Northumberland museum shortlisted in top national awards

A Victorian funny face, part of the Retronaut project at Woodhorn Museum.
A Victorian funny face, part of the Retronaut project at Woodhorn Museum.

A Northumberland museum and visitor attraction has been shortlisted for two prestigious national awards.

Staff at Woodhorn Museum, near Ashington, were ‘thrilled’ to learn this week that the venue had made it into the final shortlists in two categories of the highly-regarded Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence 2015.

Seymour Mace during his spell as comedian-in-residence at Woodhorn Museum for the Stand Up for Comedy project.

Seymour Mace during his spell as comedian-in-residence at Woodhorn Museum for the Stand Up for Comedy project.

The venue is through to the last five in the category for Project on a Limited Budget with its project Stand up for Woodhorn: Making a Case for Comedy in Museums, and the last six in Best Marketing Campaign for Retronaut.

They face stiff competition from other well-known museums across the UK, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial War Museum, Natural History Museum and National Maritime Museum.

Woodhorn director Keith Merrin said: “Being shortlisted for these awards alongside venues of international standing is a huge achievement and we are thrilled to reach this stage. It recognises that the standard and creativity of work we do here at Woodhorn is on a par with the very best museums and galleries right across the country.”

For the Stand Up for Comedy project, Woodhorn commissioned a comedian-in-residence to explore the part comedy can play in connecting people with their heritage, art and environment. Experienced North East funnyman Seymour Mace hosted ‘meet the comedian’ sessions, during which visitors could share, record and celebrate their favourite stories. Fun sessions with museum staff resulted in new material, some of which was transformed into comedy tours around Woodhorn’s historic site and enjoyed by visitors at the 150th anniversary Northumberland Miners’ Picnic in June 2014.

The Retronaut project engaged guest curator Chris Wild (aka the Retronaut) to combine the strengths of Northumberland Archives’ unique content with his digital expertise and existing reach to engage audiences around the world. The intention was to piggy-back the on-

line trend for selfies, while challenging the image that many people have of Victorians as stuffy and overly formal. Images of funny-faced Victorian were placed on the internet and they received a staggering 4.5million impressions, a reach of 3.5million and 48,000 engagements. They featured on 182 primary websites and 907 secondary websites in over 30 different countries from the USA to Iran and the equivalent advertising value during the launch period alone was calculated at £157,000.

The shortlists are as follows:

PROJECT ON A LIMITED BUDGET:

• Victoria & Albert Museum: Architectural Drawing – Families Activity; • Black Country Museum: WW1 Greengrocers; • Southend Museums Service: The London Shipwreck Project; • Barker Langham on behalf of Drapers’ Company: Root & Branch - 650 Years of the Drapers’ Company; • Woodhorn Museum: Stand up for Woodhorn: Making a Case for Comedy in Museums.

THE MARKETING CAMPAIGN:

• The Natural History Museum: Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story; • Imperial War Museum: First World War Galleries; • National Maritime Museum: Ships, Clocks and Stars; • Oxford University Museum of Natural History: Goes to Town; • Luton Culture: Museums Makers; • Woodhorn Museum: Retronaut.

The results will be announced at a ceremony in London at the end of April when comedian Marcus Brigstocke will present the awards.

For the full awards shortlists, visit the Museums and Heritage website.