by Branislav Rezník
In the contemporary world, the cultural development of a country is frequently measured by the number and level of its cultural institutions and by the degree of cultural and natural heritage protection. Memory institutions – which guard the material artifacts of the past and information ‘extracted’ from them by generations of researchers from loss or gradual decline, are then presented to the general public for their spiritual and cultural needs. They include libraries, archives, archaeological sites and museums and galleries of all kinds.
At the beginning of the third millennium, museums in Slovakia also constitute an inseparable part of the network of culture-creating and educational institutions. The foundation deeds of all museums as institutions operating in the public interest contain sentences that are formulated in many ways; however, the meaning is always the same: to collect, protect and professionally and scientifically assess the elements of the cultural heritage – ‘the collection items’ which are made accessible to the general public by a museum or gallery in a typical manner.
The general public perceives museums primarily through their presentation activities – exhibitions, expositions, accompanying events – but the tasks of museums in the field of protection and making cultural heritage accessible in terms of museum practice are carried out in a different way. The tasks connected with the collecting and expert administration of collections – with the expert recording and protection of movable parts of cultural heritage – are less obvious. But these activities – deciding what should be in a given museum and why, the difficult repair or restoration of an item, its constant protection in special storage rooms, concentrated research on items (what is it and what purpose did it serve? etc.) – are the most exacting in terms of financing and professional staffing.
In Slovakia, the frequency of traditional forms of museum presentation (expositions and exhibitions) is growing. They are supplemented by lectures, expert explanations and discussions. But other, new forms of museum presentation activities based especially on the use of dramatic staging (theatre productions), especially at historic castles and chateaux and in outdoor museums, are becoming more and more frequent. Museum presentation activities which anticipate the direct participation of visitors and create possibilities for testing some skills and abilities (old crafts, creative workshops, interpretation of works of art and animation projects in galleries for schools, etc) are also popular. The use of new forms in the field of museum and gallery presentation activities strengthens the roles of museums as institutions so that they not only exercise educational and cognitive functions, but also become places for relaxation, rest and the development of visitors’ creativity – a place for worthwhile leisure time activities.
A wide network of museums has gradually been created in Slovakia. After libraries, they are the most accessible educational institutions offering an extremely wide spectrum of knowledge and information, which they strive to communicate in a way which is understandable to everyone. Those who get to know the museums of Slovakia come away with a wonderful learning experience!