Museums Change Lives Awards 2022 - Museums Association

Museums Change Lives Awards 2022

Museums Change Lives Awards 2022
Congratulations to the winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Museums Change Lives Awards 2022.

The awards recognise and celebrate outstanding practice by UK museums delivering social impact. They promote the best examples of work by museums and individuals that support communities and engage with contemporary issues.

The winners were announced at a ceremony at our annual conference on 3 November 2022. All winners received a framed certificate, award and a cash prize of £500.

PLB: Interpreting the past, designing the future
Awards sponsor: PLB

Best Museums Change Lives Project

WINNER: The Whitworth, The University of Manchester – Still Parents: Life after Baby Loss
Representatives from the Whitworth

Launched in October 2019 in partnership with Manchester Sands (Stillbirth and Neo Natal Death Charity), Still Parents is the Whitworth’s pioneering programme to support parents who have experienced baby loss. Drawing on the Whitworth’s collection and under the guidance of professional artists, the monthly workshop programme encourages participants to collectively explore their experience through art and creativity. The Still Parents exhibition, the first of its kind, opened in September 2021, creating a platform to share personal stories, open up conversations and break the silence that continues to surround baby loss.

People’s History Museum – Migration: a human story
A banner at the People's History Museum, which reads 'The journey across land and sea to build a country not made for me'

Migration: a human story is a series of creative interventions installed throughout the People’s History Museum’s main galleries, inviting visitors to challenge what they think they know about migration and inspiring engagement, reflection and debate. The programme of activity was co-created by a Community Programme Team (CPT), made up of people whose lives have been shaped by migration, and developed in collaboration with local organisations including Hope for Justice.

Heritage Doncaster (Doncaster Council) – History, Health and Happiness in Doncaster 
A person holds a small stone object

History, Health and Happiness (HH&H) aims to tackle isolation and improve wellbeing in Doncaster. We know that loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and that Doncaster residents have considerably higher levels of unhappiness compared to national averages (14% vs 9%). HH&H combats this by using accessioned collections, hands-on activity and storytelling as the basis for workshops and social clubs. Workshops connect people through shared interests, and enable them to exchange skills and experiences, meaning participants build skills and confidence.

Best Small Museum Project

WINNER: Queer Britain – We Are Queer Britain!
Representatives from Queer Britain

The first half of 2022 saw Queer Britain moved into its first bricks and mortar home. When they opened in May, they officially became the first LGBTQ+ museum in the UK. In July they launched their first exhibition, ‘We Are Queer Britain’, marking 50 years of Pride in the UK and featuring incredible artefacts that bring together important voices, objects and images from the UK’s queer activism, art, politics and culture, with some materials dating back to the 18th century. Queer Britain’s studio space is also used by community groups such as Gay Indian Network, Queer China UK and Say It Loud.

The Unicorn Preservation Society – Wavemakers
A close-up of the unicorn figurehead of HMS Unicorn

Reconsidering their approach to volunteering, in July 2021 the Unicorn Preservation Society instituted “Wavemakers”, HMS Unicorn’s new volunteering practice and philosophy based around three principles that challenged previous practice: 

  1. Partnerships allow us to do better work with more people.
  2. Put interpersonal relationships first: volunteers work with people not with heritage.
  3. Volunteers are not ‘ours’. If they move on to better things, we’ve done our job.

The effects of the new volunteering programme on individuals have demonstrably enhanced volunteers’ health and wellbeing, and created better places to live and work while supporting people facing barriers to further education and employment.

Dylan Thomas Centre and Your Voice Advocacy – Co-producing Change
People take part in an interactive workshop

Since 2017, the Dylan Thomas Centre has hosted Your Voice Advocacy Group’s weekly blended sessions. Predominantly focusing on giving a voice to learning disabled adults in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, the group also works with the Centre to create positive change to benefit all visitors and staff. The partnership promotes health and wellbeing, with YVAG members noting that the Centre is somewhere to ‘meet friends’, provides ‘opportunities to do projects and get your voice heard’, ‘gets you active and lifts spirits’, and ‘stops loneliness and feeling isolated’.

The project inspires engagement, reflection and debate: each week the group share on social media a poem reflecting on their session. It’s created with our magnetic poetry interactive, demonstrating that creativity with language is empowering and for everyone. 

Reimagining the Museum Award

WINNER: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow – Curating Discomfort
Representatives from the Hunterian

Curating Discomfort addresses power imbalances in museums. Much of the Hunterian’s collection is in Glasgow through historical global networks of imperial extraction and exploitation. The project sought to use institutional ‘discomfort’ as a catalyst for meaningful change, not simply in its displays, but across the whole organisation. The project challenged longstanding museum narratives and processes, broadening representation in the museum’s engagement with Scottish society and maximising the potential of its collections.

The Paxton Trust – ‘Parallel Lives, Worlds Apart’ at Paxton House, Scotland
Visitors at Paxton House

This project brought together Paxton’s outstanding archives, costumes and Recognised furniture collections with its strong historical links with slavery in Grenada. It is part of long-term planning to decolonise Paxton House, embedding the histories deeper within the site’s interpretation and strengthening community partnerships. A programme of creative engagement enabled children from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds in Scotland, London and beyond to learn about shared histories and respond creatively.

National Museums Liverpool – The Colonial Legacies of the Liverpool Sandbach Family
Steering group of the NML Sandbach Family project

This co-curated project was delivered by young people recruited from Liverpool’s marginalised communities. It confronted the Liverpool Sandbach family’s links to slavery, colonialism and empire. The project re-evaluated the family’s portraits by neoclassical sculptor John Gibson (1790 – 1866), which have been displayed at the Walker Art Gallery without question or context for almost 50 years. The group selected works for inclusion and produced the interpretation, working with curators and local historians to develop new ways to share these histories.

Radical Changemaker Award

WINNER: Elma Glasgow – Aspire Black Suffolk
Elma Glasgow receiving her award

Elma brought together over 30 partners to create and deliver Power of Stories – an ambitious touring exhibition and events programme celebrating African and Caribbean heritages in Suffolk. Elma’s drive to celebrate Black heritage in Suffolk has created opportunities for thousands of people to connect, understand, and explore previously exclude histories. Seeing the need for museums to change, Elma founded ‘Aspire Black Suffolk’, a C.I.C. which supports museums to connect and collaborate with local Black communities.

Zandra Yeaman – The Hunterian, University of Glasgow
Zandra Yeaman headshot

As part of the Curating Discomfort project, Zandra has embedded anti-racism within the Hunterian Museum while also collaboratively developing new displays that disrupt the power dynamic within the museum and taking steps to dismantle racism. She also supports colleagues in their anti-racism work and has built a sense of community with the community curators who worked on the project. She is also generous with sharing her knowledge and experience – as she would say, “lifting while you climb”. 

Diana Foster – People’s Museum Somers Town: A space for us 
Diana Foster headshot

Diana’s work in founding a community museum and living memory project has impacted Somers Town, Camden’s sustainable development at a time of uncertainty and encroaching gentrification. She worked to preserve local identity and memories in a place of radical reformers; where innovative social housing projects took place and radical thinkers such as Wollstonecraft and Padmore lived. She has campaigned tirelessly to promote this history and an area’s sense of place, and the museum aims to become a site of social justice: a community hub as well as a repository of memory. 

Past awards