About / European Museum Forum (EMF) /

The EMF/EMYA is one of the leading organisations in Europe for developing the public quality of European museums and has established this primary position after over 40 years of providing its service. It runs the prestigious European Museum of the Year Award and is an important occasion for promoting innovative approaches in the museum sector throughout the whole continent.

The European Museum Forum (EMF) provides the legal and organisational framework for the annual European Museum of the Year Award scheme (EMYA). It is a registered Company in England and Wales, registration number 07243034 and has registered charitable status, UK Charity Number 1136790.

The EMF organisational governance is subject to strict regulation to ensure that all necessary checks and balances are in place between the Trustees, the Judges and the network of National Correspondents.

The EMF Board of Trustees consists of recognised experts in the cultural field and sets the policies, goals and priorities for the EMF. The Board provides stewardship for the organisation, is responsible for the financial health of the organisation through oversight and fund raising efforts.

Kenneth Hudson
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History

History

Kenneth Hudson

The European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) was founded in 1977 under the auspices of the Council of Europe, with the aim of recognising excellence in the European museum scene.

The Award scheme was conceived by three British founders (Kenneth Hudson, Richard Hoggart and John Letts). In 1997, on the initiative of Kenneth Hudson, the name of the organisation to organise the EMYA scheme was changed to European Museum Forum (EMF) to reflect the organisation’s expanded scope of activity and influence across Europe. The aim was to stimulate the international interchange of ideas and to create networks of inspiration.

From the very beginning the EMYA/EMF handed out two main awards: the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) and the Council of Europe Museum Prize. It soon became apparent that the Awards were an efficient instrument for tracking and highlighting the changes in European museums. The EMYA/EMF’s activity then evolved from a museum competition into a full embrace of the whole diverse range of challenges facing both the museum profession and the role of museums in a changing European society.

Over the years the EMYA/EMF has observed dramatic changes in the European museum landscape – both quantitative, involving a rapid growth in the number of museums, and qualitative, affecting how museums operate and how they are perceived. The EMYA/EMF has always been sensitive to those and other trends and tendencies. It was often first to pinpoint new approaches to the protection and interpretation of heritage, as well as new ways in which museums operate, before they were endorsed by intergovernmental organisations and the professional community.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, the EMYA/EMF was a strong advocate of smaller museums as they played a vital role in changing museum methodology.

In the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War and fall of the Iron Curtain, the EMYA/EMF played an important role in developing professional relationships between museums in Western and Eastern Europe. Post-communist countries joined the Council of Europe in the early 1990s, and this is when collaboration with the Council of Europe became especially meaningful and intense.

From the 2000s onwards the EMYA/ EMF observed and encouraged new approaches in European museums working with controversial heritage, intercultural heritage or intangible heritage.

After more than 40 years EMYA/EMF continues to tune into developments in European society and to describe, interpret, recommend and advise on the implications of these changes for the museum and heritage sector.

The wisdom of Kenneth Hudson

Kenneth Hudson founded the European Museum of the Year award in 1977. He was born in London in 1916. He worked as a BBC journalist and broadcaster, authored over 50 books, on everything from feminism and pawnbroaking to the first monograph in English on Industrial Archaeology. He was a supporter and leading interpreter of the change which took place in museums in the 1970s and 1980s when they became more outward looking, giving the experience of visitors as much attention as stewardship of the collection - what he called 'public quality'.

The five videos published on our YouTube account capture some of his insights from a lifetime of working to make museums more innovative and responsive to the public.

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Legal framework

Legal framework

Since 2010, the European Museum Forum is a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee, supervised by the UK’s Charity Commission. The European Museum Forum is a registered Company in England and Wales, registration number 07243034 and has registered charitable status, UK Charity Number 1136790.

The EMF organisational governance is subject to strict regulation to ensure that all necessary checks and balances are in place between the Trustees, the Judges and the network of National Correspondents.

