A tiny Edwardian museum of rocks and fossils will take on Tate Modern for the £100,000 Museum of the Year prize.
The Lapworth Museum of Geology, attached to the University of Birmingham, counts dinosaur bones and volcanic rocks among its specimens.
It had just 20,000 visitors a year before a £2.7 million development, and has attracted 50,000 since reopening in June last year.
Tate Modern welcomed 5.8 million visitors last year, and has been nominated for new developments including The Tanks performance space.
The other three contenders on the shortlist are the Hepworth Wakefield, built around the works of Dame Barbara Hepworth; Sir John Soane’s Museum, a 19th century townhouse filled with the collection of the great neo-classical architect; and The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Newmarket.
The latter was opened by the Queen in November and combines a history of racing with the opportunity to meet former racehorses.
Stephen Deuchar, chairman of the jury, 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 new ways of seeing and understanding their collections.”
The winning museum will receive £100,000. For the first time in the competition’s history, the other shortlisted museums will receive £10,000 each. The winner will be announced on July 5.