Blists Hill Victorian Town, one of ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums, is one of four institutions short-listed for the £100,000 Art Fund Prize, the UK’s largest single arts prize.
The Prize is awarded to the museum or gallery for a project completed in the last year, that the Judges deem demonstrates the most originality, imagination and excellence. The Prize, which has been sponsored by the UK’s leading independent art charity, The Art Fund, for three years, aims to increase public appreciation and enjoyment of the UK’s museums and galleries.
Blists Hill Victorian Town is the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s largest site totalling 54 acres, and presents life in a typical town of the East Shropshire Coalfield around 1900. Blists Hill Victorian Town is brought to life through a unique mix of first and third-person interpretation, combining the efforts of costumed museum staff, professional actors and volunteers. The £12 million development of Blists Hill has seen the creation of a landmark Visitor Centre and World Heritage Site exhibition, a new street of shops and trades, a clay-mining experience, a narrow gauge railway and an incline lift. Blists Hill Victorian Town is the most famous of the charitable trust’s 10 museums, situated within the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.
Of the short-listing, Barrie Williams Chairman of The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust said: “We are thrilled that Blists Hill Victorian Town has reached the shortlist of the Art Fund Prize 2010 - an achievement which is a tribute to the hard work of the trustees, staff and volunteers of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. We are immensely grateful for all the support we have enjoyed during the public vote and we would like to pass on our sincere thanks to all our visitors and friends for their considerable efforts. We hope that reaching the shortlist will inspire more visitors to discover Blists Hill Victorian Town for themselves along with our other 9 museums situated within the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site”.
The four short-listed museums and galleries are:
Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
The Ulster Museum, Belfast
Kirsty Young, Chair of the Judges comments: “My fellow judges and I have found it a very challenging task to select only four to go forward to the short list. Our visits have been eye opening and the exceptional quality of the long list has meant that we’ve been spoilt for choice. During our deliberations the Judges’ passion and enthusiasm for the museums and galleries was more than evident.”
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, comments: “The four institutions that have made the short list not only demonstrate the range of institutions throughout the UK but also the diversity of displays and innovative ways in which these museums are engaging with their visitors. There really is a wealth of excellence to celebrate.”
For the first time the Art Fund Prize website is hosting a public poll, with the option for voters to leave comments in support of their favourite museum or gallery. The long list poll closed on Friday 7 May, and the results along with the comments were passed to the Judges for consideration in making their decision. With over 40,000 votes, the poll has proved a great success and will re-open for the short list on Friday 14 May at 9am, before closing on Friday 18 June at 5pm. The poll results and online comments will again be given to the Judges for their consideration when selecting this year’s Winner. Visitors to the website can enter an exclusive competition to win a limited edition Jonathan Yeo print.
To vote, comment, or for more information about the Prize go to: www.artfundprize.org.uk
Visit Ironbridge Gorge Museums website: www.ironbridge.org.uk/
The winner will be announced on Wednesday 30 June at the Royal Institution of British Architects in London.
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