Kizhi State Open-Air Museum of Cultural History and Architecture

Olga Titova

Deputy Director for Development and Exhibition activities

Kizhi State Open-Air Museum of Cultural History and Architecture

10a, Kirov sq., Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia,185000

Petrozavodsk, Russia
Intermuseum 2011 Grand Prix

"Heavens" of Zaonezhie

In 2011 the Kizhi Museum celebrated its 45th anniversary. The museum can be considered quite young but it has come a long way over these years. Now it is the State Museum of History, Architecture and Ethnography of federal significance. It has the highest legal, cultural and social status.

The gem of the museum's collection is the Kizhi architectural ensemble. In 1990 the architectural ensemble of the Kizhi Pogost was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1993 by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation it was listed in the State Code of Most Valuable Objects of Cultural Heritage of the Peoples of the Russian Federation. Implementation of the unique restoration project of the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior has been launched recently.
The Kizhi Museum is located on the Island of Kizhi. The island and its surroundings have been always a truly blessed area with amazing nature, wealthy culture and a special microclimate. Since ancient times Kizhi Island has been the center of peasant life for numerous neighboring villages. It has not lost its position up till now.

Careful attitude to the world helped to preserve the world famous monuments of wooden architecture, crafts and folklore traditions up to our time. Today the Kizhi Museum is the center of studying of tangible and intangible heritage of Zaonezhie that works closely with the local community. Hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world come to visit the museum where monuments of world significance are kept. It has been rightfully considered a center of international tourism for a long time.

Being a visiting card of the Republic of Karelia, the Kizhi Museum does a great job of promoting historical and cultural heritage of Karelia and the Russian North in general. Every year the museum represents its best projects at the most important museum event in Russia and one of the world biggest museums' forums - the festival "Intermuseum". The museum projects have been awarded in different categories several times. In 2011 XIII festival "Intermuseum" was held. According to the results of the work the museum "Kizhi" received Grand Prix and was recognized as the best museum of the year in Russia. The museum proposed projects for all 3 categories of the festival. These are the projects: "Complex protection of the objects of Kizhi Pogost", "Kizhanka - the boat of the island of Kizhi", "Folk feast and Kizhi souvenirs". The museum projects represented the protection of the immovable monuments, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Also the projects described the scientific, expositional, exhibition and presentation activities of the museum as well as its social work. We think that the museum received this award for many years' success in the main fields of its activity - restoration, excursion, archival, ethnographical, educative etc.

Significant presentation and exhibition, education and information projects are implemented every year, a lot of them get into the interregional and international levels. The museum realizes dynamic work in the sphere of cross border co-operation with Finland, implementing several joint projects. In 2011 the project "Heavens" of Zaonezhie", having passed a rigorous selection, entered into the official program of the Year of Russian Culture and Russian Language in Italy. It was definitely a major victory for the Kizhi Museum and a significant event for the promotion of culture of the Russian North.

We present you the project of the Kizhi Museum ""Heavens" of Zaonezhie"
Along with the monuments of architecture the museum holds a significant collection of artifacts demonstrating centuries-old culture and the wealthy history of Karelia. The museum's collections account to nearly 50 thousands items. The collection of ancient Russian painting has a significant place in the funds of the Kizhi Museum, it comprises a unique collection of ceiling paintings that includes 190 icons. The icons were written in ?VII-?I? centuries for churches and chapels located along Lake Onega's shores. The greatest part of them comes from the churches of Zaonezhie.
Ceiling icons of northern churches are comparable in importance to the objects of the cultural heritage of the Russian Federation, inscribed on the UNESCO list (the monuments of the Russian wooden architecture on Kizhi Island). Yet the collection was little known and practically was not exhibited previously. The subject matter of icon painting is very difficult and complicated for most people. The objective of the project was to attract attention and interest to the ceiling painting of wooden churches of Karelia and make it intelligible not only to specialists and experts but to the general public.

Thus, in 2008 the history of this project started. Its implementation was made possible thanks to the grant support of the "Severstal" company within the program "Museums of the Russian North". The authors of the project are Olga Titova and Galina Frolova.

The project was implemented in two main areas: research and presentation.

The research area of the project included the restoration and detailed attribution of icons, photofixation and collection of the materials about the Kizhi Museum's icons and icons from the Church of the Assumption in Kondopoga. For a long time, researchers have treated ceiling icons as construction details of a church that do not deserve any special attention and they were lost frequently. Today the Northern "heavens" are attracting an increasing interest and there is a growing demand for their exhibition. The implementation of the project has provided a complete picture of the existing collection of ceiling icons in the Kizhi Museum and gives an idea of the interior decoration development of a church in Karelia. This research is of great scientific value and is of interest for both specialists and the general public.

The presentation area of the project included realization of a diverse set of products that comprehensively represent the unique collection of ceiling paintings of Karelian churches to different target audiences. Traditional forms of icons exposure in exhibition halls do not allow visitors to get a complete understanding of ceiling icons of northern churches. One can solve these problems using different forms of presentation including modern information technologies.

As a consequence of the work done, a complex, complicated project has been carried out, which resulted in production of a multimedia CD, an unusual book, a large internet project, a souvenir cut-out model and also an exhibition as a form of presentation of the work performed and reconstruction of a piece of the virtual world in the real space. All parts of this project are aimed at different target audiences and comprehensively represent the unique heritage of the Russian North to the general public. It became possible only within this project to cover the topic more fully and clearly, to tell about the unique structures and to recreate the world of images of northern "heavens".
Specialists in different areas of activity were involved in the project work: experts in Old Russian painting and restorers, programmers and designers, the Exhibition Center and Publishing Center employees.

The implementation of the large project that combined innovative interactive technologies, new technologies of information promotion and different presentation forms was intended to promote the unique collection of ceiling icons of northern churches and the image of the Kizhi Museum as a modern cultural institution that meets the requirements of time and is opened to the society.

The project life cycle was not finished upon the completion of the grant program. It was continued in subsequent years confirming its relevance and importance.

In 2010 the exhibition together with other parts of the project was invited and displayed at the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg.

The exhibition was displayed at the museum of Palazzo de Lieto, Maratea. The project "Heavens" of Zaonezhie" brought together a large number of partners from Russia and Italy. The Russian North has played a significant role in the Russian history. Icons of the Russian North have maintained the best traditions of philosophy and cultural foundations of ancient Russia. The project has presented the cultural heritage of the Russian North and Zaonezhie (the unique territory of the Russian North that has preserved magnificent examples of ceiling painting) to both Russian and foreign audiences.

Active project work has developed a broad network of partners at various levels: local, regional and nationwide. There have been realized several large international projects. Journalists from different countries and various experts come to us to exchange the experience. The process of restoration of the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior can also be called an international project as it involves foreign experts from different countries. The museum has successfully worked with both Russian and foreign foundations and grant programs. Today, one can talk about the Kizhi Museum as about a museum open to the world.


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