Friday, October 24, 2008

The Road to Ukraine

The road to Ukraine--it's finally starting to become real for me. From January-April, 2009 I'll be a Fulbright Scholar, teaching museum studies and working with museums in Ukraine. It's an amazing opportunity and I'm very much looking forward to meeting and working with students and colleagues there. My work will focus primarily on issues exhibits and interpretation.

One request for my blog readers. Resources for books and other teaching materials are extremely scarce in Ukraine. I'll be shipping all kinds of materials to help establish a useful library for the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, my host institution. If you have samples of items such as exhibition designs, gallery guides, school programs, educational kits or other materials and want to share, please contact me.

My other observation is about how, for me, this has become, already, a piece of personal meaning-making. I applied for the Fulbright because of the chance to work with museums and Ukraine was a country I only knew a slight bit about. However, as I think about it, I realize that I've come across Ukraine--and Ukrainian Americans-- in a number of different projects. Years ago, a project on ethnic resorts in the Catskills helped me learn about vibrant Ukrainian resorts and communities in the Catskills. The picture above--that's not from Ukraine, but of the beautiful wood church that's St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jewett. Many communities here in the Northeast have Ukrainian communities--most recently I've had the chance to learn about that community in Sayre, PA as part of a project for the Sayre Historical Society. A part of the Dutch and American exhibit project Passing on the Comfort that I've worked on this year for the Mennonite Central Committee and the International Menno Simon Center is about Ukrainian Mennonites. And, as I've told friends and colleagues about the Fulbright, I'm amazed at how many say, "oh, my family came from Ukraine!" So I'm beginning to stitch together my own picture of Ukraine, and can't wait for the opportunity to really immerse myself in this vibrant, complicated culture.

I'll plan to blog regularly in this space about my time there--so check back. If you're reading this and wondering if I'm available for projects next year...yes! Whether I'm in Kyiv or upstate New York, I can still be in touch and will be back by the end of April.

From top to bottom: Ukraine Road, Jewett, NY
St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Church, Jewett, NY
Members of Sayre's Ukrainian community on a picnic, circa 1910.

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