Art Fund Museum of the Year Finalist

We were an Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 Finalist

On Thursday 27th April Art Fund announced that the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art was one of the five museums which had been selected as finalists for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017, the world’s largest and most prestigious prize for museums. The announcement was made by Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund’s Director, at an event at the British Museum live on BBC Radio 4!

We are thrilled and indeed honoured to have been selected as a finalist for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017. It is recognition of so much hard work on the part of our fantastic staff, volunteers, Trustees and the many supporters who have put their faith in the project over many years. The redevelopment project has resulted in the creation of a world class tourist attraction in the new National Heritage Centre that has been transformational for Newmarket. We are about putting the community at the heart of everything we do and celebrating what makes our town and sporting industry unique.

Chris Garibaldi, Director

It was an amazing achievement to be shortlisted for this prize and something that everyone associated with the project is hugely proud of. It is a huge accolade for the racing industry – that their Museum has been shortlisted not only because it showcases the wonderfully rich history of the sport but because it is the first ever sporting museum to have been chosen.

The shortlisted museums from 2017 were: The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, Newmarket; The Lapworth Museum of Geology, Birmingham; Sir John Soane’s Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; and The Hepworth Wakefield.

The 2017 jury, chaired by Dr Stephen Deuchar CBE, comprised: Professor Richard Deacon CBE; Dr Hartwig Fischer; Munira Mirza; and Jo Whiley.

The winning museum was announced on the 5th July 2017 as The Hepworth Wakefield, receiving £100,000. In addition, for the first time ever, the other shortlisted museums received £10,000 to regognise their achievements. 

Speaking on behalf of the jury, Stephen Deuchar said: ‘Each of these museums has had a remarkable year, reaching - in a range of ways - new heights in their efforts to serve and inspire their visitors. Whether unveiling new buildings, galleries, displays or public programmes, all the finalists have shown a real commitment to innovation and experimentation, offering fresh perspectives and news ways of seeing and understanding their collections’.

How you supported our campaign

In 2017, Art Fund asked visitors to the five finalists to share their best museum stories, reviews, photos, memories and moments. Our visitors sent us a variety of imagery and thoughts across social media and via email utiligin the hashtag #museumoftheyear telling us why you felt we should win and for this, we're so grateful! Thank you all for your support over the past few years and we're looking forward to sharing more memories with you in the future. 

Read some of the wonderful comments that were left during the campaign!

Chris Garibaldi, Director with Patron, Her Majesty The Queen

Chris Garibaldi, Director:

“I couldn’t be prouder of the museum staff, volunteers and many supporters – to be selected for the short-list of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 is a fantastic accolade in itself andwonderful recognition of so much hard work by so many people. I would love us to win, as I think it would be an important validation of the work we are doing in creating not only a vibrant sports museum, a unique art gallery of British sporting art and a live horse experience under the banner of a single visitor experience but also an acknowledgement of how important this project is in the economic regeneration of the town. The direct benefit to Newmarket in terms of new jobs and training opportunities is significant but the indirect impact on the local economy of creating a sustained tourist footfall is equally important. The redevelopment has been all about developing a cultural hub in the heart of the town and celebrating what makes Newmarket special by being open to new ways of interpreting collections for the visiting public.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Duchess of Sutherland

“I thought that the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art was quite exceptional. I took a party of friends who were staying with me for racing and we were all absolutely thrilled by everything we saw. All those fantastic pictures and many other treasures and attractions, so beautifully exhibited and so many different aspects of racing and training and race-riding and life for the horses after their racing days are over. Something for everyone; be they knowledgeable or just interested, including an excellent restaurant and gift shop. I think this Museum is really going to be a huge asset to Newmarket and bring a great deal of enjoyment to many.. 

Graham Snelling, Curator

Linda Hoggarth Vice Chair, Forest Heath Disability Forum

“The Forest Heath Disability Forum is of the firm opinion that the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art fully deserves to be a Museum of the Year finalist. Our members have been involved in advising and assisting the National Heritage Centre in ensuring that it is an experience that is accessible and inclusive to all people. Our views have been taken into account and acted upon with the outcome that this is a museum which welcomes people with any disability and enables them to thoroughly enjoy and benefit from their visit. We are continuing to work with Hazel and Briony to ensure that the National Heritage Centre continues to develop additional elements to assist disabled visitors such as the audio tour. Our relationship with them demonstrates how the National Heritage Centre is committed to ensuring excellent access and inclusion for disabled visitors throughout their visits. We hope it will win.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Sue Molloy

“I think we should win for the pure uniqueness. In one place, you can go from seeing the oldest skeleton of a racing thoroughbred through displays into the biological workings of this amazing animal and the history of the racing industry, and then bring the whole experience to life by meeting and greeting today's top equine athletes and watching the next stages as we embark on the ex-racehorses retraining programme with live displays in the Peter O’Sullevan Arena.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Philip Greenacre

