The 2021 Council of Europe Museum Prize was awarded to Moscow’s Gulag History Museum during a special ceremony in Strasbourg’s Palais Rohan last night.
PACE President Rik Daems presented the Museum’s Director Roman Romanov with the trophy, a bronze statuette by Joan Miró entitled “La femme aux beaux seins” – which the museum may keep for a year – as well as a diploma and cheque.
Congratulating the winning museum, he said it “tackles, with rare honesty, some of the very difficult issues about human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the 20th century”.
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”, he pointed out.
“While focusing on a dark period in Soviet history, this museum’s European perspective is expressed in its commitment to European democratic values: political freedom, the freedom of expression, the rule of law, the defence of human rights, and the role of civil society,” he added.
Expressing his thanks, the Museum’s Director said: “This recognition from the international museum community and the Council of Europe encourages us to continue carrying out the mission that we have projected for our institution - telling the history of the mass repression and thus encouraging reflection on the value of human life.”
The Chairperson of the European Museum Forum, which has organised the prize selection procedure and jury since 1977, as well as the Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg in charge of Arts and Culture, both emphasised the important role of museums in promoting democratic values in society. In difficult times, such as the COVID crisis, support from the public authorities was important, they both underlined.
The Council of Europe Museum Prize has been awarded annually by the Parliamentary Assembly since 1977. It aims to encourage the contribution of museums to a greater understanding of the rich diversity of European culture.
Last year’s winner was Albania’s National Museum of Secret Surveillance, the “House of Leaves” in Tirana, while in 2019 the award went to the Museum of Communication in Bern, Switzerland.