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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Museums get 100,000 prize
British Museum
Some museums are in a troubled patch
Inspiring museum exhibitions across the UK are to be rewarded with the new 100,000 Gulbenkian Prize, it has been announced.

The annual prize will replace the Museum of the Year title and financially tower over the 20,000 Turner prize for art and 60,000 Booker prize for novels.

Its aim is to award "the most innovative and inspiring idea" with exhibitions, new galleries, public programmes or other initiatives eligible.

Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Newly-free museums are booming
The first shortlist will be announced in spring 2003 and the first prize will be presented during Museums and Galleries Month in May.

The museums sector is enjoying mixed times with newly-free museums enjoying rocketing admissions, while other institutions such as the British Museum face financial difficulties.

The organisers say the prize will not favour larger museums with big collections and bigger budgets, but will be about changing the way people view museums.

Entrants will need a "genuine and demonstrable effect on public perceptions of museums and galleries and enhance appreciation of their role".

Lady Cobham, chairman of The Museum Prize, the trust that runs The Gulbenkian Prize, said: "The millions of pounds spent recently on revitalising museums and galleries, making them relevant to the broadening 21st-century audiences, should be celebrated.

"This is what The Gulbenkian Prize will do for both large and small establishments."

Little museums

The prize is funded and named after the Gulbenkian Foundation, the UK wing of a major cultural and social philanthropy trust.

Art director Sian Ede told BBC News Online that although public enthusiasm for nominated projects would be a key part, the judges - chaired by former University Challenge presenter Bamber Gascoigne - would not simply be rewarding glitzy populism.

"The judges would be very quick to spot something that looked glitzy for the sake of it.

"It might be a little mining museum in the north east of England, it might be a fishing museum in the Orkneys. People who assess things can recognise integrity."

The prize money is to be invested in a project or activity at the winning museum or gallery that will benefit visitors.

As well as being supported by museum bodies, it also has had help from government culture officials, and arts philanthropist Christopher Ondaatje.

See also:

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