Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) has been awarded the prestigious title of 'Museum of the Year'.
The popular museum, which reopened to the public last December after a four-year refurbishment, has won the £100,000 Art Fund prize. The winner was announced last night (Tuesday 19 June) live on BBC Radio Four's Front Row programme, direct from an award ceremony at the British Museum in London.
A delighted Council Leader, Pete Edwards, said: "We are absolutely over the moon at winning the Art Fund prize!
"RAMM’s redevelopment has been a labour of love, and shows what can be done when popular support is backed by the local council and aided by central government and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Together we’ve taken a great museum, made it even better, and now with this award have really put RAMM on the map.
"This is an honour for the people of Exeter, Devon and the Southwest and I hope also a source of inspiration for all the far flung parts of Britain that like us have the ambition and drive to compete with the best. Exeter has a long and rich history which is well recorded in RAMM. It’s great that today it’s the museum that is making history."
RAMM pipped the three other shortlist finalists - The Hepworth Wakefield, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Watts Gallery, Guildford - to the award.
In February, RAMM made it onto the Art Fund's longlist of 10, before making the final four in May.
Visitors to the Museum were invited to leave their impressions of RAMM on the Art Fund website.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, who chaired the judging panel, described the attraction as "quite simply a magical place".
Explaining the decision to award RAMM the prize, Lord Smith said: "Every exhibit delights with a new surprise, and provokes with a new question.
"At a time when local authority museums in particular are in such danger, this brilliant achievement proves how daring, adventurous and important such institutions can be."
Since reopening in December, over 200,000 people have visited the museum. Visitors' responses have been overwhelming positive. Audience evaluation revealed that 93% of visitors thought that RAMM was friendly and welcoming: a place for the whole community, a place to learn and a great all round experience. They believed that the museum makes a vital contribution to Exeter: a contribution that they are proud of. Only 1% disagreed. The top three words selected to best describe RAMM accounted for nearly half (47%) of all the words selected – High Quality, Educational, Family Friendly (Power Marketing Evaluation Report: January 2012).
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