Home eLibrary EMF Newsletter - January 2015
Council of Europe 2015 Prize

The Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2015 has been awarded to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM) in Marseille, France.

The museum was selected for the prize from a shortlist of three candidates by the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The museum displayed “a new and innovative concept, in a breathtaking site with outstanding architecture, which perfectly fulfils all the criteria of the Council of Europe Museum Prize,” said PACE’s rapporteur on the prize Vesna Marjanovic (Serbia, SOC).

MUCEM explores the Mediterranean as the birthplace of civilisations and a crossroads of both European and Arab cultures. Ms Marjanovic particularly praised the museum’s role as a “contemporary Agora”, attracting a wide public with an impressive programme of educational visits, debates with artists and writers, seminars, festivals and concerts.

The prize is decided on the basis of a shortlist presented by a jury of the European Museum Forum, and forms part of the European Museum of the Year Awards.

The Council of Europe Museum Prize has been awarded annually since 1977 to a museum judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding of European cultural heritage.

MUCEM website
EMF – a significant stakeholder in promoting innovation in museum practice

The European Museum Forum has been a consortium member in implementing the eCultValue project for which a grant from the EU 7th framework Support Action Programme was received. The programme encourages innovation and competitiveness in EU countries and we are proud to say that EMF recognises the value of public engagement of museums and fosters exchange of best practice and ideas across Europe including new technologies. The eCultValue project is aware that cultural heritage is virtually a field of unlimited possibilities, and combined with the use of new technologies, it has the potential to become an important sector to leverage Europe's economic and societal goals in the frame of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Therefore, the EMF also send the contribution to EC public consultation on the Europe 2020 Strategy in late October 2014.

The project has already completed all major events – Dialogue Days and several workshops - which gathered almost 300 museum professionals in different European countries. The target participants in workshops were younger museum professionals interested in new technologies and the project gathered a significant group of experts who will act as ambassadors in cultural heritages institutions. The on-line platform www.ecultobservatory.eu is still open for those who would like to showcase their museum achievements, join in as individual supporters or to create their museum profiles and promote success stories from their institutions.

The project has also opened a vivid discussion on new technologies and how their future usage can influence museum organisations. The eCultValue project has been promoted in November during the Museum Digit conference held in Budapest and during the NEMO meeting in Bologna in November 2014 where the EMF Chair of the Board of Trustees, Goranka Horjan participated as invited guest. The project also emphasized one of the basic objectives of the European Museum Forum i.e. to carry out the discussion on innovation in museums, on the needs of different museum stakeholders and on public quality.

Partnership with NEMO

The EMF main goal is to serve as an information centre with a wide access to best practice examples in the museum sector in Europe. In order to do it in a successful way EMF is dedicated to create partnerships with other museum organisations. The common objective is to strengthen the position of museums in the times of crises and implement activities to widen and exchange knowledge in cooperation programmes.

In line with the already established partnerships and the growing awareness that museums and professional organisations should join forces in order to secure better position for heritage institutions and particularly museums in the period to come, especially related to decision makers. Better position of museums requires constant monitoring and prompt actions in the time of financial upheavals. Although many governmental bodies stress the importance of culture and museums, the percentage of the budget secured for the activities in the sector is constantly dropping.

The meeting held on 8th November 2014 in Bologna with several representatives of NEMO, ICOM Europe, EMA and EMF had a purpose to map what organisations do in improving the current state of affairs. All organisations are open for suggestions and ready to have better coordination in order to achieve common objectives. Several steps have been marked to meet the expectations for cooperation like creation of a joint platform, encouragement of personal relations that could help in making formal events and to easy the participation in EU projects.

Further challenge is to find a good format that could enable organisation to lobby for museums and to envisage the potential of future alliances. All participants stressed the importance of free exchange on what next possible steps are and how to connect strengths and create a strategic approach to deal with vital issues for museums. Next meeting is envisaged during the EMYA 2015 Glasgow event with the future collaboration in focus. 

Interview with the EMYA 2013 Kenneth Hudson winners : Batalha Community Museum, Portugal

Several months after their prize we we met Ana Luisa Moderno and Cintia Manuela to speak about their feelings after winning the Keneth Hudson prize.

To read the interview click here

Art imitating Life: how the Venice Biennale captures the themes of museum-making

It is a great privilege to be a judge for the European Museum of the Year awards, though as I set off across Europe on budget airlines at the start of August, I am often mistaken for a member of Easyjet crew, with my trusty orange suitcase!  These days the transfer of ideas from one nation state to another is far easier than it must have been for our pioneering predecessors in the last century, but still it is exciting to join up the dots and to understand how ideas, particularly ideas about social justice, are ebbing and flowing across the EU, manifesting themselves in different ways according to national character, politics and economic possibility.

In summer 2012 for example during the same trip to Portugal which took me to the award-winning Batalha Community Museum (referenced elsewhere in this newsletter), I also visited the National Museum of Machado de Castro in the university town of Coimbra.  There I found stunning new architecture juxtaposed with the very old; rich and prestigious collections; but also important work going on with excluded communities, particularly those suffering from dementia and those who care for them.  I was impressed by the partnerships the museum had developed with the university, meaning that their work was not only improving the lives of those participating in workshops, but it was feeding research which would influence the treatment of future patients and perhaps even shape future government policy on health and social care.  The very same issues were being tackled at the same time at the Museum of Liverpool, also an award winner in 2013, with their ground-breaking House of Memories.

The summer of 2013 saw me not only judging more museums but also spending a month in Venice to write an article about the secret gardens of Venice, and to “do” the Biennale.  Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and entitled “The Encyclopaedic Palace” the whole endeavour felt like a museum, sometimes an inverted one, and with many of our habitual themes emerging.  Here I saw reflected the same issues of social justice from my museum visits of 2012.  The Greek pavilion focussed on money, our loss of faith in it and the problems of social injustice associated with it, including a poignant film of a wealthy heiress with Alzheimer’s, folding enormous banknotes into paper flowers before throwing them out with the garbage.  The French and Germans had swapped pavilions for the season, provoking many wry comments about their historic occupation of each others’ territory and raising important questions of national identity, all of which appear in our museums. 

Looking at those commended at the 2014 European Museum of the Year awards - Žanis Lipke Memorial, Riga, Latvia; the Kazerne Dossin Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights in Mechelen, Belgium and Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial, Germany – it is clear that contested territory and contested memory remain constant themes of our museum-making.

And bringing me right up to date, the Venice Biennale that year also introduced me to Serbian art; unbeknown to me I would visit Serbia on my judging visits just a year later, in August 2014. Vladimir Peric and Milos Tomic’s works for the Serbian Pavilion at the Biennale were full of humour and warmth, resilience and determination.  These same qualities were manifest when I made my judging visits to museums in Serbia this summer and was overwhelmed by the diversity of their museums and the generosity of my hosts. I was even given a home-baked pie to take with me on my homeward journey (needless to say it was consumed long before I got to the airport!). 

There is no doubt for me that my involvement with EMYA is both a privilege and a pleasure!