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Gulag

23rd October 2007

Dear All
Received from Pushkin House
Best wishes
Ute

Wed 24 October 2007 – 7.30pm
Pushkin House
Presentation
Virtual Gulag Museum
by Irina Flige
In association with Virtual Gulag Museum

Language: In Russian

Notes in English, accompanying the talk, will be provided.

The Virtual Gulag Museum is a single virtual space which brings together
electronic images of existing museums and exhibitions on the topic of
political repression in the former Soviet Union. Created four years ago by
the Research and Information Centre “Memorial” in St Petersburg, it is
today at a transitional stage at which the creation of virtual exhibitions
and excursions has replaced the accumulation of new visual material as the
most important task.

Memory of the Gulag, that is, of systematic state terror against citizens
and groups, has failed to become an integral and inalienable part of
today’s Russia’s national memory. There are no dedicated state programmes
and the topic of political repression and the labour camp system is barely
touched upon in history curricula at both school and university level. The
absence of the Gulag from public debate in contemporary Russia is
reflected by the absence of large, well-publicised and accessible museum
spaces.

Memory of the Gulag is relegated to the regional level, where there is an
abundance of small isolated museums, exhibitions, and fragments, for the
most part poorly curated and not linked by a common conceptual essence.
The Virtual Gulag Museum has set itself the task of integrating these
various initiatives into a united whole without overriding or destroying
the individual character of participating institutions, thereby providing
not only a fuller picture of the history of political repression, but also
a reflection of the contemporary memorial landscape concerning this topic.

RIC “Memorial” has found about 300 different museums and institutions in
the collections of which the Gulag-topic is well represented, including
state and privately owned museums, and museums attached to enterprises or
schools. The Virtual Gulag Museum’s archive contains more than 8,000
images from about 100 museums, 70 of which presently feature on the
website. Most of these museums are situated in Russia, however, the
Virtual Gulag Museum also works with institutions in Lithuania, Latvia,
Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

Participating museums are introduced as separate entities on the website
and this will always remain the case. However, the virtual character of
the museum offers the opportunity to combine exhibits in a number of ways
simultaneously and thus to create exhibitions that can be explored
according to the visitor’s preference. The same exhibit can feature in an
exhibition on the history and time frame of the Soviet camp system,
another on the geography of the Gulag, and a third dedicated to camp
inmates. At the same time there are objects pertaining to the legacy of
the Gulag which are not normally exhibited in museums, but can be
integrated into a virtual museum, such as mass burial sites and camp
cemeteries, memorials to the victims, and “traces” the Gulag left in the
landscape, from abandoned quarries to entire cities built by forced
labourers.

Irina Flige, director of RIC “Memorial” and initiator of the Virtual Gulag
Museum, will introduce its concept and visual material. She will talk
about the future development of the project, the characteristics of
“Gulag-exhibits” and the object-based language of memory.

Tickets: £7.00, conc. £5.00

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