CulturaLab is an innovative laboratory of the Cultura Foundation. Within this laboratory, we develop and test new methods of enhancing societal and cultural participation of Russian-speaking community. We create new ways of collaboration between the Russian speaking Finns and Finnish cultural institutions aiming to involve the Russian-speaking community in the activities of the institutions both as makers and visitors, thus supporting them in finding their place in the Finnish society.
The idea behind the project is understanding of integration as mutual, two-way process.
That is also how we operate: on the one hand, we encourage Finnish cultural institutions to see the potential of the Russian-speaking community both as visitors, active citizens and cultural actors, and on the other hand, we support motivation of the Russian-speakers to take the opportunities to participate and influence in the shared cultural environments.
Our aim is to innovate sustainable and universal interaction models based on cultural participation and suitable for different language contexts, which could enable a feeling of togetherness and belonging to the society. By introducing these models, we aim to benefit and enrich already existing social integration systems.
In 2018-2019, CulturaLab collaborates with museums as partners and platforms of improving cultural participation and inclusion. CulturaLab_museums -subproject consists of two parts: educational programme for bilingual museum freelancers and inclusive museum programme for families with children.
Bilingual museum freelancers educational programme
The reason behind organising this educational programme was a growing need for professional, bilingual museum workers who would be familiar with participatory practices and would implement collaborative projects with museums. The educational programme was implemented in April-May 2018 for 20 selected applicants (in total 149 applications were received through an open call). Museum professionals from Helsinki and St. Petersburg were invited as experts. The goal was to build a pool of bilingual freelancers with whom cultural institutions would collaborate also in the future: freelancers could work as guides, moderators, designers, and develop different kinds of programmes in museums. For partner museums’ staff, this educational programme was an excellent opportunity to strengthen their expertise. Later in 2018, a group of educated freelancers developed museum programmes in seven museums in the capital region for the CulturaFest family programme.
In spring 2019, Bilingual museum freelancers educational programme is followed by art-mediation course aiming at continuation of education of intercultural bilingual and multilingual ambassadors. The programme includes a series of open lectures held by experts in art mediation, community building, and participatory culture from St. Petersburg and Helsinki, as well as a final seminar to summarise the programme’s outcomes and the experience of various innovative intercultural projects of Finnish museums.
Museum programme: self-guides for bilingual families
In 2017 and 2018, two museum programmes were developed within the CulturaLab_museums -subproject. The programmes invite Russian speaking families to get acquainted with Finnish museums and encourage parents to discuss their family stories, their intercultural identities with children and grandchildren, as well as reflect values, cultural preferences and prejudice. Programme material for children is provided in both Finnish and Russian languages, which supports developing children’s linguistic skills.
The programme helps the Russian speaking families living in Finland to feel at home and perceive themselves an active part of Finnish society. Simultaneously, it makes the Russian-speaking community more visible. The project supports their integration by bringing Finnish museums and thereby Finnishness closer to their communities. Partner museums get more new visitors and tools to improve inclusive audience engagement of language and cultural minorities and to build communities around the museums.
Partners of the programme in 2017-2019:
- The National Museum of Finland
- Helsinki City Museum
- Finnish Museum of Photography
- Museum Festival “Children’s Days in St Petersburg”
- Helsinki University, Department of Modern Languages
- Club for senior citizens ”Tsaikka”
- Design Museum
- Vantaa City Museum
- Amos Rex
- Finnish Museum Association
Plans for the future
CulturaLab_museums -subproject has proven its effectiveness in supporting dialogue between Russian-speaking community and Finnish cultural institutions. In the future, we aim to develop and expand the methods that were found during the project.
Educational practices and participatory processes that were created and piloted in the framework of the project can be applied, in addition to museums, in other cultural and civic institutions, too. Educated bilingual mediators, who understand the principles and methods of cultural participation, in their turn, can serve the entire society — by improving mutual understanding between Russian-speaking people and the rest of the Finnish society.