Dahl and Churchill vie for £100,000 museum prize

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The Independent Online

Museums dedicated to the children's writer Roald Dahl and the wartime leader Winston Churchill are among the institutions which will compete for this year's £100,000 Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries.

The prize, Britain's biggest single arts award, is for "the most imaginative and inspirational idea" developed or completed in a museum the previous year.

A long list of 10 projects, announced today, ranges from the redevelopment of a local folk museum in Cambridge to the story of Concorde as told by the Museum of Flight in East Lothian.

The most expensive was the new £33m National Waterfront Museum in Swansea while the new Cloister Gallery at Dorchester Abbey Museum in Oxfordshire was the cheapest project at just £110,000. It displays the abbey's conserved medieval stones and illustrates the craft of medieval stonemasons.

Professor Lord Winston, who is chairing a panel of judges including the historian Dan Snow and Ekow Eshun, of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, said they faced a "thrilling task".

"This year's long-list shows how museums and galleries, large and small, throughout the country are continuing to innovate and explore the boundaries," he said.

The prize organisers pointed out the continuing importance of the Heritage Lottery Fund to museums and galleries with six out of the 10 projects having received HLF funding worth £27m.

The prize was set up in 2001 - and first awarded two years later - with the backing of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.It replaced several smaller award schemes with the giant headline-grabbing cheque worth £100,000.

Around 60 institutions submitted schemes for consideration this year and four will go through to the shortlist in April. The 2006 winner will be announced on 25 May.

The judges look for "excellence and innovation" in exhibitions, community projects or new buildings, that have won the support of visitors and helped promote the museum to a wider audience.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, incorporating the author's archive, opened in his former home at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, last year with the aim of inspiring a love of stories. The £4.3m cost was half met by his family.

Felicity Dahl, the author's widow, said she could not be more delighted by the news. "Roald would have been proud to think that the museum, created in his name to celebrate writing, stories and creativity, has been acclaimed in this way," she said.

Steph Mastoris, head of the National Waterfront Museum, said they had hoped their presentation of Wales's industrial past might succeed.

"There have been some very interesting museums opening and there was some pretty strong competition, but we have a very strong product. The building is exciting and the collections are very good, but the big thing is the way in which we're telling industrial history in a human way using interactive technology."

The other longlisted museums were the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London; The Collection, a new state-of-the-art museum in Lincoln; the SS Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's restored iron ship in Bristol; and the new Underground Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield.

Last year's winner was Big Pit, the National Mining Museum of Wales in Blaenafon, a preserved coal mine where visitors can experience real working conditions.

The long-list

Cambridge and County Folk Museum

This former pub, which has been a folk museum since 1936, underwent a £1m redevelopment, including a new building to house its collections of everyday items, nearly all donated by local people. Most date from between 1750 and 1960.

Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

A £6m privately funded museum on the life of Sir Winston Churchill at the bunker where he met his war cabinet. Established by the Imperial War Museum as the lack of a Churchill museum seemed "a lamentable gap in British heritage".

Dorchester Abbey Museum, The Cloister Gallery, Oxfordshire

The abbey at Dorchester-on-Thames has a museum run by volunteers on a budget of £3,000, housing collections and displays relating to the village. The new gallery focuses on stonemasonry.

Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, London

A £3.1m redevelopment has renewed the displays of Britain's only public collection of anatomical and pathological specimens. There have been 100 per cent more visitors since the reopening last February.

Museum of Flight, The Concorde Experience, East Fortune, near Edinburgh

Part of the National Museums of Scotland, the Museum of Flight spent £2m to present Concorde, one of the world's most iconic aircraft, and tell its story through those who worked and travelled on board.

National Waterfront Museum, Swansea

Built in a refurbished warehouse in Swansea's regenerated Maritime Quarter, it looks at the effects of industrialisation and maritime trading on Wales and beyond. It attracted 26,000 visitors in the first two weeks of opening in October.

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden

The £4.3m new museum opened its chocolate doors last June with the aim of using the late writer's archive to tell the story of his life and work. It includes a replica of the hut where Dahl wrote and has a writer-in-residence.

The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire

A new £12.5m museum in Lincoln, amalgamating the former City and County Museum, and Usher Gallery, has treasures from 250,000 years of Lincolnshire's history. Includes a Roman mosaic found at the bottom of the museum's goods lift shaft.

SS Great Britain, Bristol

It has taken more than three decades to salvage and preserve one of Britain's most important historic ships but an innovative dehumidification chamber, in which the SS Great Britain now sits, has finally stopped decay. She was "re-launched" to visitors last July.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Underground Gallery, near Wakefield

One of the largest purpose-built galleries for years was fitted under the historic landscape of the open-air sculpture park founded in 1977. The £2.75m gallery has extended the range of work that can be shown.

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