Institutions of Activism: Museums and Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity
Hofland, Christi Anne
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Amidst unprecedented protests over the winter of 2013-2014, many museums in Ukraine transformed from Soviet era hold-overs to active civil society participants who discovered that they could use their unique circumstances to position themselves at the forefront of societal development. While art, creativity, and play are typically part of the repertoire of protesters in social movements, Euromaidan presents an unusual dynamic in that the participants using art and culture were not only individual protesters, but also institutions, such as museums. They responded by collecting artifacts, creating exhibits during and after the protests, organizing programs for creative engagement and response, and even offering hot tea and power outlets to protesters. Ongoing museum efforts include a discussion of how the protests will be remembered – how can a permanent record be presented in a way that is engaging and responsive: how can such a record be designed to serve community needs, strengthen community ties, energize citizens, make the difficult topics more digestible, and ultimately, become a center for empowerment and societal development? Regardless of how the official Museum of Maidan manifests, Ukraine’s museums are becoming examples of what it means to be responsive in crisis, to engage visitors creatively, and to include the community in developing a collective memory narrative.