Kimmo Antila, former member of the European Museum of the Year Award Jury and Board Member of the European Museum Forum has passed away from cancer at the young age of 57. He was a greatly valued member of the EMYA Jury and latterly of the European Museum Forum Board.

Kimmo’s background was in the history of science, technology and transport and he had a particular affinity for museums in these fields. His knowledge and sympathies were far wider than this however, and he was extremely knowledgeable about all genres of museum. His life converged with EMYA when he was Project Manager of the Museum Centre Vapriikki, in the City of Tampere. It was the exhibition on ‘Tampere 1918, A Town in the Civil War’ which made his international reputation, winning a Special Commendation at the EMYA award ceremony in Bremerhaven in 2011. This exhibition was one of 51 museums chosen from many thousands for inclusion in EMYA Book ‘Revisiting Museums of Influence; Four Decades of Innovation and Public Quality in European Museums’. The conclusion of the author, Mikhail Gnedovsky, is worth quoting at length:

‘The exhibition was quite explicit in its message to the public: the Finnish Civil War was insanity, a mistake, a useless waste of human lives on both sides. There were no winners in the war, no peace was achieved and no ultimate truth has ever been found in the wake of these events. The nation was divided into two camps for many generations as a result of the war. ‘This was a traumatic experience for the whole nation’, said one of the project curators, ‘and we didn’t want to take sides, neither did we want to deny the complexity of the events – we wanted to make visitors accept and respect the tragic moment in history and reconcile with the past’. The museum team was brave to go straight to the heart of one of the most difficult issues in their nation’s history. The museum took bold action aimed at healing the historic trauma, which has, for ninety years, influenced the nation’s political life and cast a shadow on Finnish society.’

Kimmo brought the same qualities of rigour and humanity and ability to deal with conflicts and complexities to his role of EMYA judge, which he carried for nearly five years until his responsibilities shifted to becoming a trustee of the European Museum Forum in 2020. During these years he held the job as Director of the Finnish Postal Museum until last year, when he took over as Director for the innovative Historical Museums of the City of Tampere.

As members of the jury and board who worked with Kimmo, we will always remember his insightful judgement of museums, but also his great heart and capacity for friendship. As he faced his end, he sent us a thoughtful and generous email of farewell, and posted a farewell to all his many friends and colleagues on Facebook, showing again the inner strength and courage which were among his most admirable characteristics.