Artilleriebeschuss auf der Festung

WIN_20140911_084436Das Thema der ersten Sektion war heikel und kontrovers, der Kanonenschuss um 12.00 Uhr hat die Teilnehmer trotzdem kalt erwischt. Erst die Erklärung der Kollegen, dass es sich nicht etwa um eine russische Reaktion auf die Diskussion handele, sondern um eine tägliche Tradition, konnte das Auditorium beruhigen und trug zur weiteren Entspannung angesichts vieler brisanter Themen bei.

Die Rede ist hier von der ersten von vier Sektionen der Konferenz an diesem Tag, die in leider so weit voneinander entfernten Museen stattfanden, dass es unmöglich war, zwischen den Veranstaltungen zu wechseln. Schade, denn in jeder Sektion gab es interessante Vorträge, die zu hören sich gelohnt hätte. Ich aber habe mich für „Museen und Außenpolitik“ entschieden, die im Museum für die Geschichte der Stadt St. Petersburg in der Peter und Paul-Festung stattfand. Der mit Glas überdachte Innenhof der ehemaligen Kommandantur, in dem sich heute die Dauerausstellung des Museums zur Geschichte der Stadt befindet, bot der Konferenz unter dem sonnigen Petersburger Himmel einen ebenso würdigen wie schönen Ort. Continue reading

Drawing a Blank – Ukraine’s Maidan Protests and Manifesta



The European art biennial Manifesta is hosted by St. Petersburg this year. Until the 31st of October the Hermitage presents works of international contemporary artists, curated by Kaspar König. His choice of this year’s place had been strongly criticized and the beginning of the Ukraine crisis has continued to aggravate this debate.The American artist Sean Snyder and the Ukrainian cultural scientist and professor of Cultural Studies at the national University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Olga Bryukhovetska, reflect on the Manifesta and the power of contemporary art in the light of the Kiever Majdan protests. The text was published first in the magazine of contemporary art and culture „frieze“ no 164 (June, July, August, 2014).

‘It is by refusing to turn Russian money into cultural capital that we can get the point across that Putin’s policies are beyond the pale,’ wrote Jonathan Jones in a Guardian blog entry entitled ‘Let’s Hit Putin where It Hurts – All Artists Must Boycott Russia’, posted in early April. In fact, by that point, discussions around a boycott of the Kasper König-curated Manifesta 10 – slated to take place in Saint Petersburg from 28 June to 31 October – had been ongoing for several months, initially prompted by the Russian authorities’ oppression of dissidents and lgbt rights activists, and subsequently fuelled by events in Ukraine, with Russia punishing the country for the democratic victory gained during the recent Maidan protests in Kyiv. While the Polish artist Paweł Althamer, the Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi and the Saint Petersburg-based collective Chto Delat? have already declined to participate, the evolving situation in Ukraine compels everyone involved in Manifesta 10 to take a stance on whether or not to collaborate with Russia’s rich and powerful.

The word maidan – square – has come to define a revolutionary, self-organized people defending their rights. Since 1989, when students demanding Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union occupied Maidan, major protests have always taken place here. In a bid to inhibit mass protest, the square’s lavish open spaces – typical of late-Soviet design – were remodelled in the early 2000s: kitschy sculptures were installed and glass domes rose up from the new underground shopping mall, impeding movement. These precautionary measures failed dramatically, however, when allegations that the election of the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, had been corrupt resulted in the Orange Revolution of November 2004.

