Regional Co-operation for Cultural Heritage Development
რეგიონალური თანამშრომლობა კულტურული მემკვიდრეობის განვითარებისათვის
Տարածաշրջանային համագործակցություն հանուն մշակութային ժառանգության զարգացման
Національна політика щодо культурної спадщини
Mədəni irsin inkişaf Etdimilməsi üçün regional əməkdaşlıq
Рэгіянальнае супрацоўніцтва ў мэтах развіцця культурнай спадчыны
E- Journal №3
The Museification of Monuments in Moldova: Facts and Requisites

The issue of protecting and highlighting cultural heritage was and still remains one of the most difficult, even vulnerable matters, although during the last 10 to 15 years several models, methods, international standards, laws with regard to the protection of historical monuments and culture, of tangible and intangible heritage were elaborated. The Republic of Moldova, a young state that proclaimed its independence and sovereignty in 1991, is no exception on this matter. The issue of protecting the national cultural heritage is a permanent topic within scientific discussions; it is debated in mass media, and under the attention of the Republic of Moldova Parliament. During the last 10-15 years new, restored museal institutions were opened to the wide public, as well as tens of monuments. A legal basis was created with regard to cultural heritage protection. Several laws were passed: Monuments Preservation Law (1993), Museums Law (2002), Law on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (2010), Law on Safeguarding Intangible Heritage (2010), the Law on the Protection of Movable National Cultural Heritage (2011), Public Monuments Law (2011), etc. Still, despite the positive results obtained in this domain, there still is a great deal of issues to be solved, issues that affect society on different levels. One of these is identifying storing and highlighting models used on monuments of history and culture. Field specialists have concluded a long time ago that museification of old monuments is a realistic way to save and protect them, and would include a number of measures with regard to research, restoration and preservation, as well as scientifically highlighting their importance to the public eye. Museification is a component of the preservation and protection of monuments, a cultural phenomenon, a direction of museal activity and monument protection. The essence of museification is the transformation of unmovable historical and cultural or natural items into museal objectives in order to preserve, protect and find a certain item’s historical and cultural, as well as scientific and artistic value. In a wider sense, museification is actually a passing into a museal state of any heritage item, movable or unmovable. Generally, two types of museification are accepted for unmovable monuments:

-         Transforming the monument into a museal presentation item with the purpose of its potentially informative opening and presentation and its inclusion in the scientific and public circuit as a monument and museum;

-         The monument’s adaptation to museal use, be that of any profile, type or category.

For the first time the issue of museification of unmovable monuments was discussed at a state level during the soviet regime and this process was started with the museification of the houses or residencies of some cultural figures, thus creating the first memorial museums. The next category of monuments subjected to museification, starting with 1956, were cult-monuments. During the socialist rule the process of museification had an ideological character, various houses, be they old or new, were being museified, houses where heroes of the revolution, heroes of the civil war in Russia, illegal heroes from the inter-war period, heroes of the Great Patriotic War were born or lived for a certain period of time. In these houses museums were organized, but at the end of the twentieth century, most historic-revolutionary, historic-military and historic-political memorial museums, that reflected the need of creating heroes during those times, were put an end to.

The issue of museification of the monuments, especially historical, archaeological and cult monuments is a current one, due to the democratization process of society, the interest to learn national history and the past in general. Museification of unmovable monuments can lead to the creation of an entire system of manor-museums, monument museums, and sanctuary or reservation museums. We believe that museification is the most acceptable and most progressive form of research, of knowledge of the cultural heritage and of inclusion of the monuments in the public and scientific circuit. Researching this issue allows us to state that museification can solve two independent tasks:

  • Preserving and highlighting the importance of cultural heritage, including historical monuments;
  • Development of the museal system of the Republic of Moldova.

Museification must develop into a main direction of the government’s cultural policy, because in the Republic of Moldova there are archaeological, historical, cult monuments that can be transformed into real museal monuments capable of meeting the requirements and present requests of the civil society, the visitors. Until present day only certain important historical and cultural monuments were turned into museums. Here we refer to Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei) which is the most important archaeological monument of the Republic of Moldova, having a museum status. It encompasses real archaeological monuments dating back to several historical ages. The medieval town of Orheiul Vechi was created in1330 during the Golden Hoard and, at that time it was named Şehr-al-Cedid („new city”). Another medieval monument that was subjected to museification was the fortress of Soroca, situated in the historical centre of the Soroca town, at around 160 km from Chisinau. The Soroca stone Fortress was built during the first half of the sixteenth century. The fortress presents several Gothic and Renaissance style elements. But the Tighina (Bender) fortress remains outside this process, although it is one of the oldest fortresses on the Dniester River (fifteen century). It is true that several preservation, restoration, highlighting and museification projects were developed, but the results have yet to come. Not far from the fortress, at Varnita, remains of the Swedish king’s camp Charles XII, who took refuge here after the battle of Poltava (1709), are still preserved, which is also not highlighted. It is mandatory that this monument is museified, and transformed into an open-air museum that may become an important instrument for highlighting a Moldovan and Swedish segment of common history. This monument can offer a history retrospective, thus stimulating the memory that contributes to the formation of an individual cultural identity and to the reaffirmation of self-confidence. We believe that the two countries, Moldova and Sweden will succeed to highlight a common history segment linked with the name of the Swedish king Charles XII.

