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Endless Forms catalogue wins prestigious award

The catalogue accompanying the Fitzwilliam Museum's record-breaking exhibition Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts has been awarded the 2009 William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History. This publication explores the interconnection between the theories of Charles Darwin and the art of the nineteenth century. Edited by the exhibition's curators Jane Munro and Diana Donald, the catalogue was acclaimed as "well-argued and brilliantly illustrated" by The Art Newspaper. Robin Simon, leader of the judging panel and editor of the British Art Journal, said: "In terms of originality, the assessors of the Berger Prize were agreed, 'This book goes to the top.' One assessor 'had no idea of the material', adding, in a suitably scientific metaphor, 'This book breaks the thermometer.' The book is distinguished by its uniformly high quality of writing which is all the more striking as it is the work of several authors, and is a model of how to manage and present the work of several different contributors within one cover. The panel also wished to record that, although the prize went to the printed book, the exhibition was 'one of the most brilliant' they had seen in a very long while."

Jane Munro and Diana Donald commented that they were "thrilled that the book has been recognised in this way. We share the honour with contributing authors, colleagues at the Yale Center for British Art and especially with the book's scientific advisor, Professor James Secord (Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University) and Sally Salvesen of Yale University Press."

"Endless Forms was a huge success as an exhibition," says Dr. Timothy Potts, Fitzwilliam Museum Director, "both with the general public and with the many scholars and specialists who found in it so much new material and novel ideas. The catalogue is, if anything, even more important since it will be the vehicle through which the exhibition continues to have a lasting impact on scholarship. The award of the Berger Prize is wonderful confirmation of that impact and a well-deserved accolade for the two primary curators and authors, Jane Munro and Diana Donald. It sets a worryingly high benchmark for the future, but that is a very nice problem to have!"

The exhibition, which was on display at The Fitzwilliam Museum from 16 June to 4 October 2009, attracted the Museum's largest ever audience for a single exhibition with over 90,000 visitors. Featuring more than 200 exhibits from around the world, and juxtaposing paintings, drawings and sculpture with photographs, scientific studies and natural history specimens, Endless Forms was awarded Apollo magazine's Exhibition of the Year award, and was heralded as "curatorial genius" by the Daily Telegraph, "the most important and interesting of this year's anniversary exhibitions" by the Independent, and "brilliantly conceived and thought-provoking" by the Sunday Times. Organised by The Fitzwilliam Museum in association with the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, the exhibition in Cambridge was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of Darwin200 - a national programme celebrating Darwin's life, work and impact - and The Philecology Foundation, with additional support from Cambridge University Press and other donors.

18 August 2010

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