Kurgan «Issyk»: experience in museumfication of archaeological monument.

G.S. Fayzullina, Project Manager, Public Fund «Almadeniet» G.R. Mukhtarova, Director, The state Historical and Cultural Reserve Museum «Issyk»

 A profession of archaeologist is akin to investigator. Each of them, when working on place of discovery shell restore the picture of what happened, answering the questions — who? when? how?

For the archaeologist it’s very important to capture on paper, photo and video all stages of excavation, the location of objects in each cultural layer in order to further scientific analysis to determine the period of existence, ethnic or cultural affiliation of the historical-cultural monument. After the completion of the research the results are reflected in reports and publications, and the artifacts should be transferred to the museum. As you know, the museum acts as a collector of antiquities, and as a very useful institution for specialists who knows what and where to search, able to develop independently the classification and make inferences.

But the museumfication of historical and cultural objects has become an integral part of the museum’s activities. Most often the basis of museumfication is the formation of museum collections, and value in whole or in part is understandable only to professionals.

In such case, the place of discovery (during the excavation of the mound, settlement, etc.) does not show out, and after archeological excavation it is exposed to recultivation losing its substantial part of meaning. As a result all concerned parties disregard the interests of each other and stays on different riverside of the stream of time.

So archaeologists makes scientific reports and articles which are interesting in most cases only for specialists. Outside of their professional interests and responsibilities remains a problem: how the knowledge and materials they have minded will help peoples to see the common picture of the world if they have no relation to the archeology and do not understand its language.

The objects discovered during the expeditions takes their place in the exposition of the museum or on a shelf of the storage facility. They are isolated from the natural environment, context, and therefore badly «readable». As a result, so-called «ordinary» people, visitors, who can «read» the language of archaeological objects only at the level of the school program (and sometimes not) do not understand (and do not see) all historical and cultural complex. Despite the fact that the museum must be a «bridge» connecting the shores of the complex science and popular perception of the history and culture of the past, in the shown above museumfication this «bridge» is unstable and passage over it in order to create reliable picture of the past is very complicated.

As far as back 60s of 20th century, many experts have realized that in order to «strengthen the bridge», it’s necessary to use successful recipe of the site-museums. The well-known museologist Kenneth Hudson wrote: «The recipe for success of such museums — to comprehend the story at the site of its action and leave finds where they have been found in order to attract visitors. Historic buildings and their surroundings should be saved as one, because it’s necessary for full understanding of past. A visit of such museum, as a rule, requires a special trip which needs conscious effort. So you can expect the level of their curiosity and interest to be above average.

Site-museums normally “museumfy” (“museumfication” — making a museum based on) the monument on excavation site. In such a case, visitors themselves can «play» archeological «investigators», because they are given the opportunity to look at the place through the eyes of a researcher. As the saying among archeologists goes, archaeologists — in situ. Tips in forms of artifacts, and the accompanying exposition materials for unraveling of the scientific «detective» stories, can be located in the exposition of reserve-museum “Issyk” that is built there. And rightfully, it is understandable and exciting. Site museums tend to achieve most success when the subject matter is simple and clear, and especially when it’s surrounded by picturesque scenery that attracts people.

In Kazakhstan there is probably no other such famous and emblematic archaeological finding as the «Golden Man» from the mound «Issyk». For many, it is not just an archaeological discovery, but a symbol of origin of the statehood and independence of the nation. Many visit Issyk to worship the ancestor, others to find out how it all really happened (during 40 years the story of the discovery has overgrown with legends), and some – to get a feel of the archaeological luck. At the time of creation of the State Historical and Cultural Reserve-Museum «Issyk», the use of this method of “museumfication” of the monument in site of the actual discovery was not possible (as it is known, in 1969-70 archaeologists excavated the mound to release the site for construction Car Base, which is still there now).

Main exhibits of the reserve-museum «Issyk» are the 80 (approximately) mounds on Issyk burial ground, part of which was a mound where «Golden Man» was found. Therefore, during creation of the «Stairway memory” exhibition, it was justifiable to set the focus on these burial mounds. The view from the window was demonstrated, and shown as in different times of the year. This landscape view outside the window was also used when creating the exposition of authentic archaeological pieces certificating different time periods of history on this site.

Because the actual famous monument of the Saka’s archeology wasn’t available for “museumfication”, employees created a museum out of the story of discovery of the monument. Firstly, through efforts of administration, on the first day of the opening in 2010, the exhibition had genuine accompanying inventory from the «Golden Man’s» burial mound. Gradually, museum’s collection is replenishing with authentic artifacts of Saka’s period. Secondly, separate exhibition complex showcases the role of archaeological discoverers K. Akisheve and B. Nurmuhanbetove, as well as various options of the «Golden Man’s» reconstruction by V. Sadomskovym, A. Tanabaevym, and K. Altynbekovym. Besides the fact that there are personal funds of K. Akisheva and B. Nurmuhamedova in the museum, the scientific archive of the museum collects documents from other archives, revealing the history and details of this important scientific discovery. Footages of participants’ memories of the famous expedition is being collected as well. Expected is the “museumfication” of the excavated mound, where Beken-ata worked, which would further tell the story about Saka people, «The Golden Man», and the history of its discovery. Museum persistently solidifies the history of the museum’s making. Such work illustrates the modern approach to savior the historical and cultural landscape monument, because every layers of time is important, each has a value and filled with specific meaning.

I would like to highlight one of the most important projects of the museum as of today — a scientific project on studying the remains of the «Golden Man». Second stage of fulfilling the project will hold cultural and educational activities on entombing the remains. And in this case, the place would really become a grounded place of pilgrimage, and the museum will have the right to be named its short and popular name — Museum of the «Golden Man».

Currently through exemplary creation of the State Historical and Cultural Museum-Preserve «Issyk», we can see a good illustration of making a museum out of an archaeological monument with an emphasis on the whole complex of its historical and cultural meaning, even after many years from the discovery. This experience would have been even more significant, if the «famous» Car Base building could be taken down (or relocated), and a monument for the “Burial Mound” could be put in its place (after all, there are many Car Bases in the country, but the «Golden Man» is only one). And although that potential monument can hardly be considered as a symbol of an archaeological discovery, nonetheless to claim as the «representation of memory», in your opinion, could it.

© 2019. State historical-cultural reserve-museum