Home » About » Awards & Fellowships

Awards & Fellowships

The National Association for Museum Exhibition Annual Excellence in Exhibition Competition recognizes outstanding achievement in exhibition from all types of museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and non-commercial institutions offering exhibitions to the public.  Following is a list of past winners.

NAME also provides fellowships for young people entering the field to attend workshops and conferences. Contact NAME Board Member Becky Menlove to find out more about our current program. Click here for a list of past Fellowship recipients.

Twenty-Fifth Annual Excellence in Exhibitions 2013

When creating exhibitions we strive to incorporate best practices into our process. By integrating visitor feedback, strong and accessible storylines, powerful objects, robust experiences, and purposeful design, we hope our exhibitions will resonate with the public. This year’s winners, however, took their projects a step further. Each exhibition highlighted here had a unique vision or intent that guided the process and set it apart from many other projects. Through sheer beauty, visitor empowerment, community engagement, or integrated architecture, each of these winners pushed forward an element of exhibit development or design and created an exhibition worthy of recognition. Congratulations to this year’s winners!

Special Distinction: Aesthetics and Materials
The temporary exhibition Light: Installations by Bruce Munro at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania displayed eight light installations by UK artist Bruce Munro. The interpretive goal of Light was to create a nocturnal artistic intervention that illuminated areas of the property in compelling and transformative ways.Artworks were strategically placed throughout Longwood Gardens to highlight a range of areas within the gardens, transforming lakes, meadows, forests, and fields in ways that demonstrated the links between nature and culture. The installation altered everyday materials such as recycled CDs and PET bottles into beautiful art.

Special Distinction: Messaging and Engagement
Health Happens Here at The California Museum in Sacramento was developed for California elementary students and policy makers. Components promote interactivity, personal connections, and empowerment. By playing kid-friendly games, visitors explore connections between health and communities, including food access, urban sprawl, public education, civic participation, sustainable community- building, social equity, and environmental issues.

Special Distinction: Community Engagement
Chicago History Museum’s temporary exhibition Out in Chicago explored the vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history of Chicago. It detailed the emergence of diverse LGBT communities, emphasizing the everyday lives of these Chicagoans as well as their activist struggles for equality and against homophobia and the fear of gender difference.

Special Distinction: Alignment of Site and Mission
The Natural History Museum of Utah was recognized for its suite of Exhibitions: Sky, Life, Land, First Peoples, Great Salt Lake, and Past Worlds. In November 2011 the museum opened its Rio Tinto Center, located on 13 acres along the shoreline of Lake Bonneville, with views of Salt Lake City, the Great Salt Lake, and the Oquirrh Mountains. The new building served as an opportunity to rethink the role of the Natural History museum and its exhibitions. These six permanent exhibitions provide a place-based visitor experience rooted in the natural phenomena of Utah’s unique landscapes and ecosystems and the science they inspire. Because the exhibits were designed in tandem with the building, the museum included carefully framed views of the city and natural spaces beyond the museum walls. The result interweaves immersive spaces, pathways, and experiences.


Twenty-Forth Annual Excellence in Exhibitions 2012

The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition recognizes exhibitions for overall excellence or for stretching the limits of exhibition content and design through innovation. Entries are peer reviewed based on criteria in seven major categories: audience awareness; content and education; curatorship and collections; evaluation; interpretation and communication; design and production; and human comfort and accessibility. Awards are sponsored by four of AAM's Professional Networks including the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE), Curators Committee (CurCom), Education Committee (EdCom) and National Association of Museum Exhibition (NAME). Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann, the 2012 Excellence in Exhibitions Competition coordinator, said of this year’s entries, “I was really impressed with the 18 entries that we received for the Excellence in Exhibitions competition this year. Not only did they represent a broad range of topics from  rock and roll music to folk art to state history, they also showed a commitment of these museums to exceptional design, addressing visitor needs, providing extraordinary educational opportunities, and tackling tough content.”

2012 Awards

Overall Excellence: Detroit Institute of Arts, Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to the Present

This temporary exhibition examined works of art created over 500 years that serve as a visual record of diverse, evolving relationships between Africans and Westerners. The core intent of the show was to present Africans’ perspectives on a range of topics, including pre-existing beliefs about whiteness, trade and settlement, slavery and colonization, assimilation and resistance, and contemporary economic, political, and cultural globalization. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition as its overall winner because of the project’s excellent integration of visitor research and evaluation, inventive design, and clear presentation of challenging content.

