Local history exposition: from concept to installation

'Towns by the name of Nakhodka'. Permanent display in Nakhodka city museum, far eastern Russia. 2015–2018.
Scope of works: preparatory research, concept development, master planning, exhibit design and graphic design, construction management, installation.
Nakhodka is located on the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean. This defined its history, which somewhat resembles the history of America's 'Wild West'. Settlements appeared and disappeared several times here – all made by newcomers. The last rebirth of the city was in 1950s when the construction of several big ports and plants began. Komsomol volunteers from across the country flooded in, hoping for a better life.Thus, though the city has a long history, its residents see themselves as its founders. With this in mind, we decided that all the exhibition's main topics should be conveyed through direct speech. We used interviews, conducted by the museum team, letters, memoirs, medieval chronicles, personal files of the prisoners of the Gulag, snippets taken from archive footage, and so on.
The exhibition has several main aims:
- To understand and illustrate the history of the town as being made up of many individual life stories.
- To bring these stories together around several themes, common to the town.
- Turn the museum into a space where residents meet not only to make sense of the town's history, but also to make it their own again as they collectively imagine its future.
In conversation with town residents and with experts we outlined six themes which defined life in the town in every era. Each theme became the basis for one room of the exhibition. In this way, "Towns by the name of Nakhodka" is a series of six unique portraits of the town, from different angles. At the same time, these six rooms represent 5 different stages of life scenarios, that almost every person in Nakhodka had: moment of arrival, meeting the nature and treating it certain way, building houses or getting marine jobs, fighting at war and coming back or not, creating a beautiful life instead of survival, designing future. And an original format has been chosen for each of 6 exhibits. Below there is more detailed description of room concepts and methods. .
"The call of the town" - this is the story of why, throughout history, people travelled to Nakhodka and of the many challenges of that journey. The reasons vary: military trips, forced displacement, the search for a better life. Here we exhibit the most important things - both in a physical and in a psychological sense - that people brought with them on the journey.

"Town of hills and sea" is dedicated to ecology. This is an interactive digital 3D diorama which shows the different ways people have understood and mythologized the local landscape, from the Middle Ages to the modern day.

"Town of master builders" is a story about work. It is a huge installation made of tools from all eras, each of which has its own personal history, its own documents and materials.

"City surrounded" tells of war with enemies within and without and of the roles which war forced residents to play, from soldiers to captives, prisoners to wardens, and people waiting for someone to come home. It's an exhibit about challenges and is organized like a labyrinth. At its entrance, the heroes of the exhibit relate the stories of how they left to join the war or were imprisoned in labour camps. At the exit, they describe how they returned home, or what was sent home instead of them. We managed to include a lot of direct speech in this section from people who went through Stalin's labour camps - based on letters, memoirs and even drawings by prisoners, among whom for example was the famous Japanese artist Yasuo Kazuki.

"A city for daily life" - this section is about the main things that determine the daily life of residents of the town. We tried to find one main topic for each period in history and communicate it by way of a game. For example the part about Jurchens life situations can be discovered through optional playing a fortune telling. Another game – Monopoly describes difficulties people faced when the country was transiting from state-controlled economy to the system of markets in 1990's. Large factories, small businesses, authorities and mafia operate pretty equally on the field of the game, and that time and Monopoly was just successfully introduced to new Russia. All stories included in the game - businesses, authorities and even mafia - were taken from real people.

"City as a project" gathers all the most known urban initiatives of the citizens on one open to the public community driven website. The room for this section not only holds urbanistic and architectural exhibitions, but also features important variety of themes that are important to our citizens or demonstrates pride for their achievements.


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