Editions / Past editions / EMYA2020 / Winner - The Kenneth Hudson Award 2020 /

House of Austrian History (Vienna, Austria)

The Kenneth Hudson Prize for 2020 goes to an institution which 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.

Visual and acoustic voices in four languages at the beginning of the museum’s main exhibition © hdgö

About House of Austrian History

This year the Trustees conferred the Kenneth Hudson Award on the House of Austrian History in Vienna.
The defining quality of this museum is civic courage. It questions the image of Austria as an old, imperial, but neutral "nice" country, and offers visitors tools to explore their citizenship and engage in debate. It succeeds in 26 making topics that are abstract (voting rights, parliamentary structures, economics) and/or difficult (the role of Austrians in National Socialism and the Holocaust) exceptionally accessible. While it addresses major issues it also explores the political aspects of culture, identity, and everyday life. There is a great deal of information, based on excellent research, but it is also easy to dip in and out of topics, without feeling overwhelmed. The atmosphere is friendly, thoughtful, and reflective. In order to ensure that the museum is truly hospitable, the reception desk is staffed by members of the Learning Team, who can en- gage with visitors’ questions. The museum offers a very diverse range of voices and stories (including Austrians who speak languages other than German, such as Slovenian, Romani, and Czech), as well as a fascinating array of objects and films it has collected or borrowed. Together these provide a great resource for Austrians to reflect on their past – and for visitors to reflect on how they feel and think about their own past – and how it is represented.

Kenneth Hudson used to ask, “What battles has this museum had to fight to get open?” The struggles of this museum have included the reduction of the space originally allocated to it and dealing with proposals to transfer it to a less highly charged location. With a nice touch of humour, these struggles are represented in the foyer of the museum as a board game, which visitors can play.

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