The Activist Museum Award 2023 has been awarded to Will Tregaskes, the arts development manager at Arts & Business Cymru and a Museums Association rep for Wales.
Tregaskes has been at the forefront of museum activism in Wales with his advocacy for front-of-house workers in the sector. In 2017, he co-founded the network FoHMuseums, which works to celebrate and campaign for front-of-house workers in the museum sector.
FoHMuseums conducted a survey in 2019 revealing that 59% of front-of-house workers felt undervalued. With the aim of improving the treatment of public-facing museum professionals, FoHMuseums partnered with the Museums Association to launch the Front of House Charter for Change. The charter outlines principles of practice that contribute to a more positive working experience for front-of-house workers.
“Both celebrating and advocating for front-of-house in museums and placing museums in the community have been core to my values-led work,” said Tresgaskes.
“The award is planned to be used to further conversations between museums and communities in Wales to continue the vision of museums as places at the centre of communities and social change,” he added.
The award reflects a growing focus on activism in museums across Wales.
"Museums in Wales are increasingly working to reflect the experiences of people in their communities, recognising their position and responsibility as agents for social change," said a statement announcing this year's winner.
"Government legislation such as the Well-being of Future Generations Act and the Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan provide both support and a foundation for work that addresses the legacy of colonialism and the preservation of the Welsh language.
"The Activist Museum Award will enable Will Tregaskes to contribute to this ongoing work by enabling conversations which don’t centre on museums but on the people who form our communities, people who have a right to ask difficult questions about museums today and what they need to do to become more relevant to our communities and society as a whole. The work supported by the award will contribute to a wider discourse on the future role of museums in Wales."
Meanwhile this year's International Activist Museum Award went to the Itinerant Museum of Memory and Identity of Montes de María in Colombia, a travelling museum whose mission is to preserve the collective memory of the Montes de María territory.
Both winners will receive £1,000 to support the development of their ideas.
Founded in 2019, the Activist Museum Award aims to recognise cutting-edge activist practice and encourage, inspire and support similar work throughout the UK museum community. It was established by Robert Janes and Richard Sandell of Leicester University’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, whose shared vision of museums as enactors of social change is outlined in their book, Museum Activism (2019).
Instead of being regarded as neutral spaces, Janes and Sandell propose that art institutions should practice museum activism, a term defined in their book as “museum practice, shaped out of ethically informed values, that is intended to bring about political, social and environmental change”.