By Nigar Orujova
The Gobustan national historical preserve in Azerbaijan became a special award winner of the 2013 European Museum of the Year contest in Belgium on May 18.
The European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) was founded in 1977 under the auspices of the Council of Europe, with the aim of recognizing excellence in the European museum scene and encouraging innovations in the field.
The European Museum Forum presented the award to the Gobustan Museum for stimulating public awareness and knowledge of prehistoric art to enrich communities nationally and internationally through a new approach of storytelling and use of advanced technologies.
Earlier, in 2012, the museum was included in the list of Europe's best museums by European experts
The Gobustan museum complex with total area of 2,460 square meters was inaugurated by President Ilham Aliyev in 2011.
Rock paintings helped ancient people maintain the cultural patterns the ancestors of present-day Azerbaijanis had created for thousands of years, communicating the history of the early Azerbaijanis to the present time and bestowing upon humanity such an historical monument of international importance as Gobustan.
The museum's exhibition hall consists of various sections. The section "Gobustan: UNESCO World Cultural Heritage" provides information about 200 similar monuments around the world.
The hall "The natural environment of Gobustan" takes tourists to an illustrated man-made environment corresponding to the actual landscape. A touch-screen shows an animated presentation describing the changes of the Caspian Sea for thousands of years and provides information about the nature and flora of Gobustan.
The "Archaeological discovery in Gobustan" hall sheds light on the discovery and study of petroglyphs and excavations. Of particular interest are human remains, stones, porcelain and other artifacts found in archaeological layers.
Also, tourists can witness the scale of natural change that occurred in Gobustan at an early period and the geography of nomads in the section "Journey in time" that describes life in Gobustan in different periods of history.
The hall "Life of the people of the ancient period" contains information about the manufacture of stone tools and their purposes. A 3D demonstration of stone objects, tools belonging to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic ages, and methods of their production are presented at three stands.
The section "The art of the ancient period" features primitive people's understanding of beauty and their artistic imagination.
The hall "Petroglyphs from the depth of centuries" allows visitors to explore over 6,000 ornaments and the evolution of rock art. The halls "Meaning of petroglyphs" and "Artists of the ancient period of Gobustan" provide information about the meaning of Gobustan rock engravings.
The halls "Animals and hunters" and "Cultural landscape of the Gobustan rock art" describe the remains of ancient animals and most hunted beasts of that period. While at the preserve, one can make a 3D virtual video-flight.
Visitors can use a touch-screen to obtain detailed information in different languages at the museum's information center. The museum, which is equipped with innovative technology, has special multimedia touch-screens, educational and entertaining games, interactive displays, and 3D video.
The EMYA award is given to museums which contribute most directly to attracting audiences and satisfying visitors with unique atmosphere, imaginative interpretation and presentation, a creative approach to education and social responsibility.
Winners of the award are both large and small museums that developed something special and changed the standards of quality in European museums.
Scotland's Museum of Transport and Travel, "Riverside Museum", this year became the winner of the European Museum of the Year Award. The Riverside Museum was awarded for its brilliant demonstration of how a specialist transport collection can renew its relevance through active engagement with wider social and universal issues.
The forum also presented three further awards and four special commendations to museums demonstrating excellence and innovation in delivering public quality to Batalha's Municipal Community Museum in Portugal, MAS Museum aan de Stroom in Belgium, Art Museum Riga Bourse in Latvia, National Maritime Museum in the Netherlands and the Spanish San Telmo Museum.