The Secret Life of the Museum, an illustrated book to bring children closer to museums

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On 10 February 2020, marking its 49th Anniversary, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Republika Srpska, placed in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, launched the first book for children about its institution, titled “The Secret Life of the Museum”. The book was produced with the support of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republika Srpska and the project “Dialogue for the Future” implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO, in partnership with the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Museum of Contemporary Art of the Republika Srpska implemented the project “Museums in Motion“ in 2019, as part of Dialogue for the Future programme. This project, which was implemented together with the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, was aimed at promotion of social cohesion and intercultural understanding among school children. From March to October 2019, curators from partner museum visited 28 municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina where over 3000 boys and girls, most of whom didn’t have the opportunity to visit any of the museums, participated in 20 workshops where they learned in fun and interactive way about the importance of museums and cultural heritage in order to build peacful and cohesive society in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina. This project helped to develop special educational programs in Museum aimed at schoolchildren and as a mean of upgrading our audience development, the idea for childrens book arose.

The project of creating and printing an illustrated book for children was designed in order to tell the history of the institution in an interesting and age-appropriate way, to present the museum’s collection, to explain its mission and activities, as well as to present the basic museological concepts and to bring to the children the profession of employees in the museum.

The creation of such a publication stemmed from the aspirations of the Museum of Contemporary Art of the RS to strengthen communication with all categories of museum audiences addressed through specially tailored programs. As part of the development of its pedagogical activities, and bearing in mind the importance of the educational role and mission of a museum institution, the Museum has realized a publication intended for the youngest audience category. Special emphasis was put on the presentation of the museum collection, whose representative examples were presented with illustrations and textual explanations, with the aim of pointing to the children the richness of the cultural heritage being safeguarded by the Museums.

The text of the book was written by the Bosnian writer Jelena Kojovic Tepic, author of several successful children’s publications. After getting acquainted with all aspects of the institution and consulting with museum curators, she applied a special pedagogical approach adapted to children ages 5 to 11 years, creating an exciting museum adventure and an unforgettable get-together with the interesting characters of the book.

The text is accompanied by some attractive illustrations, made by the artist Dragoslav Malinić, who has taken special care to illustrate works of art from the Museum’s collection, retaining their formal characteristics and importance. Contemporary design, courtesy of Nemanja Micevic, MSURS designer, consolidates this publication as a compact, logically structured, visually appealing and educationally accessible and applicable entity.

It was a real challenge to write a book that has to educate children and bring them into the museum world in an interesting way” – commented the author – “I was led by the thought that a long time ago a mouse arrived in the present building of the Museum of Contemporary Art of the RS, fell in love there and stayed. According to a story I wrote, today there are mice in this Museum that participate in the whole process of preserving and exhibiting artwork.”

During the event kids from the Dea Nika acting school, led by the actor Dusko Mazalica, were involved and asked to present some parts of the book.

Several institutions and organizations participated in the launch book, such as Tanja Djakovic, Assistant Minister of Education and Culture in the Republika Srpska, Sinisa Sesum, Head of the Antenna in Sarajevo, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Dr Sarita Vujkovic, MSURS Director, the author Jelena Kojovic Tepic and the illustrator Dragoslav Malinić.