The story of every nation’s history is unique and based on a thousand-years experience that has allowed the nation to survive and exist. Interest about the history of this country and the life of the nation at the Baltic Sea increases in the world. Visitors who come to Latvia and also visit Sigulda and Turaida are from more than 80 countries around the world. Statistical data compiled by the Turaida Museum Reserve prove it. Visitors want to find out, what is here similar to their experience and what is different. What creates admiration and is worth comparison. The museum creates this story and developes it through exhibitions about who we are and what we are, on what values is based our lifestyle and culture?
Without high-quality, rich in content, common interest raising exhibitions, as the practice shows, stable and increasing visits can not be ensured, nor it can be understood what has formed our identity and belonging to this country. The financing for historical research, and also museum exhibitions, which tell the story about Latvia’s history, its cultural heritage has always been tight. However, experience shows that if there is a good concept, well-conidered content and the ability to create a convincing exhibition plan, funding can nevertheless be found and the support from the Ministry of Culture and the State Culture Capital Foundation received. This was also the case in relation to the exhibition “On the Way to the State of Latvia. Corvée peasant. Independent farmer. Citizen”, opened on 4 May 2019 in the House of Corvée Peasants.
In Latvia, the accreditation of museums was launched 20 years ago, which was an inspiring process for the functioning of museums. The Turaida Museum Reserve was one of the first museums involved in the accreditation process, because we wanted to analyse, evaluate: what we are, what our museum’s work is, what our knowledge and professionalism are. The Turaida Museum Reserve had already performed its activities for 10 years until the first accreditation started. It was and also today is a museum of a completely new type in Latvia with many buildings-monuments on site, cultural and historical environment, tangible and intangible cultural heritage and related collections and exhibitions. At the beginning of the third Awakening, it was necessary to change the vision of activity from the Local History Museum of the municipality to a History, Culture and Natural Heritage Museum, by strengthening a new legal status and protection, strengthening the Historical Centre of Turaida as a Latvian state property and national wealth. It was all very complicated then, and only due to the public support it has been implemented.
It was very necessary to create new exhibitions in the museum, but we could not manage that at the time. We had more developed activities related to creation of temporary exhibitions which, as we know, rarely provide daily stable offer for visitors, especially if we want to attract cultural tourists from around the world. Tourism operators must have confidence that they will be able to show and tell cultural tourists about the history of Latvia, its cultural heritage about lifestyle and traditions of this region daily and all year round and museum will provide and is providing available and most extensive information on its behalf. But if there are some changes in the offer of the Turaida Museum Reserve, the museum informs timely and travel agencies and guides are aware of changes.
It has been for 22 years, initially together with the municipality of Sigulda, then the Turaida Museum Reserve took over the duties as organizer. In the beginning of April, we brought together guides and tourist operators to the conference – Day of Infomation, which we have called the Spring Conference, but in the autumn we are organizing the annual conference on the research work of the museum. Everything happens like in Latvian traditions – museum’s work according to seasons. At least one conference on recent developments in the history research and preservation of cultural heritage is organized each year. The last of them was the conference “Individual and People’s Freedom. The 200th Anniversay Since the Abolishion of Serfdom”, held in October 2019. Looking through the preparatory materials of the 1999 for the first museum’s accreditation, it can be seen that we have analysed everything: the research process, the division of working time and duties, the status of monuments, the estimates of revenue and expenditure, the composition of visitors, the dynamics of visits, etc. At that time, sometimes individuals and the museum staff could not understand that, like everything what is new. It demanded additional work and going into the details, but the fact that we did it meaningfully, first of all, with a purpose to see and understand the resources of the Turaida Museum Reserve – that is natural and cultural heritage of the Historical centre – the cultural space in its broadest meaning, human and financial resources, the missed opportunities and to obtain a new vision - that was the benefit of accreditation. If there was something unintelligible and unclear, then from today’s point of view, it opend for the museum a systemic vision of reality, if I may say so, “put on the new rails”. Then in 1996, that is 3 years before the accreditation, in the European Museum Award contest we had also received the European Museum Award, which testified about the desirable and supportable development of the museums with cultural and historical sites, and about an advisable museum practice in Europe.
