Kyiv, July 7, 2016. How to reorganize museum space in the front- queue section in order to increase the number of visitors and how should modern social policy look like – among the key issues of the conference for museum staff on “Reorganization and creation of museums in the front-line area”. The event was organized by Ukrainian Crisis Media Center art initiative in order to highlight the problems of museums and cultural spaces in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Since the end of last year, the UCMC team has visited the front- line areas in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where it conducted a series of museum studies. They have visited most of the large and small museums. According to Leonid Maruschak, curator of Ukrainian Crisis Media Center art initiative, museum staff in the East face a complex and important problem of financing and control of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. “Some branches are in the Ukrainian government- controlled territory, others – under the control of militants. Museum workers have not received salaries for 22 months. At the end of 2014, in November, they began to receive financial aid in hryvnias. Then, they were forced to register in the so-called “DPR” and began to get rubles. This is not a salary, but financial assistance at the rate of 1:2. I raised this issue in Kramatorsk,” said Halyna Chumak, director of the Donetsk regional museum.
According to Oleg Nevenytsya, executive director of the NGO “Media Crisis Center” Severskyi Donets”, even full funding of the art direction of Severodonetsk development does not guarantee absence of problems, “Severodonetsk Art Gallery is too small for major exhibitions. The city has no modern cultural programs. Young people are eager to do something but they cannot”.
Nataliya Kaplun, former researcher of ethnography at Luhansk regional museum (1998-2015), and now Head of the archeology of the Luhansk regional museum (2015-2016) also joined the discussion of training museum workers. Ms. Kaplun said that quality teaching of museum staff should last about ten years. And Ukraine has such specialists but they are still out of work. “There was no announcement about recruiting workers to Starobilsk Museum. It turned out that the museum is open from April 4, and we were not invited to work there. When the Museum of Ethnography was reorganized, we were dismissed without warning,” added Ms. Kaplun. Olga Lishyk, deputy head of the Luhansk regional military and civil administration on social and humanitarian issues, concluded that similar conflicts in museum institutions entail problems of responsible museum staff’s employment. “Unfortunately, people themselves must decide their residence problems. No housing, no conditions, no space for exhibits and exhibitions, so professionals leave the region,” noted Olga Lishyk.
Yuriy Polidovych, Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, former Senior Research Fellow at Donetsk Regional Museum, highlighted the problems facing the museum institutions. “This is informing local people about the history of the region, holding cultural events and patriotic education. But perhaps the most important task, in my opinion, is informing soldiers what Donbas is,” pointed out Mr. Polidovych.
As a result, the experts noted that as the situation in the east of Ukraine is not stable yet, it is worth thinking about creating virtual museums rather than building museums of a new type.