The Albanian National Museum of Secret Surveillance ‘’House of Leaves’’ located in Tirana is the winner of the 2020 Council of Europe Museum Prize. The museum from Tirana was chosen by the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on December 6 2019 in Paris.
The National Museum of Secret Surveillance ‘’House of Leaves’’ was opened on March 23rd 2017 and is the newest museum in Albania and certainly the most intriguing one. It is located in the building that temporarily housed Gestapo during the occupation of Albania in WWII and became the Central Directorate of the State Secret Service Sigurimi from 1944 to 1991.
The purpose of the museum is to commemorate and honour the victims of the communism terror who experienced psychological and physical violence, who were murdered, imprisoned, tortured in Albania during the communist totalitarian regime.
As the museum says on its website : ‘’As the history of Albania itself under the Communist dictatorship that was installed at the end of World War II and continued for almost half a century, the House of Leaves also, was covered for a long time with all sorts of legends and it comprised the unknown, a mystery. Whispers of people and rustling of leaves… By opening the doors of this house, presenting the activities that were conducted in it and many other things related to it, this museum will unfold simultaneously aspects of Albanian society in the conditions of a regime that aimed at the total control over the human bodies and souls.
Interceptions, checks, spying … that brought arrests, internments, tortures, severe punishments for quite many innocent people. This museum is dedicated to them…’’
The museum consists of 9 sections, 31 rooms and is very authentic, intact with original archive recordings and equipment.
The decision is motivated according to the website of the Parliamentary Assembly by the representative of the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the Museum Prize Roberto Rampi (Italy, SOC), in the following way: “we need to support and encourage smaller museums with less resources in openly dealing with the wounds of the past. The “House of Leaves” is a very moving museum run on a very low budget by enthusiastic staff. Today, society is confronted with the widespread use of high-tech devices and threats of mass surveillance through facial recognition, access to private data, etc. This museum is evocative of the darkest days of the past which should not be forgotten.’’ ( source: Parliamentary Assembly)
The winner receives for a year a bronze statuette created by Joan Miró and a diploma.
The Council of Europe Museum Prize was established in 1977. It is awarded to museums which in a vital way promote respect for human rights and democracy, contribute to understanding of European heritage, bridging cultures, overcoming social and political borders, broadening visitors’ knowledge and understanding of contemporary societal issues and exploring ideas of democratic citizenship. ( source: Parliamentary Assembly)
The prize is decided on the basis of three proposals presented by a jury of the European Museum Forum and forms part of the European Museum of the Year Awards.
Photos: taken during the visit of Central and Eastern Europe Center and EIOCO at the House of Leaves in July 2019. Communications-Unlimited.nl. © Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2019. All rights reserved
Text: Communications-Unlimited.nl. © Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2019. All rights reserved
Cover photo: screen photo of an interview with the victim of communism. The documentary is broadcast at the House of Leaves.