Reading the resolutions adopted during the last two ICOM general conferences – the International Museum Council, it should be concluded that those are the same issues that we have been confronted for years in this museum. ICOM is the largest international cultural accociation in the world with 44 000 members. In the conference, which took part in 2016 in Milan, Italy there was an inspiring theme “Museums and Cultural Landscapes”. Museums were requested to protect cultural landscapes and be involved in their preservation through interaction with other cultural or environmental heritage objects outside museum’s territory, to extend the space of museum’s activity by emphasising the significance of environment and its impact on museums and contributing in sustainability in future.
Also in 2019, during ICOM conference in Kyoto, Japan one of the main themes of the development of the world museums was sustainability. It is closely linked with a lifstyle and choice of people’s attitude. The notion of heritage, traditions and sustainability are closely connected, because the future is built at present on the foundations of the past. Sustainability and traditions are connected with both the mutual relationships between generations and the positive and negative impact on environment. Today traditions and traditional knowledge disappear more rapidly than ever before, also living space of people and nature, as we know, are endangered. Museums, evidences of the material culture is a huge source of information and knowledge for positive relationship between people, nations and nature. And here a choice plays a major role: whether to live in garbage or reasonably. That is what the resolutions adopted in Kyoto on further development of museums are calling for.
The employees of the Turaida Museum Reserve need to know what happens in the world of museums in order we can better reach our visitors and would be more aware of museum and cultural heritage work. This information has been compiled in the digital programme “Heritage Protection”, which supplements exhibition “The Turaida Museum Reserve in Time and Space”, arranged in the building of the Turaida Parish Magazine. The story of this programme is about the main documents adopted by interantional organizations on protection of cultural and environmental heritage – conventions, charters, declarations and other documents, the greatest part of which is accepted by Latvian State and must be put in the practice. In the digital programme a section is started about what has already been implemented in the Turaida Museum Reserve over the years from the opinions resulted from the international documents and what is still being continued. Nowadays the notion of cultural heritage is extended and the adopted documents has impact and are closely connected with activities of museums all over the world. They need to be studied, especially by such museums as our museum, which protects, stores, takes care and carries out interdisciplinary reasearch work for preservation of cultural heritage within the broadest spectrum of heritage.
Confusion and uncertainty are the key words for the beginning of the 21st century, it can be attributed also to the branch of museums. Unfortunately during Kyoto conference museum experts were not able to agree on the new definition of museums. However, museums by their nature position something very stable, those values, that are recognized as significant in human development, because they show the way, how it happened and store the values deemed for eternity.
When thinking about the future of museums, it is important to understand, what we acquire for or “put” in the museum’s storage house about our time. How we understand and evaluate the present? When in 1970s-1980s we participated in the field work, we knew that a spinning-wheel or butter churn or seed bowl for sowing people saved from generation to generation. They characerized lifestyle of the relevant time. But then there were no mountains of garbage, then there were living, in my opinion, really ecologically educated people. The object, we found in the attic, described the lifestyle of almost entire epoch. What evidence would describe best of all the lifestyle of consumer society, the culture of populism? Because almost everything goes to waste and is not stored as relics, as values for years and as such, they mostly are not created. It is assumed that the value of cultural heritage – cultural monuments is determined after 50 years. But museums should already strive for assessment of the changes in society’s development, recognize the time we live in, objects, tangible testimonies, which describe this time before these objects are thrown away. For example, prior to financial crisis in 2008-2009 there were promotional expenses, bags, envelopes, newspapers bearing headlines “Money grows on trees” and therefore are falling down like autumn leaves. The gullibility was programmed for people instead of promoting the ancient nation’s wisdom – debt is not a brother; or before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were food vouchers that characterized the inevitability of the system’s collapse. By understanding the situation, we immediately acquired them for collection. Another example – last year the excellent Museum of History in Bonn sent us a journal, containing a story about the exhibition, which characterizes the lifestyle of different social strata – toilets with gold bowls and the desire of middle class to play the rich, or on the countrary - the people with a highly ecological and reasonable lifestyle.
Changes must be of course documented not only for history, but we need to speak about them also today, because they affect the development of society, affect also and will affect the life of museums and the Turaida Museum Reserve.
