A First in Public Museums in Turkey: The first Children’s Museum Room Opened in Kars
The first of the Children’s Museum Rooms, aimed to be opened in all public museums in Turkey, opened its doors to children on 17 January 2011 in Kars.
The Children’s Museum Room opened within the Kars Museum with the technical support of UNICEF under the UN Joint Programme “Alliances for Culture Tourism in Eastern Anatolia” will host museum trainings and workshops. With the Children’s Museum Rooms, the children of Kars will have the opportunity to learn more about each other and the cultural heritage of their province. The second of the Children’s Museum Rooms will be opened in the Ataturk House in Erzurum in March.
The UN Joint Programme carried out since 2009 in Kars is supported by the Spanish Government through the Millennium Development Goals-Fund. The Joint programme is carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in collaboration with four United Nations organizations (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNWTO) and aims to stimulate culture tourism in the province of Kars. A Museum Training Program is also being implemented under the UN Joint Programme to make museums more functional, to turn them into places where children will be happy to visit, to support children’s creative skills and to prepare an inclusive and permanent learning environment.
The Museum Training Programme was developed in cooperation with the Ankara University Education Faculty, the Prime Ministry Social Services and Child Protection Agency and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism along with UNICEF aiming to include the child’s perspective in the UN Joint Programme process and contribute to the overall goal with children. Children participating in the Museum Training Programme and who are also members of the Provincial Child Rights Committee are training their friends in their own provinces as “peer trainers.” The goal is to implement the special training module prepared during the museum training process, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of National Education and the Social Services and Child Protection Agency in other provinces of Turkey.
Prof. Ayse Cakir Ilhan from the Education Faculty of Ankara University and member of the team developing the museum training programme emphasizes that museums, as they are today, are not places that cater to children and underlines that the views of children should also be taken into account when working on museum training. Ilhan points out that museums are considered as cold places in Turkey and says, “there have been other projects carried out before to draw children to museums. We reversed the approach and decided to start from children. Using the past experiences of children who are members of the Provincial Child Rights Committees set up with the support of UNICEF, we worked towards increasing historical and cultural awareness of children through the “peer education method.”
Director of the Kars Museum, Necmettin Alp, points out the importance of children’s museum rooms in turning museums into living spaces and emphasizes that it is not possible to instil a cultural and historical awareness in children by simply talking. Indicating that the desired outcome can only be achieved through education and training given and taken willingly and enthusiastically, Alp says children receiving such a training never forget it and that he believes children will develop more and have a better understanding of museums through these trainings. “Hence, they will have increased museum activity, and they will undertake the protection of their cultural assets,” says Alp.
According to Kürşat Koç, Co-Chair of the Provincial Child Rights Committee of Kars, the Children’s Museum Room is very valuable, because children had no space of their own they could use in Kars. “Now our room has opened. It will help enhance learning and ensuring that knowledge is permanent,” says Koç. Büşra Karaman, another member of the Child Rights Committee, also participated in the museum training program carried out under the UN Joint Programme in Ankara in April. The Children’s Museum Room in Kars is also very important to her and she appreciates the value of these trainings. She expresses her joy, saying, “my first visit to a museum was last year for this training. I had never been to a museum before. This year they asked us to give trainings and take responsibility. I did it with delight. Now I am ready to take bigger responsibilities.”
As a result of the Museum Training programme, a training module of 4 books was developed. While the first book targets adults, the second book aims to inform peer trainers. The third book contains an activity package for museum training participants, and the fourth book has a sample application package in which the provinces of Kars and Erzurum are used as an example.
The final and most fun activity of the UN Joint programme’s Museum Training programme includes a train trip. The “Friendship Train” will depart from Istanbul in April and it will visit Eskisehir, Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum, arriving at Kars on 23rd of April. Throughout the journey, children will participate in museum trainings and various workshops and they will also visit the museums in the cities located on route. The young passengers of the Friendship Train will join their friends from Kars during the 23 April celebrations, and the journey will end with a children’s festival in the Ancient City of Ani.