Pokemania in the air

Urška Purg

It’s here and apparently it’s not going anywhere – Pokemon GO game, which flooded the world in a matter of days. It has managed to infiltrate into every place, even the cultural institutions, whether they like it or not. It has its pluses and minuses, among which not all are already known and are still emerging.

On its march, it did not forget to involve also the museums and galleries in any kind of manner – whether they host some newly self-employed little monsters or they offer PokeStop stations, where the players can refill for the hunt, or even call the wild Pokemons.

With the exception of a few museums and places of memory, like Auschwitz Memorial and Holocaust Museum Washington, majority of worldly known museums, such as MoMA, V&A, Museum of London, etc, accepted this special scavenger hunt game and the players with open arms. Even Slovene museums and galleries reacted to the new trend immediately; mostly by embracing the game and letting the potential audience know, they’re in it as well. They tried to tackle along, each in their own way.

There have already been a few articles, advising the museums, how to make the most out of it, even by investing in the game, boosting Pokemons, offering special Pokemon tours, etc. What is the least of the benefit museums could get out of this? By being a PokeStop, they at least attract the players, of broad age groups, although, surprisingly, the ones hanging out around the museums in Slovenia tend to be deep in their twenties. It does not necessarily mean those Pokémon seekers will ultimately enter the museums; however, they at least take a stop in front (in the worst-case scenario) and remember the name and the place. In Slovene case, that is already alot. Through this, maybe they will geolocate the museums in their mind maps, and just maybe, they will even return with a purpose of visiting one day. Although the last is a very idealistic scenario. To summarize, museums can suddenly get a large number of game enthusiasts in their yards, and it is up to their inventiveness, how they will react to that. How far should museums go with it, should be intertwined with their mission and vision.

Returning to the inappropriateness of the PokeStop though, what can museums do there? How can they influence the players and Niantic, to pull them out of this enchanted overlapping virtual-real world? Since the majority of the stops, glued on top of Niantic previous location game Ingress, tends to take place on the existing open air monuments, statues and cultural heritage spots, some of them might be inappropriate, in a way Auschwitz is. In Slovenia, players will suddenly get very familiar with all sorts of monuments, especially the ones from the period of WWII and post-WWII monuments and memorial boards, including the monument to victims of the WWII, which is supposed to be a place of respect, memory and peace. One can ask the holders of the game – Niantic – to remove the location, however at this point and with such a rush, the reply includes only a promise of taking the request in to a consideration as soon as they will manage.

Since this is by far the last such game, museums and other institutions will need to prepare themselves, in order to react properly to the world they will need to leave and fit in. Additionally, I can say from my own experience – being a total non-gamer – the game just sucks you in. If you don’t believe me, just try it out yourself. Moreover, it makes me wonder, what else the future will bring.


Pokemon trainers in front of National Museum of Contemporary History Slovenia. / Trenerji Pokemonov pred Muzejem novejše zgodovine Slovenije (foto: Monika Montanič).




Cooperation with artist Bianca Baldi in SEM

Tina Palaić

Museums of Ethnography and World Cultures are – due to their contents – in the forefront of ongoing discussions about new trends regarding the obtaining and interpreting museum collections. For some time now increased migration in and within the European Union and connectedness of different social groups through Internet motivate museums to develop inclusive practices and fulfil concept of multivocality. Representing other social groups without their participation is outdated for a long time – at least in theory. Especially museums should encourage and perform the practices of co-creation of museum knowledge in cooperation with different individuals and groups. They can invite museum experts from other museum institutions, scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds, contemporary artists, students, museum visitors, interested in the issue, and also representatives from different ethnic groups and other communities – especially if museum has collections originating from them or it aims to include in the museums presentations those groups which were overlooked until then.

Within the SWICH project the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (SEM) has invited visual artist Bianca Baldi (b. 1985, Johannesburg) to intervene in its African collections. The objective of her stay in the museum is to provide new perspective on selected material. An artist came in April and in one month stay in Ljubljana she started to discover artistic and museum sphere in Slovenia. She visited Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and International Centre of Graphic Arts. In addition she mainly investigated numerous artifacts and photographs from African collections in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, which have been obtained since the mid-nineteenth century. Those collections were introduced to her by Marko Frelih, PhD, curator for Africa and Americas.


