterbury City Council, said: 'Coming hot on the heels of the recent commendation at the Civic Trust Awards, this is further evidence of the impact the new Beaney is making, both locally and at a national level. This shortlisting effectively means that the Beaney is one of the best 10 museums in the country, so naturally we are very pleased and are looking forward to the awards.'

Nicholas Thomas, MAA Director  said: ‘MAA is delighted to be shortlisted for the Art Fund prize for Museum of the Year 2013. It gives us an invaluable and timely opportunity to tell the public about the transformation the museum has undergone in the last year. We have changed from being a Victorian museum focused on supporting research, into a welcoming, beautifully-designed museum where young and old alike can experience our myriad treasures and astonishing stories.'

Helen Lax, Regional Director, Arts Council England, said: 'Museums are an essential part of our cultural heritage and we are delighted to see two, one from the East and another from the South East, on the shortlist for this highly prestigious award. The Beaney's colocation with the library means that it can offer a broad cultural experience in a single, open and inviting space. This combined with its innovative displays incorporating contemporary work and strong visitor numbers highlights its value to the community.

'The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's refurbishment has been transformational, making it more accessible to a broader range of audiences. The prominent new public entrance combined with innovative displays has really driven greater engagement with the public and educational institutions in the region -highlighting its cultural importance to the area.

'We wish them both luck and look forward to hearing the result on 4 June.'

In addition to being considered for the main £100,000 prize, the 10 finalists are also in the running for the Clore Award for Learning. This further £10,000 prize recognises achievements in learning programmes in UK museums.