Museums Change Lives Awards 2020

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Museums Change Lives Awards 2020. This year’s awards celebrated museums that have made a difference to their local communities and have responded positively to the challenges of a year like no other.

The awards ceremony took place online as part of the Museums Association’s annual conference.

Watch the ceremony

The winners and nominees

Best Lockdown Project

Best Lockdown Project recognises the best museum response to the coronavirus crisis.

Woman smiling and holding children's books
Winner: Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books – Supporting Families in Byker During Lockdown

Many families in Byker had very few resources at home to entertain children and support creative play during lockdown. The museum launched several initiatives as part of a community-wide response, working with groups such as Barnardo’s Community Family Hub and Food Nation to distribute books, family activities, recipe packs and snacks, as well as providing Facebook storytimes and doorstep stories for individual families.

National Justice Museum – Letters of Constraint: An Invitation to be Heard

Letters of Constraint was an open invitation to people outside the museum to write a reflective letter during the Covid-19 lockdown. The participatory approach encouraged empathy and community dialogue, and the results offer a glimpse into mass societal constraint, told through individual experiences of isolation over six weeks. The project built on Constraint Restraint, a co-produced exhibition at the museum that opened in February featuring restraints from the museum collection.

Hastings Museum & Art Gallery – Hastings Digital Museum

Hastings Digital Museum was set up to reduce social isolation and loneliness exacerbated by lockdown. Its aim was to give people remote access to meaningful cultural activities using the museum’s collections and resources. Over 24 weeks it produced projects for social media to get people involved and working together, including online immersive games, community art projects, creative courses, and family activities and competitions.

Best Museums Change Lives Project

The Best Museums Change Lives Project award recognises the most cutting-edge practice in museums that makes a difference to the lives of audiences and communities.

Project team at One Eye on the Past
Winner: National Museums Northern Ireland in collaboration with Nerve Centre, Northern Ireland Museums Council, and Northern Ireland Screen – Reimagine, Remake, Replay

Reimagine, Remake, Replay connects 4,000 16- to 25-year-olds to heritage in museums across Northern Ireland, enabling them to explore museum collections using the latest digital technologies. Participants gain experience of event management, digital fabrication and emerging tech, filmmaking and digital storytelling. As well as producing exciting and unique outputs, the project creates opportunities for young people to develop their ideas and enhance their professional and personal development.

National Justice Museum – Choices and Consequences: A Knife Crime Prevention Programme

Choices and Consequences is a series of anti-knife crime workshops within the police station and cells, aiming to stop a young person picking up a knife and facilitating learning about the lifelong consequences of knife crime to both victim and perpetrator. Since July 2019, Choices and Consequences has engaged with 1,281 participants. Young people on court orders also access the initiative as part of their intervention programmes. 

National Maritime Museum Cornwall – “Tattoo – British Tattoo Art Revealed” on tour – a coastal journey

Launched in 2018, this two-year touring exhibition brought together the latest academic research combined with the largest gathering of original tattoo artwork and artefacts ever assembled. All participating museums had the same profile – they were based in coastal towns and ranked in the top percentile of the most deprived areas in the country. Each host used the exhibition as a springboard to create extraordinary projects relevant to their capacity, collection and community. 

Best Small Museum Project

The Best Small Museum Project award recognises the best project at museums with an annual turnover of less than £320,000.

A group standing and smiling at the Dylan Thomas Centre
Winner: Dylan Thomas Centre – Literature and Trauma

Literature and Trauma is a writing project for refugees and asylum seekers in Swansea, enabling people to tell their unique stories through poetry and prose. The museum provides play facilities for the children of participants and free bus tickets to remove the barrier of travel costs. Sessions are led by Cameroonian writer Eric Ngalle Charles, whose personal experience of displacement and asylum provides a safe space for participants to express themselves.

Museum of Cornish Life – Digital Dial-Ins

The Digital Dial-ins initiative by the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston has been promoting better mental health and wellbeing since 2019. Created by Susanna Webster, the project was designed to trial the use of tablets to create a live link between the museum and care homes, offering a bespoke, guided visit for residents.

Museum of Ordinary People – These Times: Collecting contemporary culture

These Times is a project initiated in March 2020 which received an overwhelming response from members of the public across the UK who were in need of a healing, creative outlet during a time of emotional turmoil and uncertainty. The museum put a call-out on social media for participants to journal and document their lockdown experiences for the museum’s permanent collection, receiving more than 100 emails in the first 24 hours.

Radical Changemaker Award

The Radical Changemaker Award recognises the achievements of an individual in promoting one or more of the themes of the Museums Change Lives campaign in their museum.

Winner: Aditi Anand, Head of Creative Content at the Migration Museum

Aditi’s work in the museums sector explores themes of migration, identity and belonging. Most recently, she oversaw the transformation of a large former H&M in Lewisham shopping centre to a temporary Migration Museum in less than two months, establishing a high-quality, relevant exhibition on the doorstep of a diverse community with high rates of economic deprivation.

Norma Gregory – Black Miners Museum Project

Norma is a heritage creative who curates diverse exhibitions and heritage projects. She created the ‘Digging Deep’ exhibition, now part of the Black Miners Museum, which presents and preserves the under-explored experiences, memories and legacy of former coal miners of African Caribbean heritage. The work has led to significant change in representation and understanding in this area. Norma also founded the social enterprise Nottingham News Centre CIC in 2013.

Sadia Habib – Manchester Museum

Sadia challenges the stereotype that young people do not engage with heritage, working with youth and community groups and schools in groundbreaking ways. She set up Manchester Museum Young Collective – 30 young people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds who she supports to produce events and social action campaigns. She has radically changed Manchester Museum’s policies and practices through youth-led engagement. Young people now play a significant role in recruitment, most recently helping to select the designers for the upcoming South Asia gallery.

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