The William Morris Gallery has been crowned the winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013.The announcement was made on Tuesday 4 June, with the Gallery beating off competition from nine other museums and galleries from across the country to win the staggering £100,000 prize. The success follows last year’s £5 million transformation, which was jointly funded by Waltham Forest Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with donations from numerous trusts, foundations and individuals.
Stephen Deuchar, director of The Art Fund and chair of the judges, said: “The William Morris Gallery is truly Museum of the Year. Its extraordinary collections, beautifully presented, draw the visitor engagingly through Morris’s life and work and through the building itself. Setting the highest standards of curatorship, and reaching out impressively to its local community, it offers a memorable way of experiencing art of the highest quality in the context of a great historic personality.”
“We were overjoyed to be nominated for the Prize so to actually win is absolutely breathtaking,” said Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council. “The competition was fierce, and given the calibre and diversity of the other museums it’s a real testament to the vision of the Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and our other partners that we came out on top. We’re now deciding what we’ll spend the money on and I can guarantee that it will make a real, tangible difference to the Gallery itself and to the experience of visitors, whether they live in Walthamstow, come as part of a school visit or have travelled from another country to explore Morris’ extraordinary vision."
Judge Bob and Roberta Smith said: “We were presented by the William Morris Gallery with a tremendous story of optimism, hope and vision that equals Morris's own vision of celebrating human beings' creativity. In the current climate it's amazing to see a local authority realise the power of art in regenerating a borough."
We are thrilled with the award and would like to thank all our supporters, visitors, funders and volunteers who helped make this happen.
For more information please visit www.artfund.org/william-morris-gallery-crowned-museum-of-the-year-2013
How we're spending the prize money
We are planning the spend of the Art Fund prize carefully, to ensure it makes a real difference to the Gallery. We've analysed visitor feedback and are using some of the funds to enhance the visitor experience. This includes replacing some of the glazing on paintings with museum-grade non-reflective glass. We are aware that the current glazing prevents effective viewing of the paintings in the Gallery, especially the larger Brangwyn paintings. The worst affected painting, Brangwyn's The Dogana, has already had its glazing replaced and we are seeking quotes for other works. Other suggestions that we are investigating include: replacing the benches with chairs in the tea room so that families and older people find access easier, more equipment to control the temperature in summer months and a buggy park.
However we plan to use the majority of the Museum of the Year prize money as match-funding to apply for other grants. This means we can potentially double (or more) the value of the award. The focus for our fundraising activities is the Gallery's exhibition and activity programme. This includes our schools, families and young people's programmes, as well as new opportunities for older residents to engage with the arts.
This programme is crucial to making sure we keep the offer fresh and continue to encourage local residents to keep coming back for more. We currently receive HLF funding to support this programme, until November 2014. The Gallery's core costs (staffing, building upkeep etc) are all funded by the London Borough of Waltham Forest but if we can attract additional external funding we can continue to develop and exceed such a high quality offer.