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Petrozavodsk University to open wooden architecture preservation department

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On November 15, 2016, UNESCO, the Petrozavodsk State University and the Kizhi open-air museum signed a trilateral agreement on establishing a UNESCO Department for study and preservation of wooden architecture at the University. The document was signed by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, president of the Petrozavodsk University Anatoly Voronin and director of the Kizhi museum Yelena Bogdanova.

The first enrollment of aspiring restoration artists will be announced in the next academic year. The department will be headed by deputy principal Konstantin Tarasov, who will be in charge of all administrative issues, while scientific and educational work will be led by academician Vyacheslav Orfinsky.

“We have been moving towards it for a long time,” Voronin said, “and we are well prepared. I am positive that the essence of the department’s work will keep up with its high status.”

“I thank everyone who worked on establishing the department,” Bogdanova said. “Now there are but a few restoration artists in Russia and in the world specializing in wooden architecture. The UNESCO department is yet another educational project of the museum, alongside the training and methodological center for preservation of wooden monuments, which already receives student groups and experts, and the international courses ICCROM that will take place on the Kizhi island next year.”

Alexey Lesonen, Karelia’s culture minister who attended the signing ceremony, said, “When defending the concept of the museum’s development at a meeting of the Russian Culture Ministry last summer, the plans to establish the UNESCO department were highly appreciated.

“I believe the department is the most effective way to put into shape Karelia’s numerous wooden monuments in the medium term. The educational part of the program has been tested by the museum’s training and methodological center, and after the ICCROM courses, interest in the subject will grow even further. The Kizhi museum’s restoration expertise is a special value in itself and we cannot afford to lose it.”

Mr Orfinsky said, “This is a happy day. We began moving towards it in 1979, when the first expedition was organized to take inventory of wooden monuments. At the time, Petrozavodsk was the first city in the country to offer education in this area. Today we are not starting from scratch, but rather continuing what we started at a higher level. We have experience, we have a strong partner in UNESCO, and we have one of Russia’s best museums.”

Signing the agreement, the University and the museum followed recommendations of UNESCO experts, who regularly visit the Kizhi island to monitor the process of restoration of the Church of the Transfiguration and note the high quality of work. According to international experts, this unique experience should be shared in order to ensure preservation of such a fragile component of the global cultural heritage as wooden architecture.

The academic part of the program will be based on the priceless experience of the Research Institute of Historical and Theoretical Problems in Folk Architecture, the legal successor of Russia’s only ethnic and architectural research school set up by Vyacheslav Orfinsky. The museum’s involvement as the main partner will allow using practical knowledge of its specialists, as well as the methodological center and the Carpentry Center of the museum.

By joining efforts, the Petrozavodsk University and the Kizhi museum will be able to train qualified specialists for preserving wooden architecture and will spread state-of-the-art scientific and practical experience of preserving cultural legacy in the international professional community.