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'Outstanding' Beckenham museum makes final five for museum of the year

PUBLISHED: 11:46 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:46 03 May 2016

Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Bethlem Museum of the Mind

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The Bethlem Museum of the Mind could win £100,000

Bethlem Gallery and Museum of the MindBethlem Gallery and Museum of the Mind

An art museum based at the site of Bethlem Royal Hospital has been elected as one of five museums that could receive a national prize.

The Bethlem Museum of the Mind could pick up £100,000 if it wins the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2016.

Judges have been asked to choose the museum that shows “exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”.

The Beckenham based museum moved into a new art-deco building at the heart of Britain’s oldest psychiatric institution last year.

The museum works alongside the Bethlem Gallery, which includes works from artists staying at the hospital and saw visitor numbers grow by around 10,000 in 2015.

Director at the museum, Victoria Northwood, said: “Being selected as a museum of the year finalist caps a magnificent year for us at Bethlem.

“We’ve moved from a cramped portakabin to a fine art deco building, launched the new museum to great acclaim and are now welcoming four times as many visitors as we did before.

“Inviting people to step beyond the gates of a psychiatric hospital is not always the easiest of propositions but with every person that comes into our beautiful grounds and into the museum, the stigma surrounding mental illness is reduced.

“Making the shortlist is a tribute to every person who worked to create the new museum, as well as the artists - current and former Bethlem patients - whose work we are proud to display.”

Director at the Art Fund and one of the judges: “Each one of these five museums is outstanding - not just for the collections they display, but for the people who work there, and the visitors whose lives they can change.

“Whether reaching audiences of thousands or millions, the best museums turn objects into culture, put audiences at the heart of their work and engage with issues of the moment.

“This shortlist shows why and how UK museums lead the world.”

Other finalists include the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Jupiter Artland in West Lothian, Scotland.

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