Mapping Ukraine in Museums: discussion program jointly with Birkbeck College, University of London

On October 20-21, a series of discussions “Mapping Ukraine in the Museum World: Collections and Practices” will be held online. During two consecutive days, experts will discuss the place of Ukraine in the decolonization processes of museum institutions, 5.00 – 8.00 PM GMT+1.00. 

The event was organised jointly with Birkbeck College, University of London, as part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, designed by the Ukrainian Institute and the British Council.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has reopened a new inquiry into the colonial relationship between Russia and Ukraine. It also enforced rethinking of the meaning and strategies of the decolonisation project as applied to museums. For centuries, Ukraine-born artists have been identified, as well as kept identifying themselves, as Russian artists. How can we balance the exigencies of transnationality, the condition which characterizes Ukrainian arts as a whole, against the practices of cultural appropriation? How could museums outside Ukraine respond to those specific decolonisation issues? How could Ukraine be mapped into the complex geographies of their collections? 

The discussion program is held on two consecutive days. Day One focuses on the very issue of decolonization and its shifting meanings, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine. Day Two — on discussing the ways in which the museum world, in the largest sense of the term, could support the effort to decolonize museums in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. The event will be broadcast on the Zoom platform, as well as on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian Institute . To participate in the event on the Zoom platform, fill out a registration form

5.00 – 5.30 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.00 -10.00 PM (Kyiv Time)

Introduction: David Codling, British Council, Ukraine UK Season Director; Tetyana Filevska, Creative Director of the Ukrainian Institute, Kyiv and Stephanie Bowry Co-Director, Birkbeck’s Center for Museum Cultures and Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, Birkbeck College, University of London

5.30 – 5.50 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.30 – 7.50 PM (Kyiv Time)

Ukrainian hybrid orientalism and the paradox of decolonial disposition: Hanna Rudyk, Curator of Islamic art at The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in Kyiv

The presentation will address the problems of studying and resisting the complex, multilevel and multifaceted Ukrainian coloniality which, in terms of its relations with “other”, non-European cultures, acquires a special hybrid form of orientalism. Reflections on the strategies and tools of decolonization of contemporary Ukrainian culture, in particular museums, will focus on the disposition of decolonial thinking and on the paradox of its essential a-topicity, the constant shift of the position / norm of the subject.

5.50 – 6.10 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.50 – 8.10 PM (Kyiv Time)

Decolonial approaches in CEE museum cultures: challenges and perspectives: Magdalena Wróblewska, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw

My presentation looks at the latest trends in the global museum’s decolonization practices, focusing not on the restitution controversies, but rather on multiple small and large scale activities that are aiming at the new discussions and understandings of various colonial pasts and postcolonial conditions in different regions of the world. I will put the emphasis mostly on the examples from Central and Eastern Europe, and try to define the challenges and perspectives of museums and collections in this region. At the end of my talk I would like to explore significant meanings of colonialism and decoloniality in this region, and to reflect how these meanings can make a shift in the global decolonial museum movement.

6.10 – 6.30 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 8.10 – 8.30 PM (Kyiv Time)

On de-imperializing Ukrainian modern art from museum registries: Myroslava Maria Mudrak, Professor Emerita of the History of Art, The Ohio State University

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has not only put into relief the treacherous quest for control over one of the largest regions of the former USSR lost to the fall of communism but has finally exposed the inherently appropriative character of imperialism and its lingering effects in the miswriting of Ukrainian art history and culture. The vast and diverse field of Ukrainian artistic modernism had long ago fallen victim to the unchallenged museum practice of assigning Ukrainian artists born in Ukraine and made stateless by imperial jurisdiction at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, to cultures other than its own. This presentation brings to light the insidious nature of museum labeling that unwittingly perpetuates imperial narratives.

6.30 – 6.50 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 8.30 – 8.50 PM (Kyiv Time)

Museum military mutual help: the experience of the Museum Crisis Centre: Olha Honchar, Director of the Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes “Territory of Terror” in Lviv

Museum Crisis Center was launched during the first days of the war by the Territory of Terror museum in Lviv, as well as NGO “Insha Osvita”, and NGO “New Museum”. The main focus of this initiative is providing financial support to individual museum workers in times of crisis. Since March 3, 2,000,000.00 UAH were raised and distributed to 810 people from 148 institutions in 10 regions of Ukraine. During my speech, I will concentrate on the algorithm of the initiative’s work, as well as on the museum network, and on solutions to the problems and on challenges, which may appear in the future.

