One of the great things about working as an independent museum professional is that you never know what an encounter will lead to. Although I've returned home from Ukraine to dive back into projects in the US, my time there is not over as I'll be returning for several projects.
I've been asked to put together a team to conduct an assessment and work on planning with Pyrohiv, the National Museum of Folk Architecture, the largest outdoor museum in Ukraine, just outside Kyiv. With the support for the Foundation for the Development of Ukraine we'll be working with the staff during a visit this fall to assess all areas of the museum's operation so that the potential of this incredible site can be fully realized.
Pyrohiv was the first museum I visited in Ukraine, on an incredibly cold snowy (Orthodox) Christmas Day just days after I arrived in early 2009. On a rolling green hills outside a rapidly developing city, the museum contains folk architecture from all over Ukraine. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, but faces issues of adequate funding, visitor services, staffing, new modes of interpretation, collections care and building preservation. I'm looking forward to working both with the dedicated museum staff and the staff at the foundation to explore ways that this museum can best share its work and knowledge with both Ukrainian and international visitors.
I'm also working with the State Museum of Toys in Kyiv and a US partner on plans for a traveling exhibition of Soviet-era toys here in the United States. Their collection presents a fascinating picture, virtually unknown to Americans, of childhood in Soviet times. From both ideological and design perspectives, the toys allow us to understand a time and place.
Both these projects (and several others in the planning phase) came into being because of the opportunity to return to Ukraine on a enewal of my Fulbright grant. The opportunity to think more deeply, to talk further with colleagues and meet new colleagues, to visit more museums, and to make more connections, has been immeasurably helpful. I'm a long ways from fully understanding Ukraine and Ukrainian museums, but each experience adds a bit more texture and color to my picture of this place.
Photos, top to bottom: historic building at Pyrohiv, Christmas service inside one of the historic wooden churches at Pyrohiv, a "space car" toy from the State Museum of Toys, and a historic photo (courtesy of the State Museum of Toys) showing the much-coveted pedal cars in use.