Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust
The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is named after Sir Alfred Herbert, a local industrialist who provided the funding to build the museum which finally opened, following delays caused by the City’s devastation in the Second World War, in 1960. Its wide-ranging collections include the visual arts, social history, archaeology, natural history and archives.
The Herbert has now been re-launched after a £20 million redevelopment which has seen the existing building completely refurbished incorporating a striking contemporary glass atrium, eight new permanent galleries, a History Centre, creative media studios, three education spaces, five temporary exhibition galleries, collections stores (including a publicly accessible open store) and other visitor facilities.
The aim has been to retain the core values of curatorship and education while finding new ways of bringing art and history to life for a wider audience. The collections are presented in creative and accessible ways, and new users are engaged through active programmes of events, community outreach and a redeveloped marketing strategy.
The new temporary exhibition spaces make it possible for the Herbert to welcome touring exhibitions from national museums. They have exploited this opportunity to develop partnerships with the British Museum, V&A and other nationals, enabling them to bring leading exhibitions to regional audiences.
The quality of the new Herbert’s building and displays, together with its work to embed the memories and address the access needs of local people, have made it a focus for local pride in a city whose 20th century history has included wartime destruction, economic prosperity and decline, and demographic change.
This sense of ownership has contributed to the diversity of the current visitor profile. From a previous average of around 80,000 a year, visitor figures have risen to 311,000 and feedback has been exceptionally positive.
Project cost: £20 million, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Foundation, Coventry City Council and Renaissance West Midlands
Some of your comments:
I like the beautiful airy new hall, built of wood. It is a great space and it really works well to have the history centre, which used to be lost in the main library, in the museum. It just feels good going there. And the new café is excellent and very affordable. It is a huge improvement to the old museum, to the old Stalinist facade of the building, and to the feeling of life and space inside.
I feel that the Herbert Gallery should win this prize as someone who has made use of the gallery as a valuable resource for my professional work. I found the gallery staff open to new ways of working within the Coventry community and the gallery continues to work hard on making itself accessible to those that would normally find this kind of arena inaccessible and intimidating. As a member of this community I often make use of the variety of spaces offered and enjoy taking my child, family and friends there to share in the space.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum brings life into the hearts of Coventry public and also visitors. It is the place for inspiration and a great learning environment. The structure of the building itself represents a classy touch of modern Britain Art. The place is one of a kind and deserves to be seen as a role model in the Art industry. It is a place of everyone to visit which I believe is vital.
In a city with few cultural facilities or resources (it missed out on Victorian philanthropy and the bombing was a deep set back in its cultural life) the Herbert plays a vital part in the city of Coventry's life and in its self-understanding. The new extension is a landmark piece of architectural art in its own right, its collection is excellent and its imaginative exhibitions, often celebrating the life and history of Coventry, are a great asset to the people of the city and a vital contribution to our common life.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is a wonderful creative landmark in the City of Coventry. It has a lot to offer to its diverse people, with varied interests and accommodates all ages and cultures. Coventry deserves more and we really want the Herbert to win so that all in Coventry and the region benefit from it.
The Herbert is a place I visited as child on school trips and with friends and family at the weekends. It’s constantly growing expanding and encouraging all to go and interact with the past present and future, thoughts ideas and concepts. A friend rang me from inside the Herbert last week and said, "It’s heaving in here". Surely this is what all museums dream of in order to secure their future. Thank you all who have worked, do and will work there to continue Coventry's history.
I think The Herbert should win because it is so good. The staff are so approachable and encourage all communities to be part of the museum. They encourage diversity and inclusion; they listen to suggestions. They always have interesting exhibitions and all ages go to it. They should win and be recognised for all the hard work they do.
The Herbert Art gallery is exceptional. Since the revamp it has become a cultural centre of the city and, finally, Coventry has an art gallery it can be proud of. I and many friends grew up having to go to Birmingham, London and Liverpool to see great art but now, with a gallery slap bang in the middle of the city, we no longer have to. The Herbert has a great vibe. It is a modern, cool and welcoming gallery and being at the heart of Coventry University it has a youthful energy which really makes you feel like you're a part of something. This place is brilliant and has come a long way in a very short time.
We took a group of Visually/Hearing Impaired students to the Herbert last year and the staff really pulled out all stops to ensure our Learners got the most from the visit - talking to them, allowing those who could not see/hear to touch sculptures and other objects, not normally permitted. I'll never forget the trip and the enthusiasm of our learners afterwards.