9-10.06.2017: Hermitage Volunteers take part in the 10th International Petrovsky Congress

9—10.06.2017, Saint-Petersburg: the 10th International Petrovsky Congress took place in St. Petersburg on the 9th and 10th June 2017. This year’s congress was dedicated to the 300 year anniversary of Peter I’s visit to France. A special feature of this anniversary congress was the participation of volunteers from the State Hermitage, who are researching the Second Great Journey of Peter I.

Senior members of the Institute of Peter the Great, who traditionally organize this congress, along with academic staff from the State Hermitage, who specialize in the Petrine era, reviewed with interest the educational projects of the volunteers which had been prepared under the program «Tour de France 1717 — The Grand Travels of Peter the Great» and remarked upon the importance of the involvement of young people in educational outreach activities.

At this year’s congress a special session for volunteers was organised by Mikhail Yurevich Kozhukhovsky, Head of the State Hermitage Volunteer Program, and by Adrien Vol, Lecturer in History of Art at Paris University I (Pantheon-Sorbonne University). Student-volunteers from many different countries, including Great Britain, the Netherlands, German, Georgia, Italy, France, were invited to take part in the congress, with presentations dedicated to the influence of different aspects of early XVIII century French culture on Russian society of the Petrine Era.

The session began with a presentation by M.Y.Kozhukhovsky about the volunteer project «Tour de France 1717 — The Grand Travels of Peter the Great». He talked about the relevance of the study of the Petrine Era in Russia and in other European countries, sharing his experience of the study of this topic at the Volunteer Service. Additionally the Head of the Volunteer Service explained to members of the congress the techniques used to create educational masterclasses and games, the aim of which is to help modern-day people better understand the Petrine Era and to help them examine the different aspects of the Petrine reforms. Games and masterclasses have successfully been tested at three events organised by the State Hermitage in 2017 — the Awards Ceremony for participants of a computer graphics and animation competition; Night at the Museums at the Hermitage; and the «Intermuseums» Festivals in Moscow.

After this, the foreign volunteers presented the results of their research. Kai Vollenhoven (Netherlands) spoke about the economic and political situation of the Regency Period in France and the changes in culture and art that arose during the financial crisis at the start of the XVIII century. Nicole Krist (Germany) spoke about the correspondence of the mother of Princess Elisabeth Charlotte, in which she gave a detailed description of the visit of Peter I to France, along with details about the daily life of the Royal Court. Hendrikje Kelenbek (Germany) told congress about the history of a set of Indian tapestries, given to Peter I at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris in 1717. Georgii Cheminava (Georgia) and Anna Bishop (Italy) spoke about the fashion of the Regency Period and the difficulties in researching this topic. It is important to note that for the majority of the foreign students, this was the first time in their lives that they had presented research work in Russian and not all of them speak Russian fluently.

Adrien Vol thanked the volunteers for their interesting and informative presentations and commented on the speeches of the young researchers. The session concluded with Adrien Vol speaking about his experiments in recreating the atmosphere of the Regency era, for example, of French theatre at the start of the XVIII century. He also highlighted the necessity of a complex approach to comprehensive research of literary and musical works of this time.

Irina Valerevna Dyubanova, Head of the educational program «School Centre», particularly noted in her presentation that in the development of these educational projects, volunteers often consulted academic staff members from different departments of the museum with a wide range of questions: «By being at the Hermitage, volunteers from different countries can get to know works of art from the period of Peter I and Philippe I. It has been very interesting for us to talk with the volunteers, who have proposed interesting ideas for educational programs for both children and adults alike».

At the closing of the congress M.Y.Kozhukhovsky and A.Vol were granted the honour of presenting in front of all of the participants of the congress. They spoke about the project «Tour de France — The Grand Travels of Peter the Great», launched thanks to the efforts of the State Hermitage Volunteer Service, and they spoke about their first experience of working with young volunteers at the Petrovsky Congress. M.Y.Kozhukhovsky stated: «The volunteers can be proud of the fact that their work is highly sought-after and serves our main goal – education». A.Vol proposed to meet again next year, at the next Petrovsky Congress, with the aim of sharing new experiences in the study of the culture of the era and in the creation of specialist educational interactive programs.

The performance of the volunteers in the youth section of the congress resonated strongly with the other members of the congress, who offered their warm support for the volunteers. Historians who specialize in the Petrine Epoch have expressed their hope for future close co-operation with the young researchers from the State Hermitage Volunteer Service.