“The judges agreed that the scale of the Mary Rose Museum project’s achievements over the past several decades – in which it has undertaken the rescue and restoration of a great Tudor ship and its contents – is unparalleled, unprecedented and a monumental national achievement. The public’s experience in the beautiful new building is one of exceptional depth and quality, and the integration of serious archaeological and conservation research with engaging museum display (always a difficult challenge) is achieved with complete success. Judges look forward to the next stage in the mesmeric, unfolding story of the presentation of this great ship in 2016.”
Comments from the Art Fund Judges
The new Mary Rose Museum that opened 31 May 2013 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, is one of six finalists selected for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2014. This prestigious award celebrates the achievements of the best UK museums and galleries and recognises an exceptional standard of excellence.
Having already welcomed over 415,000 visitors since opening, the Mary Rose Museum demonstrates innovation and imagination in the presentation of a truly unique artefact and its associated objects. The museum displays the starboard section of the flagship that served Henry VIII for 34 years, before spending over 400 years under the Solent. For the first time, the ship has been reunited with the possessions of the crew and all the material of a Tudor warship. The Mary Rose and its collection are now housed in an extraordinary and elegant museum. The permanent exhibition engages visitors through the intensely personal nature of the objects and the stories they tell of the people on board, providing a rare insight into Tudor life. Everything in the museum is from one archaeological site, capturing the moment when the ship and most of the crew were lost. The museum is the fulfillment of the ambitions of the thousands who have worked on the project.
The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year, awarded annually with a value of £100,000, was established in 2003 (formally the Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries 2003-2007) to recognise the very best of the UK’s internationally acclaimed museums. It has been supported by the Art Fund since 2008. Previous winners include the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London (2013); the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter (2012), and the British Museum, London (2011). The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the National Gallery in London on Wednesday 9 July 2014.
The finalists were chosen by an independent panel of judges chaired by Art Fund director, Stephen Deuchar. The judges are: Sally Bacon, director of the Clore Duffield Foundation; Michael Craig-Martin RA, artist; Wim Pijbes director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and Anna Somers Cocks, chief executive of The Art Newspaper.
The Mary Rose museum was designed with a black plank exterior, in the English vernacular marine style, under a disc-shaped metal roof that curves up over the museum. The elliptical interiors are designed to recreate the dark and confined atmosphere found below a ship’s deck, hundreds of years ago. Spaces feature low ceilings and low light levels, with fibre optic lighting focusing attention on the original artefacts. The museum is designed to show the unique collection of objects recovered from the ship in their original context. Everything on display is authentic and original, and only when it is important for interpretation, are missing parts replicated in frosted acrylic. Subtle sound effects capture the ship’s bell striking the watch every 30 minutes, against the background of the wind and the sea. Visitors share the experience of those men who set sail on that fateful day in June 1545. The essence of the design of the interior evolved from the moment, seconds before the Mary Rose sank.
Following the painstaking archaeological excavation and recording of the exact location of every find, the project team have been able to recreate the interior of the Mary Rose and reunite the original contexts – fittings, weaponry, armament and personal possessions- deck-by-deck, in their exact context with one another. Designed from the inside-out, the Museum building takes many of its cues from the historic ship, allowing its hull, artefacts and exhibitions to take centre stage and create a visitor experience benefitting this remarkable piece of history.
Rear Admiral John Lippiett Chief Executive Officer Mary Rose Trust said, ‘For the first time we have displayed the ship together with thousands of Tudor artefacts most of which have not been seen before. This unique Tudor assembly was recovered from the wreck site and everything has been conserved and prepared for display in our own workshops by a wonderful dedicated team. The quality and intensely personal nature of the objects found on board is breath taking and the collection gives a unique insight into life 500 years ago. We have welcomed over 415,000 visitors since the museum opened last May, and we have continued to enjoy the most wonderful reaction and feedback. Our aspirations have been met and indeed exceeded.’
Stephen Deuchar, chair of the judges, said, ‘2013 was a strong year, by any standards, for UK museums and it was no easy task to select a shortlist of six from an extraordinary body of applications. It is almost as if imaginative and innovative curatorship, combined with the highest standards of presentation, is no longer the exception but the rule. No wonder that the international reputation of UK museums is riding so high, and we’re delighted that the Museum of the Year will salute this through both the process of the competition and, of course, the £100,000 Prize.’
The six museums which have been selected as finalists for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year are: Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, East Sussex; Hayward Gallery, London; The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth; Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich; Tate Britain, London; and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard offer National Art Pass holders a discount when they purchase an ‘All Attraction’ ticket to the site. This ticket includes a visit to the Mary Rose Museum and is valid for one year.