“I recently visited the centre...and what an excellent surprise! I have no particular interest in horses and racing but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. A really imaginative mix of science, biology, history, and art and all beautifully curated and exhibited. We followed our tour of the centre with a delicious lunch in the cafe. I will definitely be recommending the Centre to others.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

David Oldrey

“The National Heritage Centre really does socket into and reflect the life of the local community in a way that must be exceedingly rare in a project of this type. Strong as is this year`s field for the Arts Fund prize it seems unlikely any of the other runners could match us in that area at least. In addition, the fact that our truly unique national heritage in sporting art has for so long lacked any institution as a flag bearer makes the whole scheme of far more than local interest. For those two very different reasons I feel we have good claims even in so strong a field as has turned out in this year`s prize contest.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Caroline McHugh

“I moved to Newmarket three years ago, just as the new museum project was beginning, and I knew little of horseracing. However a few visits to the old museum and its welcoming and knowledgeable staff made me realise just what a unique and historic town Newmarket is, and so I became involved as a volunteer. The new National Heritage Centre has given the town a much stronger and more vibrant identity and visitors an exciting opportunity to appreciate the "home of horseracing" which was often regarded as hidden behind closed doors. In the short time since the Centre's opening, it has provided a huge range of diverse events involving schoolchildren, young people and adults in the community as well as attracting visitors to our town. Finally, and most importantly, where else can one see the subjects displayed in a museum brought to life as effectively as here where former racehorses are retrained for useful lives and the public can see a range of events demonstrating the versatility of the horse? I love this little town and am proud to be involved in some very small way with The National Heritage Centre.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Gill Edmonds

“I have visited the museum three times since it opened and although I know very little about flat racing I love it, each time there is something new to see, like new pictures or photographs or demonstrations outside. It is a beautiful space and well designed. The Tack Room is a great place to eat and drink during the visit too. It should definitely win Art Fund Museum of the year.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Jill Korwin

“The museum is far more than the National Heritage Centre for Sporting Art; it is an inspiring demonstration of what groups and individuals (with different views as to how Newmarket should develop) can deliver when they work together to deliver a bold vision. It is a place of learning, reflection, and inspiration. It is widely used as a place to meet, formally and informally, and whenever I walk into it I am reminded how much can be achieved when people work together. It serves as an inspiration for the town and beyond and creates a positive focus and energy for every visitor and for any event held there.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

W J Gredley Esq

The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art, at Palace House, Newmarket has been a spectacular success and enhances the cultural and historical aspects of Newmarket as a horse training and breeding centre. I have seen a number of other horse racing museums around the world including at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga, USA which whilst it is exceedingly good, the Museum in Newmarket by far exceeds it. Newmarket Heritage Centre enables all walks of life to understand the horse and it is breath-taking to see how wonderful the final result of the restoration is with features tastefully refurbished to a very high standard. In my opinion, the Museum is a unique and much-needed Museum remembering that racing in the past has perhaps been the major contributor of bringing the Establishment and Working classes together - Uniting Two Societies.

Cheryl & Michael Blake

Richard Frisby, Trustee

“ Until you have visited the Heritage Centre in Newmarket, one might perceive it as a niche museum. This could not be further from the truth, it provides a kaleidoscope of interests that also appeal to all ages. This includes pageantry, history, a spectacular collection of art, architecture, restoration, sport, live animals, a strong theme of education and a marvelous platform that both records the past and advertises the wonderful spectacle of many sports, the heroes involved in the sport, both human and in particular equine. The Heritage Centre has rejuvenated and put a stronger heart beat into the cultural values of Newmarket through its core themes of the history of horseracing, sporting art and the retraining of racehorses. It has been a community project that has drawn together many local people from a wide variety of backgrounds, producing a strong and vibrant museum. For a museum in its first year, just to be selected for this award is a huge accolade for ‘the project’ and all those that have made it happen. There will be much more to come in future years.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Lucy Clarke, Volunteer

“ I am very proud to volunteer at the National Heritage Centre in Newmarket. I recently did a volunteer shift with a school party and watched a young boy showing his class mates how to hold reins in the Gibson Saddle room. The boy went into the yard where visitors can meet the horses and flung himself under the horse's neck and hugged it. The horse moved forward, nuzzled the boy and they both looked SO happy, there was a magical connection; I felt like I was watching a child 'horse whisperer'. The teacher told me that this child was usually very quiet at school (he was probably on the autistic spectrum) but at his day out at the National Heritage Museum she said he "SHONE". I was very moved, it was a priceless moment. I think the Museum should win the award because it gives an opportunity for children like the one I met, to SHINE. This boy was in his element, learning things outside of a classroom and interacting with his classmates in a way he never had before.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Barbara Di Vita, Newmarket Community Choir

“ Our place in Palace House Mews is so important to us. It is in the center of Newmarket so many members can walk to rehearsals. It is the right size, just big enough but not barn like. Jim our caretaker is very kind and helpful and Wenda who has looked after us tolerates our odd idiosyncrasies with patience and a smile. The acoustics are good and now we feel we are also in the cultural and Horseracing Heart of Newmarket. We are and always will be Newmarket Community Choir and very much appreciate having our home in the new National Heritage Centre. Working together to serve our community.”

