From Polish Folk Culture to Portuguese Football, this year’s nominated EMYA short list offers a diverse choice of subject matter.
Fierce debate and careful consideration is currently underway as the European Museum Forum assesses the nominations for this year’s European Museum of the Year. Having received a total of 49 entries from 24 different European member states, the lucky winner will be announced at a special ceremony taking place in April at the International Puppet Centre of Tolosa (TOPIC), a 45-minute drive south of San Sebastián, the latter being one of two European Capitals of Culture in 2016.
The 2015 winners saw Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum come away with the coveted EMYA title, with a special Council of Europe Museum Prize given to Marseille’s MuCEM, officially known as the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Other previous winners include the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul (2014), Glasgow’s Riverside Museum: Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel (2013), the Salzburg Museum (2009), Tallinn’s Kumu Art Museum (2008), CosmoCaixa in Barcelona (2006), MARQ, Archaeological Museum of Alicante (2004), London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (2003), and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (2000).
So which cultural institutions are in the running for the 2016 title? The contenders come from far and wide across Europe, be it Finland, France, Poland, Portugal, Belgium or Bosnia-Herzegovina. Here’s a little look at just five of the 49 museums vying for the coveted top spot, each of which are situated in some of our most popular city break destinations…
The world’s first museum devoted to microbes and micro-organisms, making up in fact two-thirds of all living matter! This unique and utterly fascinating museum opened its doors in October 2014 in the Plantage district of Amsterdam and offers a wealth of interactive exhibits including a body scanner, showing what types of microbes live on the body (over a hundred thousand billion on each and every one of us!), whilst a kiss-o-meter counts the number of microbes transferred during a kiss. You’ll also see a preserved human digestive system, rotting food, decomposing animals and even a working laboratory in action, complete with petri dishes and household objects.
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris
Opened in 2006 by President Jacques Chirac, the Musée du Quai Branly occupies an exceptional location on the banks of the River Seine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and was named not only after the section of the riverbank upon which it is set, but also after the scientist, Édouard Branly. With a collection of over 450,000 objects, the museum displays a selected 3,500 exhibits at any given time including costumes, masks and musical instruments from Africa, North Africa and the Near East Asia, Oceania and the Americas, presented as a continuous circuit so as to highlight the historical depth of the civilisations and cultures that produced them.
Museu FC Porto, Porto
As you may have cunningly deduced from its name, this museum is devoted to the Portuguese football club, FC Porto, the most internationally successful of its kind in the country. Only opening its doors in 2013, this relatively-new museum is set under the east stand of the city’s Estádio do Dragão stadium and contains 27 high-tech, thematic and interactive areas devoted to the club’s history, including its most memorable matches, titles won, managers and players, in addition to other national sports including handball, basketball and even roller hockey. And of course, there’s a large collection of silverware on display, including seven international trophies.
MAO – Museo d’Arte Orientale, Turin
Dedicated to the art and culture of Asian countries, Turin’s Museum of Oriental Art is housed in the 17th-century Palazzo Mazzonis and comprises five distinct galleries corresponding to the five different cultural areas from the Asian continent: South and South-East Asia, with a particular focus on religious art from India; China and its funerary objects; religious and secular objects from Japan; the Himalayan Region, with a collection centred round the Buddhist art of Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal; and finally, the Islamic countries, covering an area spanning the Mediterranean to Central Asia.
State Ethnographic Museum, Warsaw
The oldest of its kind in Poland, the State Ethnographic Museum was founded well over a century ago in 1888 with the aim of collecting, preserving and showcasing the Polish folk culture, including customs, rituals and material culture. To complement its domestic collection, the museum also exhibits examples of international folk culture, from Africa, Oceania and America. In all, there’s over 80,000 exhibits.