Hermitage Volunteer Service
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010)|
The Hermitage Volunteer Service of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia is an organisation of volunteers that assist with the running of this world-renown museum. The program aids the Hermitage with its external and internal activities and functions as an informal link between the museum staff and the public, making the knowledge of the museum’s experts accessible to the general community. Volunteers also develop projects reflecting their own personal goals and interests in connection with the museum.
The principal mission of the Volunteer Service is to acquaint young people with international culture and heritage through access to the Hermitage's extensive international collections. The volunteer program aims to help younger generations understand the value of tradition and to instill in them a feeling of responsibility for its preservation. The Volunteer Service involves young students in various cultural projects, many of which are directly linked to various museum activities.
Shortly before the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Saint Petersburg, Mikhail Kozhukhovskij approached the Hermitage Administration and proposed to create a volunteer service to help the organisation of the tricentennial activities. At the same time, he began to search for individuals with experience in the creation of educational programs who were interested in being part of such a project. Due to his efforts, the Hermitage was able to choose from among a group of 150 individuals prepared to help. On 23 May 2003 a group of volunteers wearing red uniforms entered the Hermitage for the first time and began to assist in any way they could. Kozhukovskij was assigned to head this new Volunteer Service. While still in its infancy, the program created many projects in collaboration with various departments of the Hermitage, which allowed volunteers to become an integral part of the museum's staff.
The program is continually renewed through a constant flow of new volunteers. Students and workers, Russians and foreigners, young and old work together for the general improvement of the Hermitage. Currently volunteers involved with the program come from all over the world including Russia, Switzerland, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Lebanon, Brazil, and other countries. Each volunteer devotes time to the program according to their individual schedules and skills. They include linguists, art historians, journalists, teachers, computer scientists, and individuals from other professions not necessarily linked to the cultural sphere. For instance, the volunteer service includes a bus driver, an arachnologist, and a dancer. After Hermitage volunteers leave the Service, many keep in touch with the program and its other members. In this way, the volunteer program has established an extensive international network of contacts.
On November 23, 2013, the government of Saint Petersburg’s Council for Youth Politics organised a celebration in honour of the State Hermitage Museum’s volunteer program in the atrium of the museum. The celebration’s main goal was to promote the museum’s young volunteer movement and raise awareness for the volunteer’s activities and projects among the citizens, authorities and companies. Among the 150 organisations participating in the competition, the best were awarded honorary diplomas and prizes. As a competitor in the competition for “Most Effective Volunteer Program”, the State Hermitage won the award in the category “Execution of Municipal Events”. An honorary diploma and the bronze statue of the “Little Prince” were awarded to the volunteer program’s coordinator Mikhail Kozhukhovskij.
Below are some examples of the activities in which members of the program may participate:
- Reception and security: Welcoming and assisting Hermitage visitors, checking tickets and providing information
- Helping with scientific projects: Typing of museum inventories, conservation-restoration, archaeological excavations, classification and management of stored artifacts
- Preparing museum publications and correspondence
- Developing new communication technology and creating designs for multi-media projects
- Helping to organize seminars and international conferences
- Translation work
- Teaching foreign languages and creating conversation groups
- Helping to move artifacts and exhibitions
WHY (World Heritage & Youth)
World Heritage & Youth (WHY) is the flagship project of the Volunteer Service. Its main goal is to bring into focus the importance of tradition. This project involves volunteers in various programs and conferences concerning cultural preservation. One example of the sort of issues tackled by the WHY project is the debate regarding the construction of the Okhta Center, one of the most criticized building projects proposed in contemporary Saint Petersburg. Many volunteers have reacted negatively to its potential construction. Stressing the importance of preserving the historic center of Saint Petersburg, the program is actively involved in the discussion surrounding this controversial project.
The Summer University of the State Hermitage Museum is the direct result of the WHY project. Since 2009, the Volunteer Service has organized the Summer University each July in collaboration with the Russian company Rosatom. Students, often from remote areas of Russia, are invited to participate in a series of events and activities designed to educate them about cultural tradition. For many of them, the Summer University is the first opportunity to discover and to explore the notion of cultural heritage. The Volunteer Service organizes various activities in conjunction with this programme.
Project Ropsha was the first project created by the Volunteer Service. The city of Ropsha, located southwest of Saint Petersburg, is the site of a palace included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Hermitage volunteers took part in a campaign to stop the destruction of this monument. They started by gathering information about the location, and then created a unique archive. The project involved the creation of the Christmas Tree Museum at the site of the palace, which helps the children of the city to understand this almost universal holiday tradition.
Contests and games
Every year the Volunteer Service organizes games and funny activities which aim to present world history on a level easily understood by children. Each game focuses on a particular aspect of history, cultural heritage, or tradition. In February 2009 the Service created a game called The Day of the Scythians about ancient Pazyryk culture.
The Service also organizes educational contests developed through collaboration with schools as part of their academic programs. Various Hermitage departments are also involved in this kind of activity. At the beginning of winter, the Service traditionally organizes a computer science contest to encourage children to use new technology while helping them to discover more about the history and culture of ancient people. A contest called On the Threshold of Discovery about Siberian civilization, organized in December 2010, was open to all European school children.
As part of a city-wide 'Days of Europe' celebration, the Service organized a Discover your Europe in the Hermitage scavenger hunt in 2012 with the support of the European Union offices, consulates general, and EU cultural centres. In 2013, this museum-wide hunt took environmental concerns as its theme, guiding participants of all ages with their maps to similarly concerned art-works.
- Discover your Europe in the Hermitage, September 2012
- Cats - big and small, April 2012.
- 9 days before the Calends of September, December 2011.
- The Garage of Nicholas II in the Winter Palace, December 2011
- On the Threshold of Discovery, December 2010.
- On The Trail of the Olympian Gods, April 2010.
- Volunteer Games, December 2009.
- The Day of the Scythian, April 2009.
- Ice Age, December 2008.
- Evolution, December 2008.
The State Hermitage’s Volunteer Service has been participating in archaeological expeditions since 2012. One of those was an expedition to the north-western part of Russia in the summer of 2013, during which the volunteers supported the archaeologist working in the landmarked areas of Samostje II (Oblast Moscow), oblast Smolensk and Pskow. The project included excavations on land as well as in water, the latter were undertaken by professional archaeological research divers.
The finds consisted of well preserved remains of Stone Age villages and parts from settlement buildings such as pillars belonging to houses and fishing constructions. The volunteers main task was to finalise the cleaning of the artefacts, as well as participating in the restoration and documentation of the finds and the creation of an electronic database.
- The State Hermitage Museum Report for 2003, p.165
- The State Hermitage Annual Report, 2009