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.
‘The award scheme of the Museum Prize has an important role in promoting the core values of the Council of Europe, the values that we cannot take for granted and that we need to keep defending continuously.’ Mrs. Vesna Marjanović, member of the Serbian Parliament and former Rapporteur for the Council of Europe Museum Prize.
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 on the initiative of member of parliament Krzysztof Truskolaski who is also a member of the Assembly of the Council of Europe..
In June 2023 we hosted in Białystok Mr. Beat Haechler, director of the Alpin Museum in Swiss Bern, who was a judge. According to the rules of contest, before the jury had time for deliberation, our museum could have been visited one more time by the judge, this time remaining anonymous.
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.’
— I am proud of what the Sybir Memorial Museum represents and what business it engages. This award is an honour, that our museum deserves with no doubt. Congratulations to all, thanks to whom the facility develops so dynamically — said the Mayor of the City of Białystok, Tadeusz Truskolaski.
— It is a great honour, that the Sybir Memorial Museum has received the prestigious 2024 Council of Europe Museum Prize — the oldest, continental museum prize, established by the first European political organization. The received honour proves our mission of creating a European institution devoted to the history and memory of Polish citizens deported to Sybir. Cooperation with Sybiraks all over the world is an invaluable source of inspiration and authenticity in introducing their fates. Thanks to the trust and support of our community and the commitment of the entire team of the Sybir Memorial Museum, we can celebrate this extraordinary honor. It is a success of all residents of our unique city — Białystok — said Wojciech Śleszyński, director of the Sybir Memorial Museum.
On December 19th, 2023, we celebrated the awarding of the Council of Europe Museum Prize 2024 together! The president of Białystok Tadeusz Truskolaski, member of parliament Krzysztof Truskolaski, representatives of the Association of Sybiraks – headed by the president of the Białystok branch Jolanta Hryniewicka – and the team of the Sybir Memorial Museum met with media representatives at a conference regarding the awarding of the Council of Europe Museum Award 2024 to the Białystok facility. Here you can read the full report from this event.
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.
More information will be provided during the conference that is held on Tuesday, December 19, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. in the Sybir Memorial Museum.