Entertainment & Arts

Six-strong shortlist for Museum of the Year

Barbara Hepworth, The Family of Man, 1970 Image copyright Marc Atkins
Image caption Last year's winner was the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield

Six UK museums are competing for the title of Museum of the Year 2015.

London's recently renovated Imperial War Museum, Manchester's Whitworth art gallery and Belfast's The MAC are among those vying for the £100,000 prize.

The Tower of London, Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Stamford Military Hospital at Dunham Massey complete the list.

The winner will be announced at the Tate Modern on 1 July. It was won last year by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

"This is, by any measure, an exciting and diverse shortlist, showing great heights of creativity and ambition," said Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, which has sponsored the prize since 2008.

"Despite a difficult environment of funding cuts, UK museums continue to be inventive, surprising and exhilarating."

The Museum Prize Trust was set up in 2001 to reward the finest museums and galleries across the UK, and encourage greater visitor numbers.

Below is a brief synopsis of this year's contenders:

Dunham Massey, Altrincham (National Trust)

Image copyright National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

A Georgian country house in Cheshire, Dunham Massey has been home to the Booth and Grey families for some 350 years. In 2014, the Sanctuary from the Trenches exhibition faithfully recreated the Stamford Military Hospital as it had been in 1917-19, using artefacts and furniture from the house's own archive. Working in partnership with Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, actors were brought in to tell real stories of wartime experiences at the hospital. The acclaimed exhibition subsequently extended its run to November 2015.

Imperial War Museum, London

Image copyright Imperial War Museum

To mark the the centenary of the outbreak of World War One in 2014, the Imperial War Museum brought together letters, diaries, objects and works of art from its vast collection to create the newly established First World War Galleries. The resulting galleries lay bare the story of the war, from both the frontline and the home front. It also saw the museum's atrium dramatically transformed by Sir Norman Foster to tell the story of conflict from World War One to the present day.

The MAC, Belfast

Image copyright The MAC, Belfast

The Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) is a multi-disciplinary arts venue at the heart of Belfast. 2014 was an exceptional year across the organisation, with the visual arts programme - particularly an exhibition from US artist Kara Walker - attracting significant numbers of visitors and raising the venue's profile both nationally and internationally. The inaugural MAC International exhibition attracted more than 1,000 artist entries worldwide and is, to date, the largest art prize in Ireland.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Image copyright Oxford Museum of Natural History

In 2014, Oxford University Museum of Natural History reopened its doors after 14 months of closure to restore its Pre-Raphaelite-inspired, iron and glass roof. The museum re-emerged from the £4m project with a revitalised public space and a revitalised collection, following a major conservation project undertaken on the suspended whale skeletons. LED lighting further enhances the visitor experience.

HM Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)

Image copyright Tower of London

In 2014 Historic Royal Palaces commissioned for HM Tower of London a work of art that was to become the defining public commemoration of the First World War centenary: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper. This evolving installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies, which eventually filled the 16-acre moat, was viewed by more five million visitors.

The Whitworth, Manchester

Image copyright Whitworth Gallery

The Whitworth underwent the largest physical transformation in its 125-year history in 2014. The £15m redevelopment project doubled its size and created myriad new spaces. During redevelopment the Whitworth continued to offer pop-up projects all over the city, maintaining established audiences and building new ones ahead of the new building's re-opening earlier this year.

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