The annual Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards have been running since 2012 and are organised by the Association for Suffolk Museums, partnered by the East Anglian Daily Times, BBC Radio Suffolk and the University of Suffolk. Suffolk’s museums, large and small, came together in celebration to mark their achievements.
This year saw the largest ever entry to the competition, in part thanks to the Association for Suffolk Museums’ successful Summer in Suffolk Museums initiative, which saw museums offering a huge variety of activities and events for family audiences over the school holidays.
Speaking at the event, Suffolk County Councillor Richard Smith, Cabinet member for Finance and Transformation paid tribute to the relatively small group of dedicated professional staff and over 1,600 volunteers who work in Suffolk’s museums, alongside a wider network of loyal visitors and supporters.
The competition judges most impressed by the “interesting, well presented displays, which tell stories in ways that appeal to a wider audience – including those whose primary interest may not lie with horse-racing”. They found “lots to see and do”, commended the “excellent programme of temporary exhibitions” and praised the “brilliant use of stables as gallery areas” (which include the chance to experience a ride on a racehorse simulator). They found staff and volunteers to be welcoming across the five acre site and enjoyed meeting the retired steeplechaser “on duty” to introduce the section on the retraining of racehorses.
Opened by Her Majesty the Queen in November 2016, the National Heritage Centre has had a successful first year and is fast becoming a cultural hub for Newmarket and the racing industry. Over the historic five acre site visitors can enjoy a museum that explores the history of horseracing from its origins to the present day, a gallery of British Sporting Art, temporary exhibitions, The Tack Room restaurant, a fantastic gift shop and the most popular attraction – the live horses!
In the first year of opening the Heritage Centre has attracted over 28,000 visitors; it has been awarded Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation status, was an Art Fund Museum of the Year Finalist and now has been awarded the Suffolk Museum of the Year Prize. Community engagement is a very important aspect of the National Heritage Centre with over 100 volunteers who play an integral part of the successful running of the site. A number of successful family events and activities have been delivered throughout the year which will continue in 2018.
Chris Garibaldi, Director of the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art said, “We are absolutely thrilled to have won Suffolk Museum of the Year – it is a validation of so much hard work on the part of our staff, volunteers and trustees over such a sustained period to restore the Palace House site and create a world-class visitor experience. It echoes so much of the feedback from our visitors – whether horse racing is your passion or if you know nothing about it and think you have little interest, you will find something to spark your imagination. We’ve worked intensively to provide a fantastic experience for visitors of all ages and I think that approach is recognised in this award.”
For more information about the 2017 Suffolk Museum of the Year, The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, or to book a tour which includes a visit to this fantastic facility, click here or give us a call on 0344 7849 200.
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