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Museum. The Power of Place

Today сulture and cultural projects are the focus of public attention. And it’s for a good reason, because culture creates conditions for creative development, stimulates learning, offers innovative solutions to traditional problems, for example, new approaches to presenting museum collections.

There is no doubt about the importance of cultural institutions’ social functions. The museum today is not just an institution conserving heritage for future generations. It’s a platform combining a variety of resources and able to extend its impact to small and medium-sized businesses, stimulate crafts development, provide unique knowledge forming regional identity, develop communities and contribute to the solution of social problems — from inclusion to environment protection.

In 2017 the Vladimir Potanin Foundation launched a new initiative: “Museum. The Power of Place”, aimed at the long-term support of the museum as a driver of socio-economic development. Its components include a large-scale study, a foresight session and a special educational program for museum experts, as a result of which they should present socio-cultural partnerships aimed at territorial development. The best projects, integrating the efforts of professionals in the social sphere, education, culture and cultural management, received grants from the Vladimir Potanin Foundation for implementation.

An expert study “Russian regional capitals: culture based development”, conducted by The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and commissioned by the Vladimir Potanin Foundation, became the first step of the initiative “Museum. The Power of Place.” Its goal was to identify the potential of Russian regions, where culture could act as development driver and to understand how exactly this potential can be used. Researchers focused on the latest changes in the cities’ cultural strategies, the activities of the main players — institutions of culture and education, businesses, NGOs. The first sample included 55 cities, of which 20 were then selected for conducting in-depth qualitative research.

The research design included several key points. First of all, the methodology was built on qualitative methods, where the opinions of local professionals, their strategic vision and specific projects were crucial. Secondly, culture in these cities was not analyzed on its own, but as part of a larger socio-economic context, as one of the elements of a possible partnership. Thirdly, the managerial focus of the research led to attention to administrative barriers and managerial risks, as well as to the presence or absence of clear strategies for working with or through culture in these regions. Fourthly, in addition to leading projects and institutional and infrastructure development, the study focused on various cooperation links, possible partnerships of cultural institutions, educational institutions and businesses, as well as active local communities.

Several research groups worked in the cities, there were expert round tables, focus groups, and interviews with a wide range of practitioners, both with professionals in the field of culture and with entrepreneurs, university presidents, municipal managers, members of local legislatures, scientists, employees of non-profit organizations, activists of local communities, etc. (more than 280 interviews were conducted in total). The main question concerned the role of key cultural institutions today, in particular, museums.

There are very few studies that put culture at the core of regional development strategies in Russia. One of the conclusions of our study is that culture today has not yet become a new economic driver of Russian regional capitals. At best, it’s an attractive feature, an environment, a catalyst, and at worst, costs and expenses for the local budget. However, culture could become a resource that attracts modern businesses, generates jobs, creates income and a comfortable environment, and enhances the attractiveness of the region. But how to achieve this?

To answer this question, we invited heads of museums and cultural projects that took part in the study, as well as representatives of the regional government and local community leaders to participate in the foresight session “Museum. The Power of Place.”

In June 2018, 96 experts gathered in Moscow to work on a vision of a future socio-cultural environment for their territories and for the country in general. They also had to determine the role of their organizations in transforming this environment. Foresight results are shown in this brochure. They may be useful, first of all, to regional leaders, culture and education managers, as well as museum and creative specialists.

Oksana Oracheva