As you may know, the next year in Ukraine is declared the Year of Taras Shevchenko and spring will mark the 200th birth anniversary of the great poet. Due to this the Taras Shevchenko National Museum began restoration works, which are expected to be completed in time for March 9, 2014. Kyiv Museum with two of its branches, in fact, is the largest center of Shevchenko in Ukraine with a collection of 90,000 exhibits dedicated to the poet’s life and creative work. There is, in particular, a metric book which states the date and the place of birth of the Ukrainian genius. The collection also contains, perhaps, the largest number of the originals of his literary and artistic works. Therefore, for the staff of the museum and fans of Shevchenko’s writing it is very symbolic to celebrate the poet’s anniversary with a new exposition and in the renovated premises.
The main highlight of the renewed museum is the opening of the atrium in a courtyard. It is planned to make the main entrance from there. Larysa SKORYK, architect, author of the repair and restoration project, assured that nothing will change dramatically: “We will only renovate the lodge, located inside the yard [it was transferred to the museum in 1989 after the last overhaul. – Ed.]. We will also make an anteroom cutting some space from the yard, since it was a small and provincial museum, where, as they say, a person can neither leave their coats, nor feel that they came to a modern place.”
WHY DOES THE MUSEUM NEED MODERNIZATION?
However, not all the fans of the poet think positively about the renovations launched in the museum. Cohort of writers, including some winners of Taras Shevchenko Prize, people’s artists, and culture experts prepared an open letter to the president of Ukraine and the public regarding this matter. In this letter they say that the museum really needs some repair, but everything must be done within the standards of a classical academic museum. They argue that there is no need for any modern formats, glass constructions, additions, or rebuilding. The contributors of the letter are most worried about the fact that Larysa Skoryk, who has previously worked on the restoration of the National Museum “Shevchenko’s Grave” in Kaniv, is engaged in the reconstruction of the museum. The opening of a new modern museum complex then caused a storm of negative reviews. But tastes differ and the Kaniv Museum now works and attracts visitors, which did not happen for the past six or seven years.
“No state museum in Ukraine has undergone modernization yet the way it is done in Europe,” said Mykhailo ZUBAR, head of the Department of Expositions and Public Relations of the Museum. “No one denies traditions, but the museum cannot remain an island of the 19th century. Of course, we are not going to substitute the exhibits with plasma screens. However, we want it to become a museum of the modern standards. Museum in the modern world is a cultural center, which becomes a place for holding various literary nights, concerts of chamber classical music, installations, lectures, children’s workshops interesting for all age groups. And we are already doing it all.”
SHEVCHENKO’S MULBERRY TREE – TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
By the way, similar atriums have long been practiced in museums abroad, for example, Alexander Pushkin Museum in Russia or Mikalojus Ciurlionis Museum in Lithuania. But for some reason the authors of the open letter are most worried about the restructuring of the wing and the little garden next to it. A tamarisk and mulberry trees grew next to the museum wing. The trees were brought here 30 years ago from Novopetrovsk Fortification (Kazakhstan), where Shevchenko was in exile. The trees had to be cut down because right under them the communication pipes had been installed. The pipes had to be repaired because if it hadn’t been done in a year or two the museum would have had to do it anyway, but in such case, the pipes could’ve caused more damage (the museum employees explained that the pipes are old and can break at any time).
People who work at the museum say that the mulberry tree is surrounded by more legends than facts that it had something to do with the poet. And what concerns the tamarisk tree, its sprout was transferred to Kyivzelenbud. When the repair is completed, it will find its place in the museum too. The renovation, indeed, became an urgent need for the museum, because the last overhaul repair was done here over 20 years ago. The experts stress that one should worry more not about the trees but rather about the preservation of exhibits for future generations.
“Before the restoration works the balconies on the facade of the museum simply fell off by pieces even from the wind, thus, no repair could be done. By the way, they are not authentic, that means that they have not been preserved since the time of Tereshchenko, they were made later and were renovated during the overhaul in the 1980s. Fragments of the old balconies have been preserved and the new ones were made based on these fragments. We hope that they will last longer than the old ones,” said Tetiana CHUIKO, Deputy Director for Scientific Research at the Taras Shevchenko National Museum. “Plaster on the walls comes off in the office wing. But the worst is fungus in indoor premises of the wing. Until last year people were still working there. But when experts from the Institute of Microbiology came to us, even without taking any samples for tests they told us that people should work there only wearing respirators because it is very dangerous for their health. Since most employees of the museum worked on the first floor of the office wing, which was most attacked by fungus, we had to move them to the main building of the museum for the time of the repair. Accordingly, to create new jobs we need space, that’s why we had to remove part of the exposition.”
POET’S CREATIVE WORK WILL BE PRESENTED IN 16 HALLS
According to Chuiko, the present exposition opened on March 9, 1989 – almost a quarter of a century ago. It was last updated in 2006. But the world has not been standing still since then. “Social changes take place, something new appears in Shevchenko Studies, the figure of the poet is being reinterpreted in new ways. The museum also wants to present these aspects. We have the largest collection of Shevchenko’s works as an artist. Unfortunately, we are unable to show the original watercolors. The things is that they are very sensitive to light and require special temperature and humidity conditions, that’s why they are usually exhibited not for a long time, for example, we put them on the display for several months and then they are ‘resting’ for a while. Hopefully this will be considered during the renovation of the museum and we will have the necessary equipment.”
The museum will celebrate the poet’s anniversary with a new exposition. The main focus is planned to be made on the artistic talent of the artist. “We want to show an exposition that would tell the story of how the inborn talent of Shevchenko as an artist manifested itself before he began his studies at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and the things that he learned from great Karl Bryullov were totally different. We need to show the tradition of Ukrainian art in the works of Shevchenko, the things he learned at the academy, and also recreate the feeling of those styles, which appeared in the years after the poet’s death. And we must do it at a proper level,” added Chuiko.
Museum experts have already received rave reviews on the upcoming exhibition from philologists engaged in Shevchenko Studies, philosophers, and historians. The museum employees have promised that the entire second floor, as it was before (16 halls) will be provided for the exhibition dedicated to the work and life of the poet. Some halls on the first floor will also be used for this purpose. One of the museum halls will be dedicated to the Tereshchenko family, because their house is used as a premises for the museum, another hall will be dedicated to the history of the museum and the formation of the collection. It is also planned to create an exposition dedicated to the reburial of Shevchenko and other prominent figures of Ukrainian culture that became symbols that united the nation. The museum also plans to expand the room for its funds, because the collection is constantly growing. There are also plans to open Children’s Center – similar to art school.
Today, when people all over the world are using iPhones, tablet PCs, and other gadgets, it would be strange if the museum did not try to keep up with the times. The main thing is to preserve the quality of content and information. And if it is a new form of presentation, interesting to children and youth, then we must only be pleased.