With what do you associate the word “museum”? With silence? With exhibits that you can touch with your hands under no circumstances? Or maybe with boring school trips? Probably most of you have your own associations. And what if this museum is one of the oldest in Ukraine? Perhaps it’s hard to imagine something other than a pompous big hall with strict ladies museum workers.

But there are other museums. Among them, there is the Cherkasy Regional Museum. This year, it turned 100 years, but its workers decided to crush stereotypes about the temple of history, as a quiet and static environment. Interactive excursions and master classes, reconstruction of ancient ceremonies and thematic exhibitions, meetings with interesting people and talks – Cherkasy Regional Museum became the place of active educational recreation, the center of enlightenment and leisure, charity and volunteering.

The beginning of the museum

What is the beginning of the museum? Sometimes it starts with a private collection, sometimes with the interesting finding of one researcher, and sometimes with the idea of indifferent enthusiasts who have set themselves the goal to preserve the historical discoveries of their native land. The ones who want to give future generations the opportunity to see these treasures with their own eyes. “Our museum was founded in 1918 on the initiative of Cherkasy’s Prosvita branch and the teachers’ community,” says Irina Sobko, director of the Cherkasy Regional Museum. “The foundation for collection were ancient objects of everyday life, tools, documents and old books that were given by the citizen. Subsequently, they added the material values, which were requisitioned from the estates, as well as military relics of the Orlov and Bryansk regiments, which were previously kept in the regimental church.” Already at that time, among museum’s exhibits were unique collections of art, jewelry, coins, orders and medals, weapons and military flags. In the museum library, enthusiasts have gathered almost 13 thousand volumes of books. So, considering the scale of the museum in the 1920s, it was taken under the state control.

Museum’s statistics

The modern building, where the Cherkasy Regional Museum is located was built in 1985. Unlike the old premises, which occupied around 600 square meters and had one and a half stories, the new building is impressive in its scale. In order to decorate the building materials were taken from different parts of the Soviet Union: granite from Zaporizhia, marble from the Ural, tuffs from Transcarpathia, limestone from Crimea, expensive parquet was made in Volhynia, and aluminum structures were created at the Brovary factory of aluminum constructions. Its area is 6 thousand square meters. Exhibits are located in 30 halls all over the area of 2800 square meters, where about 12 thousand exhibits are harmoniously distributed in historical order. In the vaults, there are still about 180 thousand exhibits.

Сучасний сторічний музей: тут не тільки зберігається історія, а й створюється нова

Touch the history

In the Cherkasy Regional Museum, there are exhibits that can be touched only in special gloves, they are protected from bright light and they are put on display only for a special occasion. Among them a handwritten list of the Peresopnytsia Gospel of 1751, an icon of the Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki and the martyr Theodosia the virgin, embroidered with gold and created in the first quarter of the XIX century. A 300-year-old wardrobe, inlaid with mahogany and mother-of-pearl, etc.

And there are those exhibits that you can hold in your hands and feel the breath of history. On thematic tours, visitors have the opportunity to touch the stone palm print of an ancient man. Some kind of “hello” through the ages.

An interesting experience can be the usage of old everyday life items, such as a grinder, through which our ancestors were grinding the grain. This is a very hard work, so visitors of the museum can try and make their own conclusions about life in those days.

Now, thematic workshops where archaeologists teach how to make amulets with the help of primal technologies and fragments of broken pottery. Schoolchildren can compare a modern school with the old one, sitting behind an old desk, sharpening the goose feather and trying to write in ink. “Since recently, the exhibits of the museum don’t spend too much time in the vault,” smiles Irina Sobko, “Cherkasy citizens and guests of the city are given a unique opportunity to see the historical wonders with their own eyes and join the journey into the past.”

Returning to the roots

During the past year, interactive events have become customary in our museum. Within their framework, guests of the museum can take part in the restoration of ancient ceremonies. The head of Ethnography Department Viktoria Naumchuk said that the ancient customs are reconstructed by museum’s scientists according to field research of Cherkasy region ethnographers, among them Ahatanhel Krymsky, Pavlo Chubynsky, Oleksa Voropay, Mykola and Galyna Kornienko, Svitlana Kytova.  It’s fascinating that all theatrical interactive activities in the museum are conducted without the involvement of professional artists and singers. Everything is reproduced exclusively with their own resources. “For every holiday, we are looking for some interesting and forgotten thing and emphasize on it,” Mrs. Viktoria says. “For example, during Pokrova holiday we recreated the long-forgotten rite “’Medy ta poprazeny’ with hats,” and on St. Barbara the embroiderer, preceding Andrew the Apostle’s day, we showed people the custom of stealing the pillow, embroidering it, and further exchange for a man’s embroidered shirt.” And what a performance we had in the museum during St. Andrew’s day! We were doing fortune telling, eating Kalyta (ritual cake– translator’s note), and feasting with varenyky (traditional Ukrainian dumplings – translator’s note). We had restored everything as it was in ancient times. Among the guests of the feast, there was a gigantic dog, who was eating balabusky (small round bunns – translator’s note), the gorgeous red chicken was rushing between the bundles of wheat in order to take part in fortune telling and tell the girls who’ll marry first.

