The Design Museum in London is European Museum of the Year in 2018, winning the 41th edition of the competition first held in 1977 by reporter Kenneth Hudson and Richard Hoggart under the aegis of the Council of Europe. The award acknowledges excellence in museums in Europe and encourages innovative practices in the museum experience, whatever the subject matter and the nationality of the museum.
Every year since 1977, the European Museum Forum has awarded a prize consisting of a trophy: a sculpture by artist Henry Moore nicknamed The Egg, which the winner can keep for one year. In 41 years the award has become an important acknowledgement of excellence in museum design. Innovation, quality and accessibility are the key principles guiding the work of the jury, who visit up to 50 new and recently renovated museums every year in a rigorous judging process which culminates in an annual conference for museum professionals, at which candidates are invited to present their museums, closing with the announcement of the winners.
The London Design Museum is the seventh British museum to win the main award. It was preceded by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire, winner of the first award, and then by Beamish Museum in County Durham, the National Conservation Centre in Liverpool, the National Railway Museum in York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and, in 2013, the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.
Founded in 1989 by Sir Terence Conran, the Design Museum moved into a new building on Kensington High Street designed by architect John Pawson in 2016. The new building tripled the museum’s size, allowing an entire area to be set aside for a free exhibition of the permanent collection and permitting improvement of educational programmes for the public. In their motivation, the jury praised the museum as “inspiring and socially-aware”, with its collection “celebrating and exploring the magic of human creativity, the objects, ideas skills and forces that shape our lives. ”. The judges note that in the new building designed by John Pawson, “Without losing its identity, this museum was able to renew and strengthen its public values, reopening with a wide range of new exhibitions along with an intense program of activities, providing an impressive and memorable experience for its visitors of all ages, achieving accessibility of the highest quality”.
Along with the main prize, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe presented 7 special mentions and three related prizes. The 2018 Museum Prize went to the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, the first museum of recent history to address a highly relevant theme: war seen through children’s eyes. Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding in Betina, Croatia was presented with the Silletto Prize for excellence in collaboration with the local community and the involvement of volunteers.
The Estonian National Museum in Tartu, Estonia was presented with the Kenneth Hudson Award for museums that innovate in their role in society.
Recipients of special mentions also include two examples of Italian excellence: the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence and the Egyptian Museum in Turin, while a special commendation for sustainability was awarded to Vapriikki Museum Centre in Tampere, Finland.