Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mid-Revolution: Ukrainian Museum Updates

As most of the world now knows, the situation in Ukraine has been rapidly changing.  Last week's shocking death toll has led to the disappearance of the President and other ministers, warrants for their arrest, and a new government in the making, but the situation still appears unstable.  As I’ve written and shared posts by others about museums’ reaction to the revolution there, I wanted to share a few updates on museum-related issues.  

In honor of the fallen heroes of Maidan,  Ukrainian museums announced the cancellation of all activities until the end of February, but continued to open their exhibition halls.

Although the collections of the Museum of the City of Kyiv were secure when Ukrainian House was occupied by protestors, evidently after protestors vacated the building the riot police broke into collections storage.  Some objects are missing and damaged, full details are not known.  It's also suspected that the inspection of former government officials houses will reveal objects, from icons to rare books, that have been stolen from museum collections.

The Minister of Culture has been dismissed by Parliament; and a group of artists, activists, and museum professionals have already gathered to propose the qualifications for new candidates and develop of strategies of arts and cultural expression and development, hopefully leading to the  and transformation of the existing system of management of culture. Also this group, the Assembly of Art Professionals is working over legal mechanism and practical  tools to control and influence the ministry of culture activities in the future.

A homemade catapult used by the protestors now bears a sign telling passersby that it is under the protection of the National Museum of Art and will become a part of the collection.  As mentioned in an earlier post, the Ivan Honchar Museum has  started collecting objects, memories and stories.  They  have succeeded in obtaining many important artifacts including an icon painting from the center of Maidan, and  helmets, shields, paintings, posters,  painted bits, gas masks and more.  This initiative was supported by a few other institutions including NGOs, and now the museum staff are working systematically over the project “Museum of Maidan."   

Various other museum and exhibit proposals are being announced, including the idea of an exhibit of Maidan’s doctors and medics at the National Museum of Medicine in Kyiv.  The museum has issued a call for object, images and stories.  

Blue Shield Ukraine was founded last week to ensure the preservation of museums and cultural objects in times of emergency.  This has included a plea for the care of some of the dozens of Lenin statues toppled over the last weeks, as some are listed as monuments of national significance.

One of many proposals for the use of former President Yanukovych’s lavish mansion, private zoo, and golf course, is for a Museum of Corruption. (from the photographs, it could also be the Museum of Bad Taste).   Evidently this museum’s archives could also be extensive as the paper documentation on corrupt purchases and payoffs was also found there.  Journalists, in a unique effort, have banded together to save these papers and eventually, provide a full reporting of how unbelievable sums of money were looted and spent.

Ukraine's story of this revolution is far from finished, but it's been inspiring to see my friends and colleagues move from the barricades to directly to saving important materials and considering big, structural changes in the way museums and culture work.  I'll keep you posted.

Note:  I've not been successful in finding a credit for the photo in this post, but would be happy to add it if informed.

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