14 Henrietta Street has won a prestigious award at the European Museum of The Year 2020 awards, which took place yesterday evening (6 May 2021).
The Dublin museum, the only Irish nomination among the 60 nominees, was awarded the prestigious Silletto Prize. The Silletto Prize is sponsored by the Silletto Foundation and is awarded to museums which excel at engaging with their communities. The prize is awarded to a museum which has demonstrated excellence in involving its local community in planning and developing museum and heritage projects.
The Silletto Prize
The award is presented as part of the European Museum Forum’s annual European Museum of The Year Awards, which support, encourage, award and showcase excellence and innovation in the museum field. The ceremony was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, with the 2021 winners also announced during yesterday’s event. The competition is open to new museums that have opened to the public in the past three years, or an established museum that has completed a substantial programme of modernisation, extension, re-organisation or re-interpretation during the past three years.
14 Henrietta Street
Opened in September 2018, 14 Henrietta Street is not a museum in the traditional sense. The building and the lives lead within it are considered the primary artefact in the collection, the layers of history are visible on the walls and tell the story of the lives of the former residents of the house. Oral histories generously shared by former residents of 14 Henrietta Street and other nearby tenements, contributed to, and now feature as part of the guided tours. By listening and talking with visitors, historians, local residents, the local community and through the knowledge of others, the museum continues to discover new stories, gather memories and add to the museum’s collection and visitor experience.
Access to the house is by guided tour, which allows visitors to ask questions and to share their stories – meaning no two tours are the same. Many visitors to the museum have memories of the house itself, or the historical period covered in the tours. Opportunities to learn through talking and listening are part of the tour experience and help bring to life the stories of the people who passed through the house.
This is a momentous occasion for 14 Henrietta Street. This award is a testament to the power of storytelling, thoughtful conservation and restoration, and creating a people-centred experience. Iseult Byrne, CEO, Dublin City Council Culture Company
She continued: "Our ‘people first’ approach underpins the development and delivery of all our programmes and activities, none more so than here at 14 Henrietta Street which places the people of Dublin, and their stories and experiences at its very core.”
“14 Henrietta Street is a place inspired and informed by Dublin, its history and its people. This is a win for the city as much as it is a win for the museum. On behalf of Dublin City Council Culture Company, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed to making the museum what it is today, to Dublin City Council for their commitment to preserving this building for the people of our city, and to our staff, tour guides, visitors and many supporters, particularly the historians and former tenement residents who have helped us to share these stories. The best way to celebrate this award will be to reopen our doors and welcome visitors back to the house, which we look forward to doing very soon, and as soon as government guidelines allow. Culture plays a huge role in our recovery now, and through our connection to culture and our communities I hope we will become safer and stronger together.”
Richard Shakespeare, Chairman of the Board of Dublin City Council Culture Company commented on the award: “The Board would like to congratulate the team at 14 Henrietta Street on this remarkable achievement. We are so pleased that Dublin is home to this museum that represents the lives and stories of our people. This unique museum experience which seamlessly connects local stories to universal ones is a great addition to the cultural landscape of our city and this recognition is great testament to the team at the Culture Company and the funding of Dublin City Council which continues to support it and its ongoing vision"
Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of Dublin City Council added: “14 Henrietta Street was in a derelict state when Dublin City Council undertook to save and renovate it. Work was carried out over a 10-year period to stabilise, preserve and restore the building and then our attention turned to the question of how to create a really fantastic experience for visitors.
We are so proud of what the team has produced and the interest Dubliners and overseas visitors alike have taken in this museum.” Richard Shakespeare, Chairman of the Board of Dublin City Council Culture Company
Achievements so far
In the short time since it opened the museum has achieved a lot. In 2019 it launched MUSEUM, a book of poetry and photography by Paula Meehan and Dragana Jurisic inspired by the house, and later this month it will launch a series of historical publications by historian Donal Fallon, Dr Tim Murtagh and Dr Melanie Hayes that extend the engagement work of the museum to tell us more about the lives of the people who lived at 14 Henrietta Street.
Other awards and recognition for the museum include winner of the ‘Best Conservation / Restoration Project’ and ‘Best Overall Project’ categories at the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards in 2018, special mention at European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2018 in the conservation category, a nomination on the shortlist for the prestigious European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award 2019, and a Europa Nostra European Heritage Days Stories Award 2020 for the museum’s ongoing oral histories programme, Your Tenement Memories.
Other museums in the running for the title included Anne Frank House in Amsterdam; the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth, Greece. Full details on the awards can be found on the European Museum Forum website, and you can watch the EMYA 14 Henrietta Street nominee video here.
14 Henrietta Street is experienced by guided tours, which will resume as soon as government guidelines allow. Until then you can engage with the museum through its online series of fortnightly talks TeaTime Talks, three new publications launching this month, online teaching resources, and new walking tours coming soon.