The battle begins to win Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2023

From big beasts like the Natural History Museum to Orkney’s bijou Scapa Flow Museum, this year’s shortlisted institutions share a desire to be useful, even in these cash-strapped times, says Richard Morrison

The Natural History Museum in London
The Natural History Museum in London
The Times

Feast or famine? Reasons to cheer or worry? It’s hard to decide on the day that the Art Fund publishes the shortlist for its Museum of the Year award — the world’s largest museum prize. Of the five shortlisted museums, three reopened during 2022 after renovations or expansions into which millions of pounds were poured, along with tons of energy, expertise and often radical rethinks.

Certainly cause for rejoicing there. Museums are no longer primarily repositories of dusty Saxon spoons, dodgily acquired colonial souvenirs and suchlike. What’s evident from the shortlist is that the best of them want to reflect the concerns of the modern world, and particularly of the communities in which they sit.

It could be the mighty Natural History Museum attracting 1.2