Philip Nightingale, Visitor

Philip Nightingale

“ We have just spent a great day at the 'Palace' not just a history education in everything horse racing, we spend much of the afternoon watching the British men's and ladies teams training for Horseball. Never heard of it before well neither had we until today. A really fast action game on horseback, now totally hooked, not your everyday museum experience, but that is the Palace, always changing, with something new every trip. Great day out ”

Cheryl & Michael Blake

Cheryl & Michael Blake

“ I think you should win because the whole experience is Newmarket. Fun, informative, competitive and educational. We shall be returning on our annual tickets again and again. .”

Philip Nightingale, Visitor


“ At first I was hesitant that this would be a small, silly local museum. Thankfully I was way off in my initial impression. The museum is one of the better, more engaging museums I've been too recently. The exhibits are extremely interesting and technology is used very well to keep you interested in the subject at hand.”

Cheryl & Michael Blake


“ We visited the museum on a really wet day receiving a warm welcome from the friendly and helpful front desk team. We were then delighted to start with a coffee in the excellent on-site restaurant with views of the yard. Far from our spirits being diminished by the weather we came away from the Centre buzzing with all we'd seen and experienced. The museum itself is a cornucopia of horseracing history and artefacts. The exhibits trace the sport from its early beginnings to the present day using a range of methods from paintings, objects, memorabilia, interactive exhibits and excellent audio/visual presentations - all accompanied by well-written and informative textual explanations. We were also treated to an outside demonstration by the Retraining of Racehorses team giving knowledgeable answers to our many questions. .”

Alex Wilson, Director

Alex Wilson, Director Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough councils

“The museum is the result of multiple organisations and individuals having a clear and shared vision and resolutely pursuing it for many years. Without that skill and effort, not only would we not have such a fantastic attraction, which is central to the future of Newmarket as a town, but priceless historic buildings would have been lost for ever. For that reason alone, the project deserves national recognition. Also for that reason, my own (very personal) favourite thing in the museum is the way that the early sash window in Palace House and the stonemason’s workings in the new exhibition spaces are made a feature, linking the current use back to the building’s origins”

Margaret Greeves, Trusteeor

Margaret Greeves, Trustee

“The newly opened National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art is an experience:
It is more than a usual museum visit, you can feel and smell the horses and learn so much about them from their physiology to their history and racing. But then it is more than the horses: it has an art gallery attached in the former palace of King Charles II and a simulator for would-be jockeys of all ages, and a wonderful cafe, The Tack Room, and a fabulous shop. It needs to be visited and experienced now! It is a gem and it’s a bargain, too. But full admission once and you can return as often as you like within a year.”

Gill Edmunds, Visitor

Gill Edmunds, Visitor

“I have visited the museum three times since it opened and although I know very little about flat racing I love it, each time there is something new to see, like new pictures or photographs or demonstrations outside. It is a beautiful space and well designed.The Tack Room is a great place to eat and drink during the visit too.

It should definitely win Art Fund Museum of the year.”



“The new horse racing museum is outstanding- firstly the galleries have been hung beautifully and show a truly impressive collection of sporting art and memorabilia - then over the road there is so much to take in- clearly a lot of thought has gone into it. The addition of live horses to meet and events to watch in the arena outside give the museum an important extra dimension. I hope they win museum of the year as they most certainly deserve it.”

Derek Lewis, Trustee

Derek Lewis, Trustee

“Having been born in Cheltenham, my inheritance is of course National Hunt Racing, but The Heritage Centre is much more than merely a collection of horse racing memorabilia. The Centre, combining three separate charities, is unique in that it provides in one place the opportunity to see the retraining of well known racehorses after their retirement from racing, the exhibition of original pictures and drawings covering several sports, a positive feast for amateur collectors and enthusiastic followers of famous sporting artists, and the display in a most modern setting, of unique items and presentations which trace horse racing from its inception to the modern day. Overall an educational treat for both adults and children.”

