Sunday, March 21, 2010

What Am I Doing in Ukraine?

I've had lots of people ask me what I'll be doing on my return to Ukraine--and so I thought I'd share a bit more of what I hope to do,  with the understanding that surprises are many.  Last year, I got involved in projects I never imagined before exhibit on Chernobyl and  a papermaking workshop, to name just two.

So this time...what am I up to?
  • Collaboration is a big issue here.  It's virtually unknown.  When American organizations speak about things being in silos, they really haven't seen silos until you've seen Ukrainian organizations.  Silos exist within and between organizations and there are big philosophical walls about working together between museums.  I hope to be able to share some examples of collaborations, small and large, and participate in getting at least one collaborative effort off the ground.
  • Strategic planning is a rare endeavor here, in part, because of the Soviet legacy of five year plans and the cynicism that accompanied them.  One young historic site director though, is interested in undertaking the process to manage the growth and development of his site--and I'll hopefully be of some help in the process.
  • Since I returned to the US, I've had some fascinating conversations with staff at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience  about their work with organizations around the world.   I hope to make some connections between Ukrainian sites and colleagues who are working to make historic sites places of conscience, and designing effective ways to engage communities in those larger issues.
  • I'm working to bring the exhibit Passing on the Comfort to Ukraine.  It's a Dutch/North American story with a Ukrainian component, and it would be wonderful to share with audiences here as a model for an exhibit that tells a compelling story, rather than just presenting artifacts.
  • Several colleagues have ideas and plans here that I might be helpful in thinking about.  What would a children's activity space look like in a museum of folk culture?   How can programs be developed for teenagers?  and many more ideas.  My particular thanks go out to museum colleagues in the US who shared wonderful examples of educational and promotional materials.
  • I'll also be presenting some workshops on different topics, in different locations, and hope to visit many more parts of Ukraine than I did last year.   I want to understand more about the growing role of independent non-museums in cultural development (a growing trend, I think), and I think it's important to continue to pay attention to Ukraine's efforts to understand and present its complex history.  The recent presidential elections mean new ministers, and there's some concern that a growing openness could be reversed.
I think the most important roles I can play here are ones that are a part of my everyday work at home.  I like to connect people with other people;  I'm always enthusiastic about projects and want to figure out ways to make them happen.  Today, my colleague Anya reminded me that when we talked about the hard work of change when I left last year, that I suggested to her that she think about not moving the giant rock of change, but chipping away one pebble at a time.   I can see those small pebbles starting to move in and outside many institutions.  And I can imagine that there will be many surprises for me along these next four months. Stay tuned.

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