Vani Museum honoured with Community Participation prize at European Museum of the Year Awards

  • In 2020, the western Georgian venue reopened after a three-year renovation, the first in 35 years at the institution that was launched as the first archaeological museum in the country in 1981. Annie Davarashvili/Georgian National Museum, 10 May 2023 - 15:45, Tbilisi,Georgia

Western Georgia's recently renovated Vani Archaeological Museum has received the Community Participation and Engagement prize from this year's European Museum of the Year Awards, following its nomination for honours at the event in December.

As the 2023 EMYA winners were revealed on Saturday, the Georgian National Museum network venue was selected for the Silletto Prize, established in 2011 to mark a "deep, continuous and empowering involvement between a museum and its stakeholders".

The award takes a look at the role of museums can play in engaging a wider public in their operations and projects - from planning to development, management and execution.

[The relationship] places the museum as a point of orientation and reference at the centre of its communities, whether these be local, national, global or otherwise defined

- European Museum Forum summary for the prize

Reopening in 2020 after a three-year renovation - the first in 35 years for the venue built in 1981 - the Vani Museum plays a historical role as the first archaeological museum in Georgia. It was launched on the back of extensive discoveries at the Vani Archaeological Complex in the western Imereti region since the mid-20th century.

Archaeologists working at the site through decades have unearthed local and Greek ceramics, sculptures, metal cutlery, accessories and more dated between 800 BCE-100 CE, with these and other exhibits now safeguarded at the Museum described by David Lordkipanidze, te General Director of the GNM network, as a "significant cultural and educational hub" for the locality.

In its profile, EMYA organisers noted its role in relatuion to the city of Vani, an "archaeological site and religious centre linked to the mythical Golden Fleece" legend.

[The renovated Museum's] updated permanent exhibitions [are] covering the eight centuries of [the western Georgian historical Kingdom of] Colchis’s political and administrative centre, the land of the Golden Fleece, and one of the outstanding temple cities of the Hellenistic world

- European Museum Forum summary for the prize

In reference to the Silletto Prize for the venue, they noted local community members in the region were running the Museum, while its volunteer projects and programmes involved the community in "safeguarding, preservation, and contemporary relevance" of the site of the Vani digs.

The programmes range from summer school for children from underprivileged families, to programmes on eco-literacy and civic education and workshops for local teachers on how to use the Museum’s resources in their work for addressing civic and societal topics, the profile for the Museum also pointed out.

This year's EMYA selections also honoured a second Georgian-based venue - the Ilia Chavchavadze Literary Memorial Museum in Tbilisi - at the Awards. The space preserving the legacy of the major publicist, author and public figure of the second half of the 19th century was selected for the Special Commendation among nominees.

The two selections of Georgian museums follow similar EMYA distinctions for other venues in the country over the recent years, including the a diploma for the Bolnisi Museum, of the Georgian National Museum network, in 2022 and a nomination for Tbilisi's Art Palace museum in 2019.