Northern Ireland’s Centre for Contemporary Art is joined on the shortlist by a trio of English venues – Experience Barnsley, Firstsite, The Thackray Museum of Medicine – and Timespan in the Scottish Highlands.

“Our five finalists are all deeply embedded in their communities and alive to the possibilities of reaching far beyond their locality digitally. They have each shown extraordinary innovation and resolve,” says Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund.

“I would encourage everyone to visit them if they possibly can – in person or online – or make a beeline to a museum close to you this summer.”

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Returning to its customary model after last year’s Covid disruption, 2021’s winner will scoop £100,000 while each of the other four finalists will receive £15,000 – an increase of £5,000 on previous editions.

In light of the unprecedented situation, last year’s Museum of the Year split acclaim and prize money equally between all five shortlistees.

The finalists’ fates now lie in the hands of the Museum of the Year judging panel. For 2021 this comprises: Maria Balshaw CBE, director of Tate and chair of the National Museum Directors’ Council; broadcaster Edith Bowman; Katrina Brown, founding director of The Common Guild and Art Fund trustee; Suhair Khan, strategic projects lead at Google; artist Thomas J Price; and Art Fund director Jenny Waldman.

“Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 attracted a flood of applications and it has been incredible to see what museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK have achieved, overcoming the challenges of the past year. Their resilience is nothing short of heroic,” Waldman concludes.

The winner will be revealed in a ceremony this September, with Art Fund continuing its collaboration with the BBC for coverage of this year’s prize.

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