Experience Barnsley has been selected as one of the five finalists for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021, the world’s largest museum prize.

The free museum has been built on the generosity of the people of the borough who have donated precious object and artefacts as well as sharing special stories, all of which are represented in the displays. It is the first ever museum dedicated to Barnsley and its people – representing its past, present and future. Seeing success, memories, people and places represented in this way has given the people of the borough a huge sense of civic pride.

The museum has genuine and essential links with communities and relationships are at the very heart of what they do, it’s these connections that has secured their place in the top five.

Experience Barnsley has been selected for the award because of its outstanding levels of engagement and impact on residents and users through their digital activity and outreach not just during the pandemic but every day. They support groups, individuals and communities right across the borough, targeting resources to those who need them the most.

During the pandemic the museum offered digital games, tours, concerts; becoming part of peoples lives and supporting communities at a time when it was most critical. Alongside this they distributed thousands of care packages to the most vulnerable in the borough.

The other four shortlisted museums are: Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry~Londonderry; Firstsite, Colchester; Thackray Museum of Medicine, Leeds; and Timespan, Helmsdale.

Lynn Dunning, Head of Barnsley Museums, said: “It’s a huge honour for Barnsley Museums to be included in the Museum of the Year Top 5. To sit alongside brilliant organisations, who over the last, challenging, twelve months have done such incredible things, really is a dream come true. Our digital, outreach and community work during the pandemic was really important to us, our communities and their stories are, and always will be, at the very heart of what we do. To keep connected with them and support them in times of crisis was critical. For our creativity and hard work to be recognised in this way means a lot to the whole of the team.  We want to thank Barnsley Council for their continued support as well as funders including The Arts Council, Historic England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The National Archives, partner organisations and our many other supporters as without them none of this work would have been possible.”

Art Fund annually shortlists five outstanding museums for the Museum of the Year prize. The 2021 edition reflects the resilience and imagination of museums throughout the pandemic. At this moment of museums re-opening and starting their recovery, the 2021 prize highlights and rewards the extraordinary ways in which museums have, over the past year, served and connected with their communities.

The winning museum will be announced at a ceremony in September and will receive £100,000. The other four shortlisted museums will each receive £15,000 in recognition of their achievements.

The members of this year’s judging panel, chaired by Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman, are: Maria Balshaw, director of Tate and chair of the National Museum Directors’ Council; Katrina Brown, director of The Common Guild and Art Fund trustee; Suhair Khan, strategic projects lead at Google; Edith Bowman, broadcaster and artist Thomas J Price.