This year, the Art Fund Museum of the Year Award celebrates its 10th anniversary. As a 2021 finalist, we at Thackray are big fans of the work they do for museums like us across the UK. The world’s biggest museum prize champions what museums do, encourages more people to visit, and gets to the heart of what makes a truly memorable museum. To celebrate, we asked Thackray Museum staff what their favourite museums are!
Natascha Allen-Smith, Collections Access Assistant
I could never pick a favourite UK museum, but one memorable recent visit is the Tank Museum in Bovington. In its first gallery, you walk through recreated British and German trenches and see your first view of a tank bearing down from the parapet as though it’s about to crash down on top of you – it really gives you a sense of how alien and terrifying these gigantic machines must have seemed when they were first deployed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Ross Horsley, Volunteering & Access Officer
My favourite museum is Bletchley Park. I expected my visit to last just a couple of hours, but I was still exploring the grounds after almost a full day, imagining what it was like to live and work there, immersed in the unique atmosphere of secrecy and quiet intrigue. Well worth a visit!
Fiona Grimer, Development Officer
When I was younger I spent a lot of time looking at the work of 19th century celebrated designer, polymath, social activist and key figure of the Arts & Craft Movement, William Morris. My love of William Morris designs led me to the beautiful William Morris Gallery, which won the first Art Fund prize for Museum of the Year back in 2013 and holds the world’s largest collection of his work. It tells the story of his life in the house he grew up in and includes beautifully presented and interpreted works from the collection all situated within the charming London town of Walthamtstow.
Josh Ward, Informal Learning Assistant
My favourite museum in the UK is the IWM Duxford. The aircraft there are absolutely stunning and the fact that it is home to so many airworthy machines makes it that much more special when you visit. Of course, it is massive in scale and breadth of collections, but it is has not lost that spirit in the air of when it was home to the fighters of RAF 12 group during the Battle of Britain. As it is a long drive from Yorkshire to Cambridge, I’d like to give an honourable mention to our own Yorkshire Air Museum – itself found at the old RAF Elvington airfield, once home to the boys from Bomber Command.
Jessica Smith, Informal Learning Officer
From a young age I was destined to collect pencils. Every museum, every art gallery, and on every holiday a pencil was collected and continues to be collected to this day. The holy grail of my pencil collection is that of a pencil from the Pencil Museum in Keswick. From the origin story of the first pencil to top secret pencil projects and a seismic pencil to top it all off this unassuming museum not only has a special place in my heart, but also one in my pencil collection.
Rob Curphey, Project Archivist
My favourite museum is the Museum of London Docklands. Having lived near Canary Wharf for seven years I always enjoyed learning about the history of the regeneration of the area, how the Docklands Light Railway was created and how London’s rivers played a huge role in the war effort. I always kept an eye out for their new exhibitions and would visit whenever I had the chance, and it provided comfort during the pandemic, when it was one of the few things I could do. And they have a Brio train set, which provided me with fond childhood memories!
(Honorable mentions: London Transport Museum, National Videogame Museum, MCC Museum and Thackray of course!)