Interesting Stories from Vilnius University

In February, 2015 the Vilnius University Museum began a new project entitled “Interesting Stories from Vilnius University.”  It consists of two parts: a poster exhibition, which is travelling to high schools throughout Lithuania, and a Facebook page where visitors can share their observations and comments, follow the exhibition as it tours the country, and find new stories.
The project was created for three main reasons: space limitations at the museum, the notion of a “participatory museum” and the museum staff’s participation in the Children’s University program at Vilnius University.
The university museum has small exhibition spaces in the academic Church of the Sts. John (four chapels), in the church’s bell tower and two small rooms off of the Grand Courtyard of the Old Campus.  There is no space for changing exhibitions or education classrooms.
The second catalyst for this project was Nina Simon’s notion of a “participatory museum”. In short, she makes a distinction between traditional and participatory institutions. In traditional exhibits and programs, the institution provides content for visitors to consume. In contrast, in participatory projects, the institution supports multi-directional content experiences. The institution serves as a “platform” that connects different users who act as content creators, distributors, consumers, critics, and collaborators. Nina Simon emphasizes that museums cannot function in a traditional way anymore. What’s more, she makes it clear that action does not always require new technology or big finances. This process can happen in very simple ways. Such was the case with our exhibit, which consists of nine posters and about twenty stories. New stories are constantly being added to the Facebook page.
Finally, we were able to shape our ideas by participating in an annual program of the university called the Children’s University, which during the fall and spring semesters organizes several weeks of lectures to eight-thru-fifteen year-old schoolchildren by noted and popular university scholars on various interesting, timely and intriguing topics.  We prepared a seminar on doing exhibitions and used the class as a focus group to find out which stories of the university were most interesting to the school children. We used their top picks for the travelling exhibition.
The travelling exhibition Interesting Stories from Vilnius University has now been to thirteen schools, and its popularity on  Facebook is growing. Museum director Dr. Ramūnas Kondratas and exhibition curator Vaiva Klajumaitė made a presentation about this project at the XVII Universeum Annual Meeting “Connecting Collections” at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University on 9-11 June 2016.
Universeum 2016 dalyviai
Universeum Connecting collections

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