Once-Ukraine-based museum consultant Linda B. Norris (@lindabnorris), who is part of the ICOM conference/project on Museums, Politics and Power (#museumspolitics)), has been discussing the role of museums in democratic revolutions.
What can a museum do in a revolution?
- take an ethical stand, ensure your own ethical conduct (including transparency), and enable your workers to resist;
- provide sanctuary and support;
- conserve and collect the material evidence of the struggle.
What are museums doing in the Ukrainian revolution?
Despite their economic and physical vulnerability to state power, the (National Center for Folk Culture) Ivar Honchar Museum (and other museums) have:
- officially supported the protests;
- resisted for freedom, democracy and humanism; and
- provided a space for rest and recovery.
As part of their simultaneous work-and-resistance, they have
- pushed for a parallel revolution in cultural heritage management;
- ‘shifted all [their] public educational and performance programs to the Maidan‘ (though they later cancelled all activities to pay respect to the dead); and
- established the Maidan Museum, through which they have been recording the events amidst which they have been working.
While the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU) has put the revolution’s on-location trebuchet under its protection, the Ivar Honchar Museum (IHM) has been documenting the revolution photographically. As NAMU found, and as IHM Deputy Director Ihor Poshyvailo explained, ‘[i]t’s not easy to collect the work as what’s interesting for our collection is still working‘.(1)
Or, rather, what is it like to live in it?
1: Other cultural workers are active too. For example, Babylon ’13 is producing the Cinema of a Civil Protest.