The newly appointed director of the Literature Museum, Dmitry Bak,recently put forward his vision of future plans for the museum. He noted that it was crucial for the museum to “revert toward normal people,” stressing that interaction between museum specialists and the general public was not a simple objective.
Bak’s outlined objectives for the museum included developing links with literature museums abroad, exchanging ideas, establishing grants, and setting up projects with both international and domestic aspects. Bak also called on his staff to give due attention to contemporary literature.
“In their own time, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Pushkin were not ‘classics,’ but just normal men. No one who picked up a copy of Dostoyevsky’s ‘Poor Folk’ would ever have guessed that he bore in hand a work by the future author of ‘The Brothers Karamazov.’ We can only grasp this classic literature through its contemporaneity,”Bak told Izvestia.
The State Museum of Literature was founded in 1934. Today it remains the sole large-scale museum in Russia that is dedicated to literature. Its collections include many documents, manuscripts, graphic materials, photographs, memoir items, applied-art objects, books, and sound recordings.
The catalog totals more than 700,000 items related to the output and lives of Russian authors over the years — from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Dmitry Bak was named as the new director of the Literature Museum in late January, although his predecessor, Marina Gomozkova, claims she only learned of plans to appoint a new director through the mass media. Bak is a professor of philology and the rector of the Russian University of the Humanities (RGGU).
The new director plans to transform the image of the museum into a space for literary discussions, involvement in book fairs and festivals, and literature awards.
“When it comes to the Literature Museum, we are dealing with a kind of pyramid whose broad base is the richest imaginable corpus of national heritage — a treasure-house of incalculable extent,” says Bak. “A top that same pyramid is a kind of cliché we call ‘Great Russian Literature.’
However, between the learned work in the archives (which is understood by only a small handful of specialists) and the displays that bring these treasures to the general public’s view, there exists a vast gulf.