In Moldova cult architecture was always given a special attention, representing an important type of social buildings. Cult monuments usually include churches, monasteries, cave monasteries, cathedrals, road crosses, graveyards, etc. In the old times, monasteries were cultural centres, and within their premises, libraries, religious art collections, decorative art works and cult object collections were gathered. The oldest monasteries in the Republic of Moldova are the Vărzăreşti Monastery (XV c.), the Căpriana Monastery (XVI c.), the Hâncu, Jabca monasteries (XVII c.). Of great importance with regard to monuments are cloisters or hermitages and cave monasteries that are found on the riverbanks of the Dniester and Raut rivers. They have served not only as places of worship but also as shelter during hard times. One of the oldest cave monuments, dating back to the fifteenth century is the cloister of Butuceni (Orheiul Vechi). We also mention the Ţâpova (sec. XVII) cave monastery. Preserving these monuments for the next generations is the duty of the state and of society. The issue of museification of cult monuments is important. These monuments, apart from their religious significance, are of great importance as monuments of architecture, history and culture. In the Republic of Moldova only one cult monument was museified, the „Adormirea Maicii Domnului” (Assumption) church (XVII c.) located in Căuşeni, and transformed into a church-museum. This church is a pearl of the Moldovan medieval culture. The interior of the church is quite impressive because it is covered with frescos (murals). The style of the painted icons reflects traditions of the post-Byzantine style. A peculiarity of the church is its setting below the ground level, which makes it seem deep within the earth. Today the mission of the church-museum is to study and present the church as a historical monument, to research, preserve, restore and keep this monument in order to highlight its value to the public.

In the Republic of Moldova the issue of protecting religious heritage and museification of cult monuments was dealt with even at the end of the nineteenth century. The stages and forms of museification were different. We mention here that in the beginning art was collected in churches and monasteries, followed by the process of creation of the religious-archaeological museums both in the churches, and outside them. During the soviet regime within churches scientific atheism museums were created, some churches, monuments of the seventeenth and eighteenth century were transformed into church-museums. Today, each church considers mandatory to set up an own history museum for the respective place of worship.

Creating museums in churches during the soviet regime was the only way to save a cult monument from being physically destroyed, which is why the church supported any kind of museum in the church, the museum itself having the key role in protecting and preserving religious culture as a part of the national cultural heritage. But, beginning with 1987 cult monuments that accumulated certain characteristics as a museum, gradually pass from a museal state (they are given back to the congregations) to a church medium, becoming cult institutions.

In the science of heritage and museums there are several approaches to introduce monuments in the museal system, but generally museification can be achieved in two ways: the museification “for a museum”, when a building, a historical, cultural or architectural monument is used as headquarters for a certain museum and “as a museum”, when the monument is transformed into a museum. Today we consider that the existence of a church that is both a museal monument, as well as a place of worship for the parishioners is necessary and possible. During 2007-2008 there was an attempt to museify the Capriana monastery. During 2003-2008 restoration works, as well as archaeological investigations, took place in the monastery. Back then, in 2008 it was decided that this monument shall be transformed into a church-museum. But  for the museification of this monument, special methods of interpreting the church were needed, suitable in the sense of its meaning and function. On November 26, 2007 the Republic of Moldova Government passed Decision no. 1287 on “Creating the National Museum of Capriana”. According to the Decision, a museum was to be created, dedicated to the Capriana monastery in an especially constructed building, contrary to the opinion of specialists, who proposed that the monument should be museified, by transforming it into a church-museum. Curators insisted on the creation of a church-museum, but church ministers rejected the idea of a museum, as such. Today the decision with regard to the museification of the Capriana monastery is suspended. Specialists consider that this monument must be transformed into a museum; a church-museum must be created which would preserve the worship place and the Christian culture as a national heritage component.

The issue of museification of cult monuments is quite a difficult and delicate matter for certain social strata. But the “presence” of church in church-museums must be solved by consulting and discussing with heritage specialists, as well as representatives of the Church. In order to protect and value the monument, the ideal plan would be to ensure that the cult monument could function as a church-museum and allow the church to hold its worship services only during certain days or on certain great religious holidays. 

Previously we have mentioned that there are two forms of museification of unmovable monuments: the monument “as a museum” and the monument “for a museum”. We believe that the first approach, “as a museum” is a realistic and present one in order to keep and highlight the value of historic and cultural monuments of the Republic. The state does not provide financial support to the church in order to restore and preserve cult monuments, although churches and monasteries which have a historical, cultural, architectural status, without regard to the form of ownership, according to the current legislation, should be preserved and protected with the state’s financial support. But within different national and international programmes sources of financing for the restoration and preservation of these monuments appear. Museification of cult monuments should be a way of handling the issue of preservation and conservation. Creation of church-museums has started, it is a complex process, but it has a real outlook. It is important for society to be aware of the museal factor of the church and the necessity of its functioning as a church-museum. The main task of museification is preservation of the interior, insuring authenticity and re-establishing the emotional influence. The state and society make efforts for the museification of unmovable historic and cultural cult monuments. Creating monument-museums depends not only on the actions taken by the state but a decisive role in this issue will have the public awareness of the values of national culture. The level of awareness will determine the necessity and usefulness of transforming these monuments into museum-monuments.

Dr. Elena Ploşniţă
National Museum of History of Moldova,
ICOM Moldova

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