Gairloch Museum has been announced as a winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020, the most prestigious museum prize in the world. In a unique edition of the prize and in recognition of the unprecedented challenges that all museums face this year, five winning museums have been named. They will equally share the £200,000 award, a 40% rise over previous years.
The winning museums are: Aberdeen Art Gallery (Aberdeen, Scotland); Gairloch Museum (Gairloch, Scotland); Science Museum (London, England); South London Gallery (London, England); Towner Eastbourne (Eastbourne, England). They are awarded based on their achievements in 2019 – 20.
Dr Karen Buchanan, Curator of Gairloch Museum commented:-
“The recognition that comes with this award brings our small, independent museum to the national stage. With the prize money, we will be able to invest in our planned outdoor museum space and procure expertise and equipment to redesign our events and outreach programme for a sustainable, digital future. We rely on tourism to our small community. Our Art Fund Museum of the Year status will boost visitor numbers in 2021, when our must-see event will be an exhibition of the art of Alison Dunlop RSW, celebrating the rugged beauty of the Shiants – the enchanted isles of the Minch.”
Today’s announcement kicks off a week-long celebration featuring live-streamed talks, events and digital activity, giving an inspiring opportunity to get involved with museums all over the country.
The judges, Jago Cooper (Curator of the Americas, The British Museum), Dame Liz Forgan (Trustee, Art Fund), Ryan Gander (artist), Melanie Keen (Director, The Wellcome Collection) and Jenny Waldman (Director, Art Fund), reflected:
“The story of the rebirth of this truly special museum, nestled on the remote north-westerly coast of Scotland, captivated the judges; a tale of people-power, determination, and local pride. The museum’s move in 2019 to a new home – not a grand new build but a repurposed nuclear bunker – transformed a village eyesore into an important visitor attraction. It was the culmination of an 8 year, £2.4 million redevelopment project made possible by more than 120 volunteers. The redisplay of the museum’s collection which encapsulates the history, culture, beauty and character of Gairloch and its new home have reanimated the village’s pride in its heritage, created a buzzing new community hub, and produced a sustainable cultural landmark for generations of visitors to enjoy.”
Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, said: “Congratulations to Gairloch Museum. The five Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 winners are exceptional examples of museums offering inspiration, reflection and joy in the heart of communities. The UK’s museums – admired worldwide and vital locally – were thriving before Covid-19. Now they can help rebuild our communities and confidence as we emerge from the virus.”
Dr Karen Buchanan, Gairloch Museum’s Curator, will reflect on the museum’s achievements as part of a panel discussion at 11am on Tuesday 13 October, featuring all the winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 and Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman. Produced in association with The Art Newspaper and led by art critic and podcast host Ben Luke, registration can be made here https://art-fund.arttickets.org.uk/art-fund/2020-10-13-meet-the-winners-art-fund-museum-of-the-year
As part of the week-long celebration, Gairloch Museum is also holding a three-day archaeological dig at one of the Achtercairn Roundhouses, located just behind the museum (Wednesday October 14th, Thursday October 15thand Friday October 16th). On Thursday October 15th, local researcher, historian and Museum Director Jeremy Fenton will give a talk, describing the changes to and impact on the Gairloch area as transport links improved in the region through time.
Other highlights of the week include Outlander star Sam Heughan reading a beloved folktale from the West Highlands of Scotland, pertinent to Gairloch Museum’s collection and local histories. Aberdeen Art Gallery will unveil Spotify playlists reflecting the museum’s collection. Towner Eastbourne will hold a daily ‘digital mindfulness retreat’ tapping into the beauty of the museum’s location and collection. South London Gallery will reveal a new poem inspired by Walter Crane’s wooden panel at the Gallery stating, ‘The source of art is in the life of a people’. The Science Museum will release a series of ‘Secret Science Club’ films on Instagram in collaboration with influencer Anna B that will explore the amazing experiments you can see in the museum’s Wonderlab: The Equinox Gallery. Find out more www.artfund.org/museum-of-the-year– add @artfund and #museumoftheyear
VisitScotland has welcomed the news of the award as a boost to tourism in the North of Scotland. Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said:
“I am thrilled that Gairloch Museum has been chosen as one of only two Scottish winners of Art Fund’s prestigious Museum of the Year award. I would also like to extend my congratulations to the other Scottish winner, Aberdeen Art Gallery. Both are equally-deserving of this accolade, demonstrating that their work over the previous year has stood out way beyond that of their competitors. 2019 was a transformational year for Gairloch Museum. At the heart of its relocation and reopening has been a huge community effort from a fantastic volunteer base, to successfully secure £2.4 million in funding to redevelop and transform a disused nuclear bunker into such a fantastic new visitor attraction and community hub. For such a small community, this is very inspirational. The Museum has further strengthened the cultural offering for visitors to the Highlands during what has been a hugely challenging year for the tourism industry.”