Since 2013 EMF no longer has posts of advisers and ambassadors. All organisations and individuals with whom the EMF cooperates are called partners and the cooperation scope is explained in separate documents (contracts, agreements, memorandums of understanding, etc.).

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Activities

Activities

The European Museum Forum:

  • organises the annual European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) for newly-opened or refurbished museums,

  • publishes a brochure describing the entrants and winners of the European Museum of the Year Award,

  • holds a three-day conference and workshops to support the Award Ceremony,

  • brings together likeminded museum professionals in a European setting,

  • maintains an archive at Portimão Museum, which contains information on every museum candidate for the European Museum of the Year Award since 1977. 

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Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees consists of recognised experts in the cultural field and sets the policies, goals and priorities for the EMF. The Board provides stewardship for the organisation, is responsible for the financial health of the organisation through oversight and fund raising efforts.

Profile

The EMF Board of Trustees provides a variety of expertise, multiple perspectives and oversight to ensure the long-term viability of the European Museum Forum.

The Board consists of a maximum of 11 members and a minimum of 5 with a broad range of professional backgrounds, skills and experience. A member can be in position for a maximum of two terms. One term is three years, with the option of renewal after the first three years.

Board members are independent and receive no personal or financial benefit from their participation. While the role is unremunerated, travel and out of pocket expenses are paid.

New members are co-optioned by the Board. The Board currently meets 3 times a year, with Trustees also attending the EMYA at the Grand Awards Presentation Event. Members abide by the highest ethical standards in the museum profession.

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Richard Benjamin, Dr (United Kingdom)

Museums have many faces. They can be safe spaces, creative spaces, and contested spaces. Trusted community partners, welcoming, warm, and inclusive. But equally exclusive, inhospitable, and monochromatic. These dichotomies are what make museums important microcosms of our society. And as committed agents of social change, can lead on the pressing issues of today, from championing mental health and wellbeing to keeping racial equality, diversity, and social movements such as BLM on the agenda.

Richard heads the International Slavery Museum at National Museums Liverpool. He leads the curatorial team and is responsible for partnerships, research, collections, and content development for the forthcoming capital transformation project. He is Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, a partnership with the University of Liverpool.

Richard gained a BA (Hons) degree in Community and Race Relations at Edge Hill College and completed an MA and Ph.D. in Archaeology at the University of Liverpool.  In 2002 he was a Visiting Research Scholar at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute of African and African American Research, Harvard University, and appointed as the head of the International Slavery Museum in 2006.

Richard is a Trustee of the Anthony Walker Foundation, on the Editorial Board for MONITOR: Global Intelligence on Racism magazine, and a member of Everton Football Club External Equality Advisory Group.

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Jonas Dahl (Sweden)

Jonas' passion for museums lies with the audience. A modern museum makes people feel at ease and lets them connect with others. At the same time visiting such museums is an intellectual and tactile sensation. Jonas enjoys museums that work as hard with the physical and spatial experience as with the content.

Jonas Dahl is a senior advisor in marketing and communications. He uses communication as a strategic tool to support managers and organisations in order to accomplish their overall objectives.

Experienced from management positions in museums and the tourism industry he now helps a large number of museums and other cultural attractions with communication- and marketing strategies, audience research and product development.

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Sharon Heal (United Kingdom)

Sharon believes that museums matter because they can enhance our health and wellbeing, create better places for us to live and work and provide space where we can interrogate the big issues of the day.

Sharon is the director of the Museums Association, a campaigning membership body that promotes the value of museums to society.

She regularly comments on museums and cultural policy in the UK; speaks at conferences and events in the UK and internationally; and has published extensively. She lectures in the history of museums, museum ethics and museums and social impact and activism.

Sharon is the chair of the Museum of Homelessness and a trustee of the Thackray Museum of Medicine.

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Vesna Marjanović (Serbia)

Vesna believes that museums are institutions of great democratic potential and provide a new dimension to the meaning of citizen participation. Museums have an infinitely important role to reach far, educate all and give us a better understanding of humanity.

