Museums and Creative Industries. Persian Language Lessons by Žanis Lipke Memorial


Persian Language Lessons. Description

Located on the island of Ķīpsala in Riga, the Žanis Lipke Memorial is dedicated to a brave man who saved more than 50 Jews from Nazis during the Second World War by hiding them in a bunker under a shed. The memorial building shows the living conditions of the saved ones as close as possible. In the 2017-18 season the museum was the venue for the presentation of theatre performances of the Russian playwright Gennady Ostrovsky’s play Persian Language Lessons. The play offered an alternative take on the fate of Bruno Schulz, a Polish-Jewish writer who was killed in 1942. 


Why is it important for a museum to cooperate with creative industries? 

Museums are creative spaces. They narrate stories of the past and project the heritage into the future. Their capacity to do this can be expanded through cooperation with creative industries which are deeply involved into mass culture. This combination can open up new approaches to presenting archives and gives new tools for interpreting history and engaging new target groups into museums’ everyday work.

In the case of a stage production, our collaboration helped to reveal the Holocaust theme by attracting both Russian and Latvian speaking audiences, with the creation of bilingual performances in a format that facilitated intercultural dialogue on a subject that is still a sensitive topic.

The museum completed a reconstruction so that it could accommodate a larger number of visitors to its main gallery. As a public project it attracted public funding from both state and municipal sources.

What are the main challenges of working together?

As usual, the main challenge in cooperation is to find synergy and ways of not transgressing the borders of partnership. It is extremely important to try and find ways of combining the museum’s discourse with the creative cultural fields, which in many ways exist in different forms. The speed of work and the understanding of audiences may vary significantly.

The biggest challenge in cooperation process for the museum was to adapt to situation where museum was turned into a theatre and functioned as such for a period of the programme.


What is the added value of cooperation between museums and creative industries?

The added value was in the exchange of professional experience. This allowed us to shape narrative about the Holocaust in a genre of drama performance.


Persian Language Lessons is one of the case studies featured in the report Museums and Creative Industries. Case studies from across Europe which will be presented at NEMO annual conference in November, 2018. 

Thanks to contributor of the case study Deniss Hanovs, researcher at Žanis Lipke Memorial. 

Images: Žanis Lipke Memorial