Time dropped in at residence of the past

History is revived at the ethnographic museum of the Belarusian culture and everyday life Dudutki
Scientists believe, the history follows a circle. The present day is a repetition of a past day, which has gone through time evolution. Meanwhile the past day is dissolved in the circle of life. When the history tries to stay longer, it kind of looks for ways to preserve itself and its unique value by turning pages of ancient chronicles, marking the calendar with red letters…

In Dudutki the history is revived: it rotates wings of the windmill, ruffles the gold of rye cones, and spreads the star dust in the sky. There the history is a hospitable hostess, therefore the amazing ethnographic museum of Belarusian culture and everyday life is very likely the official residence of the history.

To open the beauty of history to the public is a high level ambition. Many centuries of museum traditions resulted in a deep-rooted prejudice that museums are showcases with dusty antiquities, decrepit valuables, remains and scraps. Static expositions try to deliver the message that archaic things are impressive because they are unmovable. Dudutki treat tourists to a different approach to the history. In Dudutki the history displays its process, not the results. If there was fire on in the blacksmith’s in the nineteenth century, then the fire will be on in the twenty-first century as well. If centuries ago the man learnt a gastronomic treat — pickled cucumbers with honey — why should not modern tourists taste them? Ancient people used to ride coaches, what is the use of just looking at the coaches nowadays? In Dudutki one understands seeing the history or secretly touching it is not enough, the history must be felt in a physical way. To taste the aroma of fresh baked bread, eat real cottage cheese, drink fresh milk are the ways to recognise the essence of the life long past deep inside. The past, which comes alive, stirs one’s emotions, makes one’s senses sharp. Common everyday routines (feeding a horse, holding a blacksmith hammer, turning the turner’s wheel) gain extraordinary value: the history is revived.

The feeling of participation in an almost magical process brings pleasurable agitation and justified interest. By the way, the interest is aroused long before the arrival, several kilometres away from the museum when one sees the windmill. With every turn of the axle, fantasy unfolds its wings.

While approaching the century-old beauty, imagination of a tourist turns him into a landed gentleman. The lifeless notion “museum” and museum stereotype phrase “Follow me, please, to the next exposition” are banished from memory. Dudutki is made up of hectares of lands, dozens of buildings, forests, and pastures — what a freedom for a landowner! The space makes one’s imagination sparkle with colours: while coming up to the manor, tourists are practically convinced, they have travelled in time. In any case I felt that myself.

Of course, the space is not the key to the union of the past and the present. Neither are the turner’s workshop and the blacksmith’s. It is people who revive Dudutki atmosphere. They build an environment, which is hospitable and deeply convincing. Workers, bakers, painters… They work to create a world where difference between the past and the present contains the history of the past times. Their mastery revives the epoch in art.

The popular opinion that summer is better for travelling than winter cannot be applied to Dudutki. Winter in Dudutki is a special historical value. Fire, which does not just roars, but warms you up, looks more attractive. You can feel the warming up sensation of the herb tea and the heating sensation of the self-distilled moonshine Spotykach (makes your legs stumble). The pleasant routine is crowned with a Belarusian cuisine dinner at the tavern. However, there is one place in Dudutki where the history is unmovable and only impressions can warm you up. It is a garage containing a collection of rare antique cars — a unique treat for car fans.

Night in Dudutki comes unnoticed. You feel like the time is longer there and changes are inspired by local craftsmen. With a specific craft used to surprise tourists. And they are surprised. Surprised at the sun hiding behind the windmill, the air being so translucent and fresh. The beauty of the history is emphasised in details, not in the century-long scale of the events.

You can feel it in Dudutki.

by Anna Zubkova
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