[May 2010] This little museum serves as an information centre and venue for discussion concerning fertility and relevant social policy.
MUVS performs groundbreaking work in the scientific and educational presentation of delicate matters relating to contraception and abortion: which contraception methods are safe and effective? How were pregnancies prevented a century ago? From condoms made of fish swim bladders to kitchen tables used by back-alley abortionists, there’s a great deal of material to see here.
The museum, which was founded as a private initiative by gynaecologist Dr. Christian Fiala, still does not receive any funding from the public sector. It was recently given an important honour for European museums: the Kenneth Hudson Award, conferred by the European Museum Forum for the first time ever, recognises “outstanding success in communicating ideas and values to the public”.
Dr. Hartmut Prasch, member of the executive council of the ICOM, trustee of the European Museum Forum, director of the Museum of Folk Culture in Spittal an der Drau:
The MUVS is the only museum of its kind in the world and should receive public-sector funding.
This museum focuses on delicate matters concerning contraception and abortion. High standards in terms of science and documentation are employed in dealing with taboo subjects. In other words, a service is performed that is, strictly speaking, the responsibility of the state and the federal governments.
The European Museum Forum’s Kenneth Hudson Award is a new honour recognising innovative treatment of controversial subjects and groundbreaking ideas. The MUVS is more than deserving! This award sends a signal and represents support of a small institution that is sailing against the wind, though it is an international role model for others. It is in the public interest that someone tackles these socially relevant issues and presents them in a manner both scientifically competent and educationally appropriate. This private initiative should also receive funding from the public sector.
This award reflects the high quality and dynamism to be found in the development and growth of Austrian museums. Previously, in 2009, the Salzburg Museum received the European Museum of the Year Award.
Walter Pellinger, physical education teacher, Enns secondary school, has been involved with extracurricular youth work for the past 32 years:
The educational work performed by the MUVS is more effective than the sex education provided at schools.
This is the best museum I have ever seen, and I have visited many as either a private person or a teacher. I think the high quality and matter-of-factness with which this emotional theme is presented and the treatment in terms of sociopolitical and historical aspects are excellent. This is the third time I’ve brought a class from my school to the museum, and the students asked more questions during this visit than when we went to a hip radio station before.
Great Aha! experiences always occur when young people learn about contraception. Many of them are made aware, for the first time, of the fact that, for example, condoms are not as reliable as assumed. Sex education is taught as part of biology at our school, but here, the subject’s presented in a wholly different way, and a great deal of material is on display. During the empathetic guided tour, young people are given direct answers to the questions gnawing at them, answers they haven’t been able to get anywhere else.
Even for me as an adult, I learn something new each time. The treatment of abortion in terms of sociopolitical aspects is unmatched anywhere else, and the enormous suffering that went on before legalisation is also depicted.
Anna Pichler, museum guide:
A museum is turned into a familiar place where young people open up.
Since the museum opened in 2007, I’ve given tours to about 6000 young people. Education about sexual matters should be made separate from the general school curriculum, because young people don’t necessarily want to share their most personal questions with their teacher. Whenever possible, they even send their teacher away, and stepping into the background even relieves educators when this difficult subject is dealt with.
Many of our young visitors learn the medical details concerning their own reproductive organs for the first time. Young people are also interested in the sexuality of the opposite gender. They’re even prepared to use their own pocket money to pay for a museum visit, since we still don’t receive any support from the public sector.
What young people are most concerned in: contraceptives should be made available free of charge for the prevention of pregnancy. Many young people are barely able to afford contraceptives on a regular basis.
Dr. Christian Fiala, museum’s founder, gynaecologist:
The prevention of unwanted pregnancies still does not receive the attention it deserves. Visitor statistics at the museum provide proof of young people’s great interest.
This award represents significant recognition of the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, which is neglected disgracefully in Austria. Helping young people protect themselves requires that we make all necessary knowledge available and ensure that effective contraceptives are affordable and easily available.
Unwanted pregnancies are the result of ignorance of one’s own body and effective methods of contraception. While young people are highly motivated to act responsibly with regard to their fertility, our society fails them. The museum makes important information available that they aren’t getting elsewhere.
The best way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is effective prevention. We accept young people as they are, with their dreams, fears and their curiosity, and we provide information about sexuality without lecturing. This creates trust and a good basis for communication. Our educational concept has been well received: at present, 20 to 30 school classes visit the museum each month, and a number of schools return every year.
Medical experts in the field of contraception have high regard for the museum, and its exacting standards are acknowledged around the world. We even enjoy the support of the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC). The Kenneth Hudson Award represents more important encouragement and a top-notch honour from museum experts in recognition of our educational work.
European Museum Forum’s Kenneth Hudson Award: the Kenneth Hudson Award, conferred for the first time this year, was created in honour of the European Museum Forum’s founder. This award goes to individuals, projects or museums in recognition of “outstanding success in communicating a museum’s ideas and values to the public”.
Other museums that received awards this year:
• Ozeaneum in Stralsund, Germany (Museum of the Year Award)
• Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels (special acclaim)
• The Science Gallery in Dublin (special acclaim)
• Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam (special acclaim)
• Agbar Water Museum in Cornellà de Llobregat, Spain (Micheletti Award for technical or industrial museums)
• Museum of Portimao in Portugal (Council of Europe Prize)
Since 1977, a total of 1700 museums in 40 European countries have taken part in this competition.
Previous Austrian award-winners have been:
• Joanneum (Graz, 1983)
• Museum of Biometeorology (Zwettl, 1987)
• Moorland and Peat Bog Museum (Heidenreichstein, 1991)
• Museum of Folk Culture (Spittal an der Drau, 1995)
• Museum of Applied Arts, MAK (Vienna, 1996)
• inatura museum of natural history (Dornbirn, 2006)
• Salzburg Museum (2009)
European Museum Forum:
The European Museum Forum (EMF) operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe and is one of Europe’s leading institutions for development of the quality of the continent’s museums. Founded in 1977, it confers several awards to museums each year.