The Natural History Museum has won an 'Oscar' for tourism, the 2004 Excellence in England Gold Award for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year.
The announcement was made at a special ceremony organised by Enjoy England, formerly the English Tourist Board, held at Kensington Palace on 22 April. The Museum was described as 'an outstanding attraction offering visitors a complete experience'.
'It's wonderful the Natural History Museum has been recognised for all the work we do to make visits rewarding, enjoyable and memorable for all', said Natural History Museum Director Sir Neil Chalmers. 'We're very proud of our achievements and opening the new Darwin Centre - offering our visitors a completely new way to experience our collections, developing exciting and innovative exhibitions and, of course, welcoming three million visitors each year.'
This year's judges were looking for examples of innovation and improvement work undertaken to advance a recovery in tourism, a high priority following the difficulties of recent years. To win, the Museum had to prove a commitment to enhancing visitor experiences and customer care, improving access for all and caring for the local community, local economy and environment. It also had to beat off top competition from the other short listed attractions, the Imperial War Museum of the North and the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
The new and innovative Darwin Centre was crucial to the Museum's win. Phase One opened in September 2002,turning the spotlight on the important role the Museum plays in generating knowledge about the natural world. A daily programme of free events called Darwin Centre Live enables visitors to meet some of the Museum's 300 researchers and curators who work with the collections. Visitors can also enjoy daily Darwin Centre Explore tours behind the scenes to see some of the Museum's 22 million specimens stored in spirit. Phase Two of the Darwin Centre will house millions of insect and plant specimens from the Museum's Entomology and Botany collections and is due to open in 2008.