On territorial reform and cooperation with local authorities. Also museums, the work of museums will be influenced by territorial reform. It is a long time since the research work of museums and acquisition of objects for collection have been carried out within the cultural and historical boundaries of regions. However, as regards the Turaida Museum Reserve and the Historical Centre of Turaida as a single monument complex, the territorial reform will solve the problem, the solution of which was searched for years - to be within the administrative boarders of one municipality. At the moment, however, it does not have such a great impact on the development of the Turaida Museum Reserve, since cooperation with the two municipalities – Sigulda and Krimulda Regions, is successful and showing mutual interest. In future, it seems, that from a remote part of the region we will become almost its central part. In the past, however, this location in the territory of two municipalities caused a number of problems to preserve the Historical Centre of Turaida with common interest of municipalities to solve several issues of infrastructure. One example is reconstruction of the road, which will greatly influence visitors’ access to the Turaida Museum Reserve in further years. There will be benfefits: a more civilized organization of traffic and visitor flow and access to the heritage and tourism object of international significance. It is also necessary to find a solution for Turaida wastewater treatment plants. But the overall issue about territorial reform regarding museums is – whether, after the merger, the new municipalities will be able to ensure the survival of a number of museums already existing in their territory, which have emerged in recent years. Much will depend on financial opportunities and the foresight of the Parliament members. For example, many countries which are crude oil producers are linking future “post-oil” economy to the development of cultural tourism and are constructing grand museum buildings, where exhibitions are arranged with a design and new technologies worth millions and they are proud of it. Our great fortune in Latvia is the created cultural landscape, which must be preserved, also the excellent story of our nation’s wisdom of life, values included within (folksongs) and traditions, collections of Latvian museums – their treasures could form a core for future story. Thinking ahead to the development of the Turaida Museum Reserve’s infrastructure, we are currently working on a project, in cooperation with the State Joint Stock Company “State Real Estate (“Valsts nekustamie īpašumi”) to reconstruct the cattle-shed – stable into a modern Visitor Centre. At the moment, there is only persistent will of the Turaida Museum Reserve, but this must be done. It is impossible to imagine that in the central part of the Turaida Museum Reserve, in the most visited museum in Latvia and in the most popular cultural heritage object there is a historical building, which has obtained slum status. The increase in attendance requires at least minimal amenities for visitors in Turaida, because the museum is not located in the centre of town, but actually in the rural territory. The request for educational programmes, which animate Latvia’s more than a thousand years long history through educational activities also requires adequate facilities.
Opening of the new exhibition “On the Way to the State of Latvia. Corvée peasant. Independent farmer. Citizen.” in the House of Corvée peasants on 4 May 2019 and an assessment of the last summer’s visits showed that the routes of the guided tours envisaged in the “Vision-2023” will change slightly, because the time limits and interests of tourist groups and individual visitors – the target groups should be respected, as well as the museum’s offer to tourist groups and individual visitors in connection with the visit to the exhibition in the House of Corvée Peasants. An important precondition for successful museum’s activity is that over the years research work has been the basis for the Turaida Museum Reserve’s functioning. Series of publications have been prepared on which many years have been spent and we hope that we will be able to attract additional funding to reach this goal in 2020. It is undeniably that of great support here is the State Culture Capital Foundation and cooperation with publishing houses. The year 2020 is the fourth year of Latvia’s Centenary Celebration with a motto “FREEDOM” and also the centenary since land reform was started. On October 15, we will hold a conference “Agrarian Reform – 100”. We will talk about land and freedom and the understanding of historical fairness, but the most important will be the publication of historical sources.
This year, of course, we will continue the work that has already been started: we will create a new exhibition in the castle, contribute to the cleaning and development of natural space in the forest park and creation of the story, participate in the excellent project “Latvian School Bag” (“Latvijas skolas soma”) and organize educational programmes. This year we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Folk Song Hill, the 30th anniversary of Folk Song Garden and on the 5th July all together the feast “Folk Song Hill. Freedom. The Singing Revolution”. We will mark the International Day of Museums on 18th May. After 13 years of celebration of the wonderful summer solstice feast at night on the Hill of Jānis, this year we will celebrate Summer solstice feast “Day of nature’s strength” on June 22 in Turaida together with families, children and numerous visitors. Memory, remembering is one of the fundamental premises of human existence. The experience gained, the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation and then to the next, - each generation complements this wealth and contributes to the development of this civilization. When people do not remember the past anymore, do not know history, it will be very easy to manipiulate and subjugate them. The President of Latvia, Egils Levits, greeting the Turaida Museum Reserve on the state holiday wrote: “Each person is of equal worth. And each place in Latvia is of equal worth.” Museums will exist as long as they store values and inspire people to humanity, to the universal, raising awareness of harmony in the common living space of nature and people.
Anna Jurkāne Director Turaida Museum Reserve