Special Distinction – Eloquent Presentation of Topic: Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, Across the Wire: Voices from Heart Mountain

This permanent exhibition explores the stories of World War II internment camps in the United States. Exhibits and displays reveal how rights were denied to Japanese Americans during WWII. Visitors are prompted to think about the relevance of the Heart Mountain experience to current events and the debate about the balance between freedom and national security. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its sensitive and eloquent presentation of a difficult topic.

Special Distinction – Innovative Reframing of Collections: Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County, Dinosaur Hall

This permanent exhibition brings science to life in ways that are relevant and interesting to audiences and highlights the latest discoveries and the process of scientific discovery about dinosaurs. The exhibition is organized around the major questions that drive scientific research on dinosaurs today such as: “What are dinosaurs?” “What was their world like?” “What were they like as living animals?” and “What happened to them?” The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its inventive and inspired framing of an often-told museum topic.

Special Distinction – Exemplary Inclusion of Community Voices: Oakland Museum of California, Coming to California

This permanent exhibition provides a history of California’s people from pre-contact Native cultures to today. The overall goal of the exhibition is to provide a new type of public space within the museum—an inclusive place of inquiry, reflection, and public conversation about the history of California, with room for ongoing contributions by the museum’s communities over time. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its strong commitment to addressing community needs and including community voices.

Honorable Mention: The New York Public Library, Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam

This temporary exhibition highlighted the New York Public Library’s collection of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic materials with the goal of sharing information about the histories, connections, and differences between the three Abrahamic religions; fostering appreciation for the creation of these materials; and engaging diverse audiences. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an honorable mention award because of its topical significance, beautiful design, and inclusion of an interactive exhibit space.

Twenty-Second Annual Excellence in Exhibition Competition 2010

Sponsored by CARE, CurCom, EdCom, and NAME

Special Achievement in Cooperative Learning
Chicago Children’s Museum

Special Achievement in Community Engagement
Changing Places: From Black and White to Technicolor
Levine Museum of the New South

Overall Excellence Award
Dancing Shadows, Epic Tales: Wayang Kulit of Indonesia
Museum of International Folk Art

Overall Excellence Award
Tree Adventure
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania

Twenty-First Annual Excellence in Exhibition Competition 2009

Excellence in Exhibition Design Award
Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World
The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens,  San Marino, CA

Excellence in Exhibition Design Award
Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society Bronx, New York

Honorable Mention
Chic Chicago
Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL

Honorable Mention
France New France: Birth of a French People in North America
Pointe-a-Calliere, Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, Montreal, Canada

Twentieth Annual Excellence in Exhibition Competition 2008

RACE: Are we so different?
The Science Center of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN in partnership with the American Anthropological Association

Ironclad Revolution
The Mariner's Museum, Newport News, VA

Dare to Resist: Jewish Defiance in the Holocaust
Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York, NY

Noah's Ark
Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA


Past Award Winners

Plants Are Up to Something
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

Sensing Chicago
Chicago History Museum

The Wonder Cabinet
Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

Evolving Planet
Field Museum

Asia Trail
Smithsonian National Zoological Park

The Dark Zone
Utah Museum of Natural History

JANE:The Diary of a Dinosaur
Burpee Museum of Natural History

KISS: When a kiss isn't just a kiss
The Contemporary Art Galleries: University of Connecticut

Montreal Love Stories: The Cultural Connection
Pointe-a-Calliere, Montreal Museum of Archeology and History

Teen Chicago
Chicago Historical Society

COURAGE: The Carolina Story That Changed America
Levine Museum

Ours to Fight for: American Jews in the Second World War
Museum of Jewish Heritage

Hall of Ocean Life
The American Museum of Natural History

Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World
Milwaukee Art Museum

Playas…Gems of the Plains
Northwest Texas Museum Association

Heroes of the Sky: Adventures in Early Flight, 1903-1939
The Henry Ford

Alice's Wonderland: A Most Curious Adventure
Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose

Invention at Play
National Museum of American History

Jellies: Living Art
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Joseph McCarthy: A Modern Tragedy
Outagamie County Historical Society

On Stage and Behind the Scenes
Indianapolis Children's Museum

Amazon Rising: Seasons of the River
Shedd Aquarium

Drumbeats: A Percussion Experience
Indianapolis Children's Museum

Revealing Bodies

Congo Gorilla Forest
Bronx Zoo

Dynamic Earth
Royal Ontario Museum

Animal Eyes
Museum of Opthamology History Library, San Francisco

Egyptian Mummies
Denver Museum of Natural History

The Exploratorium