Bianca Baldi in the Museum of Modern Art with curator Martina Vovk, PhD. One part of the permanent exhibition was presented by curator Marko Jenko, PhD. / Bianca Baldi v Moderni galeriji s kustosinjo dr. Martino Vovk. Del razstave je umetnici predstavil tudi kustos dr. Marko Jenko.

Bianca Baldi became enthusiastic about the story of Slovene expedition in Togo. Two Slovenes, Anton Codelli – engineer and inventor, and his friend Leo Poljanec, joined German company Telefunken and between 1911 and 1914 helped to construct radiotelegraph station in the village of Kamina. First wireless radiotelegraph connection was established in 1913 between Kamina in Togo and station in Nauen near Berlin in Germany. This was an extraordinary technical achievement at that time. However, at the beginning of the First World War Berlin ordered to destroy the station, which was ruined in five hours. Many parts of the station – construction material as well as steam boilers – are still in situ. In order to present this heritage, the museum prepared photographic exhibition entitled Togo album 1911-1914.

Vir Spletna stran SEM

Catalogue Togo album 1911-1914, Slovene  Ethnographic Museum, 2007. Author: Marko Frelih, PhD. / Katalog Togo album 1911-1914, Slovenski etnografski muzej, 2007. Avtor: dr. Marko Frelih.

Bianca Baldi is interested in the collection of technical photographs showing the construction of radiotelegraph station in Kamina and also in the collection of talismans, which were found in Leo Poljanec’s bag. She is enthusiastic especially about talismans with mythological structure in the shape of labyrinth. Evil forces are trapped in the maze and they are unable to escape. As a consequence, they vanished and therefore cannot harm the owner of the talisman. Bianca Baldi wants to connect these two completely diverse collections and through them reconsider communication as one of the powerful tools of imperialism. She will present her work in autumn 2016 after the second phase of her residency in museum.

During her residency Bianca Baldi gave an interesting artist talk, which took place at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. She talked about her last projects – Livro de Todo o Universo (2015), following a residency at AIR Antwerp in collaboration with the Museum Plantin Moretus Antwerpen, and Zero Latitude (2014), commissioned and co-produced by the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art with the support of Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg and the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC). She also presented the project she develops within the SWICH project in the museum.


Bianca Baldi gave an artist talk in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. / Muzejski večer z umetnico Bianco Baldi.

You can get more information about her stay in Ljubljana, her impressions about the cooperation with the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and also her common research methods in the radio show My life, my music on the Radio SI. With this radio show journalist Chris Wherry aims to introduce the stories of interesting people and their favourite music pieces. In addition to other themes Bianca speaks also about her homeland, the Republic of South Africa, and offers some parallels between SA and Slovenia.

Cooperation between the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and an artist, Bianca Baldi brings us a lot of challenges – at least for the museum. It opens many questions: a role of an artists in the interpretation of collections in non-art museums; cooperation between an artist and targeted social groups within the artistic projects in museums; possibility of developing new audiences with the inclusion of artistic interpretation; ethical dilemmas regarding the relationship between artist and museum collections. I will reconsider these questions – and perhaps some more – at the end of Bianca Baldi’s residency in the museum.


Bianca Baldi in the International Centre of Graphic Arts with curator Božidar Zrinski. / Bianca Baldi v Mednarodnem grafičnem likovnem centru s kustosom Božidarjem Zrinskim.



SWICH – Sharing a World of Inclusion, Creativity and Heritage: Project in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum

Tina Palaić

How should we collect, present and interpret non-European collections in museums in the colonial countries? What are the implications of the non-colonial context for museum practice? How can the perspectives and experience of Others depicted in museum collections be integrated into museum interpretations? These are some of the questions Slovene Ethnographic Museum would like to reconsider during the SWICH project. Ten European partner museums work together in the EU-cooperation project which runs from November 2014 to September 2018 and is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme. In a series of events and activities the museums work on strategies for 21st century museum practice and especially reconsider the role and the vision of ethnographic museums for the future. There is a need to develop adequate museum practice in response to the increased migration and also trans-border movements within the European Union, which change the demography in EU states. Museums will try to increase the role of ethnographic museums as places of cultural encounters, open discourse, creative innovation and knowledge production based on international collaborations.