Q&A Session

General Discussion

5.00 – 5.10 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.00 -7.10 PM (Kyiv Time)

Introduction: Tetyana Filevska, Creative Director of the Ukrainian Institute, Kyiv and Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, Birkbeck College, University of London


5.10 – 5.30 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.10 -7.30 PM (Kyiv Time)

Museums strategies during the war: reinventing itself: Yuliia Vaganova, Acting Director of the Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts, Kyiv

Today, the museum world raises the question of decolonization and the search for justice in relation to both the original owners of the collected items, as well as approaches of the institutions themselves to the ways of the presentation of alienated collections. However, this

step is preceded by another action – the internal decolonization of the institutions and a change in the focus of the view on oneself. Most of the museums in Ukraine were built according to the Soviet propaganda matrix, or following a neutral display of works of art. Most of the institutions were within the framework of the Soviet repressive models of internal management. However, some of them began to set themselves the task of internal changes, the majority remained in the old mode of management and concepts. What conclusions can we draw today, during Russia’s war against Ukraine, and what tasks do we define as the first priority for freeing ourselves from Soviet colonial-imperial patterns? And what wartime strategies do we use for such liberation?

The report is based on the case study of the Khanenko Museum in the period of 2022.


5.30 – 5.50 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.30 -7.50 PM (Kyiv Time)

Protecting Ukrainian heritage – a UK response: Maria Blyzinsky, an independent curator, heritage consultant and writer. Co-founder of The Exhibitions Team

This talk will look at the UK response to supporting museums, galleries, libraries and archives in Ukraine following the launch of full-scale war in February. Case studies will be used to identify ways for heritage professionals to incorporate changes into their daily practice, ensuring Ukrainian culture is ethically collected and appropriately interpreted.


5.50 – 6.10 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 7.50 -8.10 PM (Kyiv Time)

Odesa Fine Arts Museum: from the imperial tool to the most pro-Ukrainian space of the city: Oleksandra Kovalchuk, Acting Director of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, Member of the Odesa City Council, leader of the NGO “Museum for change”

History of the Odesa fine arts museum reflects constante change, turbulence and tragedies of the XX-th century that continue to impact modern Ukraine and the world. One of the best ways to look at history is through people and institutions. We could speak about city’s Imperial past, civil war, red terror of communist repressions or decades of life under the constant surpression of the totalitar regime. Instead I suggest speaking about the history of a museum, one of many Ukrainian museums and institutions that managed to survive the XX century only to stop their development in times of full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation. Stories that live behind the Odesa fine arts museum are stories of many people who invested their efforts and , sometimes, lifes to give this museum a chance for development and commitment to the society. As we are searching for new strategies for the future, we find more sense and insights in the past of the Odesa fine arts museum.


6.10 – 6.30 PM GMT (+1.00)/ 8.10 -8.30 PM (Kyiv Time)

The Time of Stalins and Hitlers is Not Over: Museums Perceiving Decolonisation after Occupation: Tehmina Goskar, Director and Curator of the Curatorial Research Centre, Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Decolonising Arts Institute, UAL (University of the Arts London), Fellow of the Museums Association.

How do museums across the world deal with the heritage of imperialism, autocracy, totalitarianism and tyranny? In th

and in the immediate aftermath of invasion, occupation, and genocide, the focus of museums and heritage will be on rescuing, replacing and healing. But after rebuilding and building anew what happens? Taking examples from post-Soviet Estonian museums and (nearly) post-colonial Aotearoa New Zealand we can learn about how museums can take a longer decolonial view of painful pasts that remember, reflect and reveal society and culture in all their contradictions and diversities.


