The 2018 Council of Europe Museum Prize has been awarded to the War Childhood Museum, located in Sarajevo. The museum was selected by the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) at a meeting in Budapest today.
According to the rapporteur on the Museum Prize, Adele Gambaro (Italy, FDG), the museum is a truly inspiring example of a grassroots initiative led by a charismatic young person, Jasminko Halilovic, who was himself a child during the four-year war siege of Sarajevo. As part of his own “healing process”, in 2010 he launched a short questionnaire on the internet and collected over 1,000 replies, which were initially edited in a book and later presented in this museum. Through powerful personal stories and objects associated with each story, this museum advocates peace, reconciliation and the value of cultural diversity.
At the ceremony, Halilovic started off by saying that he has visited 41 out of 47 CoE member states, and he plans to visit the remaining six before his 30th birthday. While he was traveling around Europe over the last 12 years, he learned a lot about the shared fears, shared hopes, shared challenges, and shared values. He learned mostly from people, and from their individual, personal stories. He also visited and learned from over 100 museums, and extensively thought about how museums can influence our European society.
“Peace, freedom, democracy, equality, human rights – those are the values we Europeans believe we stand for. However, we live in times when these values are tested and questioned. We Europeans and our societies are being tested. Our belief, our will, our determination is being tested. The idea of Europe – the idea of a free place where every single citizen has a right to live, work, learn, or go to museums – the idea that was almost defeated, but eventually defended in my home city of Sarajevo 25 years ago – that idea is being tested once again. Tomorrow, children of Eastern Ukraine will again go to school through check points held by armed soldiers. That is not how children should go to school. Tonight, thousands of child refugees will sleep on streets around Europe. That is not where children should sleep. But it seems that we Europeans nowadays cannot even agree on these simple things – where children should sleep, and how they should go to school,” Halilovic added.
He told a story how museum was born in times of growing tensions and growing polarization of our society. Pointing out on the items behind him, he said that they found their home in a n old municipal building in Sarajevo’s Old Town. Each one of them comes with a personal story about experience of growing up affected by war. The stories which are at the heart of the War Childhood Museum’s collection, teach us that the important things in life should not be taken for granted. This Museum celebrates the strength, resilience and creativity of children, and ultimately reminds us that we – as individuals and societies – are capable to win over any challenges.
“Peace, freedom, democracy, equality, human rights – we take these for granted, and we shouldn’t. I hope that Europe, its citizens, its museums, and its institutions – including the Council of Europe – will defend these values successfully,” he said.
“The War Childhood Museum changed my life, and I witnessed its ability to change the lives of others. May it continue to positively influence people and their lives in the future, and may it always stand for peace, freedom, democracy, equality, and human rights,” Halilovic concluded.