And The European Museum Award Of The Year Goes To…

Barbie doll of bearded lady and Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst in the museum’s main exhibition © hdgö


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Barbie doll of bearded lady and Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst in the museum’s main exhibition © hdgö

And The European Museum Award Of The Year Goes To…


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The European Museum Forum has announced the winners of the European Museum of the Year Awards for 2020 and 2021. The winners in different categories under the EMYA scheme were presented at the online ceremony on 6 May 2021, bringing together members of the EMYA community including candidates, partners and friends.

Organised by the EMF and hosted by the Yeltsin Center, Russia, winner of the Kenneth Hudson Prize for 2017, the EMYA 2020 and 2021 Award Ceremony took place as a public, online event with all the 88 nominated museums participating (61 for EMYA2020 and 27 for EMYA2021). 

The different awards within the EMYA scheme reflect different aspects of the values of EMF. The main award is given to museums that achieve excellence in all aspects of museum work. The Council of Europe Museum Prize has a particular focus on the underpinning values of democracy and human rights.

 Kenneth Hudson Award for the House of Austrian History in Vienna

The Kenneth Hudson Award goes to the museum which is the most courageous in exploring what a museum can achieve. The Silletto Prize is awarded to museums that excel at engaging their communities and volunteers. The Portimão Museum prize goes to a museum which makes everyone feel that they are welcome and belong, regardless of background. The Meyvaert Museum Prize is conferred on museums that have made an exceptional contribution to sustainability. Special commendations are given to museums that have achieved excellence in a specific domain of museum work.

If you’ve missed out on cultural events during these lockdown periods, do watch the videos below for an immersive experience into each museum.


The European Museum of the Year Award goes to a museum that contributes most directly to attracting audiences and satisfying its visitors with a unique atmosphere, imaginative interpretation and presentation, a creative approach to education and social responsibility. In other words, the award is presented to the museum which achieves the highest level of what the founder of EMYA called “public quality”.

Past winners of EMYA have been both large and small museums, but all developed something which was special and changed the standards of quality in museums in Europe.

The European Museum of the Year 2020

Stapferhaus, Lenzburg, Switzerland

Presented by Mark O’Neill, Chair of the EMYA2020 Jury

The main award for 2020 goes to a museum that asks difficult questions, explores big ideas, and fosters a culture of debate. They choose themes based not on a collection but on rigorous research about what is important to their community, themes which most museums would not dream of addressing. Through its innovative, creative, and future-oriented approach, it offers a model for the museum as a laboratory for the art of living – as all museums should be. 

The European Museum of the Year 2021

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands

Presented by Marlen Mouliou, Chair of the EMYA2021 Jury

The winner of the European Museum of the Year 2021 main award is one of the largest museums of its kind, with an impressive research record and diverse collections that focus on topics with universal appeal. It is not only an organisation with a long history but also with an agile ability to transform. It is a very resourceful museum with beautiful exhibitions and a multitude of public services and events. As such, it is a very popular museum that engages visitors in compelling ways and invites us to feel strong emotions about the world that connects us all and reflect on how we can protect its beauty, preserve its biodiversity and be informed and responsible citizens regarding climate change.


Presented by Senator Roberto Rampi, Rapporteur, Council of Europe

The Council of Europe Museum Prize is awarded, based on the recommendations of the EMYA jury, by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to a museum that puts particular emphasis on European perspectives and the interplay between local and European identities, on a commitment to and presentation of key values of democracy, human rights, inter-cultural dialogue, of bridging cultures and overcoming social and political borders.

The Council of Europe Museum Prize 2020

The National Museum of Secret Surveillance “House of Leaves”, Tirana, Albania

The prize goes to a museum that puts particular emphasis on a clear presentation of a European perspective and shows initiative in presenting themes of European relevance adhering to the key values and priorities of the Council of Europe, not least those of democracy, human rights and intercultural dialogue.

This exceptional museum communicates the reality of how people can be compromised and coerced into collaboration. It makes a powerful statement about the nature of active citizenship in protecting democratic values and the importance of the rule of law and transparent institutions.

The Council of Europe Museum Prize 2021

GULAG History Museum, Moscow, Russian Federation

The GULAG History Museum documents mass repression and advocates for political freedom. As a human rights museum, it has a dual focus on the crimes of the state and the fate of its citizens, with an emphasis on how the victims maintained their dignity under dehumanising conditions. The museum’s programmes are designed to expose history and activate memory, with the goal of strengthening the resilience of civil society and its resistance to political repression and violation of human rights today and in the future.

