Museums + Heritage Awards

Judges give top entry tips as Museums + Heritage Awards deadline draws near

The deadline for this year’s Museum + Heritage Awards for Excellence is just three weeks away but there’s still plenty of time to get your organisation’s entry in and below four of the judges give their recommendations for a successul application

On Wednesday, February 1 the deadline for the Museums + Heritage Awards will have passed and out of the hundreds of submissions from museum and heritage attractions across the UK and internationally, the 2017 winners will emerge.

The awards, now in their 14th year, continue to generate public recognition for the winners and shortlistees and have been instrumental in helping many to secure funding and support from key stakeholders. Award winners have also enjoyed recognition both locally and further afield as the awards increasingly gain an international profile.

The entry process is made simple by a special brochure, which gives helpful tips and advice on what to include as well as all the relevant criteria, and the awards are open to all cultural organisations with a project completed or brought into use in 2016.

Once the deadline has passed, entries will be whittled down to a shortlist by the esteemed panel of judges made up of seven leading lights in the sector who look for evidence of ‘project outcome, creativity, relation to the objective and cost effectiveness’.


We're on the lookout for programmes and projects that are imaginative and impactful. And where the applicant’s love of their heritage and passion to share it with the public shines through - whether that’s on a community or an international scale. Read and respond to the criteria carefully, show us your quality and how you’ve made best use of your resources and we look forward to celebrating the best of our museums and heritage together.

Maggie Appleton, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Air Force Museum

Bernard Donoghue, Chairman, Tourism Alliance and Director, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions said that every year he was delighted and surprised at the superb examples of creative, fascinating work undertaken by inspiring people in our sector. “Challenging economic times demand creative responses and whether it’s restoration or fundraising, volunteering or marketing, our sector knows how to step-up,” he said. “Our judging day is always hugely enjoyable and educational; seeing evidence of the best projects and people in our sector is inspiring.”

Bernard Donoghue’s  tips for submitting an application are:

  • Read the criteria and then read them again
  • Lots of examples and case studies please
  • Be specific about what difference you made – i.e. Did you attract larger audiences, from where, compared to what etc.
  • What did you do that was unusual or risk-taking?

Diane Lees, Director General, IWM said the judges are looking to reward inspiring and creative ideas and projects, delivered brilliantly and demonstrating great results for the organisation and beyond. “It is as open as that! No one should feel unable to apply as its very hard not to find something that fits into the wide range of categories,” she said. “However, your application has to be just as great as the project! Clarity is key, a concise description that encapsulates the purpose of the activity, followed by evidence of the results and some good images are all you need. Our advice would be to get someone who doesn’t know your project to read through the application as a sense check.”

Sam Mullins, Director of London Transport Museum said he was looking for clever, creative, innovative good practice to inspire museums to up their game. “We look for a clear return on investment, focus on customer needs, an ability to learn quickly as an organisation and for imagination and creativity which will reflect well on the whole sector.”

Sam Mullins’ tips are:

  • Answer the questions; be short and sharp
  • Be clear on outcomes
  • Don’t overload with supportive material – choose a few things that nutshell your project, short sharp video works well
Oxford University Museum Of Natural History, Winner Of The Best Of The Best Award 2016

Last year the Best of the Best Winner and also Project on a Limited Budget was Oxford University Museum of Natural History: “To take the award at the end of the night was a huge thrill and surprise, especially against such stiff competition,” said Professor Paul Smith Director, Oxford University Museum Of Natural History. “These prizes reward an astonishing period of creativity and hard work since our museum re-opened in 2014 and I am very proud of everyone involved.”

The Black Country Living Museum won The Trading and Enterprise Award: “We were absolutely delighted to win such a prestigious award,” said Andrew Lovett, BCLM Director. “Remaining financially resilient is exceptionally important to us as a completely independent Museum. Our events programme and filming location hire have been successful examples of how it is possible to use our unique space in positive and creative ways.”

The full list of categories is as follows:

Permanent Exhibition sponsored by Martello Media
Temporary or Touring Exhibition sponsored by Displayways
Educational Initiative sponsored by schoolzone
Project on a Limited Budget
Innovation sponsored by The Hub
Marketing Campaign sponsored by Volunteer Makers
Trading & Enterprise supported by ACE
International Award sponsored by Securitas
Restoration or Conservation
Volunteer(s) of the Year in partnership with AIM, sponsored by BDRC
Fundraisers of the Year

The award winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at the historic staterooms of 8 Northumberland Avenue on 17 May where more than 300 industry professionals will converge in the heart of London to find out who has triumphed.

To enter the awards download the submission criteria and entry form from the Museums + Heritage website.