The £100,000 prize recognises excellence in museum and gallery exhibition design and refurbishment completed in the previous year.
The museum reopened to the public on 15 December 2011 following a £24 million transformation by architect Allies and Morrison, with exhibition design from Ralph Appelbaum.
The Clore Award for Museum Learning was awarded to Leicestershire County Council Heritage and Arts Service, for their Held in the Hand and Touch Tables programmes, and the Whitworth Art Gallery for the Manchester Early Years Partnership. Each organisation was awarded a £10,000 prize, recognizing museum and gallery learning with children and young people in or out of school.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, chair of the judging panel, says, ‘The new Royal Albert Memorial Museum is quite simply a magical place, modest in scale but vast in its ambition and imagination. The Victorian aspirations to bring the world to Exeter are stunningly realised through some of the most intelligently considered displays on view in any museum in the UK.
‘Every exhibit delights with a new surprise, and provokes with a new question, and at a time when local authority museums in particular are in such danger, this brilliant achievement proves how daring, adventurous and important such institutions can be.’
The Art Fund Prize was judged by an independent panel chaired by Lord Smith and featuring former Victorian & Albert Museum director Sir Mark Jones and architect Rick Mather.