It took about 50 million hryvnias to renovate the National Taras Shevchenko Museum. Reopening the museum was timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The museum has in fact changed beyond recognition in about six months. The main entrance is now from the inner courtyard rather than from Shevchenko Boulevard where the poet’s statue stands. The paved courtyard has flowerbeds, while the main entrance now leads to the atrium – an entirely new structure that links the museum’s main building to a wing where researchers work. Those who opposed radical changes in the museum alleged that Shevchenko’s mulberry tree had grown right at the atrium’s place. But the museum staff is convinced it is still to be proved that the tree had anything to do with the poet.
The staff also had to make many other explanations and denials while the museum was being renovated. It will be recalled that as long ago as last October, when repairs and restoration began, a group of activists sent an open letter to the public and those in charge of culture, in which they categorically opposed the atrium, the building-over of the patio, and cardinal changes in the exposition. In response, the museum invited the disgruntled to a public hearing. The debaters seemed to have found some points of mutual understanding. But another open letter with the same demands appeared some time later.
Even now that the renovation is over and it is too late to put up your dukes, so to speak, criticism is not abating. Some do not like the new color of the faсade (gray instead of turquoise-green), others remain dissatisfied with the updated exposition. Many complaints were made against architect Larysa Skoryk who was in charge of the project. Incidentally, she had once supervised the renovation of the National Shevchenko Museum in Kaniv, which also stirred up a storm of dissatisfactions and acute remarks. Ms. Skoryk commented at the very outset that the former museum had been destitute and provincial and needed to be brought up to date.
Now the updated museum begins with the atrium. This room with a glass ceiling and large windows that face the patio is untended for temporary exhibitions and moveable compositions. The place is like a crossroads from which visitors can go to the main exposition halls, the newly-established press center, and the children’s center. The latter is the staff’s old idea – the center will hold lectures for children, master classes, etc.
THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO THE MUSEUM IS NOW NOT FROM TARAS SHEVCHENKO BOULEVARD, WHERE THE POET’S STATUE STANDS (PICTURED), BUT FROM THE INNER COURTYARD
Director Dmytro STUS says that every effort was made for the Kobzar’s museum to be a modern cultural and educational institution. “For us, it is a feast that we have awaited in the past 6-7 months. We had to start from scratch, draw up a project, and raise funds to do what you can see today,” Stus noted. “My colleagues and I have visited the renovated Frederic Chopin Museum. It took Warsaw eight years to prepare for the composer’s jubilee celebrations, including two years to pass the necessary laws. Building the museum itself took about three years and 78 million euros. We began construction work as such in October. A total of 32.6 million hryvnias was spent last year and 17 million this year. The terms and amounts are very telling in comparison. We live in a country in which, unfortunately, things are done to mark an anniversary, and I can say we took advantage of this anniversary.
“Incidentally, renovation of the wing was indispensable. Its walls were so much eaten up by fungi that public hygiene doctors forbade the staff to work in these conditions. But it is a thing of the past now. The guides are looking forward to visitors, for the museum has been closed to them in the past three months.
“The updated exposition consists now of three parts. The first, classical, is about the poet’s life story and oeuvre. The second is changeable thematic expositions which show the talents of Shevchenko as a painter. The third part is still in the making. The staff says it will be installed on the museum’s ground floor. One of the halls will exhibit items connected with the Tereshchenko family, the second will be about the story of Shevchenko’s reburial, and the third one will be ‘a museum inside a museum’ – it will tell visitors about the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius.”
“You know, there is no limit to perfection, so we wanted to do still more things, but we were pressed for time,” says Tetiana CHUIKO, deputy director for research. “For example, the lighting might be more effective, but in principle we managed to do what we had planned. Visitors can see for the first time now the original watercolors which we could not display earlier for want of special temperature and humidity conditions. The painting hall will be stable, while the graphics rooms will be dynamic – we will be changing pictures once in three months. These will be Shevchenko’s painting works in various techniques and genres, made in different periods of his life.”
This year, exhibits dedicated to the poet will be touring various cities in Ukraine and abroad. Yet some corrections had to be made due to the latest unrest in the state.
“We planned to unveil an exhibit in New York on March 23, but, due to political events in Ukraine, we suspended the preparation of documents. Our partners are ready to wait, and I hope the exhibit will open in April,” Stus comments. “An exhibit is planned to be held in Brussels later this year, another was to take place in Koktebel (Crimea) but we can’t make any forecasts. Besides, there will be a number of events in various countries. Lithuania is showing interest – a silent film, Taras Shevchenko, accompanied by the pop group Huliaihorod, will be shown there.”