Slovene Ethnographic Museum works within two themes of the project: creative dialogue and digital contact zones. Within the creative dialogue the museum will host an artist in residence who will stay in Ljubljana for two months. The residency is split in two phases. The first phase will start on 11 April 2016 and will end on 11 May 2016; the second phase will start in September 2016. Soon we will be able to meet up with Bianca Baldi (1985), visual artist based between South Africa and the EU. Her video installations bring to the fore overlooked narrative strands and the hidden structures of power. In her work, through the focus on specific cultural or sociological artefacts, historical plots reveal complex webs of political, economic and cultural influences. At the Slovene Ethnographic Museum she will work with the African collection. In the cooperation with museum curators and members of African community she is expected to develop artwork, which will be presented at the end of the residency in autumn 2016. During the residency the museum is going to organize several events with her. Come and meet Bianca. You are warmly welcome!

4. Zero Latitude (Panthère naturalisée) 2014 Bianca Baldi

Zero Latitude (Panthère naturalisée), 2014, Bianca Baldi

Museum Tea Party: The future of museums with the young museologists


On Tuesday, 17 November 2015, we performed our third museum tea party at the National Museum of Contemporary History in the framework of projects of the EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups. The third museum tea party was dedicated to the views, thoughts and experiences of the young museum professionals and museologists. We chitchatted with PhD Saša Starec, Meta Kordiš, Neja Tomšič (MoTA – Museum of Transitory Art) and Sebastian Weber (Museum of Recent History Celje).

Our guests have presented their experiences in working in museums or the research they have been conducting on the museums. Saša Starec talked about her doctoral research, which was carried out in two museums, in Celje and Berlin, and explained the differences in their operation. She defined the concept of post-museum (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000) that advocates the public participation in the creation of museum content. It enables the creation of polyphony in museums, which allows the stories of those who have so far been overlooked or ignored in museums to be heard. Neja Tomšič presented the MoTA status for their placement in a museum world. It is a multidisciplinary platform, released from what at first was a society, dedicated to the research and presentation of transient, experimental and live art practices. Naming themselves as a museum, was a decision they came upon, because they want – through their practices – question the role of the museum today, introduce new work processes and create different collections. Meta Kordiš spoke about her cooperation with the Maribor Art Gallery, where she co-curated an exhibition US, YOU, THEY. Fragments of 80’s alternative practices in Maribor. Her efforts have coincided with the social developments in Maribor in 2013, as she investigated social changes and alternatives that have taken place in Maribor in the 80’s. She approached the matter by researching this heritage, in cooperation with its most prominent representatives, while every inhabitant of Maribor was invited to supplement the exhibition. Sebastian Weber has described his love for work on the field and working with people, both of which he is trying to – as much as possible –implement in all of his projects. Upon his arrival at work at the museum, almost a decade ago, he has noticed the lack of the younger generation in museums, who in his opinion do not come, either because of lack of interest, or lack of time. Therefore, he tried to get closer to this generation by usage of social networks and its integration in the creation of exhibition called Virtual Spaces.
You are invited to listen the museum tea party (unfortunately only in Slovene language).

Muzeji v prihodnosti z mladimi muzealci 1/2

Muzeji v prihodnosti z mladimi muzealci 2/2

Museum Tea Party: Social Responsibility of Museums


On Wednesday, 11 November 2015 we have gathered once again at the National Museum of Contemporary History in the framework of projects of the EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups to perform the second museum tea party. This time we invited for a chat the three representatives of the main Slovenian museum organizations: president of the Slovenian Committee of the International Council of Museums ICOM, Tanja Roženbergar M.A., president of Slovene Museum Association (SMS), Aleksandra Berberih Slana Ph.D. and president of the Slovenian Museum Society (SMD), Flavio Bonin Ph.D.

At first, all three guests have presented their professional organizations to which they preside. ICOM is committed to the development of museums and museum professionals, whereas it connects the Slovenian museums and museology with the international space. SMS represents and promotes the museums and galleries and links them with the aim of solving professional problems and statuses, while the SMD is a professional association of Slovenian museum workers, which also aims for the development of Slovenian museum profession. Further on, they continued with evaluation of Slovene museums and a museum profession from the organizations’ point of view; and have in this manner highlighted the strengths and the gaps in the functioning of the Slovenian museums. They presented some good examples of museum operation and projects, which show that Slovene museums implement the modern museological directions: accessibility, public participation, responsiveness to current events. In this context, they also discussed the museums responding to the current refugee situation and thus combined the two features of contemporary museum: responsibility and involvement.

