News / The winners of the EMYA 2020 and 2021 are now announced! /

Press release - 6 May 2021

The European Museum Forum is happy to announce 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 which achieve excellence in all aspects of museum work – in ‘public quality’. The Council of Europe Museum Prize has a particular focus on the underpinning values of democracy and human rights. 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 which 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 which have made an exceptional contribution to sustainability. Special commendations are given to museums which have achieved excellence in a specific domain of museum work.

The European Museum Forum expresses its gratitude to the museums who kept faith with EMYA in applying and in welcoming the judges in the unusual circumstances of Covid-19. Special thanks go to our sponsors and partners for their continuous support for EMF through these difficult years.

Main Award - The EMYA

The European Museum of the Year Award goes to a museum which 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 which 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 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 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 get transformed. 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 with 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.

The Council of Europe Museum Prize

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 which 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 inter-cultural 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.

The Kenneth Hudson Prize

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

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.


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.

The Silletto Prize

Presented by Carol Jackson, Trustee, Silletto Trust

The Silletto Prize is sponsored by the Silletto Trust and goes to a museum which 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 which 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. 

The Portimao Museum Prize - Europe's Most Welcoming New Museum

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 which 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 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.

The Meyvaert Museum Prize for Sustainability

Presented by Frank Boot, Director, Meyvaert

The Meyvaert Museum Prize for Sustainability is sponsored by Meyvaert and goes to a museum which 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. Its community that runs it in the most agile way is highly committed and effective in safeguarding its culture, its traditions and their work as a collective that organises numerous activities around the tangible and intangible cultural and natural patrimony of its territory.

The Special Commendations

Special Commendations are given to museums that have developed a new and innovative aspect of their public service and from which other European museums can learn.



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


M9 Museum, Venice, Italy

This special commendation goes to a museum which ambitiously represents the 20th century history of an entire nation. It is innovative in its use of data and digital technology and in its approach to citizenship and urban regeneration.

Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The next commendation goes to a museum which demonstrates that decolonization is both necessary and possible. Its displays reflect an interconnected world and an ideal of global citizenship. Going beyond interpreting the past to exploring contemporary issues, works to bring about a positive future. This Special Commendation goes to

Uchma Museum, Uchma, Russian Federation

The third commendation goes to an original museum which encourages empathy, reflection and the feeling of being a part of a larger world. Visitors have the rare feeling of having met, and been inspired by, the creative minds behind the museum.

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The next commendation recognises the completion of the ambitious transformation of a large 19th century encyclopaedic, into a true ‘social centre of knowledge’ for the 21st century, that speaks eloquently to the contemporary visitor.

Museum Hof van Busleyden, Mechelen, Belgium

This commendation goes to a museum that went through a renewal which strikes a remarkable balance between excellent academic research, curatorial care of the collections, creative interpretive design, and acts of co-creation, all rooted in principles of deep democracy and responsible citizenship.

Museum of Archaeological Wood “Tatar Settlement”, Sviyazhsk, Russian Federation

In a building whose architecture is beautifully adapted to the landscape, this museum presents archaeology as a science of excavation, interpretation and preservation, bringing ordinary objects from the 16th to the 18th centuries to life.

Troy Museum, Çanakkale, Turkey

The brilliant architecture of the final museum plays with light and shadow, giving a sense of time passing, while the innovative exhibition addresses contemporary issues, connects past and present, and asks universal questions about the meaning of war. 



Presented by Marlen Mouliou, Chair of the EMYA2021 Jury


Women’s Museum Hittisau, Hittisau, Austria

The first museum which has won a special commendation is the only museum of its kind in a rural context, connecting its environment with global themes and engaging creatively with contemporary artists and locals to shape the museum mission, content and operation. It is a museum that promotes inclusion as a tool of self-empowerment.

Haapsalu Castle Museum, Haapsalu, Estonia

The second museum which has won a special Commendation is an example of outstanding renovation of a monumental complex. As a museum entity, it demonstrates the potential of cultural heritage to exercise soft power, boosting local economies and human ties around a monumental past.

Futurium, Berlin, Germany

The third specially commended museum has developed a remarkable new and innovative approach to public service. With its brave architecture, beautiful design, and displays with many possibilities for interaction, it actively engages visitors in a broad range of topics and invites them to envision and discuss the future. 

Hungarian Museum of Water Management and Environmental Protection Danube Museum, Esztergom, Hungary

The forth museum to which the Jury awards a special commendation is a museum with vivid and engaging displays that interprets the management of the most important natural resource of humankind and raises awareness of the need to manage it wisely.

Thesaurus Cracoviensis – Museum of Kraków, Kraków, Poland

The fifth specially commended museum stands out for its commitment to democratize access to the objects that once belonged to its local communities and its determination to open up conversations about city history through its reserve collections, now fully accessible.

Odunpazarı Modern Museum, Eskişehir, Turkey

The sixth museum that was awarded a special commendation is a world-class cross-cultural platform for contemporary artists from the country where it operates and beyond. It is housed in a remarkable example of modern architecture inspired by local traditional forms. It is a museum that manages to create a democratic and inclusive environment, open to all.

About the organiser - European Museum Forum and the European Museum of the Year Award

EMYA has proved to be the longest running and most prestigious museum award in Europe and provides an important platform for benchmarking, networking, exchange of reflections, experience and skills across the wider continent of Europe.

The European Museum Forum (EMF) provides the legal and organisational framework for the annual European Museum of the Year Award scheme (EMYA).

Overseen by the European Museum Forum, since 1977 EMYA has been dedicated to promoting innovation and excellence in public quality in museum practice, encouraging networking and exchange of ideas and best practices within the sector. EMF/EMYA works within an overall framework of a commitment to citizenship, democracy and human rights, to sustainability, to bridging cultures and social and political borders.

Museum candidates are either new museums, first opened to the public within the past three years, or established museums that have renewed their organisation and completed a substantial programme of modernisation and extension of their buildings and galleries.

Over the years the EMYA scheme has developed into a series of different awards, each with their own specific profile.

Remarks by the Winners

What an honour to have won the EMYA2020! Many thanks to the European Museum Forum and the EMYA jury for this important award. It honours the Stapferhaus, the changeable new building and our exhibition work. In our house the big questions of the present stand at the forefront, the constructive dialogue and thus the audience - old and young, conservative and progressive, experts and laymen. The prize thus also stands for all museums that are not afraid to take on social responsibility. We are looking forward to an exchange with them and the audience!

Stapferhaus, European Museum of the Year 2020


It's great that our museum is internationally recognized through this prize. Thank you so much! Fascination for the beauty and diversity of nature, that is the foundation of Naturalis. Thanks to our museum, we can share our love and passion for nature with the public. If people embrace nature, they will also take better care of it. And that is now more necessary than ever!

Edwin van Huis, General Director of Naturalis Biodiversity Center, European Museum of the Year 2021