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Yoshkar Ola Open World Alumni Discuss Development of Global Culture
October 13, 2006

A captivated audience
On October 13, 2006, the Mari-El Museum of Fine Arts in Yoshkar Ola hosted the monthly Open World alumni meeting. This choice of venue was relevant to the meeting’s topic of global culture, as museums not only preserve ethnic cultures but support cultural awareness. Seventeen people, including nine Open World alumni and two alumni of other U.S. exchange programs, attended the meeting.

At the meeting several Open World alumni gave presentations on museums they visited during their U.S. exchanges. Museums presented included Oklahoma’s Cherokee National Museum, Ataloa Lodge Museum and Gilcrease Museum, as well as the Joslyn Art Museum in Nebraska.

In order to demonstrate the idea of global culture, the participants looked at the similarities of numerous images and symbols in the art of different cultures. For example, the duck, the bear and the moose of Mari-El’s Finno-Ugric population have obvious parallels in the myths of American Indians. Several elements of ornamental patterns also turned out to be quite similar.

During the general-discussion section of the meeting, the participants looked at the importance of culture. They all agreed that during any time of major social, economic, technological and scientific problems, only culture still bears the spirit and uniqueness of a given nation. This uniqueness can help encourage unity and dialogue during a crisis.

One of the guests at the meeting was Valentina Zlobina, Vice-Chair of the State Assembly of the Mari-El Republic and the Chair of the regional branch of Russia’s Pensioners Party. In her address she emphasized the significant role of museums in the process of globalization and the importance of culture to a nation.

The alumni in Mari-El are very active in promoting culture. Thanks to this and other alumni events, the alumni have produced several articles and other materials on the cultural heritage of the United States. Much of this work is based on interviews and stories created during their Open World exchanges. They have also developed a project for a web-exhibition, called “American Museums through the Eyes of Open World Alumni,” and begun working on the project “Museum – Open World Alumni Community – Volunteers” for retirees and low-income families.

The alumni plan to continue their discussions and activities related to cultural heritage and interaction, as they recognize the role culture can play in developing their local communities.