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About the Museum
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has one of the largest international art collections in Russia, spanning from ancient times to the present.
The museum began to strengthen its online presence several years prior to the pandemic. However, it was the closure of the museum in 2020 and the complete virtualization of interaction with visitors that boosted the creation of new online formats. Today, everything can be found on a single platform using the hashtag #WithPushkinTete-a-tete.
During the first lockdown, the museum opened two online exhibitions, launched three large-scale multimedia projects, and held over 200 online sessions in various formats. The total audience for these amounted to approximately 7 million people. Thanks to these results, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts won a Culture Online award in the Best Online Project category in 2020.
Deputy Director for Information Technologies
I believe it is fair to say that we were among the most prepared museums in the world. First of all, we already had a huge base that offered many web resources, including electronic catalogues, virtual spaces for permanent exhibitions and some temporary ones, a 3D model of the museum, and remote access to the museum’s collection.
Secondly, we started to bolster our online presence about a month before the lockdown, as Europe’s experience had shown us what we could expect.
Third, we spent that month training employees how to teach, deliver lectures, and moderate discussions online. We wrote brief instructions with this information and mailed them out.
© Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
In March and April 2020, our IT department was accessible almost 24/7, but at the same time we also saw a great response from our employees. They went out of their way to master new technologies in the shortest possible time, and they clearly succeeded.
At first, the number of online products multiplied in response to the emerging demand. However, the demand began falling as the market became oversaturated and the audience became more selective. The battle for quality online content came to the fore. In this struggle, our museum certainly had an advantage, as we are a very reputed institution, and we have always done a good job promoting our offline activities and online products.
There have been numerous takeaways. To start with a pleasant one, we saw that even the craziest idea can grow into a popular project if properly elaborated and implemented. As for an unpleasant one, the cultural sphere—both in general and ours in particular—suffers from a severe lack of digital competencies in most of our associates and even the basic digital literacy that is required in order to feel at ease online.
© Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
The digital area as a whole has not changed its vector. Thematic lecture cycles, special projects, interactive programs, collaboration with global digital platforms and experiments with virtual assistants, access to the global museum community and contributing to their agendas remain our main development strategies, but now we have more tools for their implementation and feel more confident about using them.
Today, we continue to strengthen our online presence. On our YouTube channel, our playlists on various subjects are updated regularly. For example, “The History of One Thing” is a series of short video clips that unveil the secrets behind various exhibits from the museum’s collection. There is also “Pushkin Museum. Lectures” featuring discussions with different cultural and media figures. Another series is “Signs and Gestures: How to Read Medieval Images. Seven Exhibits from the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts Collection” from the Pushkin Museum Academy.
In the summer of 2021, we held broadcasts of the educational series “To Look and To See” as part of the “Pushkin Museum and LG SIGNATURE Wednesdays” program, exclusively on the VK platform. After this, the museum community received the label “Prometheus.” VK gives it to communities and users, creating unique and interesting content.
On top of that, together with the Culture.ru portal, we launched an audio guide with the voice assistant Marusya, issued AR Troika cards decorated with the painting “View of the Bridge at Sevres and the Hills at Clamart” by Henri Rousseau, made a new Practices and Optics online lecture course at our Virtual Academy, and held a series of “Watch and See” online discussions, co-organized with LG SIGNATURE. We also regularly broadcast concerts held in the Svyatoslav Richter Memorial Apartment and share lectures recorded in the museum. Also, in collaboration with the festival “Context. Diana Vishneva” and the Aksenov Family Foundation, we have launched a cross-media project—the “Imprint in Motion” film —which is a fusion of fine art, modern dance, cinema, and music.
In this context, I would suggest starting with virtual walks around the museum. One can feel the atmosphere of the buildings and see the collection while listening to the built-in audio guide. The next thing would be to view the virtual spaces of past exhibitions. In general, the entire Media section of the museum’s website is full of online resources that help people prepare for a visit.
I don’t believe that such a task is even worthwhile. The online option supplements live communication with people, spaces, and exhibits, and fills in the gaps where it is difficult to do the same thing offline. For example, it would be extremely difficult to assemble exhibits from different museums on one physical site within a couple of weeks. But it is impossible to 100% replace everything live. And it is not required, either. This was proven by the visitors’ excitement in the first month after the reopening of museums. People truly missed the museums and the feeling of being inside them, the chance to share their emotions during a real visit with friends.
- The information provided by Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in summer 2021.