The Day declared 2014 to be the Year of Non-Canonical Shevchenko, and as early as March 9, we launched a special project of the same name (http://incognita.day.kiev.ua/shevchenko/), a website designed to reveal the humanized (and thus standing closer to the audience) and multi-faceted Shevchenko. In addition to articles, infographics, and audio recordings of the Bard of Ukraine’s poems recited by Oleksandr Bystrushkin, we recently published a multimedia material from the Shevchenko National Museum, where virtual tours of museum rooms are accompanied by photos of the most valuable exhibits and words of the poet extracted from his letters, diaries, and novels.
To a great extent, everyone has their own Shevchenko. Some see him as a revolutionary, others as a thinker, some again as a prophet. Objective perception of the Bard of Ukraine, if at all possible, depends on how much we read Shevchenko’s works and studies on Shevchenko going beyond his poetic texts which most people perceive at the emotional and intuitive level. It is useful sometimes to rationalize one’s encounter with geniuses. In the case of Shevchenko, it is easy to do, because the material is there. His prose texts, as well as museums are of use in this regard, while the Shevchenko National Museum’s collection is rich in unique exhibits.
The collection includes many items which one would have never expected to see up close: a Moryntsi village parish register with the poet’s birth record giving the date as February 25 (O.S.), his manumission paper, academy certificate, tools he used as an artist, his death mask... And originals of Shevchenko’s artworks. The museum also houses copies of poem Hamalia and 1844 manuscript collection Chyhyryn Kobzar and Haidamaks, first print edition of Nazar Stodolia and 1860 Kobzar. These exhibits help one to detect a living man in a recognized genius as much as his Journal and letters...
Symbolically, a virtual tour of the updated exhibition of the Shevchenko National Museum was released on the eve of May 22, the 153rd anniversary of his reburial in Kaniv. The Ukrainians always united around marking this date as well as the Bard of Ukraine’s birthday.
This year, Shevchenko is truly present in our society. His “Keep fighting – you are sure to win” has become a popular slogan, as these words can now be seen on advertising banners, building walls, art posters, and clothing produced by Ukrainian designers. We have to preserve this newly-found closeness, and enhance it with a new understanding.