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Manchester Museum has been shortlisted for the 2024 Art Fund Museum of the Year


Danny Jones

Manchester Museum shortlisted for Museum of the Year 2024

Another bit of very well-deserved recognition for our city as the Manchester Museum has been shortlisted for the 2024 Art Fund Museum of the Year.

Organised by the independent and membership-based British charity, which raises funds through the collection of important works and artefacts, it’s world the single largest museum prize in the world.

Shining as one of the crown jewels in Manchester’s cultural scene, the museum has been named among five other impressive finalists for this year’s award, which is evaluating inspiring projects from autumn 2022 through to winter 2023.

This wonderful news comes at a good time for Manchester Museum, which recently welcomed its one-millionth visitor since reopening to the public in February last year, following a £15 million values-led redevelopment. It really is back with a bang.

With Art Fund keeping audiences and communities at their heart, the highly revered accolade has a particular focus on community engagement, sustainable ways of working, and demonstration of ambition by reinventing what it means to be ‘the best’ museum for the audiences of today and tomorrow.

For context, the Manchester Museum (which sits as part of the University of Manchester) was the most visited indoor museum in the North of England throughout 2023, despite being shut for an entire month, welcoming a total of 790,332 people through their doors.

Speaking on this year’s selection, director Jenny Waldman, who heads up the 2024 judging panel, has applauded each of this year’s finalists for delivering “something for everyone” and keeping “community at the very heart of their programming.”

“Their commitment to innovative partnerships whilst operating within an extremely challenging funding environment is incredible”, she added. “I’m so pleased to see the way they support and centre young people through their work.

“Across a wide range of size and scale, these organisations are all real leaders in their field. I urge everyone to go and visit these extremely special spaces.” So do we.

As for the museum themselves, Director Esme Ward said of the announcement: “Manchester Museum’s redevelopment was the result of 10 years’ collective endeavour, so being shortlisted for Art Fund Museum of the Year is a moment of joy for everyone to share in, from staff and partners to our communities and Manchester itself.

“It is an affirmation of museums’ power to bring people together in building a more inclusive, hopeful future.”

Built on self-proclaimed values of “inclusion, imagination and care”, the museum’s recent reopening has positioned it at the forefront of the sector here in the UK, with new galleries, partnerships, visitor facilities, sector-leading programming and digital innovations.

These updates, along with their existing and award-winning South Asia Gallery – the largest and first permanent gallery in the UK to celebrate the experiences and contribution of the South Asian diaspora co-curated by members from the community itself – are what have helped put it in the running for this prestigious prize.

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Visitor numbers for the first year following reopening were up 157% on 2019/20, with 57% of those being new attendees and more than one in seven’s first trip to a museum ever.

The other four shortlisted museums are the Craven Museum in Skipton, North Yorkshire; Dundee Contemporary Arts, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Young V&A – Victoria and Albert Museum, also in the capital.

The winning museum will be announced at a ceremony at the National Gallery in London on 10 July and will receive £120,000 to put towards internal projects and cultural work. Better still, £15,000 will be given to each of the four other finalists, so everyone’s a winner in a way.

Congratulations again to everyone at Manchester Museum and well done for all your incredible hard work – we can’t wait to be right about you again in a couple of months when we’re confident you’ll be rightly named as the winner of the 2024 Art Fund Museum of the Year.

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Featured Images — Supplied/Matthew (via Flickr)

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