Sorry, you don't qualify as a museum - you are, errh, privately owned!

Thanks, but we didn't want to be one anyway

When we were going through our busiest period of getting the house ready for its opening in October 2008 we were told about The £100,000 Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries.

A quick read of the call for entries press release on the Art Fund website made good reading

"...The coveted annual award is open to all museums and galleries in the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man..." and went on 

"...The winner will be the entry that, in the opinion of the judges:

  • demonstrates originality, imagination and excellence
  • extends public access and understanding of works of art and artefacts from any era and culture
  • has the capacity to promote wider public appreciation of museums and galleries
  • shows imaginative development, display and interpretation of museum and gallery collections
  • demonstrates excellence of design, whether in exhibitions or buildings
  • has clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors
  • is likely to provide a lasting legacy..."

We've never consider what we are doing as being a 'museum' rather it is a living house in which visitors can experience what it might have been like to live in a restored, new, middle class Edwardian house. A museum to us has always been a stuffy, sterile and dusty building - as Dylan said of Swansea Museum "...a museum that should be in a museum...".

But we ticked all the boxes and £100k would come in very handy.

A quick email to the organisers changed everything - the reply from Secretary Rosemary Elwes said that only those museums and galleries in public ownership or run by charities are eligible to enter.

As Michael Winner would say "Extraordinary!". So, no enterprise put together with private finance, blood sweat and tears was eligible unless, of course, they hid behind charity status. Not only was Number 5 excluded but thousands of local places who survive through the skill and love of their owners. A few that come to mind are

So why do the great and the good exclude the private sector? Will we be sick in the loos at the glittering prize dinner or threaten the judges?

Does it matter - it's really their loss - but wouldn't old man Gulbenkian being turning in his grave?

We, and countless others up and down the country will continue to offer what we think the public want and will sink or swim on their support not on the benevolence of the Arts Funds of this world.