The latest Maidan protests, which began on 21 November 2013, saw the site reconfigured as a stronghold for protesters, who occupied the square with tents and tyre barricades. Art was a significant presence from the outset, with students from the nearby Kyiv Conservatory carrying a piano into the square and playing Chopin for the crowd despite freezing temperatures. The protestors, a number of whom were artists, designed posters, painted helmets and graffitied slogans around the square. Continue reading

Museums of Ekaterinburg Factories

View over the Iset river in Yekaterinburg, Russia by andrijbulba

View over the Iset river in Yekaterinburg, Russia by andrijbulba

Ekaterinburg is the fourth-largest city in Russia in the middle of the Eurasian continent, and the main industrial and cultural center of the broader region. At the conference, Denis Vladimirovich Ilichev from the Ural Federal University is looking at the high number of industrial museums, being more active than others in their community work but at the same time facing a number of challenges. Here is what he will present:

The main aim of the lecture is the survey of museums of industrial plants in Ekaterinburg, estimation of their effectiveness as thematic units and their benefit for the plants. Generally, a group of corporate plant museums as the units of private enterprises, which are stock companies, is the most active group contacting with museum community. An enterprise interested in the creation of favorable image and widening marketing contacts, a priori has to develop its own museums as part of PR-company. A short history of evolution of plant museums, their today’s image and concerns, is considered based on the example of several plant museums. They are facing the following possibilities: influences on changing social-economic situation in a city district (UralChemMach factory); successful incorporation of the museum into PR strategy and  management of the plant (museum of Plant named after Kalinin, museum of UralMach plant). Continue reading

Instruments of Development of a Regional Museum Community

Photo by Dmitri Lebedev, 19.02.2006

Photo by Dmitri Lebedev, 19.02.2006

How to broaden audiences? How to connect museum professionals? How to improve museum work and finally – how to monitor and measure success?
At the Museum and Politics conference, Irina A. Sizova and Oksana S. Ulyanova of the National Research Tomsk State University in Russia will share with us their experiences in developing a museum community in the Tomsk region, southeast of the West Siberian Plain. For the blog they provided us the abstract of their paper. In which regions of the world do you see similar efforts to create such a community? What works well, what doesn’t?

The development of the Russian regional museum community demands attention of museum experts. However universal instruments of this purpose don’t exist. Therefore in various regions of Russia there are local instruments for development of the museum community, which are applied taking into account policy and economic factors.

This paper consists of three sections a) the list of instruments of development of local museum community on the example of the Tomsk region was defined (week of the museums, a museum forum, museum association, Internet space); b) developed a technique of use of each instrument, process of preparation and carrying out studied actions are described; c) the analysis of efficiency of studied instruments in the course of association of regional museum community is provided. Continue reading

Money, Market, or Mission? Museums in a Changing World

ethicsGuest blogger Sally Yerkovich is director of the Institute of Museum Ethics, founded at Seton Hall University in 2007.  The Institute promotes accountability, responsibility, and sustainability in museums by:convening conversations about critical ethical issues facing museums today, and creating a physical and virtual community of emerging and practicing museum professionals and museum studies faculty who can use our resources to make informed decisions about ethical matters.  This post is the first in our series of posts from accepted Museums and Politics conference speakers.  Sally will be speaking on “Is there a Future for Museum Ethics?”  and, as you’ll see, there’s much to ponder. We’re particularly interested in hearing perspectives from around the world. Please share your comments!

Since its inception, the Institute has hosted three international conferences and a number of lectures.  It has also generated courses on museum ethics and cultural heritage, initiated dialogues about contemporary ethical issues for museums through its website and listserv, and collaborated with the Center for the Future of Museums of the American Association of Museums on a nationwide forecasting exercise on future ethical issues.

The Institute maintains a LinkedIn group for discussions about museum ethics in the news as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts.  We post news articles on regularly and also maintain a listserv.  The Institute offers confidential consultations regarding ethical issues in museums.

The Institute of Museum Ethics maintains that ethical issues underpin all aspects of work in museums — from governance to education, registration to exhibitions, finances to operations and visitor services.

Whether in day-to-day decision-making or forging an overarching mission, museum ethics are about an institution’s relationship with people — individuals and groups in the communities a museum serves as well as its staff and board members.

We define museum ethics through principles of conduct related to individual and institutional behavior, such as integrity, accountability, loyalty, honesty, and responsibility.  We provide the tools to identify operative ethical principles, and we keep abreast of issues in the field as well as larger societal changes in order to anticipate the emergence of circumstances that might have an impact upon ethical practice in museums. Continue reading

Revealing Queer, Revealing Our Work

Barbie Hull PhotographyHow do museums talk about history that has been socially oppressed for decades?

