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Birmingham's Lapworth Museum takes on Tate Modern for national award

Attraction which contains a collection of fossils and dinosaur bones will vie for title

David Bentley Look at those fangs! The skull of Smilodon - a sabre-tooth tiger - at Lapworth Museum of Geology
The Lapworth Museum of Geology

A small Birmingham museum is taking on the Tate Modern in London for the £100,000 Museum of the Year prize.

The Lapworth Museum of Geology, based at the University of Birmingham, is one of five contenders for the title of Art Fund Museum of the Year.

The attraction contains a collection of fossils, volcanic rocks and dinosaur bones and has been in the Aston Webb Building at the university's Edgbaston campus for almost a century.

Birmingham-based Associated Architects carried out a £2.7 million renovation of the museum in 2015 aimed at improving the collection's accessibility using new methods of display and provided dedicated facilities for school and community groups.

The Aston Webb Building is Grade II*-listed and the challenge of sensitively improving public accessibility to the museum, while preserving its architecture, was a key aspect the works and a primary focus for Heritage Lottery Funding.

The Lapworth had just 20,000 visitors a year before its redevelopment and now welcomes 50,000. Tate Modern, meanwhile, welcomes more than five million visitors each year.

The other three contenders on the shortlist are the Hepworth Wakefield, Sir John Soane's Museum in London and The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Newmarket.

Lapworth director Jon Clatworthy said: "The last year has been truly transformative, propelling the museum into the 21st century and making it accessible to a diverse new audience.

"The renovation of the space combined with a focus on digital technologies and interactive displays significantly enhances our public engagement and schools outreach with important scientific collections to help bring the story of evolution to life.

"Our visitors can now walk through time and gain unique insight into 4.5 billion years of history."

Richard Perry, director at Associated Architects, added: "It has been a fantastically rewarding project to be involved with.

"A shared vision with the university and wider team has been key to its success, blending contemporary design with a historically sensitive listed building to create a museum fit for the future."

The winning museum will receive £100,000, while the other shortlisted museums will receive £10,000 each.

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