Sunday, February 15, 2009

Khanenko Museum

A very nice afternoon visit to the Khanenko Museum here in Kyiv. In terms of visitor services, one of the best places I've visited so far. The museum is in the former home of Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko, whose collecting interests were broad and wide-ranging, including a stunning collection of Asian art and a European art collection with works by Velasquez, Breughel, Rubens and others. My favorite visitor in a Ukrainian museum is the little girl above, who looked at every piece with such deep concentration and interest. In general, Ukrainian museum visitors are very serious--very little conversation and close looking at the works.

Aside from the collection, which made the visit a delight, what made it fun to visit? Friendly staff, even with my very limited ability to communicate. English labels and in every room, laminated guides to the objects in the room provided in Ukrainian, Russian and English. An audio tour and a guided tour were both available in English, although I did not take either--and a sign at the front desk, in English, noting such.

In particular, it looked like the Asian art galleries had been recently redone. The lighting and display techniques were excellent. Each room was a different jewel tone and effective track lighting highlighted objects.

There was even a small gift shop. The museum's website is still under development, but it does list a page for Friends of the Museum. As I understand it, Ukrainian museums are in a very difficult situation financially. The level of government support continues to drop, but museums, by law, are forbidden from income-generating activities. A friends group, a rare thing here, is one way to address that issue and help museums seek out the funds they need. It looks like I'll have an upcoming opportunity to learn more about legal issues and museums here, and to share standard practices from the United States.

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