The last day of the conference in Saint Petersburg took us to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum for both tours and the roundup of the conference (see the Reflections post). Such a magnificent place–what problems could they possibly have? Amidst all this glamour, its director, Olga Taratynova, openly talked to us about the struggles to manage the site: managing finances and coping with development pressures around this historic site; the same issues faced in many other countries and locations.
The reserve has a major challenge in managing an annual budget, where the vast majority of income (mostly earned) comes in the summer, but of course staff need to be paid year round. In the summer, they are overrun by tourist, they can not match the demand by tourist agencies (which made it even more special that the site was closed to the public for us). In summer the museum is open from 8 AM to 10 PM and there are fewer days off for staff. They find many means to cope with the high number of tourist in the summer season. In terms of funding: a huge amount of time goes into fundraising from charities “we are getting carried away by earning money,” and there is a struggle to keep concentration on other tasks, like education. Staying focused on mission is a critical task.
She mentioned that there is a lack of regulation about aggressive construction around the site. A 2002 law preservation of cultural heritage to protect areas around listed sites does not have a full effect. But: the region is very favourable and the general public is very active in historic preservation (also going on in the heart of Saint Petersburg).
A public movement in Pushkin town stopped construction of houses in the immediate surrounding of the reserve. Some of the laws have been too late, as construction has already happened. Olga Taratynova called for politicians for support in the preservation. But she reminded us, that a great deal depends on the museums and our public, not just the politicians, that we all have a responsibility to encourage politicians to care for our heritage.