Newmarket’s finest is taking on the Tate Modern in a race to a £100,000 prestigious prize.
The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art is one of five museums shortlisted for the prestigious Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017.
This is one of the largest prizes for museums in the world and previous winners include the V&A, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tate Britain.
The Newmarket centre, which was officially opened by The Queen in November, is the first sporting museum to be a finalist for the prize.
The other four on the list are the Tate Modern, London; The Lapworth Museum of Geology, Birmingham; Sir John Soane’s Museum, London; and The Helpworth Wakefield, Yorkshire.
Chris Garibaldi, director of the National Heritage Centre, said the museum is “thrilled and indeed honoured” to have been chosen as a finalist.
“It is recognition of so much hard work on the part of our fantastic staff, volunteers, trustees and the many supporters who have put their faith in the project over many years,” he said.
“The redevelopment project has resulted in the creation of a world-class tourist attraction in the new National Heritage Centre that has been transformational for Newmarket.
“We are about putting the community at the heart of everything we do and celebrating what makes our town and sporting industry unique.”
The winner will be revealed at the British Museum on 5 July and all four runners-up will receive £10,000.
Art Fund is asking visitors to the five finalists to share their best museum stories, reviews, photos and memories.
This can be done by emailing email@example.com or on social media, using the hashtag #museumoftheyear and tagging the museum in via the relevant handle: Facebook @palacehousenkt Twitter @palacehouse_nkt or Instagram @palacehouse_nkt
Before opening in its new home, in the remains of Charles II 17th century sporting palace and stables, the museum was based in Newmarket High Street.
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Hazel Courtley, community engagement and volunteering manager at the centre, said more than 200 people from the area have helped the museum move to its new base over the past two years.
“These volunteers have packed over 10,000 objects, cleaned items ready for display and raised awareness of the new heritage centre,” she said.
“[They have also] welcomed visitors from the very first day of opening, cared for horses and helped out at events, in the shop and at education workshops.
“They have been so enthusiastic and supportive, donating over 7,000 hours of their free time to make the heritage centre a success.
“Winning this award would be a fantastic way to say thank you to all of these amazing people.”
Briony Jackson, science learning and participation curator, said the live horses in the Retraining of Racehorses area give the public to get “closer to a racehorse than they can anywhere else”.
The centre has a ever-changing selection of ex-racehorses at its on-site yard and visitors can watch them ridden in an arena as part of their retraining.
Curator Graham Snelling added the creation of the new centre has been “a process of listening and learning”.
“The end result has been a heritage centre that will continue to develop,” he said.
“By engaging with visitors and the local community, we will ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn and benefit from their experience — but above all have fun and feel very much part of our continued exciting journey.”
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