Netherlands’ Museum of the Mind named European Museum of the Year
The European Museum of the Year Award (Emya) 2022 has gone to the Museum of the Mind in the Netherlands.
The museum has two sites, one in Haarlem and one in Amsterdam, exploring the history of the mind and mental health, “straddling the boundaries between healthcare, art and science”. The museum was recognised for the recent redevelopment of its Haarlem building, which was once a medieval leper colony and asylum.
The redevelopment “represents a breakthrough in humanising not just medical museums, but museums in general”, said Emya.
Commending the museum for switching from a medical to a social model of the mind, Emya said the institution “also offers a social model of museums”.
“The message of the Museum of the Mind is that museums can go beyond mental health programmes for small groups and contribute much more. They can help create a healthier society, through embodying a humane, caring and respectful attitude to humanity in every aspect of their work,” said a statement on Emya’s website.
Marlen Mouliou, chair of the Emya 2022 jury, told Museums Journal: “The Museum of the Mind is a very worthy winner of Emya 2022, unanimously voted by the Emya jury, not only because it explores a socially significant and difficult subject, but because it does so in a uniquely humane, evocative, empowering, personal and transformative way.
“As a museum about the human mind, it brings forward a brilliantly conceived and executed project that combines neurosciences, psychology, art and culture to celebrate the heritage of the mind.
“Visitors peek inside the minds of artists, writers and scientists and the museum invites them on an interactive voyage of discovery into their own mind, and those of others.
“It is a museum bursting with personal stories, surprising art and an extensive historical collection, straddling the boundaries between healthcare, art and science.
“While many museums are exploring programmes for mental health improvement as well as catering for neurodiversity, the Museum of the Mind stands out in terms of its governance scheme, with links to national mental health foundations and agencies, its content and conceptual exhibition making, its contemporary relevance both for its personnel and its diverse audiences. A visit to this museum is an experience focused on the wonder and versatility of the mind. Really wonderful and outstanding!”
Organised by the European Museum Forum, a total of six prizes and seven special commendations were awarded to institutions and museum professionals from across Europe during the Emya 2022 ceremony in Tartu, Estonia, over the weekend. The city will be the European Capital of Culture in 2024.
Among the winners was Laura van Broekhoven, director of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, who shared the Kenneth Hudson Award for Institutional Courage and Professional Integrity with three other museum scholars and directors, all recognised for their “continuous contributions to developing a new global ethics for museums, addressing the urgent and contentious societal issues of decolonisation, restitution, reparation, and repatriation”.
The judges praised van Broekhoven's leadership of the museum, which it said was “systematically questioning and de-legitimising the supremacist history of ethnographic collecting”.
Van Broekhoven said: “It’s a great honour to have been awarded the Kenneth Hudson Award for Institutional Courage and Professional Integrity, alongside some of the most inspiring directors in our field. I see this award as a recognition of the great work every member of our team has been developing with the utmost commitment and great joy, alongside the most generous partners who have shared their lived experience and knowledge with us.”
The Box, Plymouth’s new museum and art gallery, received a special commendation. The judging panel said that “with outstanding exhibitions and easy access for all, it has created a new cultural asset for its city and region and is an active advocate for the social change it can bring to its communities”.