WE NEED A MUSEUM OF LOVE
Arts & Culture

WE NEED A MUSEUM OF LOVE

GEVORG ORBELYAN

To understand the importance of the role of museums in Armenia and to summarize the urgent problems of the field, we talked to Gevorg Orbelyan, museum expert and head of Tourism unit at the Yerevan municipality.

INTERVIEW : AMALIE KHACHATRYAN

 

 

What is the mission of museums?

Museums are considered a unique visiting card for any country. There are currently a couple of challenges and threats connected with economic, demographic and ecological crisis that museums face. However, we have enhanced our chances for global cooperation through digitization and modern technologies.

Many say that today everything could be found on the Internet. But what about the museum atmosphere? The museum-visitor connection is very essential; visitors can see and sometimes touch the works and feel the aroma of the place.

 

Who is visiting museums in Armenia today? 

Sadly, Armenia does not have the culture of volunteering. In many countries, retired people volunteer in museums, organize various interactive events and enjoy their work. We lack also the culture of visiting museums with families; such visits are very rare.

Schoolchildren go to museums because these visits are included in their curriculum, while for the young people the museum projects are incomplete. If students do not get an internship at museums, they are not eager to visit those cultural places.

What special offers do we have for the youth? For example, in many countries, students have a free entrance to public museums, even to Paris national museums such as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, which are free for all persons under 26 from the European Union.

In Armenia, the prices of museums vary depending on the segment of visitors; there are discounts for schoolchildren, students etc. I do believe that even if museums were free for youngsters, the latter would still not visit museums.

We need to attract students, hence the service model should be interesting for them. Young people can celebrate special events in certain museums. It has become quite popular to organize wedding photo shoots in museums. I myself did so for my wedding. Of course, culture experts do not approve of this practice, but it might promote family visits to museums, because young couples might start visiting museums with their children.

Holidays can be celebrated there, too. Celebrations of such holidays as the Eve of Great Lent – a day to enjoy delicious ethnic dishes spirited with national songs and dances, and the Harissa Day are often organized at the Perch Proshyan House Museum. Such events attract both local people and tourists. Museums are very important for locals, but tourists are the target group. We also visit many museums while we travel. My friends always ask me to recommend them other museums besides the most famous ones.

Museum diversity is vital: a chocolate museum, beer or water museum, sex museum, even museums of toilets exist in the world. You can start a museum or an exhibition of anything and  attract people.

Children museum in Japan

Children museum in Japan

 

We mostly focus on presenting our huge heritage, meanwhile lacking tourist attractions. Even a museum of illusions can attract not only tourists but local youngsters as well.

Well, there is The Little Einstein Science Museum (a private one) in Armenia which can also be considered interactive; it offers a lot of educational programs for children. And a Chocolate museum has recently opened in Aragatsotn province.

But it goes without saying, we lack those attractions and this is what we need to improve. There are many cases when those types of museums make cities and countries a tourist attraction. Such museums do not specifically need to be connected to our traditions and history.

 

What exactly would you suggest?

In my opinion, a museum of love might work well for Armenia. We could present not only love stories from our history, but also exhibitions concerning our love-related holidays. This could be a great idea.

There were some suggestions on establishing a City Life museum, which could display works revealing Armenians’ everyday life. We could exhibit them with audio and visual effects: women washing carpets outside their houses or neighbors drinking coffee together…

I would also love to have a wax museum in Armenia: for instance, Madame Tussaud’s is a major tourist attraction in many countries. There is also a Museum of Tolerance in Moscow, which is thought to be the largest Jewish museum in the world.

By the way, the Armenian American Museum will open soon for the Armenian community in Glendale. The museum will be a center for Armenian Americans to discover their roots and for people of diverse backgrounds to discover cross-cultural connections.

 

Are museums in Armenia attracting tourists?

15 years ago, my answer would be NO, but in recent years the government of Armenia has intended to enhance the role of museums and many of them have been restored. There is an interactive map equipped with light and sound effects at the Yerevan History museum for easier acquaintance with the old and new city history. An example of the usage of new technologies is the 3D hologram which can be seen in the Hovhannes Tumanyan Museum, as well as in the Alexander Spendiaryan House Museum, the Aram Khachaturyan Museum etc. Armenian museums have even started to compete and to pay attention to the website branding and social activity.

In Japan, there is a museum of trains which might seem uninteresting at first sight, but the exhibitions are presented there in a way that enable you to discover everything related to train history. There are even games which when playing you can feel as if you are driving the train. Inside the museum, people can also enjoy their time in a cafe or spend time buying souvenirs from the gift shops.

museum

 

We don’t have the practice of having cafes inside the museum building. In many famous museums of the world, cafes are even nicer and more attractive places to visit than the museums themselves. 

In the world, when museum workers notice a drop in attendance, they open modern designer cafes to attract visitors. The government funding for museums is very small, so they cannot keep up with the times. Some private museums have tackled this problem on their own. Museums should not be perceived only as those quiet places where nothing happens, and nothing can be touched. Museums should be active, alive and noisy.

Most of Armenian museums do not have their own souvenir shops. It is an issue that should be considered. Tourists who visit museums, sometimes choose not to leave the building and have a rest at a café inside the building and enjoy a cup of coffee or water. It is a global issue that should be raised for discussion.

 

What are the key problems of museums in Armenia and which of them are the most urgent? 

Firstly, museums need to have financial stability to implement different projects. Since they have a direct connection with tourism, the government support is vital for this sphere. If tourists want to watch a performance, they can hardly find performance in English, but museum exhibitions always have brief information in English and Russian. Museums are a step ahead of theatres.

Secondly, we need more friendly employees in the museums so the visitors are eager to come back again; it should feel like rereading a good book. Audio guides could be a great solution if there was enough funding. However, human connection is the most important, so we need to have a qualified and friendly staff.

Thirdly, although many museums are active on social websites and they run their websites quite productively, still, I would like to see them more active and available for direct communication with visitors. Museums also need to cooperate with each other, as quite often tourists cannot visit some of the museums because while one of them is open, the other is closed. It would be better if they operated on the same days.

Fourthly, and lastly, a law on tourism is needed, like the law on libraries or import and export of cultural property.

Hi-tech in Japanese museum - alternative - digital - technology

Hi-tech in Japanese museum

 

 

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