Vesna is a Public Policy Advisor in the Serbian Civil Society sector. She graduated from University of Belgrade Law School. She was a Member of the Serbian Parliament until 2020. She was Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Culture and the Media for almost a decade. During that time she was engaged in defending the principle of freedom of expression, developing cultural policies, fighting for the sustainability of national cultural institutions, the position and recognition of the role of artists in the society, as well as citizen participation in cultural life.

She was actively involved when, after years of conflict, Serbia finally started its political democratic reforms in 2000. During this period, she witnessed the hopes and frustrations of a changing society which has focused on many policy issues but did not succeed in placing cultural policies as an integral part of sustainable government strategies.

In 2011/2012 she was the Member of the Belgrade City Council in charge of the Department of Culture, and Chairperson of the Belgrade International Film Festival (FEST).

She was the Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 2012 to 2016 during which time she held the position of Vice-Chair of Committee on Culture, Education, Science and Media and Vice-Chair of Sub-Committee on Culture, Diversity and Heritage. She was also Rapporteur on “Europe’s Endangered Heritage”, “Culture and Democracy” as well as Rapporteur for the Council of Europe Museum Prize.

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Léontine Meijer-Van Mensch (Germany)

For Léontine museums are essentially networks, connecting communities and institutions. This requires building trust which is only possible when adopting a policy of transparency. As such museum could (and should) contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.

Léontine is a Dutch museologist, working in Germany. She is director of the State Ethnographical Collections of Saxony (i.e. the ethnographical museums of Dresden, Leipzig and Herrnhut). Previously, she was programme-director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, deputy-director of the Museum of European Cultures at Berlin.

She is active in the boards of several museum organizations. She was, among others, member of the Executive Board of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and founding president of the International Committee for Collecting (COMCOL). She is, among others, chair of the Dutch Slavery Heritage Education Foundation, member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Dekoloniale (Berlin), deputy chair of the Board of Trustees of the Sächsische Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, and deputy chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the KZ-Gedenkstätte Mauthausen (Austria).

Important among Léontine’s academic and professional interests are the theory and practice of professionalism and professional ethics. She was lecturer of heritage theory and professional ethics at the Reinwardt Academie (Amsterdam) and is at present chair of the ICOM Ethics Committee.

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Amina Krvavac, Chair of the EMYA Judging Panel (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Amina Krvavac is the Executive Director at the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amina was a member of a small inaugural team that led a two-year grassroots campaign culminating in the opening of the War Childhood Museum back in 2017. The War Childhood Museum has since been widely recognised and praised for its capacity to contribute to a better understanding of war-affected childhood as a complex social phenomenon.
Amina studied International Relations at the International University of Sarajevo, and Children’s Rights at the University of Geneva.

She is committed to creating exhibitions and workshops that support open and conscious dialogue, and to promoting the idea of museums as platforms for societal healing and reconciliation.

Amina is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Coalition of Site of Conscience Europe – a network of museums, historic sites and memory initiatives connecting past struggles to today’s movement for human rights. She joined the EMYA judging panel in January 2021.

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Joan Roca i Albert, Chair of the Board of Trustees (Spain)

Joan is interested in museums as open centres of knowledge and creation and in their role in cities, in favour of a new urban museology that facilitates critical thinking for democracy and the construction of European citizenship.

Joan Roca i Albert, trained as an urban geographer, is since 2007 the director of the MUHBA (Barcelona City History Museum). He has taught at the Institute for Educational Sciences of the UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona), the Barri Besòs secondary school (1986-2006) and the Studies Programme of MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art), while also collaborating with the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich and the History Seminar of the AHCB (City of Barcelona Historical Archive).

He has directed Aula Barcelona and the Urban Majorities Project at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, and has been a member of the Fòrum de la Ribera del Besòs Industrial Heritage Group. As a researcher, he has carried out his work in the fields of urban history, urbanism and education and has received the Pau Vila, Barcelona City and Bonaplata awards. He has written and edited a number of articles and books on city history and metropolitan transformations, heritage and public space, city image and landscape, and education and social change.

