Three new judges welcomed to Museums + Heritage Awards panel 

Image: L-R Keith Merrin, Sally Shaw MBE, Deborah Smith

The new additions will make their debut on the panel, judging the 2024 Museums + Heritage Awards entries

Three new judges have joined the Museums + Heritage Awards panel, ahead of assessing this year’s entrants.

Keith Merrin joins as Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM), Merrin oversees its nine museums, which include three of the top five most visited free attractions in the North East (Great North Museum, Discovery and Laing Art Gallery), as well as two sites on the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage site. Together these venues welcome over 1 million visitors each year.  

Merrin was previously Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, Director of the National Glass Centre, Director of Museums Northumberland, Creative Director of NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Director of Marketing and Fundraising at the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

Merrin is Co-Chair of Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV), an executive committee member of the National Museum Directors Council (NMDC) and a board member of both the Virgin Money Foundation and North East Culture Partnership.

Sally Shaw MBE joins the panel as Director of Firstsite in Colchester. Shaw was previously Head of Programme at Modern Art Oxford, Deputy Head of Culture for the Mayor of London, Chief Curator for London Underground, Director of Media Art – Bath and Residency Programme Manager at Spike Island, Bristol. 

She has also established a number of independent projects and programmes including an independent commercial gallery in Bristol – LOT – and an artist residency programme in an open prison in Gloucestershire.  

Deborah Smith joins as the director of the Arts Council Collection, the most widely circulated national collection of modern and contemporary British art. She has worked as curator for a number of decades, exploring different strategies for collaboration and the presentation of interdisciplinary practices. 

She has delivered exhibitions alongside large-scale commissions, residencies, and publications, interwoven with programmes of learning, engagement and interpretation. In addition she is a shadow board member of The Box, Plymouth,  on the Art Collection Committee at the University of Warwick and on HS2’s Independent Design Panel.

Merrin, Shaw, and Smith join the existing judging panel, which includes Bernard Donoghue OBE, Director of ALVA: Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism of Historic Environment Scotland; Caro Howell MBE, Director General of Imperial War Museums; Dr Matthew Tanner MBE, who has worked in the maritime heritage sector for 20 years; Maggie Appleton MBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Air Force Museum and Sara Wajid MBE, joint CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust. 

The new judges join the panel as Dame Diane Lees, and Sam Mullins OBE depart. 

Museums + Heritage Director Anna Preedy said: “I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Di and Sam, for the time, energy and commitment that they have given to the awards. Their broad experience and depth of knowledge have been invaluable.

“I look forward to this year’s edition of the Museums + Heritage Awards, to working with Deborah, Sally and Keith and to the fresh perspective that they will bring.”

This year’s awards also feature a new category, the ‘Museums and Heritage Sector Impact Award’. More information about this year’s Awards categories, and details for entries, can be found on the Museums + Heritage Awards website. 

The new additions will make their debut on the panel, judging the 2024 Museums + Heritage Awards entries