Britain and Ireland have 4 nominees for European Museum of the Year: Here's what you need to know

21st Mar 19 | Lifestyle

Climate change simulators, ancient automobiles, and a vastly important military pencil.


It’s been a good couple of years for the museums of the British Isles.

In 2018 the London Design Museum won the coveted European Museum of the Year Award – an annual prize celebrating innovative displays and high-quality, forward-thinking exhibitions.

This year’s nominees have been revealed, so here are three things you need to know about each nominee from the UK and Ireland…

The D-Day Story, Portsmouth

Officially opened by the Queen Mother in 1984, the museum commemorates the story of D-Day through displays, documents, and clips of veterans who survived the invasion.

There’s a wide array of exhibits, ranging from the small and personal (the watch of a soldier killed in the fighting, and a telegram from a Dunkirk evacuee), to the vast and thunderous (an amphibious tank, and a giant German flamethrower).

The museum reopened last year after a £5 million revamp. Never-before-seen displays include the “pencil that started the invasion” – used by Lt Cdr John Harmer to sign off the first landings at Normandy.

The Cool Planet Experience, County Wicklow

Officially opened by Richard Branson in January 2018, the Cool Planet Experience (CPE) is thought to be the world’s first museum devoted to climate change.

Many of the exhibits are more like video games than museum displays – including the interactive climate change simulator, ‘Can you save your city?’

The CPE is nationwide. The CPE team are aiming to recruit 50 ‘climate change champions’ from every county in Ireland. These champions will take the climate change fight to the streets by giving presentations, writing to politicians, or talking to local media.

Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol

Brunel's SS Great Britain

When she was completed in 1845, the SS Great Britain was the longest passenger ship in the world. Designed by Bristol’s favourite son Isambard Kingdom Brunel (he was actually born in Portsmouth, don’t tell anyone), this steamer-turned-museum is now visited by 150,000-200,000 people a year.

The site features a land museum, the ship itself, and the ‘glass sea’ – glass panels that hold the ship in suspension so visitors can walk around beneath the hull. Brave guests can sign up for ‘Go Aloft’, and a chance to climb the ship’s rigging that stretches 25m into the sky.

Though now in tip-top shape, the SS Great Britain spent 33 years swimming with the fishes. After nearly a century of service she was sent to the seabed near the Falkland Islands in 1937, where she remained for more than three decades. She was finally salvaged in 1970, and towed more than 8,000 miles north to the dock of her birth.

The British Motor Museum, Warwickshire

Petrolheads rejoice, the British Motor Museum is home to more than 300 classic cars – including a 1907 Austin 30hp, a 1928 BMW Dixi, and the first ever 1948 Land Rover 80″.

The museum focuses on the best of British, showcasing some lesser-known doyens of British motoring such as AEC, Morgan and Albion, alongside established brands like Mini and Rolls Royce.

Upcoming events include a ‘Mini Motorists’ day for children, and  Summer exhibition ‘The Car. The Future. Me’ which will explore the futuristic designs and concepts that could dominate the roads of tomorrow.

© Press Association 2019