Thursday, January 22, 2009

Change is Coming!

Everyone in Ukraine says change will take time, it might take generations, it is hard to change the old Soviet way of doing things. But yesterday, I got to see that change is coming, that it is possible to change the old ways of doing things, and that Ukrainian museums, despite difficult financial times, have people working in them with the power and energy to make them new places, connected to their audiences.

I met Tatiana and Anya, staff members at the National Art Museum of Ukraine. The first thing I saw as we entered the museum is a feedback board, asking visitors to share their opinions on how to make the museum their favorite museum. A simple thing, but very unusual here.

And then, just off the main entrance, was an entire room devoted to children--it contained an exhibit about understanding color. The exhibit had contemporary art work from the collections, interactive computer games, and a couple hands-on activities for children. Anya and Tatiana were justifiedly very proud of their work--it was engaging and exciting.

They also do family programs and the technology and software for their computer interactives were developed and contributed by a father of one of their regular young visitors. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I'll be spending a future day with them brainstorming and prototyping some additional interactives. Anya said that one of the hardest things was that she'd been to several different trainings and had heard people talk about interactives and other family activities, but had not been to see them in European or American museums. So hopefully by playing around with some prototypes and some sample family activity materials I brought with me, they can continue the development of new ideas in their museum.

And at the Ivan Honchar Museum, we met again in a planning process for an exhibit on Ukrainian kalitki, or doors. My colleagues there and I will be starting a blog, I believe a first for a Ukrainian museum, that documents our planning process, in both Ukrainian and English. We hope it will serve as a model for other exhibition projects. Our plans include fieldwork in several regions of Ukraine and an exhibition in their newly refurbished exhibition hall, to open this fall. I'll post the blog address when it's up and running.

From top to bottom:
Anya, Tatiana and I in the interactive space at the National Art Museum of Ukraine, photo by Irina Leonenko
Anya and Tatiana with their talkboard board
The planning team at the Honchar Museum in the new exhibit space
A modern day kalitki

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