Interview with the curator of the exhibition in Lviv Museum of Natural History

Digitization of museum expositions and exhibitions is not only a trend, but also a requirement of the realities of life. In recent years, we have lost a lot of exhibits around the world. As a result of the occupation by Russian troops, several museums were damaged or completely destroyed, especially in Mariupol and Kharkiv.
In case of Ivankiv Museum in Kiev's region local residents managed to save unique works of the Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko. Restoration of our cultural heritage is about years of hard efforts and work ahead if possible at all.
oct 31 · 5 min read
In 2019, we started working with the State Natural History Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, located in the heart of Lviv, on the development of AR lenses. They give visitors the opportunity not only to see the skeletons of animals exhibited in the museum, but also to see them in their true form with the help of a smartphone camera. And today we have the opportunity to talk with the museum employee Anastasia Savytska.

Anastasia, tell us a little more about the museum, the exhibition and the visitors to the exhibitions.

The Lviv Museum of Natural History was founded a long time ago, but in the period from 1995 to 2012, it was closed for major repairs, and the entire exposition was dismantled and moved to the fund storage. Several generations grew up without it, and I myself (before I started working here) had never been to this museum. We resumed exhibition activities only at the end of 2012, and part of the exposition was opened as early as 2019.

One of our greatest assets is our collections. Some of the exhibits were collected in the first half of the 19th century. The museum has been around for many years, it is one of the first museums of its kind in Lviv. And the collections are very rich both from a scientific point of view and from an exposition point of view.

We currently have the exhibition "The Art of Survival", dedicated to the adaptation of various organisms to environmental conditions, on the first floor. There is also a part of the permanent exhibition on the third floor, which is dedicated to the Ice Age, and there are our unique exhibits - a mammoth skeleton and a stuffed hairy rhinoceros, besides them - many different exhibits.

Our main exhibition "Ice Age" is truly one of a kind, because it includes not just exhibits of the animal and plant world of this period, but the remains of those animals and plants that were found on the territory of modern Ukraine. So we have something interesting and informative for both adults and children.
Hairy rhinoceros,
found 1907

What is unique about this exhibition?

The "Ice Age" exhibition is your journey through space and time through millions of years. At that time, a large part of Eurasia and North America was covered by an ice sheet, and when it melted — by tundra. Prolonged cooling was replaced by relative warming, and the continents and oceans acquired modern outlines.
«Digital technologies can significantly expand the capabilities of the museum: presentation of information, interest of various target audiences, can add an element of entertainment to the presentation...»
The exposition tells about those animals that lived at that time in the territory of modern Ukraine. This is a female mammoth, and a rhinoceros, and dozens of other species of animals and plants. The exhibition introduces visitors to the species that existed on our territory, in our region, which is very valuable from the point of view of research of the native land.

A female mammoth with a height of almost five meters, she got to the Museum relatively recently, by geological standards. In 1907, workers of an ozokerite mine found the remains of an animal near the village of Starunya, in the Bogorodchan district of the Ivano-Frankivsk region. The animal, which was initially mistaken for an ox, turned out to be a mammoth.

On November 6, 1907, in the same mine where the mammoth was found, at a depth of 17.6 m (58 ft​.), the left part of the carcass of a hairy rhinoceros was found along with the front left leg and two horns. It was the world’s first find of a mummified hairy rhinoceros not in permafrost. It should not be forgotten that this is a regional museum, and the fact that we have mammoths, hairy rhinos, deer and bears living here amazes our visitors.
Remains of wooly mammoth

How did the idea of ​​developing AR lenses come about? Why did you decide to supplement the exposition with such know-how?

The idea to create something specifically for our museum came from my very good friend Sasha Popov, who worked in your team. Actually, he wanted to try to introduce something new, because there are not so many different digital elements in the museums of Lviv. And we, trying to make the exposition of our museum even more diverse, wanted to introduce new unusual elements for visitors. He fascinated me with this idea, so we decided to try such a project for children. Sasha knew how to get people interested in an idea).

In order for the exhibition to be interesting and comfortable for children, who are one of the main target audiences, it should be filled with not only scientific but also entertaining elements. With the help of AR lenses, children and their parents will not only be able to see animated reconstructions of animals of the Ice Age fauna, but also have fun, because the interactive nature of this element encourages the exploration of the object and develops curiosity about the exhibits that can be seen at the exhibition.

Have you already had experience using digital technologies in exhibitions?

Our exhibitions are modern, equipped with various interactive things that are interesting for people of all ages. One of the main audiences is children with their parents, or school groups of children accompanied by teachers, and for them we have an interactive children's zone, where children can feel like real mammoth hunters, watch educational films and become students of the "School of the Ice Age".

How do you feel about digital technologies in museum work?

Visitors go to the museum precisely for a contact with history, something unseen. Digital technology is not yet capable of replacing a real artifact, but these technologies allow enriching and diversifying the visitor's experience of interacting with a museum object. A modern museum has many different functions besides storing collections. It turns into an educational and scientific center, a comfortable environment for people of all ages, where everyone can find something interesting for themselves.

Digital technologies can significantly expand the capabilities of the museum: presentation of information, interest of various target audiences, can add an element of entertainment to the presentation of information, facilitate familiarization with the content of the exposition for many target audiences. Of course, it is necessary to “keep up with the times”! Therefore, we consider the use of digital technologies extremely necessary.

Thank you Anastasia for the conversation! It was a big pleasure to work with you. Looking for the new AR projects with the museum!

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