It tackles with rare honesty some of the very difficult issues about human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the 20th century while establishing clear links with the challenging issues we face today in Europe. This museum can serve as a model to other museums in Europe to create a well-documented and moving memory of the past and stimulate reflection on democratic citizenship, particularly for younger generations.


Presented by Jette Sandahl, Chair of EMF Board of Trustees

The Kenneth Hudson Award honours the spirit of the founder of EMYA, and goes to a museum, person, project or a group of people who have demonstrated the most unusual, daring and, perhaps, controversial achievement that challenges common perceptions of the role and responsibility of museums in society. The winner is chosen by the EMF Board of Trustees and is not necessarily selected from the pool of the EMYA candidates.

The Kenneth Hudson Prize 2020

House of Austrian History, Vienna, Austria

Barbie doll of bearded lady and Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst in the museum’s main exhibition © hdgö

The Kenneth Hudson Prize for 2020 goes to an institution that demonstrates the potential of museums to promote the confident, reflective citizenship that comes from exploring and debating the past, no matter how difficult that past is. It is a model for any museum committed to addressing complex or painful historical legacies and to inspiring hope and courage for the future.

The Kenneth Hudson Prize 2021

CosmoCaixa, Barcelona, Spain

The winner of the Kenneth Hudson 2021 award is a museum that likes to continuously reinvent itself and challenge its visitors to think and feel about how they co-create a better world. Its way of work has been acknowledged as exemplary more than once but its curiosity about sciences and their contribution to society is never-ending.


Presented by Carol Jackson, Trustee, Silletto Trust

The Silletto Prize is sponsored by the Silletto Trust and goes to a museum that has demonstrated excellence in involving its local community in planning, developing and running museum and heritage projects or has attracted outstanding support from its work with volunteers with the goal to enhance the public quality of the museum.

The Silletto Prize 2020

14 Henrietta Street, Dublin, Ireland

Silletto Prize 2020 goes to a museum that preserves an important historic building and the stories and objects of the people who lived here while remaining embedded in the living community. Its people-centred approach provides a multi-layered experience that is meaningful for all visitors, through connecting local stories with universal human experiences.

The Silletto Prize 2021

Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum, Beşpınar, Turkey

The museum which has won this award for 2021, although young in age, has managed to find very effective ways to advocate the conscious return to local roots and heritage. It is very successful in engaging its local community and is equally forceful in demonstrating how cultural projects, which build on the richness of village heritage, can regenerate rural social and economic life. 


Presented by Isilda Varges Gomes, Mayor of Portimão (by video)

Introduced for the first time in 2019, the Portimão Museum Prize is sponsored by the Municipality of Portimão and celebrates a friendly atmosphere of welcome, where all visitors, regardless of their background, feel they belong in the museum. All elements of the museum – its human qualities and physical environment – contribute to the feeling of welcome, as do events and activities in and around the museum.

The Portimão Museum Prize 2020

MO Museum, Vilnius, Lithuania

For 2020 the Portimão Museum Prize goes to a museum that is exceptional in its commitment to cultural and intellectual access. It creates inspiring experiences for the widest possible range of visitors, enabling them to explore the relationship between contemporary art and contemporary life.

The Portimão Museum Prize 2021

Gruuthusemuseum in Brugges, Belgium

For 2021, the museum which has won this award is located in a beautiful city with a centuries-long history that serves as its setting. The museum’s high-quality renovation has transformed it into a fully accessible heritage site which now feels like an open welcoming house, designed to serve the needs of all of its guests.


Presented by Frank Boot, Director, Meyvaert

The Meyvaert Museum Prize for Sustainability is sponsored by Meyvaert and goes to a museum that demonstrates an exceptional commitment to social, economic and environmental sustainability in how it operates and/or how it presents issues of sustainability in its displays and programmes. Prior to 2020, before being introduced as an award, this prize was given as a special commendation for sustainability.

The Meyvaert Museum Prize for Sustainability 2020

Wadden Sea Centre, Ribe, Denmark

The synergy of storytelling, nature, science, and art in this museum makes for an unforgettable experience that is informative and reflective, spectacular and intelligent. It is a remarkable achievement, establishing a new global benchmark for nature visitor centres.

The Meyvaert Museum Prize for Sustainability 2021

Museum Walserhaus Gurin, Bosco Gurin, Switzerland

The museum which has won this award for 2021 stands out as an exemplary case of social sustainability within a rural context. It is located high up in the mountains and for several months faces adverse weather conditions. The community that runs it in the most agile way is highly committed and effective in safeguarding its culture, its traditions and its work as a collective that organises numerous activities around the tangible and intangible cultural and natural patrimony of its territory.

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