Kate Austin, Visitor

Kate Austin, Visitor

“If I had a vote, the Heritage Centre in Newmarket would win, hooves down!! It incorporates both the Fine & Applied Arts in two, easy to access, historic buildings. It opens, through its main theme of horseracing, a door into our social history: the sport of kings (& Queens!), being developed through partnership with the 'common man' - farrier, groom, stud hand, trainer & jockey! All of these crafts are celebrated in the incredible variety of exhibits. These are enhanced by superb audio-visual experiences, The Trophy Room is a breathtaking example. The Sporting Art collection allows us to enjoy a field that is perhaps, overlooked whenever 'Art' is discussed. It's not just Stubbs & Munnings! The decision to hold the annual SEA exhibition here is a stroke of genius - ensuring current artists & sculptors are given a public showcase at the HQ of Racing Many staff are local community volunteers, able to convey their particular enthusiasms. Local business provides the catering.

For me, the piece de resistance is the 'living museum' that features ex-racehorses making the transition to a life after racing. Watching visitors meeting these wonderful Thoroughbreds; learning what they're retraining for, is to realise how vital this section is for educating the racing fan & general visitor. It's up close, personal & good for the soul!Your admission ticket will convert to a year-long membership; there's a small discount for seniors & other groups. Lifts & ramps enable wheelchair access.There's no doubt in my mind that this wonderful museum deserves to win this prize. In a town full of history, it is an absolute gem.”

Guy Morrison, Trustee

Guy Morrison, Trustee

“The New National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art deserves to be a finalist. An inspired collaboration between three charities, which has taken many years of hard graft, it offers something for everybody and of all ages, and is a project that Newmarket can be proud of.”

Mayor of Newmarket, Cllr Andy Drummond

Mayor of Newmarket, Cllr Andy Drummond

I am absolutely delighted that the Heritage Centre finds itself in such prestigious company as a Museum of the Year finalist. Forest Heath’s commitment to this world class project began in the 1990s when we bought Palace House to protect it from unsympathetic development, and I pay tribute to the magnificent partnership between the public sector, horseracing industry, heritage sector and local community that delivered the Museum. I also think its talented and dedicated staff, who are making it a hub for the community as well as an international visitor attraction.

Alan Grundy, Racing Curator

Alan Grundy, Racing Curator:

“The foundation documents and artefacts that established the Thoroughbred and horseracing in this country, and around the world, can be found in the National Horseracing Museum. These cannot be seen together anywhere else on the planet. An engaging explanation of why the Thoroughbred is such a unique athlete is provided along with the opportunity to be up close to retired Thoroughbreds. The Heritage Centre is not inward looking as the sport of horseracing is explored in the context of British society and culture through story graphics and Sporting Art.”

Hazel Courtley, Community Engagement & Volunteering Manager

Hazel Courtley, Community Engagement & Volunteering Manager:

“During the last two years, over 200 local people have helped us to move to the new Heritage Centre and open up ready for visitors. These volunteers have packed over 10,000 objects, cleaned items ready for display, raised awareness of the new Heritage Centre, welcomed visitors from the very first day of opening, cared for horses and helped out at events, in the shop and at education workshops.

They have been so enthusiastic and supportive donating over 7,000 hours of their free time to make the heritage centre a success. Winning this award would be a fantastic way to say thank you to all of these amazing people.”

Briony Jackson, Science Learning and Participation Curator

Briony Jackson, Science Learning and Participation Curator:

“We should win Museum of the Year as we have a unique collection that embraces the Arts, History, and Science within the theme of horse racing, British sports and British artists. The new galleries provide a holistic engagement offer with something for everyone’s interest and all ages. The live horses allow the general public to get closer to a racehorse than they can anywhere else, giving a contemporary and living context to the galleries. As an organisation we are passionate about engaging all audiences with our stories, historic buildings, and collections.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Graham Snelling, Curator:

“This has been a project in the making over a period of ten years which has now delivered a Heritage Centre that is of international significance, showcasing some superb sporting art and reflecting the second largest spectator sport in Great Britain, horseracing. Throughout the planning stages from day one we communicated with our visitors, the local community and the general public about our plans for the new Heritage Centre, giving everyone an opportunity to express their point of view on displays, location and what they want to see. It has very much been a process of listening and learning. The end result has been a Heritage Centre that will continue to develop by engaging with visitors and the local community to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn and benefit from their experience but above all to have fun and feel very much part of our continued exciting journey.”

Graham Snelling, Curator

Andrew Bengough

I would like to lend my support for the museum to be awarded the Prize for the Museum of the year. It is such an inspiring place and shows what a wonderful Heritage the Thoroughbred is.

Graham Snelling, Curator

Andy Allen

The National Horseracing Museum is a fantastic experience.  Being able to meet the ex-racehorses in the RoR centre attached to the National Heritage Centre is a truly unique experience.