Thursday October 31 2019

Six of our outstanding museums and their teams have been announced as winners in this year’s Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards, at a ceremony in Ipswich yesterday evening (30 October).

The awards are a great way to raise the profile and celebrate all Suffolk Museums. I would therefore like to congratulate you all, not just the winning and nominated museums, for all the fantastic work you do all year round.

The winners of the Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards 2019

The winners are:

Small Museum of the Year: Bawdsey Radar, Bawdsey

The judges felt that this museum has seen the most incredible transformation. The presentation is outstanding, and the building and stories contained within have been presented to the standard of a national museum.

Large Museum of the Year: The Red House, Aldeburgh

The judges felt that the organisation had made a big effort to transform its offer to attract, welcome and inspire a greater range of visitors. The museum’s interaction with schools and young people has more than tripled and it has embarked on an innovative digital project to broaden its audience reach even further.

Volunteers of the Year: The Natural Science Volunteer Team at Ipswich Museum

The judges identified that this team’s work has had a profound impact on the museum. Their tireless effort and dedication to efficiently archiving and cataloguing part of the museum’s collection has meant that collections are properly listed and more accessible.

Family Friendly Award: Lowestoft Maritime Museum, Lowestoft

The judges chose this museum due to its marked improvement in engaging families, with a 65% increase in the number of young people that visit the museum. Captain Crabbe and Admiral the cat have become recognisable family-friendly symbols for the museum.

Innovation Award: Ipswich Museum, Ipswich

The judges were impressed with a project Ipswich Museum ran with partners to support the most vulnerable local families into sustainable employment through a holistic approach that included encouraging people to access culture and heritage.

Schools Session Award: Palace House, Newmarket

The judges noted that the small learning team at Palace House has developed a comprehensive learning offer with hands-on workshops, self-led visits with trails for school groups from pre-school to undergraduates. Teacher feedback has been very positive.

Object of the Year: A tin of Chocolate Worm Cakes from the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket.

This was chosen by the public in an online vote in August, receiving 41% of the 722 votes. With an intriguing name and a curious and attractive design, a Chocolate Worm Cake was actually a lot less glamourous than the label suggests. Chocolate Worm Cakes were used to treat tape worm infestations in humans, especially children. The tin is from circa 1905 and is from a chemist shop in Ipswich called J. Threadkell which ran from 1890-1972.

In addition, the following museums and volunteers were recognised as highly commended:

The winning and Highly Commended Volunteers of the Year will be put forward for the SHARE Museums East regional volunteer awards due to be launched at the SHARE conference in November.

Winners were chosen by a judging panel including Museum Development Officers from Essex and Cambridgeshire, the Editor of Families Suffolk Magazine, and an academic from the University of Suffolk. They reviewed the 49 nominations that were made for all of the award categories, representing 21 of our museums.

Mary Wain, recently retired Chair of Bawdsey Radar Trust, who collected the Small Museum of the Year Award on behalf of Bawdsey Radar, said: “This is the best possible prize for the incredible amount of hard work that has been put in over the last 15 years by the team of volunteers.”

Dr Christopher Hilton, Head of Archive and Library at The Red House, who collected the Large Museum of the Year Award on behalf of the organisation, said: “We are really honoured to be chosen as Large Museum of the Year from such a strong field. The Red House is the home of Benjamin Britten who was both a figure of global importance and a proud Suffolk boy. The Award is in a sense for Britten himself – an indication of what he means to the county.”

Adrian Chalkley from The Natural Science Volunteer Team at Ipswich Museum, who won the Volunteers of the Year Award, said: “This award is a wonderful acknowledgement of the work we undertake with pleasure and purpose working alongside staff at the museum. Our volunteer team are fully integrated with the museum’s core mission to improve awareness and access to the unique and inspiring natural sciences collection at Ipswich Museums and we are pleased to continue this commitment to a very worthwhile public cause.”