Call for Live Experience

Some of the most memorable experiences are those that we go through by ourselves. Of course, if this process is also successfully supplemented with positive feelings, the museum visitor will remember it for a long time as a result. The easiest way to offer museum visitors live experiences is through a variety of specialized master classes. Even this simple and very traditional method of museum entertainment could be very appropriate for an exhibition.

An example is the way that The Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv interacts with their audience. Last year the museum prepared an exhibition dedicated to the folk traditions of a particular small ethnic region. As a series of activities related to this theme, the museum organized a series of master classes, based on the mostly forgotten folk art techniques of that region, which are either rarely used in everyday life or have retreated into oblivion. An example of this all-but-forgotten art technique is woodblock printing on textiles, which was used to decorate clothing. The earliest, simplest, and slowest of all methods of textile printing, this technique has been known since the ancient world and is very popular in India nowadays.

Visitors near the composition of old original pieces of cloth, decorated with technique of woodblock printing.

During another exhibit of old and modern icons from the museum’s collection, the visitors had the chance to try this very special kind of art themselves. The instructors, who are both professional artists in sacred art techniques and museum employees, were able to explain in a simple and interesting way the main rules and principles of painting the icon. The class was not about what the art is, but rather about the emotional way to do it and your inner feelings. This is what gives a special value to this experience.

In both of these examples, the participants had the opportunity through their own practice to better understand the lifestyle of their ancestors, traditional household items, and artpieces that were presented at the exhibitions. Moreover, they were able to use their own personal creativity and make a beautiful gift for friends or family.

Another important museum function is to stay in touch with the current life and trends through the use of scientific innovation and highlighting the issues that exist and are deeply discussed in a society. Another example from the same Sheptytsky Museum comes from a time when Russia annexed Crimea and a lot of native indigenous Crimean Tartars of the peninsula became refugees and came to Lviv. The museum not only organized an exhibition of traditional art, prepared by modern Crimean Tatar artists, but also offered master classes following the displayed work. People were able to hear about their history and traditions, and to experience these art techniques by themselves.

Later on, the museum organized the combined exhibit of artists from all parts of Ukraine, including the occupied east and Crimea. All of these showpieces were united by one idea—to represent Ukrainians’ self-identification regardless of origin, based on a common roots and values system. This was the museum’s way to show respect and mutual support to each other in this multicultural country.

The latest exhibit of modern icons has a similar idea also, where the artworks were created by artists on the boards of ammunition boxes. The project is a kind of cooperation between the artists and Ukrainian military, who have gathered all these wooden boards from the current fighting zone in eastern Ukraine. The exhibit is moving and in the end all of the money from auction, where these works will be sold, will go to support the mobile hospital.

A very good example of moving visitors through real life experience is the museum of lost taste in Russia’s small town, Kolomna. I didn’t feel it for myself, but I heard about it during the museum project training I mentioned in my previous blog. The main objective of the Kolomna Pastila Museum is a forgotten fruit confectionery and the process of its making. It was very popular in the past, produced in the town’s factories and was kind of Kolomna’s brand. But now it’s not being manufactured anymore.

In one of the complex’s buildings, you can go together with the museum specialist through every stage of making pastila as well as buy already made sweets, which are produced in the same complex: pastila, jam, tea, and others. In other buildings, you’d be able go to the factory, drink tea in their traditional “manner”, or watch a theatre performance. The main objective in this museum was to present Russia’s intangible heritage, based on the taste, smell, and culture of everyday life. And everything is done through direct contact with our senses.

The last museum which I’d like to mention today is called Trükimuuseum / The Estonian Printing Museum. Though it may be small, it is equally as exciting as many of the larger museums. The museum looks like an open studio with “a collection of letterpress presses, typefaces and many other printhouse machinery from mid-19th to late-20th centuries. The soul of the museum is, however, the activities in workshops, from printing your own postcard to working on a linocut art print.”

Usually people feel lost in time when they're starting to do any kind of master classes in Trükimuuseum. It is one more great opportunity to add some new interesting knowledge in an easy and enjoyable way. I think that’s a perfect way to educate people about different kinds of old technologies, which came to be replaced by modern ones. Especially because some of them have only been transformed into their new versions (i.e. scrapbooking or different DIY hobbies).

Stay tuned—in my next post I'll discuss museum project examples from Norway and Grand Rapids.

Photographs: Iryna Bilan, Roman Baluk, The Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in LvivKolomna Pastila MuseumTrükimuuseum.

By Iryna Bilan on