Museum cut off by storms is nominated for £100,000 prize

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From a small community project in the Outer Hebrides to the touching story of 18th-century foundlings, 10 projects are in contention for the most valuable award in British art, the £100,000 Gulbenkian prize for museum of the year.

From a small community project in the Outer Hebrides to the touching story of 18th-century foundlings, 10 projects are in contention for the most valuable award in British art, the £100,000 Gulbenkian prize for museum of the year.

As if to dispel any allegations of elitism in the museum sector, six out of the 10 projects on the shortlist, announced today, tell the stories of Britain's vanishing heavy industry.

They include a restored pit in south Wales; the new National Railway Museum in County Durham; and the Transport Museum in Coventry, home of the motor industry. Back-to-back housing from the 19th century in Birmingham preserved by the National Trust; a museum based on the fishing industry in Great Yarmouth; and a community project in north Devon centred on a local furniture manufacturer, all continue the theme of ordinary working lives. But the list also includes Compton Verney, a country house in Warwickshire, which was transformed into a gallery.

The Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Gallery is shortlisted for its Carn Chearsabhagh project, which provided North Uist with a museum, two galleries, an arts workshop, a shop and a café.

The museum is situated in the village of Lochmaddy, which was battered by this week's storms. The building survived intact but was left without electricity or phone lines.

Michael Day, chief executive of Historic Royal Palaces and one of the judges, said: "This prize is a chance to showcase and celebrate and ultimately to reward the best of that work." All the projects were chosen for their originality, imaginative presentation, innovation and public support, he said. The prize was "no respecter of the size or importance of museums".

There were more than 60 applications this year for the prize, which was set up two years ago with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

There was delight from the shortlisted ventures. Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said the organisation was very proud that its Back to Backs project had been chosen.

"The courtyard ... is a unique survival and its opening has enabled the people of Birmingham to experience a very powerful example of their diverse cultural and industrial heritage." The Heritage Lottery Fund has spent a total of £23.5m on nine of the projects. The fund was "fundamentally important" to the museum sector, according to Penny Cobham, chair of the prize trustees.

Four finalists will be announced in March and the winner will be decided on 26 May during Museum and Galleries Month. The winner will be chosen by a panel including the sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp and Sir Neil Chalmers, former head of the Natural History Museum, although the public can pledge their support for a project via the prize website. "What the punter actually thinks is really important," Lady Cobham said.

Last year's winner was the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh for its part-sculpture, part-garden work, Landform, by Charles Jencks.

THE SHORTLIST

Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon for Shapland & Petter of Barnstaple: 150 Years

National Mining Museum of Wales , Blaenafon, for Big Pit

National Trust West Midlands for Back to Backs, Birmingham

The Fitzwilliam Museum , University of Cambridge, for its Courtyard Development

Compton Verney , Warwickshire

Coventry Transport Museum

Museum of Great Yarmouth Life , Norfolk, for Time and Tide

Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Art Gallery , Lochmaddy, North Uist, for its Carn Chearsabhagh Project

The Foundling Museum , London

The National Railway Museum , Shildon, Co Durham, for Locomotion

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