Museum battles it out for national arts award

PUBLISHED: 16:38 01 April 2008 | UPDATED: 08:57 10 June 2010

JUDGES have visited the Topsham Museum as it bids to win a top national arts award of £100,000. The museum, facing the estuary, is one of 10 museums vying for the prestigious Arts Fund Prize, selected for its impressive addition of the River Gallery. The

JUDGES have visited the Topsham Museum as it bids to win a top national arts award of £100,000.The museum, facing the estuary, is one of 10 museums vying for the prestigious Arts Fund Prize, selected for its impressive addition of the River Gallery.The project demonstrates the bond between the town and the Exe Estuary, renovating a unique collection of boats from the river and displaying them as part of the town's history as a boat building centre. The four judges, all renowned in their field of expertise, specifically chose the museum because of the skill of the volunteers, who are the only ones to to run it, and their bravery at undertaking such a large project.Sue MacGregor, chair of judges and eminent broadcaster, said: "This is the smallest museum of all we are comparing. It is entirely run by volunteers, and quite admirable. I look for something that makes the museum special, that wow factor."The River Gallery project was funded with monies from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exeter City Council, and with help from the local community. During the presentation to the judges David Clement, Chairman of Trustees, explained if they won the bursary would be used on maintaining the house and extending their links with the local people's history.The museum would house the oral history archive and present a unique room to be used for local genealogical research.The arts fund criteria includes demonstrating originality and imagination, good links with the local community and excellent educational resources for the local schools.Maggie Semple, one of the judges with specific educational expertise, said: "For me they must bring alive historical information. It is very important for children to understand, and look to, not only the future but also the past. This is a fantastic local resource the teachers really need."The shortlist of four will be announced on Tuesday, April 22, and the winner during the Museums and Galleries Month in May.David Hubick, Trading Company Director and treasurer of the Museum, said: "This is really unexpected and superb. There is a certain level of disbelief and it is a credit to all our volunteers."All the museum staff were delighted at being in the top 10 and expect greater attendance from the public, the accolade having transformed this local museum from an important town resource to one of regional importance.

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