St Fagans National Museum of History has been awarded the prestigious title of Art Fund museum of the year 2019.
On Wednesday, the Cardiff museum was praised for its “exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”. The title also comes with a £100,000 prize, which is the biggest single art prize in Britain.
Art Fund director and chair of the judges, Stephen Deuchar, commended the museum for its outstanding work and public engagement; “St Fagans lives, breathes and embodies the culture and identity of Wales.”
The open-air heritage attraction was founded in 1948 and recently underwent a £30 million redevelopment. New galleries have been added to the site, as well as hands-on workshops and a 120-seat lecture theatre.
Deuchar explained how the transformation involved thousands of visitors and volunteers, making it “a truly democratic museum” and “one of the most welcoming and engaging museums anywhere in the UK.”
St Fagans beat four contenders to win the sought-after prize. The other strong finalists included HMS Caroline in Belfast, Nottingham Contemporary, Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and V&A Dundee. To recognise their achievements, each shortlisted institution will receive £10,000.
From prehistoric times to the present day, the Welsh heritage centre comprises of more than 50 buildings that have been moved in their entirety to the site from locations across Wales. Visitors can wander through the architectural history of Wales, learning about the ways people lived and thrived in the landscape.
Following the renovation, St Fagans now offers visitors the chance to watch and engage with “live” crafts. There is a working 18th-century blacksmith’s forge, a woollen mill, and interactive activities such as quilting, pottery and stone carving.
Last year the site attracted over 684,000 people. “It was made by the people of Wales for people everywhere,” enthused Deuchar, “I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t enjoy visiting this incredible place.”