View from the Hermitage. A museum city? This
is good and advantageous
Today, when people discuss issues relating to architecture and innovations in construction, they often say: “Of course, Petersburg is one big museum, but you can't live in a museum.” In my view that is not right from every angle. In essence, this carries the idea that a museum is a stale institution where nothing special happens, where life passes quietly in a sleepy-headed way. It's where people work who just make pennies and that's why they sometimes steal. In a word, we see in all this a very negative image of museums. What follows is this kind of reasoning: museum managers don't know what is worth saving and they hold onto a lot of rubbish, but at the same time they don't show you everything. And the conclusion is obvious: it all should be turned over to good hands, meaning to people who understand what the economy is all about and what to do with valuables.
We have often come across suggestions that outsiders take over management of the museum collections and museum opportunities! Museums have to resist attempts to privatize them and take over museum property, to put some of the museum things up for sale on the market.
Indeed, a modern museum whether it be American, French or Russian, has nothing in common with the negative image that has been created. You need only drop into any of them to understand how active life is in them. Russian museums demonstrated their ability to develop actively under conditions where the state showed complete indifference to the cultural heritage. The checks which now are going on in museums after the Hermitage thefts showed that the state never paid attention to what, how and in what conditions things are stored. Storage requires normal conditions which cannot be established in palace halls. The state was disloyal also in the post-Perestroika period and for a long time did nothing for museums, leaving them to their own fate. But the museums managed to build a model of dynamic social and economic development.
The model of a contemporary museum looks as follows. It is an institution which stores, collects and restores cultural treasures. In this way it has huge importance for the society with which it is in constant contact. A museum is in contact with the public not only through its galleries, where visitors come to look at works of art, but also through the body of knowledge it creates, through exhibitions, educational activity, concerts….People are constantly in touch with museums. They are places where city residents and tourists go many times.
In our day museums are structures having their own economy and playing an important role in the overall economy. Museums decorate the city and to a significant degree define the life of many of them - for example, Venice, Paris or even New York. A significant number of tourists come due to museums. Museums often are city-builders.
In major world museums, there is an economy of their own. They offer people a large array of services: restaurants, souvenir shops, concerts and much else that a developed city offers. Museums not only earn money, which they then use, but they also create jobs and are sources of income around themselves - retail trade, restaurants, hotels. Today throughout the world more and more people work in the service sector.
On the whole, our cultural heritage creates an optimistic mood, provides residents with jobs, draws people into the city who leave their money here. It is especially good and prestigious when people arrive for business forums. They go where they find it pleasant and interesting to be. The latest Petersburg Economic Forum demonstrated this clearly. Not without reason, it was promoted with images of old, museum city Petersburg.
A museum city can live very well according to the model of a museum. In the city there are attractive places, a developed infrastructure, jobs. The service sector relating to culture can absorb more and more people in small and medium-sized businesses.
Jobs come from a correct attitude to monuments in the museum-city. Monuments have to be restored, and this takes manual labor. Today's developed construction does not really provide jobs to local residents. For that purpose people are brought in from abroad and the use machines and high technology. But restoration, as a rule, is done by people living in the city. Sorting out historical constructions so that neighboring buildings do not suffer has to be done manually by the brick and not by machines. Care for historical buildings raises real estate prices. The price is not speculative but real and it rises in keeping with care for old residential housing and monuments that acquire new uses. Money invested in restoration stays with the city. New construction in the historic center, as practice shows, kills monuments.
There is a science dealing with the economics of the historical heritage. It shows that reconstruction of historic centers of large cities, in particular American cities, in many respects is more profitable than tearing them down for new construction. We have a national Center for Guardianship over the Heritage which was created by the Academy of Architecture and Construction. Its work is developed to a certain degree along the model of the National Trust in Great Britain. Institutions are created which watch over historical monuments and monitor their use, including commercial use. Such a system has been worked out not only in Great Britain, but in the USA as well. We have experimental work on using monuments in ways that do not harm their spirit; this work is just beginning.
At a session of the working group of the Council on Culture under the President's office, we agreed to create a guardianship over monuments in the Tver Oblast in order to preserve them and to find a proper way to use them. We are used to saying that you cannot live in a museum-like city and it has to be rearranged, that monuments have to be turned over to private hands. With such an approach soon nothing will be left of monuments. There are other ways to ensure that monuments have a long life and are used properly.
In this regard, we have accumulated experience. It shows, for example, that using a palace as a museum is the right path, but if you use it as a storage facility that is wrong. Another example: after the Revolution, palaces often were turned into children's institutions. That is good; children are brought up in splendid surroundings. But when palaces are used as hospitals, that is considerably worse...
There are many ways of using the cultural heritage to develop society as a whole. You have to examine them so that museum cities will live no worse than museums. Such a city goes well with a port city or a science city. Science is drawn to what is beautiful. I hope than in the 21st century politics and economics will become part of culture, not only because culture is more important. Many scientific decisions and discoveries are done with the help of mental deductions built not on arithmetic but on intuitive things which are perceived through culture, literature and art. Let us remember that when brilliant minds of our countrymen gathered in the Novosibirsk Akademgorodîk it turned out that they needed art. The best writers, poets and artists went there and set up exhibitions.
A museum city combines splendidly with the image of a military capital. Military ceremonies on Palace Square near the Winter Palace raise people's feeling of self-awareness. We have been developing a Museum of the Guards in the General Staff Building. The history of the Russian Army is a good means of educating young military men. If we carry out ceremonies connected with the War of 1812 on Palace Square, together with the Peter's victories this will become a tradition and will be handed down from generation to generation.
What does not get along with a museum city? It gets on badly with chemical and metallurgical production. These are now leaving the city and can develop farther away. The museum city gets on badly with overgrown bureaucratic structures. They need a lot of buildings. It's quite amazing: the Communist Party cadres have disappeared, but those who have replaced them need a lot more space. I think the problem can be solved by building business centers and partially moving the bureaucratic apparatus there.
On the whole, a dynamic and lively museum city uses the cultural heritage to create an atmosphere of optimism. It is good and advantageous to live in a museum city. If thought is not given to this, then the attractiveness of the city for those who live here and for those who want to come here will be significantly reduced.
Cities which have history and cultural heritage and also are economically growing play a special role. Petersburg always has been clever about combining different functions while remaining an attractive curiosity - a “paradise” as Peter imagined.