Our lovely guests also spoke of the importance and power of heritage and museums in our space and pointed to their weak strength in comparison to the situation abroad.

You are invited to listen and watch the video (this time unfortunately only in Slovene language) from the tea party.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Museum Tea Party: Content, Design and Museums


Exhibitions are not dead, they just smell funny …
Karl Stocker

On Wednesday, November 4th 2015, we connected the two main museum projects in Slovenia: EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups; and organized the first museum tea party, hosted at the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia. In a pleasant Eurovision Lab. exhibition space – The Time Capsule – we hosted four most interesting guests: a historian, who is also a museum professional and a designer, as well as a lecturer at the FH Joanneum – Dr Karl Stocker; Erika Thümmel, also coming from Austria, a restoration specialist, a designer and a lecturer at the FH Joanneum; and the two guests from Slovenia: dean of the Academy of Fine Arts, Boštjan Botas Kenda; and director of the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia, Dr Kaja Širok.

The purpose of the first museum tea party was to share the experiences, ideas and suggestions about the role of design in museums. With our guests we’ve talked about effective, thus interesting museum content presentation. Karl Stocker, who due to the demands of his work frequently visits museums, commented that museums are mostly boring. With a provocative statement that the “exhibitions are not dead, they just smell funny”, he wanted to point out that many of them still are extremely traditional. Since the museum exhibitions have primarily a schooling effect, rather than comfortable and fun environment for gaining of new knowledge, they are often perceived as tedious and without the connection to a wider social context. Museums should be more geared towards the environment in which they operate, their work should constantly be evaluated and upgraded, as well as in Stocker’s opinion the curators should take more risks and also experiment sometimes. The most impressive exhibitions for him are those, who manage to offer him an experience he did not expect.

We also touched the relationship between the curator and designer, which often seems to represent a problem in the Slovenian environment. Both designers have claimed that the most essential thing in the museums represents the content, and not the design. The content is a bridge that connects the museums and visitors, whereas design is its subordinate. They also identified the information design, which involves in transformation of the desired messages into clear information to effectively reach the target group. Karl Stocker substantiated his thinking with visual examples of good practice and innovative approaches.

All of you, who crave for more of the happening at the tea party, are invited to listen and watch  an event video in two parts.

Part one

Part two

Museum Tea Parties

We really like to talk a lot about the museums. This is how it is, if you work in the same field and you face related issues, goals, challenges, insecurities. At some point however, we realized, we wanted to talk about this also with the others – with museum staff, museum professionals, curators, all who are interested in museums. We also dreamed of a cosy atmosphere, open debates and stunning experiences of others. That’s why we came up with the idea of Museum Tea Parties. Therefore, we filled the EuroVision Lab. central exhibition space – a Time Capsule, which was itself already welcoming the guests with its cosy and homely atmosphere, with chairs and invited guests, with whom we wanted to chat. Each of us took over one tea party, therefore three events lined up in a row to wake up the sleepy November evenings. To make sure, everything was as it should be, we dragged a pile of different cups from home, which were accumulated over the years, and we cooked litres and litres of tea. It was, the way we wanted it to be – visitors were greeted by the pleasant aroma of tea and coffee, guests were very pleasant and chatty, and thus we were able to discuss most interesting topics.

Since we wish there would be more such events, and we know many of you couldn’t make it to the museum tea parties, we have prepared the next three posts as a short summary of the evenings with video recordings of the museum chitchats.

Guests 1st Tea Party



Heading for an adventure

Here we are, all set and ready to head forward for an adventure. And not just any kind of an adventure – a museum adventure! We would like to take you along with us.

Museums – this are the places where we spend a lot of our time, and we care about them. Therefore, we decided to start writing a blog, where we will reflect our museum thoughts, we will visit the current exhibitions and review the museological point of them. We will feed you with our crumbs of museum thinking and will be very glad and grateful for your feedback. Oh, and not to forget, we will invite some guests to tell their ideas, thoughts, and concerns they are facing with regarding the museums.

Our prior concern is – what many experts on the field of museology are talking about already for a while now – museums need to change! Additionally to that, our brains are tackling with why are museums in Slovenia a rather irrelevant topic among the people; what can be done for the museums to revive; what the role of young experts is; etc.

Basically, we wish to share our quiet thoughts with you, out loud, and start at least a tiny wind of fresh museum breeze. Come and join us.