Monday, June 18, 2012

Networks and New Ideas in Moscow

Another guest post from around the world.  Katrin Hieke from Germany shares her impressions of Intermuseum 2012 in Moscow.

It´s been quite a coincidence that I was able to travel to Eastern Europe again just a few weeks after my trip to Minsk in Belarus . Again, I would like to share some of my experiences and impressions from a region not well known in the museum world. Thank you, Linda, that I may do this again on your blog!

This time, I accepted  an invitation from ICOM Russia to join the big event “Intermuseum 2012” in Moscow early June 2012.  Each year since 1999, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation funds and organizes, jointly with some other institutions, this huge event where museums of all kinds and types throughout this huge country and the former CIS countries are invited to join in; plus archives, libraries, companies in relevant fields, educational institutions, regional ministries of culture, universities and professional museum organizations. About 1.500 participants take part, not counting all the visitors – that is students and professionals at museums and from many adjacent fields.
Intermuseum, also referred to as International Museum Festival, consists of several concurrent parts: the "Technomuseum", an exhibition/ fair of museum technologies and equipment; an exhibition of more than 150 museums, their collections, projects and programs; a continuous cultural program - and a conference with several sections. This business program particularly aims at establishing contacts with the international museum community and in developing effective dialogue platforms. Those are organized by ICOM Russia and for this year they chose the topic of museum and cultural tourism. The – as it seems quite generous - funding by the government allows ICOM Russia to invite many international participants and even support additional projects in the running year. So it was that colleagues from Australia, Portugal, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, UK, Austria and Germany came together at the conference and reported on cultural tourism projects in their respective countries, while in other sections, seminars and round tables current and future projects in Russia where discussed. All of this took place in the “Central House of Artists” on the banks of the Moskva river, just opposite the famous Gorki Park and also home to the impressive New Tretyakov Gallery.

In all discussions, conversations and inquiries during the conference, one question came up again and again: whom do collections and more generally museums and their ground belong, and thus who can make decisions concerning exhibitions or new offers, let alone building or welcome centers? As in Belarus, there are lot of people actively engaged, eager to learn, to share ideas and willing to make a difference. Also, they seem to be much more open to cooperations with organisations, institutions and companies outside the museum world (as, for instance, in Germany). But there is still a lot of control by the government too, but this appears to be somewhat easier to handle than in Belarus with a little more leeway here and there.
The brand new and unique book "ICOM Russia Network" tells of more than 3.000 museums (and about 72.000 museum workers) in the Russian Federation, and this count doesn´t include the vast amount of the popular school museums and company museums. A national museum association does exist, but ICOM Russia very actively takes on tasks and projects for the Russian museum scene, which makes it one of the most – nationally and internationally – engaging national committees of ICOM I have encountered.  Key areas of work are primarily in the areas of education and cooperation in different areas (among museums and with other partners) and they even made a bid for hosting the ICOM general conference in 2016 which, unfortunately, this time has not (yet) worked out.

During the conference, I was particularly pleased to meet staff from museums in Belarus who were participants of my seminar on museum marketing in Minsk just a few weeks before. I was happy to hear how things were going and that their initial ideas they developed after the seminar were already put into practice.
Being a guest in Russia has proven to be one of the greatest experiences in my life so far. The whole board of ICOM Russia and especially Afanasy Gnedovsky and Ksenia Novokhatko took care of us international guests so brilliantly. Most of us stayed in Moscow for several days and we enjoyed a fabulous program: We got to see the city on a special tour and of course some of the most famous museums; we attended the gala evening on occasion of the centennial of the Pushkin State Museum and of course enjoyed dinners with quite an amount of vodka and many international toasts!

So, see you all in Rio de Janeiro on the occasion of the ICOM General Conference in 2013 - or the following year, when ICOM Russia, jointly with ICOM Germany and ICOM USA, will host an international conference on the topic of “Museums and Politics," which perfectly fits to one of the primary topics of concern for Russian museums.

До свидания!
Photos, top to bottom, by Katrin Hieke unless noted:  Afanasy and Ksenia presenting the latest publications of ICOM Russia; The Techno-museum; Museum presentations at Intermuseum;
The board of ICOM Russia and the international guests of the Intermuseum 2012 celebrating the international museum community. Foto by Jose Gameiro