European Museum of the Year Award scheme was established by three British founders (Kenneth Hudson, Richard Hoggart and John Letts) in 1977. In 1997, on the initiative of Kenneth Hudson, the name of the organisation was changed to European Museum Forum (EMF) to reflect the organisation’s expanded scope of activity and influence across Europe. The three founding fathers 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.