CulturaLab is an innovative laboratory of the Cultura Foundation. Within this laboratory we test and develop new methods to enhance societal and cultural participation of Russian-speaking community and to create intercultural dialogue.
We create new ways of collaboration between Russian Finns and Finnish cultural institutions. The aim is to get the Russian-speaking community involved in the activities of the institutions both as executors and visitors, and thus further them to find their place in the Finnish society and culture.
The idea behind the project is understanding of integration as a 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 further Russian-speakers to see the possibilities to participate and influence in the shared cultural spaces.
The aim is to create permanent and reproducible models of operation by benefiting of already existing systems. Therefore, we enable intercultural dialogue and further feeling of togetherness and belonging in the society.
In 2018-2019, CulturaLab focuses on museums as partners and platforms of improving cultural participation and inclusion. CulturaLab_museums -subproject consists of two parts: educational program for bilingual museum freelancers and inclusive museum program for families with children.
The reason behind creating the educational program was the growing need for professional, bilingual museum workers who understand issues of participation and would implement collaborative projects with museums. The educational program was executed in April-May 2018 for 20 selected applicants. Total 149 applications were received through an open call. Teachers were experts from Helsinki and St Petersburg. The goal was to build a pool of bilingual freelancers of which cultural institutions would benefit also in the future. Freelancers can work for instance as guides, moderators, designers, and executors of different kinds of programs in museums. For the staff of the partner museums this educational program was an excellent opportunity to strengthen their expertise.
In 2018, the group of educated freelancers got to plan and execute the museum program in seven museums in the capital region for CulturaFest family programme.
In 2017 and 2018 two museum programs have been executed within the subproject CulturaLab_museums. The program invites Russian speaking families to get to know Finnish museums and encourages families to discuss their roots and intercultural identities with children. Program material intended for children is in both Finnish and Russian. It supports developing children’s linguistic abilities and encourages parents to share family histories with their children and grandchildren and to reflect values, cultural preferences and identities.
The program helps Russian speaking families living in Finland to feel at home and perceive themselves as an active part of Finnish society. Simultaneously, it makes the Russian-speaking community here 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.
Aims for future years
CulturaLab_museums -subproject has proven effective in supporting dialogue between Russian-speaking community and Finnish cultural institutions and consequently, entire Finnish society. The museum program will continue. In addition, for executing both the museum program and other projects of the Foundation, we need more educated, bilingual freelancers.
Our aim is to develop and expand the methods that were found during the project. Educational, participation and cooperation processes that have been created and piloted within the framework of the project can be applied in other cultural and societal institutions, in addition to museums. Thereby, educational processes of bilingual mediators who understand issues of integration, can serve the entire society — by improving mutual understanding between Russian-speaking people and the rest of the Finnish society.