He is a member of the international board of the European Association for Urban History. In recent years he has concentrated on the role of city museums, launching in 2010 the City History Museums and Research Network of Europe and working with CAMOC, the committee of ICOM about the city and its people.

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Medea S. Ekner, ICOM ex officio (France)

Interim Director-General of ICOM - International Council of Museums. Medea S. Ekner is a future-oriented museum and leadership strategist, with an academic background in critical museology and art history.

Her interest in the museum as phenomenon, in a past, present, and future context, has driven her into change-management to explore the museum as design and experience, with focus on its social roles and responsibilities.

With a keen interest in the synergies between museums, academia, and industry, she has used the museum as a place of innovation to experiment with new technologies to enhance audience experiences and promote social change.

As a leadership developer and course leader in Sweden's most sought-after leadership training program, she has a genuine interest in leadership and contributes to the museum sector with perspectives on transformative leadership that stimulate participation and creativity as well as development and change.

In her role as interim Director-General of ICOM, she works with passion for international cooperation between museums, the promotion and protection of global cultural heritage and bringing forward the common interests of museums at high-level forums such as the G20 and the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

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Michał Wiśniewski, Dr (Poland)

Michał is an architecture historian interested in space, history and political relations. He is a Head of the Educational Department – Academy of Heritage of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow responsible for various long-term projects dedicated to heritage interpretation and management in relation to the context of Central Europe. He teaches urban history and city studies-related courses at the University of Economics in Krakow. Fulbright scholarship holder.

Author of many scientific and popularizing publications on the architecture of Krakow and Poland in the 19th and 20th centuries. Member of the board of the Institute of Architecture Foundation. Co-author of exhibitions and publications created by the team of the Institute of Architecture Foundation including the website Krakowski Szlak Modernizmu (Krakow Trace of Modernism): szlakmodernizmu.pl

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Hans Looijen (The Netherlands)

Museums must facilitate processes that fulfill the needs of communities around them, supporting communities to engage with the world around them.

As the CEO of Dolhuys Foundation Hans leads the Museum of the Mind and created its’ second location; Museum of the Mind Amsterdam, which challenges the existing hierarchies and narratives to widen our understanding and appreciation in art. Outsiderart has far too long been rejected, overlooked and excluded, as have their artists and makers. The renewed Museum of the Mind, Dolhuys Haarlem engages with the public at large through art and health programs. It has an extensive partner program, ranging from healthcare institutions to museums, with partnerships and projects in the Netherlands and beyond. The Museum of the Mind won the European Museum of the Year Award 2022.

As a museologist, Hans studied in Amsterdam and Oaxaca, Mexico. Based on social commitment, he puts his heart and soul into making a difference. From his daily work at the two museums he knows what difference putting a case forward can make in peoples’ lives. Funding, strategy, empowering and supporting personal development of -lived experienced- volunteers and staff alike, program, public, these are all within his attention span. Hans has extensive experience as a cultural entrepreneur from earlier in his career and spent over a decade creating museum- and other meaningful information environments.

Hans is also Chair of the Willem van Genk Foundation, advisor to the Outsiderart Gallery Amsterdam, Chair of the Anton Heyboer Foundation, Member of the Committee on NIOD Research into 2nd World War victims in Dutch psychiatry. Next to this he lectured museology a as visiting professor in an international environment.

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To be a Trustee

To be a Trustee

Sharon Heal, EMF Trustee

I am delighted to be a trustee of the EMF with its long tradition of championing the value of museums across Europe. We live in turbulent times and as museums face up to their responsibilities in society I am excited to see how they will respond. Collectively we need to rethink the role and purpose of museums as they work with their communities to recover from Covid-19 and face the challenges of inequality and climate change. Over the past 12 months museums have demonstrated that they can make a positive difference in society even when their doors are closed. I look forward to celebrating their achievements and recognising the life changing work that museums can deliver in the EMYA ceremonies over the coming years.