A snapshot interview with Dinara Khalikova, Project Director of ICOM, Russia and Afanacy Gnedovsky, Executive Director of ICOM Russia

 20160629_1002411. Why the International Forum “Siber Il” , held in Khakassia Republic in July 2016 was so important?

The VI International cultural and touristic forum “Siber Il” was devoted to the theme “Cultural industries”. This topic was proposed by ICOM Russia to the Government of the Khakassia Republic because of the discussions and outcomes held during the previous edition of the event. Cultural industries play a key role in the growth of innovative economy nowadays. They open new opportunities for socio-economic and cultural development of territories while at the same time they serve as a source of personal and professional development. Apart from the fact that cultural industries contribute to the diversification of economy, they create new jobs and can attract additional extra-budgetary sources for financing of cultural organizations and projects in a sustainable mode.

In today’s context of globalization, local communities are seeking their cultural and regional identity. Museums have already started to act as territorial community centers that engage citizens and care about the preservation of cultural heritage and traditions of a place. We should also keep in mind that due to the global crisis many institutions in the social and the nonprofit field (including cultural organizations) has faced serious budgetary cuts. In these difficult circumstances cultural industries bring to museums special benefits, as they are a source of additional revenues.

In light of these considerations, the museum section at the Khakassian Forum aimed to discuss diverse museum practices of creation, production and dissemination of cultural products and services by museums. We focused on how museums cooperate with local authorities, businesses, tourist companies and public agencies to facilitate access to cultural goods and services. We shared successful cases for building effective strategies for communication with other stakeholders in different cultural industry branches. In particular, we looked at the collaborative work of museums with artisans, craftsmen and other creative workers, which help to produce distinctive goods and attract audiences.

2. Was the Forum a unique event for the region? Why Republic of Khakassia is so special and magical?20160701_161738

Yes, the forum “Siber Il” is referred to as the main cultural event for the Republic of Khakassia. Moreover, the Head of Khakassia Mr. Viktor Zimin considers culture as the main driver for the development of the territory. This forum is a remarkable initiative for the region because it helps to attract influential cultural workers and cultural institutions from other parts of Russia as well as from abroad. “Siber Il” implies not only conference and thematic sections, but also a craft fair. This gives a unique opportunity for locals to meet with outstanding performers and see masterpieces from different museums, as well as to present their own cultural assets.

Khakassia is a magic place because of three components: cultural heritage, natural heritage and the people living there. Khakassia, according to experts, is the “archaeological Mecca”. There are about 30 000 various archaeological and other cultural monuments on the territory of the region. Unique sites in Khakassia can be dated back up to Paleolithic age, and thousands of buran mounds are rooted in the VIth century b.c. Khakassia differs from other regions of Russia with its peculiar relief, unique flora and fauna that attract tourist from all over the world. Moreover, of course, we admire local inhabitants who are preserving their intangible heritage, traditions and beliefs. They are very hospitable and warmhearted. It is unforgettable moment to have traditional lunch in a yurt in the mountains, listening to folk songs….

20160629_1704143. In your opinion, what are the main results of the Forum?

The first result is that we have highlighted the importance of cultural industries among a wider cultural community, governmental authorities, and museum specialists. We all are aware that museums and local communities produce cultural and creative products – there are many souvenirs based on local traditions. Museums are focus for development of cultural tourism and local crafts. However, there were little or no discussions in the region that all this could work as one mechanism – as an “industry” and could become a vehicle in the economy of the institutions, the region, and the country. In addition, it was very important to hold these discussions in Siberia, because local museums have a relevant basis to undertake an active position in the development of cultural industries. Their “market” is relatively new and therefore free of global trends. This is why local museums use their own traditions and collections. They preserve and promote the traditions in the region and such a strategy is the key to success. We strongly believe that they should keep it this way. The problem is that business is not included in this process and museums have to invest their own finances.

There has been a little but significant shift in rethinking of a museum work during the Forum. Entrepreneurship in a museum does not contradict its main function of preserving cultural heritage. It is not about pursuing of profit but about innovative and creative nature of the museum activities. The development of entrepreneurial spirit in the museum team is a basis for its successful work on creating interesting projects for visitors, attracting sponsors and collaborating with other partners. This point was highlighted during the practical workshop when local museums in groups presented their project ideas for the expert “jury” in a role-playing mode.

Based on the professional discussions during the forum and the experts’ presentations, ICOM Russia prepared a Resolution of the museum section within the VI International cultural and touristic forum “Siber Il”. The Resolution was disseminated among the Forum participants by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Khakassia. We hope that this document will be used by museums as a recommendation for their further development.

4. Any “lessons learned”? What would you change in the next edition of the Museum Section as part of the Forum?DSC00564

As a result of the Forum, we consider the necessity to extend the museum section in two days. On the first day the speakers will present papers that reflect also practical cases together with theoretical considerations. The second day has to include specialized master classes and seminars on diverse key topics. We aim to involve wider audience in the discussions and to provide an opportunity for everyone to share their ideas and seek professional feedback from others.

Some of ICOM Russia’s forthcoming events until the end of the year include:

  • Jubilee conference of the Tver picture gallery
  • International project and a series of trainings on carpet weaving (November 16-19th, Baku, Azerbaijan)
  • Discussions among the museum workers and university representatives on educational programs and courses and the need to improve in the future (December)
  • Third international annual conference “Corporate museums today, devoted to the theme “Fostering the audience of the corporate museum is the key element for the economic sector development”

Our plans for 2017 are still not fully completed at this stage, but among the events to be held are:

  • International festival of museums “Intermuseum” in Moscow (May – June)
  • International conference “Corporate museums today” in Kaluga
  • Russian-Dutch conference “Sustainable dialogues”
  • International cultural and touristic forum “Siber Il”
  • Museum Forum “Museum and Revolution” in Saint-Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Omsk
  • International conference on cultural industries in Rostov the Great (May)
  • A series of trainings on learning the basics of working with people with disabilities for the museum professionals
  • Study tours for museum workers: ICOM Russia – ICOM Serbia
  • Joint conference ICOM Slovakia, ICOM Check Republic, ICOM Germany and ICOM Russia (October)

We are open for collaboration and joined initiatives with local, national and international partners. We strongly believe that well elaborated partnership strategies lead to mutual benefits for all parties involved and help for placing museums and other cultural institutions as a catalyst for the social, cultural and economic development of the cities and regions.

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