Museum 15/24: Russian and Dutch youngsters help develop new museum experiences
For the Dutch museum, the tenth anniversary is an occasion to look back on ten years of fruitful collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides reflecting on the many accomplishments so far, Hermitage Amsterdam is also looking ahead to the future with new projects and exhibitions. One of them is the educational project Museum 15/24. Wieke van Veggel and Niko Bos from the education department of Hermitage Amsterdam told us all about the project.
The project Museum 15/24 has been running for a year now with the support of the Creative Twinning programme*. It is a collaboration between Hermitage Amsterdam, the State Hermitage Museum and the Outsider Art Museum in Amsterdam. Each museum offers its own projects within the framework of Museum 15/24, but all focus on a young target group, aged 15 to 24 (hence the name). Hermitage Amsterdam has developed two new organs in collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum: a youth advisory board and an expert group that will create an online platform for young people.
The State Hermitage Museum and Hermitage Amsterdam find it very important to not think for young people, but to think with them. Niko Bos and Wieke van Veggel: “That is why they have appointed an advisory board of eleven Dutch and ten Russian youths with an interest in culture. Through an exchange programme in Amsterdam and Saint Petersburg and various other activities by the boards, the participants exchange knowledge and come up with ideas on how to create the best museum experiences for people in the age group 15 to 24.”
Prior to this project, the State Hermitage already had a youth centre with several activities for this age group, but Hermitage Amsterdam mainly focused on children and teenagers. Together with the youth advisory board, the museum is coming up with new ideas to connect more effectively with the target group.
The online platform that Hermitage Amsterdam is currently developing will form a database containing all educational materials of the past 10 years, based on the State Hermitage Museum’s collection of materials made for the primary schools participating in the Hermitage for Children programme. The platform will also offer materials for secondary schools as well as online courses and videos of lectures at the State Hermitage Museum.
For the platform to become a place where Dutch and Russian museum professionals can easily exchange knowledge and connect, all content will be available in English, Dutch and Russian. Niko Bos: “The State Hermitage is such an encyclopaedic museum that anybody who wants to know more about a certain topic in art history should be able to consult the database to learn more about it.”
Wieke van Veggel: “It is interesting to see how the Russian and Dutch museums deal with the same topics, such as how to make the best programmes for young audiences. We might have to approach it in different ways because of the local context, but despite the cultural differences we are trying to solve the same issues.” The director of the State Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky, emphasises that "art is the central topic, and that this common interest bridges any differences". As it turns out, the Russian and Dutch members of the youth advisory boards mainly found that they have much in common. Van Veggel: “Regardless of people’s backgrounds, culture unites people immediately.”
A further part of the project is a collaboration between Dutch and Russian professionals in the field of museum and art education. Dutch experts will pay a working visit to Russia and vice versa. The purpose is to identify and share best practices of museum education for young visitors to exhibitions. Recommendations, examples and concepts of these best practices can be shared on the new online platform.
In Russia, using the arts as a tool to connect with young people with special needs is a field that has been growing over the past few years. The Outsider Art Museum already has years of experience in this field, both by working with artists with special needs and offering young people in similar situations the best museum experiences. Thanks to Museum 15/24, this knowledge can be shared with the museum staff of the State Hermitage in Russia.
Although Museum 15/24 runs until the end of 2020, the idea is to continue offering and developing the online platform. Hermitage Amsterdam is also looking into ways to keep the youth advisory board involved in the museum.
* Creative Twinning is a subsidy scheme offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support cultural activities in countries bordering the EU. These activities strengthen mutual links, increase trust and improve communication between the Netherlands and the countries involved. In 2018, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency selected five projects to receive a grant. Museum 15/24 is one of these projects. Learn more about Creative Twinning here.