That was the question that drove me to graduate school. I wanted to know how museums have historically engaged socially oppressed communities within their exhibitions, collections, and educational initiatives so we can better understand how to continue this work into the future. The power dynamics and politicking that are associated with community or socially engaged work in museums, specifically the power dynamics between communities and curators, fear of critique when engaging contemporary politics, and the saddening reality that archives don’t reflect socially oppressed communities, are some of the barriers museums face when working with communities that are not socially accepted.

To better understand how history museums can use exhibitions to write these communities into the archive, Queering the Museum project (QTM) partnered with the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) to explore Queer representation and collecting practices in their institution. Continue reading

Das Museum als Identitätsstifter

Das Nationale Kunstmuseum in Minsk zeigt derzeit eine Sonderausstellung, die einige Fragen zu „Museum und Politik“ in Belarus aufwirft. Zum einen geht es um die Deutungshoheit nationaler Kunstgeschichte, zum anderen um die Verquickung musealer, wirtschaftlicher und politischer Interessen. Worum geht es?

Gezeigt wird die Ausstellung „10 Jahrhunderte Kunst in Belarus“  (27.3. bis 10.7.2014), das „Projekt des Jahres“ aus Anlass des 75.Jahrestages des Museums. Was auf den ersten Blick selbstverständlich erscheint, ist indes hoch politisch. Der Titel „Kunst in Belarus“ markiert eine Position in der Debatte über die nationale Identität: Was macht Belarus aus? Continue reading

What Language are Your Labels?


In my travels, I’ve noticed distinct differences in how museums approach multilingual labels, and of course, the ability to understand and share in a museum’s message is, in itself, a message about politics and power.    In Europe, labels seem to appear primarily in the native language, plus English, the language that most tourists seem to speak to some degree.   There, it seems to be an issue about access for relatively well-heeled travelers (which is also, I assume, why I see labels now in Russian, Japanese and Chinese).

In the United States, there is some effort made for tourists, primarily at larger museums, but increasingly new efforts are made to provide multilingual labels for our community members, not just tourists.  Thanks to Nina Simon of Museum 2.0 and a guest post there by Steve Yalowitz,  I’ve learned about a new study that looked at bilingual labels (Spanish) from a visitor perspective.   As Steve writes,

access to content—the most obvious benefit of bilingual labels—is just the tip of the iceberg. Bilingual interpretation expands the way visitors experience and perceive museums, shifting their emotional connection to the institutions. Continue reading

Deutsch-Russische Museumsbeziehungen – Германо-российские музейные отношения


Vor dem Hintergrund der aktuellen politischen Komplikationen ist es mir ein Anliegen, den Blick auf die Vielfalt und Breite der deutsch-russischen Kooperationen im Museums- und Ausstellungsbereich zu lenken. Welche Museen pflegen regelmäßige Kontakte, einen Austausch oder planen gemeinsame Ausstellungen? Welche anderen Kooperationsprojekte, etwa in den Feldern Ausbildung, Museumspädagogik, Forschung, Sammlungen gibt es zurzeit? Wie sind die Erfahrungen russischer und deutscher Kollegen? Continue reading

Registrars*, Politics and Power

„How much politics is there in the work of a registrar?“ asked Katrin Hieke from this very blog via twitter.

My first, light-hearted thought was „not much“. We are not curators, so it’s not up to us to create exhibitions that raise questions or put a spotlight on important social or political issues. We are not directors, so it’s not our responsibility to decide how to deal with politicians and the current public opinion. We are not administrative officers so we don’t have to worry about how to stay in accordance with governmental guidelines. We are not marketing people, so it’s not up to us to sell what our museum does in all aspects mentioned above. We are there just for the well-being of our collections, to let logistics flow smoothly, to keep the paperwork together. What an easy, non-political job. Continue reading


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