On July 14, as part of the exhibition “Muses are not silent”, devoted to art during the war, a conversation between museum workers of Lviv, Odesa and Dnipro took place: “Museum rear: mutual aid in war”.
Representatives of museums of major cities of Ukraine told how they worked in the first days of the war, strengthened the protection of their collections, helped colleagues from all over Ukraine. The director of the “Territory of Terror” museum, Olha Honchar, moderated the meeting.
We are publishing a text version of the conversation, in which you will learn about the changes in the life of museum institutions since the beginning of the war, what problems and needs museum workers have faced recently and what plans they are making for the future.
Pavlo Gudimov, founder of the art center “Ya Gallery”: “On February 24, we closed for visitors and became a hub that welcomes people from different parts of Ukraine. From 10 to 16 people stayed with us at various times. Another of our functions: in the first days, we set up a round table where gallerists gathered and generated various ideas. The first is cultural sanctions against the Russian Federation, and later the “Lviv Meets” program for immigrants, which included free tours for our guests.
I immediately understood that volunteering should be done in a field where you are competent. Therefore, the introduction of cultural sanctions, which was supported, in particular, by Jean-Hubert Martin, former director of the Center Pompidou, became key. He understood very quickly how world culture became a hostage of the situation, which was often exploited for “Gazprom” money.”
Oleksandra Kovalchuk, director of the Odesa Art Museum: “For us, “February 24″ came on November 24, and for several months we lived in anticipation of war. On the day of the invasion, my team and I gathered at the Museum, some of our employees came immediately with personal belongings, some with pets, and we began work on securing the exposition. After two weeks, we realized that we would need funds to support the work of the Museum, which the state cannot provide due to obvious reasons, and therefore we attracted funds from foreign institutions. Having a successful experience, we helped colleagues from other Museums to prepare funding applications.”
Natalia Dzyubenko, head of the applied museology department of the State Natural History Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine: “February 24 started for me in Kyiv. I returned to Lviv on the morning of February 25. In the Museum, we started dismantling the exposition and moving it to safe places. Our institution has quite good basements, so we started preparing them for our employees who did not have such a shelter near their homes.
After a while, we resumed our activities. This was done primarily because many people came to Lviv who needed cultural leisure, and the natural history museum is especially interesting for families with children.
Digitalization of exhibits has become another important mission for museums. However, such museums, including ours, faced the problem that it is impossible to digitize millions of collections in a short period of time. Consider that many institutions of the Academy of Sciences have been working part-time for about seven years. People received part-time wages.
Mykhailo Zakopets, acting director of the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life in Lviv named after Klymenty Sheptytskyi: “Our war began on February 6, when one of our objects was burned down, and now, in the light of time, we understand that this was no accident. Due to the peculiarity of our Museum, of course we could not evacuate our houses, but we collected the most valuable things from our exposition and hid them.
Searching for evacuation boxes was an interesting experience for us. After finding them, we realized how technological it is, pasted over with several layers of fire-resistant, water-resistant materials. These are valuable things, and the war became the catalyst for the Ukrainian museums to receive them.
We opened our doors two weeks later and our first visitors were children. Over time, we mainly started working with children. These were master classes, open lectures. For the most part, these children were from the eastern regions, and were poorly acquainted with Ukrainian culture. I believe that our activities had a good effect on these children, on their perception of Ukrainian culture.”
Yuliya Pischanska, director of the Dnipropetrovsk National Historical Museum named after D.I. Yavornytskyi: “On February 24, our entire team gathered and started the procedure to save the collection. On February 28, a volunteer hub was opened on the basis of the Museum and two areas of work emerged: assistance to the Museum and our Armed Forces. We also sent letters to the museums of the Dnipro Region with recommendations for conservation and storage of funds in wartime conditions. Later, we received a lot of positive feedback and thanks from colleagues for this.”