The new Rundāle exhibition traces the pioneers of Latvian cultural heritage / Article

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Museum, the Rundāle Palace Museum will open an exhibition “Doors to History: The Activities of the Rundāle Palace Museum in Exploring Architecture and Art” on 30 September.

The preservation of the cultural heritage of mansions and churches did not conform to the ideology of the Soviet authorities, so most of them were destined at best for neglect and at worst for targeted destruction. The Rundāle Palace Museum was one of the few museums that dared to save church equipment, artefacts and architectural details of buildings, and one of the first museums in Latvia to undertake extensive research on cultural and historical objects.

The exhibition at Rundāle Palace pays homage to the expeditions that the staff of the Rundāle Palace Museum undertook in the 1960s to 1980s to identify, study and preserve cultural heritage. These expeditions identified more than 3,000 cultural monuments, many of which were further investigated, recording the condition of the objects at the time and trying to establish what they looked like in their original form.

Jaunpuze Manor, 1973

Photo: Peteris Vanags

For example, extensive studies have been carried out in the ducal palaces of the Biron dynasty at Luste, Jelgava and Vircava. The exhibition will show architectural and construction details of these palaces, as well as photographs illustrating the state of these buildings at different times. Many pieces have not been fully restored and give an idea of ​​the condition in which the objects arrived at the Museum and the work that the restorers had to put into them.

Over the past 50 years, the Museum has employed 45 conservators specializing in various fields. They have done a lot of work in the restoration of objects from the collection of the Museum and Cultural Heritage of Latvia, additionally working on the spot in mansions and churches. The restoration of some objects did not only involve the specialists of the Rundāle Palace Museum.

The exhibition is complemented by large format black and white photographs of research objects and everyday scenes from the expeditions. The living conditions during these expeditions were very modest, sometimes having to stay several days in tents, cook soup on a campfire and make their own tools.

The core of the exhibition working group is made up of specialists from the artistic research department of the Rundāle Palace Museum – Anita Bistere, curator of the exhibition; Lauma Lancmane, artist of the exhibition – and Katrīna Vasiļevska, graphic designer. A wide range of specialists from the Rundāle Palace Museum were involved in the creation and arrangement of the exhibition.

On October 21, the Rundāle Palace Museum will host a conference on the theme of the exhibition to conclude the series of events dedicated to the Museum’s 50th anniversary. The focus will be on the latest research and findings in Latvian architecture and art, covering the period from the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century.

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James C. Tibbs