Interpreting Heritage – Museum Exhibition Fair in Rousse, 2018
The Museum Exhibition Fair is the biggest museum event in Bulgaria. The institutions organising it are the Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Rousse and Rousse Regional Museum of History. The expected effect of the Fair is to maintain sustainable interest in museum collection mobility as a tool of changing our museums, and also to be a place where ideas and knowledge are shared and improvements in heritage sharing processes are discussed. The purpose of the event is to communicate successful museum practices in making exhibitions, and to present museum products – temporary exhibitions that are the most visible aspect of museum activities. There was a variety of presentations and discussions of leading Bulgarian and foreign lecturers in museololgy and heritage covering practical experience in building exhibitions, enabling communication links between museum professionals, managers and end users, financial parameters, intellectual rights and possibilities for cultural property import and export.
More than 100 participants and guests from Bulgaria and from foreign countries came to MEF 2018 on October 24-26 in Rousse. The event gave a start to new partnerships with institutions and non-governmental organizations active in the domain of heritage, its interpretation and sharing: the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe under the auspices of UNESCO – Sofia, the Association of the Museum Friends Clubs, the Bulgarian Museums non-profit organization and the So Close, So Far non-profit organization.
The work panels of the three-day event covered diverse aspects of museum operation; most of the presentations were related to ethnology. The key participants and experts were professionals from Bulgaria, Great Britain, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. Dr. Aude Le Guennec from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Great Britain spoke about childhood and the museum; a study related to fashion collections for children kept in the places of memory in the UK was in the highlights. The presentation was focused on the possibility to see childhood from the viewpoint of a child in order to avoid sentiments and nostalgia when communicating with the past. Goran Nikolov, Director of the Museum of Macedonia, spoke about the “revival” of the National Museum of Macedonia that was made possible by the successful partnership with Skopje Jazz Fest and with the Spirits of Africa exhibition showing the heritage of African cultures, owing to which the museum-audience gap was significantly reduced. Dr. Lidija Nikocevic from the Ethnographic Museum of Istria in Croatia made a review of successful practices of safeguarding and exhibiting cultural heritage, and the way audiences respond to it. Existing in an environment of numerous identities related to cultural boundaries, the museum is trying to find ways to represent images of heritage using intangible cultural heritage manifestations. Lydia Milasinovic from the Kikinda National Museum in Voevodina, Serbia, spoke in her presentation about the interrelation and the effect of the cultural landscape on the preserved and recognised cultural heritage, and about the ways the local government communicates with it and shows it in the museum interpretation plan. That presentation was in a dialogue with the presentation of the Large Basilica of Plovdiv made by Nadya Zaharieva from the America for Bulgaria Foundation – a new museum holding valuable mosaics that should find its proper place in the city’s cultural landscape. Its functions will include cultural activism and communication rather than just contemplation of cultural objects.
Intangible cultural heritage and museums was the main topic of the presentations made by Dr. Irena Todorova from the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe under the auspices of UNESCO – Sofia, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Irena Bokova from New Bulgarian University, and Tanya Mareva, Director of Smolyan Regional Museum of History; they underlined the need for a larger responsibility of museums concerning such a specific cultural heritage. That panel – organised by the Regional Centre and the New Bulgarian University, raised questions and suggested answers that can be found in the examples of successful partnerships that the participants shared with the audience.
Special sessions inspired by the need to promote museum collection travelling were organised on two of the three days of the fair. Bulgarian museums presented the themes, specific exhibition parameters and details of 17 touring collections.
The third day of the Museum Exhibition Fair 2018 – Rousse was organised with the assistance of the So Close, So Far non-profit organization. The discussions were focused on modern art development and culture policies, the economics of culture, culture as a brand, and cultural product branding in Europe. Hristina Shopova, deputy-mayor of Blagoevgrad, presented the innovative models used in organising and holding the Frankofoli festival. Evgeniya Atanasova, producer and journalist, talked about ”The Christo Case” and presented her book Christo, Vlado and the Floating Quays, after which the documentary film A Bridge to Christo about the Bulgarian artist Hristo Yavashev – Christo was shown.
Awards to the winners in the competition for the best one-museum or joint mobile exhibition projects were given for the second time in the framework of the Museum Exhibition Fair. The competition was organised by the Ministry of Culture, Rousse Municipality and Rousse Regional Museum of History. In the One-museum Exhibition Category, the National Museum of Military History received a certificate and prize money from the Ministry of Culture and Rousse Municipality for their attractive and creative mobile exhibition project called “The Little Man in the Big War”.
The exhibition From Vienna and Constantinople. Ethnography of the City won the prize of the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe under the auspices of UNESCO – Sofia. The honorary plaque and the certificate were presented by the Centre’s chairperson Ms. Irena Todorova. The award was given for the merits of the creative teams of Rousse Regional Museum of History and Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum with regards to promoting intangible cultural heritage. The exhibition authors are Prof. Dr. Nikolay Nenov and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Angel Yankov. The exhibition was in the context of the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2018.
This year, the Museum Exhibition Fair was streamed live. The Facebook page of Rousse Regional Museum of History on all three days streamed all sessions of the program: round tables, presentations and discussions. The technical work was performed by the team of Arena Media. The analysis has shown that, owing to that streaming, the Museum Exhibition Fair reached 23 665 people between October 26 and 28. The interest was highest on the second day, October 25, when the foreign speakers’ presentations were running. That part of the event was followed live by 15 830 people. The numbers were high on the other days as well: on the first day – October 24 – over 9000 people; on the third day – October 26 – 5000. On Saturday, when the Fair was already over, the videos still provoked the interest of another 1200 people. The videos available on the Museum’s FB page and in the YouTube channel were seen by 11000 people. The virtual viewers’ profile covers a wide range of visitors. Most distinguishable is the share of online visitors working in museums, or professionals directly involved in heritage matters. The streaming enabled the museum professionals, who were unable to come, to watch the discussions live. The Museum Exhibition Fair streaming was the first live streaming of a museum event in Bulgaria.
The mobile exhibitions catalogue that was published for the event provides information about 167 exhibitions of over 10 000 objects of 50 museums from all around the country. It enables museums to select and contract to borrow historical, archaeological or ethnographic exhibitions. The catalogue gives the parameters of the museum products that are offered: author, subject, target audience by age groups, number of objects, posters and information boards, handling, transportation, contacts to make it easier for museums and galleries to choose a visiting exhibition.
This was the eighth Museum Exhibition Fair. The activities related to organising and holding it are arranged under a Statute of the Minister of Culture, 2016. Under its provisions, the Museum Exhibition Fair shall happen every even year, and it shall be organized by Rousse Regional Museum of History.
Public relations Department, Rousse Regional Museum of History