Saint-Petersburg is so many-sided: magnificent and imposing, with its granite embankments, bridge arches and marble facades, military, historical, rebellious, theatrical, golden… Everybody who comes here, reveals some of its sides, and paints his own portrait of the Northern Capital of Russia. But just like hundred or two-hundred years ago, this city has still been a focal point of culture, and those who come here know that, in Saint-Petersburg, on its avenues, behind the facades of museums and buildings, there is literature, poetry, painting, music. In Saint-Petersburg, you cannot avoid facing the world of those who walked along its streets many years ago, admired it and created their works. Saint-Petersburg is a live memory about Dostoevsky and Esenin, Nekrasov and Tolstoy, Blok and Mayakovsky, and, certainly, Pushkin.
That is why acquaintance with Saint-Petersburg should start at the Moika embankment, 12 — in the Pushkin Apartment Museum. The poet’s flat-museum is included in the museum complex of the oldest Pushkin Museum — the The National Pushkin Museum. It also includes the Literary Monographic Exhibition “Alexander Pushkin. Life and Creative Work”, the Nekrasov Apartment Museum, the Gavrila Derzhavin Estate Museum, the Memorial Lyceum Museum, and the Pushkin Country House Museum.
…while Petersburg's already rousing,
untirable, at sound of drum:
the merchant's up, the cabman's walking
towards his stall, the pedlar's hawking;
see with their jugs the milk-girls go
and crisply crunch the morning snow.
(A.S. Pushkin. “Evgeny Onegin”)
(Translated by Charles Johnston).
And, in order to make the heritage of the most famous Russian poets accessible for everybody, on different sites, the team of the museum presents inclusive programs for visitors with special needs who come to Saint-Petersburg from other cities and countries. In these programs, the history of literature in Saint-Petersburg is revived in bright images comprehensible both for adults and children. The museum team tries to convey the beauty and rhythm of written lines through sign language — for those who cannot hear. For those who cannot see — to tell about poetry through music, about writers’ life — through touch.
“Kitchen” of the museum
In reality, it happens the following way. The Gavrila Derzhavin Estate Museum (118, River Fontanka Embankment) is an ancient mansion with columns, home theatre, halls, crystal lusters, sculptures, parqueted floors, and the mansion garden and a greenhouse. On the walls of the rooms, there are portraits of the mansion owners: Gavrila Romanovich and Darya Alekseevna, Derzhavin’s second wife. The entire atmosphere of the mansion where the poet had lived was recreated with pinpoint precision. The owner seemed to have gone out to a secret door of his studio, and the visitors nearly caught him at his table with papers or a book… How to convey this atmosphere to a blind or a low-vision person? The main rule of museums – “touching exhibits is prohibited” remains in force, so the key role here belongs to the expressive narration of the guide. The description is supplemented with tiny replicas of the most interesting objects, fabrics of different textures, fragments of materials that allow the sightseers literary to touch history. The tactile replicas accompany the visitors during the whole route and help the team make the excursion more memorable and authentic not only for visually challenged people but also for children. The youngest visitors are delighted by the opportunity of holding a fluffy toy-dog – cause the similar one is sitting in the mistress’ arms on the ceremonial portrait and a scrap of luxurious tinsel shows in what outfits fashionable ladies of XVIII century shone in the ballrooms.
But the most interesting thing awaits the sightseers on the ground floor in one of the buildings. These are famous Derzhavin’s kitchens: a pantry full of fragrant spices and vegetables from the mansion kitchen garden; warm Russian oven from which you can feel the scent of fresh-baked bread, a real sugar-loaf, an old samovar, oven fork, wicker baskets and delicious dishes cooked by the home cook for the gala dinner for guest reception. You can hold some exhibits, for example, a lump of ice from the ice-box — a modern analog of a fridge.
The interactive sensory rout – “Derzhavin’s kitchens” is developed for children, the blind and low-vision, deaf and low-hearing, and also for visitors with mental disorders. One of the first visitors of the adapted excursion were the inmates of the daycare center of “Perspektivy” – Saint-Petersburg charity organization — children with severe disorders.
“At first, we were not sure what literature museum can offer to our children. But then we were amazed and pleased. The guide’s narration was excellent, she was attentive to our children, the whole route of the excursion was carefully thought through”— a member of the inclusive program shared her impressions. — “The only difficulty was a steep staircase, but, supported by volunteers and the staff, we’ve coped with it.”
Here we can speak your language
It is possible to tell about literature, writers and culture of the nobles of XVIII–XIX centuries without any words. For deaf and low-hearing visitors, in the Gavrila Derzhavin Estate Museum and in the Nekrasov Apartment Museum, we prepared Excursions in Russian sign language (RSL). The guides are people with hearing loss who attended the preparatory course in a special program developed by the methodologists of the museum. In 2020, the museum plans to hold these excursions in international sign language, which means that foreign visitors of Saint-Petersburg will also be closely acquainted with culture of XVIII–XIX centuries. Besides, excursions in English will be available for visitors with mental disorders.
The National Pushkin Museum is accessible not only in terms of cultural space adaptation for different visitors. Visits and inclusive events in the museum are free for Russian and foreign tourists with disabilities. Announcements about excursions, concerts and other events are published on its official website: www.museumpushkin.ru.
Translated by Anna Fomina