‘We’re over the moon’: Big award win for Herschel Museum of Astronomy’s small exhibition

May 17, 2019

Bath’s Herschel Museum of Astronomy has proved that a little can go a long way by winning a national award for successful exhibitions staged on a shoestring.

The Museums and Heritage Award recognised its 2018 Wonder Women of Space exhibition, which took place in one room and was mounted for less than £1,000. 

The Limited Budget Project of the Year category at the awards, which took place in London earlier this week, recognised exhibitions that achieved a big impact with a limited budget.

The judges were looking for creativity in the face of challenges to the sector, originality and diversity of offer, engagement with the community and with business partners and impressive results.

The big idea behind Wonder Women of Space, which ran for nine months and was inspired by an old 1952 comic, pictured below, was to link it with last year’s celebrations of the centenary of women’s suffrage by focussing on female space heroines and showing how these role models inspire young people today and change the way we see the world.

The museum on New King St also wanted to forge new partnerships with astronomical organisations locally and worldwide. During the exhibitionm the museum enjoyed a 31% increase in visitor numbers and 68% increases in followers on social media.

The exhibition was supported by a programme of family-focussed and space-themed craft activities plus talks from female scientists and several day and night-time stargazing opportunities in partnership with Bath Astronomers Group. Public lectures were a sell-out and school visits took off – in part due to the successful partnership with Bath Astronomers.

The award was collected by Dr Amy Frost, senior curator of the Bath Preservation Trust, which runs the Herschel Museum of Astronomy and three other Bath museums. 

She said: “We’re over the moon at this level of recognition and can’t thank the judges enough for seeing how hard and creatively we worked on this exhibtion and programe of events. As to even to be part of such a distinguised shortlist was a great reward. To win feels fantastic! We’re a charity, receiving no external funding, and couldn’t have run this project without the £1,000 grant we received from Bath & North East Somerset Council. Thank you to them, to our dedicated and excellent museums team – and to those incredible female space scientists, past and present, who inspire us with their genius.”

Chair of the judges and Imperial War Museums Director General Diane Lees CBE added: “The judges were impressed by the great return on investment this project achieved by cleverly linking to a specific object in its collection.”

he Herschel Museum of Astronomy’s 2019 exhibition is Invisible Light: William Herschel and Infrared.

The museum is based in the house where William Herschel, using a telescope of his own design, discovered the planet Uranus. His observations helped to double the known size of the solar system.

Pictured above: The Herschel Museum of Astronomy team celebrate after collecting their award from host, cleric and broadcaster Rev Richard Coles. Photo by Simon Callaghan Photography


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