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Ditchling Museum goes up against Tate Britain

Duchess of Cornwall visits Ditchling Museum.

Duchess of Cornwall visits Ditchling Museum.

It’s a David versus Goliath encounter in a contest to be named the UK’s museum of the year.

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, which celebrates the village’s creative heritage, will go up against Tate Britain and the new £35m Mary Rose Museum.

They are among six nominees for this year’s Art Fund Prize. The others are the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank, Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the open-air Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The winning venue will receive £100,000 at a ceremony on July 9. The finalists were chosen by an independent panel of judges.

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft was recently toured by the Duchess of Cornwall, who has been President of the charity since 2006.

She met the staff, volunteers and supporters who have worked to turn the small local museum into an organisation of national standards.

The transformed venue reopened at the end of 2013 following a £2.3m redevelopment, funded by a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as generous donations by trusts, foundations and individuals.

Ditchling became a hub of creativity after sculptor Eric Gill moved there in 1907, followed by other artists and craftspeople. Two redoubtable local sisters, Joanna and Hilary Bourne, opened a museum in 1985 and the ambitious revamp has put it on the national map.

Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar said UK museums had a “strong year” in 2013 and picking six nominees was “no easy task”.

He said: “It is almost as if imaginative and innovative curatorship, combined with the highest standards of presentation, is no longer the exception but the rule.”

The award was launched in 2003 as the Gulbenkian Prize and became the Art Fund Prize in 2008. Last year’s winner was the William Morris Gallery in north-east London.

Hilary Williams, Director of Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, said: “The museum is honoured to be a finalist. It is testament to the hard work from the staff, volunteers and supporters who have worked to turn this small local museum into an organisation of national standards.”

 

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