A tiny Birmingham museum is taking on the Tate Modern in London for the £100,000 Museum of the Year prize.
The Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham is one of five contenders for the title of Art Fund Museum of the Year.
Containing the region’s finest collection of fossils, volcanic rocks, dinosaur bones and other rare specimens, the Lapworth has been in the Aston Webb Building at the University’s Edgbaston campus for almost a century.
Birmingham-based Associated Architects carried out a major renovation of the museum in 2015, which improved the collection’s accessibility using new methods of display and provided dedicated facilities for school and community groups.
The Aston Webb Building is Grade II* listed and the challenge of sensitively improving public accessibility to the museum, while preserving its architecture for future generations, was a key aspect the works and a primary focus for Heritage Lottery Funding.
The Lapworth had just 20,000 visitors a year before its redevelopment and now welcomes 50,000.
Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. Currently showing a major retrospective of works by David Hockney, Tate Modern welcomes more than five million visitors each year.
The other three contenders on the shortlist are the Hepworth Wakefield, built around the works of Dame Barbara Hepworth; Sir John Soane’s Museum, a 19th century London townhouse filled with the collection of the great neo-classical architect; and The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Newmarket, which was opened by the Queen in November.
Richard Perry, Director at Associated Architects, said: “It has been a fantastically rewarding project to be involved with.
“A shared vision with the University and wider team has been key to its success, blending contemporary design with a historically sensitive listed building to create a museum fit for the future.
“What’s not to love about being greeted by an enormous Allosaurus skeleton as you enter a museum?”
The Lapworth Museum is now asking visitors to share selfies and other photographs and comments of the Lapworth through social media to tell Art Fund judges why they think it should win.
Art Fund will be offering a weekly prize of a National Art Pass and a museum goody bag for their favourite post (across all five museums). The Lapworth will also award a prize to favourite posts each week.
The winning museum will receive £100,000, while the other shortlisted museums will receive £10,000 each. The winner will be announced on July 5.
Press released issued on behalf of Associated Architects