Congratulations from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage to the Sybir Memorial Museum - Muzeum Pamięci Sybiru

21 December 2023

Congratulations from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage to the Sybir Memorial Museum

On December 21, the Sybir Memorial Museum received a letter from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage with congratulations on receiving the Council of Europe Museum Prize.

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In his congratulatory letter, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz writes:

Dear Mr. Director,

in connection with the awarding of the ‘2024 Council of Europe Museum Prize to the Sybir Memorial Museum in Białystok, and in connection with the nomination for the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA), I should like to offer my congratulations to the Director and wish him further success in museum activities. This prestigious award, given annually since 1977 to newly established or renovated European museums, is not only a great distinction, but also an obligation to continue effective work in the field of spreading historical awareness and proclaiming values related to respect for human rights.

The tragic experiences that Polish society experienced thanks to the Soviet regime are an important part of the entire collective European memory. They articulate a warning to today’s and future generations, pointing out the need to constantly defend democratic values and oppose resurgent totalitarianism. This message, strong in its form and content, is becoming extremely important, especially today, in the context of the current war events taking place beyond the eastern border of Poland and the European Union. Through history, we point to contemporary problems and threats that should unite European societies in defense of shared values.

Dear Mr. Director,

I would like to convey my special thanks to the creators and all the people who contributed to the creation of the Sybir Memorial Museum, the more that, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage financially supported the construction of the Museum. This great contribution to the creation of the Museum, in its current shape, was not only honored by the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, but also appreciated by a wide group of visitors who, from September 17, 2021, in the newly opened Museum, could become more familiar with such an important, and at the same time, tragic part of the history of the Polish nation.

Sincerely,

Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz

The Sybir Memorial Museum received the 2024 Council of Europe Museum Prize. The decision was made on December 5, 2023 at the meeting of the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Apart from that, we were nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award.

The Council of Europe is the oldest European institution upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It was established in 1949, so after the experience of World War II in order to bring peace and cooperation in Europe based on common, fundamental rules. From the very beginning, among those values, culture was on a high place as a carrier of the ideals of freedom, tolerance and respect towards human dignity.

Based on the recommendations developed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in March 1977, the program for European museum prize was created. For museums that promote stating the human law, help understanding modern, social problems, support diversity and dialogue, take care of collective memory and build bridges between nations and cultures. The program consists of, most of all, the Council of Europe Museum Prize and the European Museum of the Year Award.

Grafika zawierająca granatowy napis "Museum Prize/Prix du musee 2024" oraz logotyp Rady Europy z napisami Council of Europe i Conseil de l'europe

Every year European Museums want to interview for the program. Museums, which have been established or extensively renewed in the last three years. The Sybir Memorial Museum in Białystok entered the competition in the spring of 2023.

In November, at the Portuguese headquarters of the European Museum Forum takes place the jury deliberations, which makes a list of nominated to the European Museum of the Year Prize — these museums are invited to the May meeting in Portimão, during which the ceremonial gala is held and the winner is pronounced.

The jury avail of the November recommendations at the later meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which choses the laureate of the Council of Europe Museum Prize in Strasbourg.

On December 4, 2023 we found out that the Sybir Memorial Museum was among 50 nominees to the European Museum of the Year Prize. The other nominees from Poland were the Mazovian Museum in Płock, the National Museum in Lublin, the Museum of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice in Wrocław and the Museum and Memorial in Sobibór. Who will be the winner, we find out in May 2024.

One day later, on December 5, 2023 we received a message saying, that we had been given the 2024 Council of Europe Museum Prize. Its handing will take place in April 2024 in Strasbourg.

According to the committee representative for the Museum Prize, Constantinos Efstathiou (Cyprus, SOC):

‘The museum works with the strong narrative of deportation, reducing research-based material to the essentials, working with strong spatial images that give a voice to the selected authentic objects. The museum’s ability to convey history through workshops, events, media, publications and new formats is impressive and brings it to a broad audience.’

The symbol of the Council of Europe Museum Prize is a sculpture ‘Woman with beautiful breasts’ made by a Catalonian sculptor Joan Miró. The work is a kind of the challenge cup — the awarded museum presents the sculpture in its space within a year. The Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum, professor Wojciech Śleszyński will present the museum and accept the award in April 2024 in Strasbourg, during the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Among the honoured with the Council of Europe Museum Prize in its decade-long history were such facilities as: The Workers Museum in Copenhagen (2023) or Nano Nagle Place in Cork (2022). Until now only one polish facility has received this prestigious award. It was European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk — in 2016.

The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage supported the construction of the Sybir Memorial Museum with a grant of 9.4 million PLN. Additionally, the Ministry of Culture supported the preparation of the permanent exhibition, which received grants in the frame of EU funds in the amount of almost 6.8 million PLN.

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