A London museum focused on inspiring the next generation has won the world’s biggest museum prize.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens has been crowned Museum of the Year by the Art Fund after rethinking its role as a creative hub for the community during the pandemic – having had time to reflect on the climate emergency and the protests of Black Lives Matter.
Officials created a micro-forest to tackle local air pollution and organized the 696 Festival, incorporating the black British sounds of south London through concerts, installations, collaborations and a music festival in ‘summer.
It is also the only museum in London to display environmental, ecological and human culture side by side.
Horniman director Nick Merriman received the £100,000 prize from DJ and BBC Radio 6 judge Huw Stephens at a ceremony at the Design Museum in London on Thursday.
It preceded the Derby Museums, the Museum of Making, the People’s History Museum in Manchester, the Story Museum in Oxford and the art gallery TÅ Pawb in Wrexham.
Each of the finalist museums received a prize of £15,000 in recognition of their achievements.
Jenny Waldman, Art Fund Director and Chair of the Art Fund Museum of the Year Jury, said: “The Horniman Museum and Gardens has now become a truly holistic museum bringing together art, nature and its countless collections.
“Her values are woven into everything she does now, with a passionate team that breathes life and meaning into every object, performance, plant and animal.
“In many ways this is the perfect museum and I encourage everyone to go and see all it has to offer.”
Dame Diane Lees, Chief Executive of the Imperial War Museums, said: ‘The Horniman Museum and Gardens champions the natural environment, commissioning artists and music festivals, to bring Frederick Horniman’s eclectic collections new relevance to various communities.
“They set the agenda for how a traditional museum can reinvent itself through powerful ideas.”
Last year, the prize went to Firstsite in Colchester in Essex, after it turned into a food bank and helped provide free school meals during the pandemic.