Jewish Museum London wins Museums Change Lives Award
Yosola Olorunshola, 01.10.2019
Winners across four categories announced at awards ceremony in Brighton
The Jewish Museum London has won the Museums Change Lives Award 2019 for Jews, Money, Myth, an exhibition exploring the complex relationship between Jews and money over 2,000 years – confronting deeply held stereotypes that have persisted over centuries.
The museum received the award on Thursday at a ceremony during the Museums Association’s (MA) conference in Brighton. Described by the judges as “brave, fascinating and timely”, the exhibition is based on ground-breaking new research as well as community engagement. Due to popular demand, it has been extended for three months until 17 October.
"Winning the Museums Change Lives Award is a huge honour for us and our partners on this exhibition. Jews, Money, Myth was done in close partnership with the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck University.
"We are a small museum and the Museums Change Lives Award will help put us on the map for the wider community and help us create more vital projects in the future," said Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle, exhibitions curator at the Jewish Museum London.
The exhibition at the Jewish Museum London stood out against tough competition in a category that represents the best of what museums can do – inspiring engagement, reflection and debate. The shortlist for the Museums Change Lives Award featured a range of fascinating projects from Glasgow Women’s Library, the Scottish Maritime Museum, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Time and Tide Museum.
“It was a privilege to be part of the judging panel for the Museums Change Lives Awards,” said Rachel Cockett, director of development at Birmingham Museums Trust, which won the 2018 Museums Change Lives Award.
“The process saw intensive discussion and debate between all the judges and no decision was taken quickly or lightly. I am delighted to be able to recognise the Jewish Museum London as the 2019 winner,” she said.
Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar, Yorkshire won the Best Small Museum Award for its co-curated project Steel Stories, celebrating local iron and steel heritage. Based on in-depth research and collaboration with local community groups, the project paid homage to the people who worked in the industry and prompted debate on the future of the area.
Shortlisted alongside the winner were Totnes Elizabethan House Museum for Totnes’ Women’s Voices 1918-2018 and the Museum of Cardiff for its Memory Boxes initiative. Both innovative projects brought stories from local history to the forefront while collaborating with community groups to make the content accessible.
Victoria Rogers, manager of the Museum of Cardiff, received the Radical Changemaker Award for putting social impact at the core of everything she does. She has taken steps to make the museum a dementia-friendly service, changed the museum’s visitor profile by engaging more diverse audiences, and worked with people in the local area to explore challenging aspects of the city’s history.
Rogers was chosen from a shortlist of inspiring contenders for the award, including Bridget McKenzie, founder of Climate Museum UK, for her environmental activism and Ellie Miles, curator at London Transport Museum for promoting diversity and inclusion in the museum’s contemporary collecting practice.
“We are all too aware of the divisions that our society is facing – the ability to see and accommodate difference, to empathise and to find commonality is a real issue,” said Moira Sinclair, chief executive of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and one of this year’s judges.
“It was so heartening to hear, through the judging process, how museums across the country are responding,” she said.
The Judges’ Award for Environmental Sustainability was awarded to Leeds Museums and Galleries for Beavers to Weavers, an exhibition about the way in which animals use only what they need from their environment. The exhibition took a similarly sustainable approach, using recycled materials in the exhibition design, sourcing materials that would otherwise have been wasted, and explaining these decisions to visitors.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens’ Beat Plastic Pollution campaign and Manchester Museum’s Harlequin Frog Conservation Project were also shortlisted for taking an innovative approach to raising awareness of environmental issues through their museum displays.
In light of the theme of this year's conference, Sustainable and Ethical Museums in a Globalised World, the vast range of entries to the 2019 awards encapsulate the goals of the Museums Change Lives campaign: creating socially-engaged museums that inspire audiences and make an impact in communities.