Royal Albert Memorial Museum bags Art Fund prize

22nd June 2012

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) has been named museum of the year by the Art Fund charity.

Based in Exeter, the museum was applauded for the extensive renovation work it has undergone, which cost £24 million, 60 per cent more than was originally forecast.

Reopened in December 2011, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum bags itself a £100,000 cheque and, of course, carries with it the prestigious accolade of being the museum of the moment.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, chair of the judging panel, described the museum as a magical place that is "modest in scale but vast in its ambition and imagination".

"The Victorian aspirations to bring the world to Exeter are stunningly realised through some of the most intelligently considered displays on view in any museum in the UK," he added.

"Every exhibit delights with a new surprise and provokes with a new question and, 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."

Founded in 1868 as a memorial to Prince Albert – who passed away in 1861 – a major part of the development was geared towards creating a structurally sound base to prevent the museum from slipping into a defensive ditch from Norman times, which RAMM had initially been built upon.

Closed in 2005, the museum's extensive collection – totalling up to some 1.5 million objects – was gathered, packed and moved into storage - a task which involved some serious logistical planning.

Pete Edwards, leader of Exeter City Council, commented that he was over the moon at the museum scooping 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 HLF [Heritage Lottery Fund]," he said.

"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 south-west 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."

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