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Cultured Isolation. The Hermitage Online

Published 29 April 2020

Between 17 March 2020 and the present moment, the overall total number of views for videos across the State Hermitage’s social media and the Virtual Visit section of the museum’s website has exceeded 22,150,000. In all, over the month and a half 76 broadcasts and 79 Instagram live streams have been put out, attracting more than 18,350,000 views between them.

In the past week, the “Hermitage Visiting Colleagues” feature of the Hermitage Online project has shown videos devoted to the Vrubel Museum of Fine Arts in Omsk, the Hermitage-Siberia Centre and the exhibition currently running there – “Gripping the Hilt of the Sword”. On 27 April the State Hermitage joined in the celebrations for King’s Day in the Netherlands, devoting the entire day to the Hermitage–Amsterdam Centre and the exhibitions presented there over the years. Video greetings for King’s Day were sent by Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage, Lionel Veer, Dutch Consul General in St Petersburg, and Cathelijne Broers, Director of the Hermitage–Amsterdam. On 29 April the “Hermitage Visiting Colleagues” featured a virtual visit to the Hermitage–Urals.

The Hermitage Online is also spotlighting the activities of the operational services in the museum. Since 27 March, a task force has been functioning in the State Hermitage that was created to ensure the timely coordination and monitoring of the various works being carried out in the museum. On 3 May a broadcast is scheduled that will be devoted to the life of the Winter Palace’s Tower Clock. Mikhail Petrovich Guryev, head of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Timepieces and Musical Mechanisms, will speak about how one of the main clocks in the Hermitage gets wound nowadays. We also plan other broadcasts devoted to the life of the Hermitage and its operational services.

The work of the Hermitage Online project is not only highly appreciated by Russian-speaking subscribers to the museum’s social media, but also receiving keen interest abroad. For example, in the middle of April the State Hermitage was contacted by staff of the Stoyu Shishkov Regional History Museum in the Bulgarian town of Smolyan. Our colleagues there expressed a high opinion of the work of the Hermitage Online team and offered to produce Bulgarian subtitles for a number of tours, so as to make the collections of the State Hermitage accessible to viewers in Bulgaria as well. The hoard of Khan Kurbat was of particular interest: objects belonging to it are extremely important for the history of Bulgaria and Europe as a whole in the early Middle Ages. In 2019 two items from the hoard – a dress sword and a gold ring bearing a Greek monogram – were exhibited in the National Art Gallery of Bulgaria as part of the Hermitage Days in Sofia.

At present, the State Hermitage’s YouTube channel includes three guided tours with Bulgarian subtitles: “Khan Kubrat’s Hoard”, “Leather: Artistic Items from Old Europe. A meeting with the curator” and “The Invention of Luxury. Greek and Roman Gold in the Hermitage Collection”. The number of videos with Bulgarian will continue to grow.

The Hermitage’s programmes for children are popular. The annual Days of Classical Antiquity festival devoted to the art of the Ancient World is being held in an online format. From 10 April to 7 May, each week the festival participants have a children’s art competition, online quests around the halls of the Department of Classical Antiquity and educational films about Ancient Greek heroes. A new feature has appeared on the museum’s Instagram account – the Hermitage for the Very Young, offering tours and talks for pre-school children.

This is how the Hermitage is continuing to work to prevent our visitors being separated from the museum’s collections in the hope that this will help people to get through enforced isolation in a cultured way.