STAPFERHAUS – THE EUROPEAN MUSEUM OF THE YEAR 2020
The main award for 2020 goes to a museum which asks difficult questions, explores big ideas, and fosters a culture of debate. They choose themes based not on a collection but on rigorous research about what is important to their community, themes which most museums would not dream of addressing. Through its innovative, creative, and future-oriented approach, it offers a model for the museum as laboratory for the art of living – as all museums should be.
Founded in 1960, Stapferhaus, named for the visionary Swiss philosopher Philipp Albert Stapfer, asks difficult questions, explores big ideas, and fosters a culture of debate about the present with an eye to the future. For three decades Stapferhaus organised conferences and discussions in Lenzburg Castle. In the 1990s, it began mounting thematic exhibitions on contemporary issues for a wide audience. In October 2018, Stapferhaus finally moved to its permanent home in a new building at the Lenzburg railway station, bringing together in one place exhibitions, events, office spaces, and open areas.
Thematic exhibitions at Stapferhaus transform big questions into accessible experiences. Visitors become “actors of the present”. By listening to the voices of others, they create a place of thoughtful encounter. This is the basis for Stapferhaus’s new exhibition, “Fake: The Whole Truth”, which calls upon the visitors’ opinions, intelligence, and reflections. Through well-timed and irreverent storytelling, “Fake: The Whole Truth” tackles a philosophically complex topic and offers innovative and transformative ideas for a better and more responsible kind of citizenship.
The building has been transformed into the “Office of the Whole Truth”. Visitors receive a visitor pass intended to make them feel responsible for “the whole truth” throughout their visit. With the declaration “The Truth Needs You”, the exhibition announces the importance of searching and struggling for the truth. Moving from room to room, visitors meet the most charming liar, “Pinocchio”, scientific findings, and open questions about personal and social relationships, as well as frauds, falsifications, conspiracies, and other challenges in their everyday lives. They can test their own ability to tell the truth on a lie detector, engage in a debate between a journalist, doctor, judge, politician, writer, and priest, and explore the explosion of fake news with the rise of social media. In the interactive “One-Stop Lie Drop-off Centre” space, visitors are confronted with various lies, asked to evaluate them, and invited to add their contributions to a book of lies. Through its imaginative design and high degree of interactivity, coupled with a good sense of humour and playful atmosphere, this sensuous and intelligent exhibition engages and motivates its visitors.
Stapferhaus also organises events, workshops, and classes. It is constantly testing new formats and welcoming third parties to showcase their ideas. With its innovative, creative, and future forward attitude, Stapferhaus tackles unconventional though relevant topics and surpasses established museum standards. Stapferhaus offers a model for the museum as laboratory for the art of living – as all museums should be.
Source: EMYA2020 Winners Brochure
"What an honour to have won the EMYA2020! Many thanks to the European Museum Forum and the EMYA jury for this important award. It honours the Stapferhaus, the changeable new building and our exhibition work. In our house the big questions of the present stand at the forefront, the constructive dialogue and thus the audience - old and young, conservative and progressive, experts and laymen. The prize thus also stands for all museums that are not afraid to take on social responsibility. We are looking forward to an exchange with them and the audience!"
Stapferhaus, European Museum of the Year 2020
Photo captions and credits:
First photo: The Stapferhaus is not a museum in the conventional sense – and it places itself in the service of each particular cause. © Stapferhaus / Anita Affentranger
Second photo: Two-and-a-half-years ago Stapferhaus moved into this building – then an empty stage built entirely out of timber – ready to be transformed. © Stapferhaus / Ralph Feiner