Сучасний сторічний музей: тут не тільки зберігається історія, а й створюється нова

National dress-ups and head-scarfs

Ancient clothing, embellished with authentic embroideries and made according to ancient traditions, is a sacred thing. To wear it is a pleasure, because its every detail, each stitch is aimed at comfort and convenience, each symbol in decor is a charm. Such an ancient national dress in the regional museum of Cherkasy region is carefully studied and kept in special conditions.  Nevertheless, all those who wish can try on the Ukrainian folk dress and take a few pictures in it. Fashionable ladies enjoy workshops on the art of national headscarves wearing. “A woman, that puts on a headscarf, has another glance, a noble smile appears on her face,” says deputy director of the museum Tetyana Hryhorenko, “even her posture changes.” Of course, old clothes for visitors are replicas, but they are of a very good quality and made according to the styles of those times. Ochipoks (married woman’s headdress – translator’s note) and kersetkas (traditional woman’s vest – translator’s note) was made according to the old patterns by master Natalia Kramna-Taran. Dukaches (traditional jewelry made of coins – translator’s note) were gifted by a jeweler-collector Yuriy Kovalenko. But the headscarves are authentic, brought from home, from our mothers and grandmothers.” It’s amusing that after wearing real national clothes for a while, visitors don’t want to take it off, even tourists from other countries.

Сучасний сторічний музей: тут не тільки зберігається історія, а й створюється нова

About charms in form of rag-dolls and the flag of the 72nd

During museum workshops, children and adults not only practice the ancient crafts but also make charms for Ukrainian military, which then go to the front. “One day a woman came to the museum and asked for a couple of dolls for her son who was in the hospital,” says Tetyana Hryhorenko. “She told me a story about a rag-doll from the museum that was attached to the vehicle of the 72nd brigade as a charm. And no matter where that vehicle would go, no matter how hard the situation was, no bullet or shell touched it, and the crew was always safe and intact. However as soon as the thread had torn off from the doll and it fell down, the car got under the terrible shelling. There were injured ones. So the woman asked for our rag-dolls for her son who was in the hospital and for his friend. This is the story she told.

And you know, it’s interesting that we were making our first rag-dolls without even knowing how to do it. We just made them with the belief that they would definitely take care of our boys. At first, we were inviting kids to the museum, and then we were making them on our own. And those puppets kept our soldiers alive. In a while, for our charms, we got the 72nd brigade flag with signatures of fighters.”

Museum binoculars – to the front

Mykola Bushyn is a doctor of historical sciences, a professor at Cherkasy State Technical University, and partly a longtime friend and philanthropist of Cherkasy regional museum. Some time ago, during his visit to the museum, he brought historical books and binoculars. Museum workers were surprised – it was a brand new thing. Probably, nothing happens in life by accident. Just at this time, the volunteer Kateryna Verhai, the daughter of the deceased in the East soldier Vitaliy Verhai, wrote a post on Facebook in order to raise funds for binoculars for the artillery division of the 28th Brigade. “Optics is always expensive, and here is a new binocular that has just been received from a patron,” says Tetyana Hryhorenko. “Therefore, the director of the museum, Iryna Sobko, did not waste her time and called Mr. Mykola with a request for permission to hand over his gift to the Ukrainian military, he agreed and the next day the binoculars were sent to ATO zone. We’ll have more exhibits, and mortar guys need it. You know how it happens, if you give, then you must have something in return a hundredfold.”

Сучасний сторічний музей: тут не тільки зберігається історія, а й створюється нова

The museum warms up

The last year during the Day of the Defender of the Motherland Cherkassy Regional Museum had started the action “Warm up a soldier in the ATO zone.” People had the opportunity to bring warm things, tea, coffee, sweets, and children’s drawings, and then all of this was sent to the combat zone for our fighters. Also, back then, on October 14, during the day, a workshop on the rapid knitting of socks with two knitting needles was held. People were coming, bringing products, masters were making socks. Those who couldn’t join the weaving, but was willing to take part in the action, brought the threads. “So, from the city of Mukacheve, they sent us as much as 13 kg of threads for socks,” says Tetyana Hryhorenko, “and 85-year-old Cherkasy citizen Halyna Batrak made 100 pairs of socks during the action. She’s still working on it. And the number of socks made by her has already reached 140. She doesn’t just make them; she puts letters with thanks and candy in each pair. It is interesting that one of the pairs came to Anatoly Pashynin, the very Russian actor who came to Ukraine and went to fight in the volunteer Ukrainian corps of ‘The Right Sector’. There is even a photo.”

So the museum, which supposed to protect artifacts, warms and helps modernity – our military. And somehow it turns out that they are not “tired” from the war in the museum, here, as at the beginning of armed aggression, charms are created, warm socks and camouflage nets are made.

Сучасний сторічний музей: тут не тільки зберігається історія, а й створюється нова

Temple of history on the pages

This year, for the 100th anniversary of the Cherkasy Regional Museum, with the support of the philanthropists of Cherkasy region, a book was published. Turning pages of this book the reader will make a trip around the museum. He will get acquainted with the rich history of the region, a collection of material and documentary historical exhibits that characterize the nature, historical development and culture of the Cherkasy region from the oldest times to this day, the heroic past and present. “This book is our pride,” the head of the museum Iryna Sobko smiles, “It contains a lot of interesting information and bright high-quality photos. This is the result of our employees and sponsors hard work. In addition to the 100th anniversary of the museum, we’ve launched a magazine – our first specialized museum publication, which will promote the exhibitions of our institution and will cover its life. After all, during its existence, it became not only a place where history is stored and studied but also a recognized center of the cultural and public movement of the city.”

Therefore, despite its respectable anniversary, Cherkasy Regional Museum is keeping pace with the times. And this is not a miracle, because local lore is not only building and exhibits, it is primarily the people. And in this museum they are tireless and creative, thanks to them, here it’s always crowded and noisy. Not only the history is saved in the museum, but it’s also happening here.

By Yulia Vovkodav

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