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Rejuvenated William Morris Gallery wins £100,000 Museum of the Year prize

Adam Sherwin, The Independent

The William Morris Gallery, which reopened last year at the childhood home of the British Arts and Crafts pioneer following a £5 million overhaul, has been named Museum of the Year.

The parkland villa in Walthamstow, East London, took the £100,000 prize, awarded by the Art Fund to the institution which has demonstrated excellence and innovation over the previous year.

The Georgian house now incorporates touchscreens and interactive activities to illuminate Morris’s passion for philosophy and radical politics as well as his famous wallpaper designs.

Its nine rooms display his curlicue tapestries, experiments in embroidery as well as examples of Morris’s later enthusiasm for printing, including an illustrated Chaucer anthology.

The judges for the UK’s most valuable arts prize included Labour MP Tristram Hunt and historian Bettany Hughes.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund and chair of the judges, said: “This truly is Museum of the Year. Its extraordinary collections, beautifully presented, draw the visitor engagingly through Morris’s life and work and through the building itself.

“Setting the highest standards of curatorship, and reaching out impressively to its local community, it offers a memorable way of experiencing art of the highest quality in the context of a great historic personality.”

The £10,000 Clore Award was awarded to The Hepworth Wakefield for its “world-class” education programme. The award recognises achievements in learning programmes for children and young people.

Ian Hislop announced the winners at an award ceremony held at the V&A in London and broadcast live on Radio 4’s Front Row programme.

The William Morris Gallery is the only public space devoted to the life, work and legacy of William Morris: designer, artist, writer, thinker and father of the modern arts and crafts movement. Home to the British artist, his widowed mother and eight siblings from 1848 until 1856, the Grade II listed Georgian house is set in Lloyd Park in North East London.

Transformed from local treasure to world-class visitor attraction, in its first six months the Gallery has welcomed over 80,000 visitors including thousands of schoolchildren.

© The Independent