General Discussion

Maria Blyzinsky is a UK-based heritage consultant and independent curator specialising in exhibitions and interpretation. She was Curator of Astronomy and, later, Head of Exhibitions at the Royal Museums Greenwich, where she now holds the post of Curator Emeritus. In 2007, Maria co-founded The Exhibitions Team, an association of independent museum professionals with a passion for exhibitions, collections and interpretation: Her clients include an array of nationally and internationally recognised names from the heritage and culture sectors, including the British Museum, V&A, Westminster Abbey, Imperial War Museum and Abbey Road Studios. She is a published author and is currently writing a book about generating ideas for exhibitions, due to be published in 2023. Maria has a longstanding interest in the use of heritage and culture as a weapon during times of war. She was an advisor to Heritage Without Borders, a now-defunct charity that trained museum professionals to work with colleagues in post-conflict countries. She is currently providing pro bono assistance to ICOM UK (the UK branch of the International Committee of Museums), helping to coordinate initiatives that support museums in Ukraine.


Tetyana Filevska is Creative Director at the Ukrainian Institute. Specialist in the field of contemporary art. Cultural activist, researcher of Ukrainian art of the 20 century, founder and curator of art projects. Author of the books “KAZIMIR MALEVICH. Kyiv Period 1928-1930″ and ” Dmitro Gorbachov. Sluchayi “. A graduate of the FLEX exchange program funded by the US government. Graduated with honors from the Faculty of Philosophy of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Worked in the EIDOS Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, in the Center for Contemporary Art Foundation, in the “Izolyatsia” – Platform for Cultural Initiatives, in the Mystetskyi arsenal team on the Educational and Public Program o The First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art “ARSENALE 2012”.


Tehmina Goskar is Director and Curator of the Curatorial Research Centre, founded in 2018 to modernise curatorial practice and support the profession’s technical and ethical skills. She is Art Fund Headley Fellow at the Museum of Cornish Life (seconded), Post-doctoral Research

Fellow at the Decolonising Arts Institute, UAL (University of the Arts London), Fellow of the Museums Association, former member of its Ethics Committee, Accredited Facilitator, and Honorary Fellow at Swansea University. In 2016-18 I was Arts Council England Change Maker. Tehmina Goskar is a practitionerresearcher, having curated 30+ exhibitions and collections research projects, lectured internationally on collections, material culture and heritage, and trained and mentored around 100 diverse people in curatorial practice.


Olha Honchar is a culturologist, project and communications manager, anti-crisis manager. Director of the Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes “Territory of Terror” in Lviv. Her research focuses on the features of PR, cultural and museum management in Ukraine, in particular in the regions. Communicator of the projects Cultural diplomacy between the regions of Ukraine in the frontline and liberated cities of Donetsk and Luhansk regions: “The museum is open for renovation”, the expedition “HERE AND THERE”, and others. Co-curator of the experimental exposition of the Anti-Terrorist Operation at the Luhansk Regional Museum in Starobilsk. Initiator of the Museum Crisis Center and the Ambulance Museum project, which emerged in the first days of the Russian war against Ukraine.


Oleksandra Kovalchuk is Acting Director of the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, Member of the Odesa City Council, leader of the NGO “Museum for change”. NGO “Museum for change” was founded in 2016 to facilitate fundraising and emancipate museum Odesa. After February 24th we help Ukrainian museum professionals that have language or skills barriers to receive support from international organisations. We’ve helped more than 50 cultural institutions to receive emergency aid for more than 800 000 euro and continue our work.


Myroslava Maria Mudrak is Professor Emerita of the History of Art, The Ohio State University, specialising in the field of modernist art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her scholarly interests focus on Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet Union in relation to the philosophical and stylistic developments of the West. For more than three decades, she taught at The Ohio State University, and lectured on the ideological discourses, socio-political influences, and artistic practice within East European cultures that use modernity to signify national identity. Mudrak’s seminal work, New Generation and Artistic Modernism in Ukraine (1986), was awarded the Kovaliw Prize for Ukrainian Studies and was published in a Ukrainian translation by Rodovid Press in 2018. Other publications include essays on Ukrainian Dada and Dissidence, Propaganda Pavilions, the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts in Prague, Panfuturism, and Constructivism. She has contributed essays for exhibition catalogues on collections of Russian and Ukrainian avant-garde art, to include Red Horizon (2018); David Burliuk 1882-1967: Futurism and After (2008); From the Lotus to the Sickle: the Art of Borys Kosarev (2012); and curated the exhibition Staging the Ukrainian Avant-Garde of the 1910s and 1920s, whose catalogue was recognized by the 2016 Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, Collections, and Exhibitions under the auspices of the College Art Association. Her latest publication on Ukraine’s premier modern graphic designer, The Imaginative World of Heorhii Narbut and the Making of a Ukrainian Brand (2020), has been translated into Ukrainian and French (2021). In 2020, Mudrak was elected as a Foreign Member to the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine. She is a full member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society of America.


Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius was Curator and Deputy Director of The National Museum in Warsaw. She also taught art history at Birkbeck College, University of London and at the Humboldt University Berlin. Her publications include Borders in Art: Revisiting Kunstgeographie (Polish Academy 2000); National Museum in Warsaw Guide: Galleries and Study Collections (National Museum in Warsaw 2001); Kantor was Here: Tadeusz Kantor in Great Britain (Black Dog 2011, with Natalia Zarzecka), From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum (Ashgate 2015, with Piotr Piotrowski); Imaging and Mapping Eastern Europe: Sarmatia Europea to the Communist Bloc (Routledge 2021).


Hanna Rudyk, PhD, is a Deputy Director General in charge of education and communication, and a curator of Islamic art at The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in Kyiv, Ukraine. Her curatorial contribution (since 2002) included the development of the recent permanent exhibition of Islamic art (2006), as well as numerous research, curatorial and publication projects on Islamic and Asian art, the history of the Khanenko Museum and its founders. In 2005-2007 she coordinated the “Matra-Museums of Ukraine” international grant project on museum management and education. As Deputy Director in charge of education (since 2011) Rudyk initiated and coordinated the first museum visitors’ survey (2013) that fed in the development of the new Khanenko Museum outreach programming strategy, addressed to various audiences, including people with disabilities and other socially vulnerable communities. Rudyk’s professional interests include history and museology of Islamic art, coloniality and decolonization of culture and museums; history of the Khanenko family and the Khanenko Museum; innovation in museum education, inclusion, and participation. The Russian war in Ukraine prompted her new research project on the experience of decolonizing museums of non-European (primarily) Islamic and Asian Art in Europe (grants of Prussian Culture Heritage Foundation and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation).


Magdalena Wróblewska is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of „Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw. In 2015-2020 she was responsible for research activities in the Museum of Warsaw, where she co-curated the new main exhibition, The Things of Warsaw (2017). She has received several fellowships: Lieven Gevaert Centre for Photography, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (2010), Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Institute and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (2012-2014), Ruskin Library – Lancaster University (2014), Henry

Moore Institute in Leeds (2015). Awarded with research grant by National Science Center in Poland (2012), and prize of the Polish Art Historians Association for her PhD dissertation (2014). In 2018-2021 she has been an investigator in a research project European Colonial Heritage Modalities in Entangled Cities (Horizon 2020), in a work package about museums’ colonial pasts. Her recent publications include Practicing Decoloniality in Museums: A Guide with Global Examples, with Csilla Ariese, Amsterdam 2021, and ‘Duality of Decolonizing: Artists’ Memory Activism in Warsaw’, with Ł. Bukowiecki and J. Wawrzyniak, Heritage & Society, 2021.


Yuliia Vaganova is an art historian, art manager, curator and currently Acting Director of the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in Kyiv, Ukraine. From 2016-21, she was Deputy Director for Exhibition and Museum Projects at Mystetskyi Arsenal and before that Deputy Director for Exhibition, Partnerships, and International Projects at the National Art Museum of Ukraine. She also directed the Center for Contemporary Art at NaUKMA, Kyiv, from 2005-09. In her various institutional roles, she has participated in strategic development, as well as the implementation of educational programs and various museum exhibitions. She initiated and has led a number of training programs focused on developing arts institutions, transformation processes, communication strategies, as well as promoting In the summer of 2022, she took part in a research project with German university partners, exhibiting “The Khanenko Museum, Kyiv,” a haunting photographic portrait of the museum’s empty rooms.


Anastasiia Yevsieieva is Head of Visual Culture at the Ukrainian Institute, where she represents the Visual Arts sector and runs several programmes, including the international exhibition support programme Visualise. Prior to joining the Institute in 2019, she worked as a cultural manager and independent curator. In 2019, she co-curated the National Biennale for Young Art “Looks like I’m Entering Our Garden” in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Photo by The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts.