The America for Bulgaria Foundation established Muse Academy to improve museum attendance and visitor engagement in Bulgarian museums and galleries and encourage creativity in museum interpretation and storytelling. The academy allows participants to network, exchange ideas, knowledge, and skills, and work on building a supportive professional community. Participants are actively involved in practical exercises and real-life case studies from museums across the country.

An overarching goal of the academy is to instill an attitude of Mozhelo (This is Bulgarian for “So it is possible!”) among cultural heritage professionals and inspire new opportunities for collaboration across the sector.

What is it?

Muse Academy is a biannual weeklong training program (with editions in the spring and fall) for up to 35 participants—museum professionals and freelancers in design, architecture, and copywriting, as well as museum studies majors. The capacity is limited so that every participant can receive individual attention. Participation is free of charge. ABF covers accommodation and meals, with participants covering their travel expenses.

Who are the trainers?

Academy trainers are renowned Bulgarian and international professionals with many years of experience in museum design and management. Their aim is to foster new ideas and approaches and establish close and lasting professional bonds between participants. Participants will learn about the newest museum development trends and explore solutions to local challenges.


Paul Orselli

For 40 years, Paul Orselli has worked to create inventive and playful museums and exhibits. He is now the president and chief instigator at POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.), an exhibit design and development corporation that he founded.


Jamie Lawyer

Jamie Lawyer is the chief experience officer at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, where she leads audience engagement strategies that produce aligned exhibitions and digital experiences.


Christina Ferwerda

Christina Ferwerda is an experience designer, content strategist, writer, and project leader who helps organizations create compelling exhibitions with lasting, positive impact. You can find more about Christina here (


Forthcoming edition

March 24-29, 2024. Pleven History Museum

Тhe first edition of Muse Academy in March 2023 welcomed 35 museum and exhibition design professionals from around Bulgaria. Through engaging lectures and hands-on workshops, participants learned about attracting new audiences and improving visitor engagement through compelling storytelling in museum exhibitions and a focus on experiential learning.

US museum experience designers Paul Orselli, Christina Ferwerda, and Jamie Lawyer led the academy workshops. The instructors’ expertise helped create strong synergies between the academy participants. Participants tested their perspectives on exhibition and experience development and strengthened their ability to incorporate audience research, improve relevance and inclusion, and develop hands-on and participatory elements within their home institutions. Bulgarian exhibit designer Martina Denkova-Venkova and representatives of architectural studio Atelier 3 guest-lectured at the academy.

The first edition of Muse Academy took place in the historic town of Dryanovo, and participants worked on a case study for the local history museum, dedicated to Kolyu Fitcheto—a notable entrepreneur, architect, and sculptor from the Bulgarian Revival period.

The Regional History Museum in Blagoevgrad hosted the second edition of the Muse Academy with 35 participants. Just like in the first edition, the topics focused on developing museums’ capacity to attract new audiences and improve visitor engagement through compelling storytelling in museum exhibitions and experiential learning. 

US museum experience designers Paul Orselli, Christina Ferwerda, and Jamie Lawyer led the academy workshops. An important festure of the training is the practical exercises in the exhibit space of the host museum.  The Blagoevgrad edition expanded in the last day, as participants in the previous cohort joined and went through a more in-depth study of branding, creative storytelling and the use of different media in exhibits. 

With each subsequent edition of the Academy, grows the community of energetic and curious people who strive to develop their experience and knowledge in order to renew and modernize the museum environment in Bulgaria.

The third edition of the Muse Academy took place at the Regional History Museum in Pleven in March 2024. A total of 35 museum experts from across the country participated, along with representatives from local museums and galleries. After a week filled with both theoretical and practical activities, the participants presented impressive proposals to transform the museum environment, aiming to engage visitors in captivating explorations of the region’s history.

During the program, the America for Bulgaria Foundation announced the launch of a new master’s program titled “Contemporary Museum Expositions in Historical and Archaeological Museums.” This initiative is a collaboration with the New Bulgarian University and is scheduled to commence in the autumn of 2024. It targets a broad array of professionals working in the field of museum exhibitions.

Step by step, the #IT IS POSSIBLE philosophy of the Muse Academy is gaining traction, suggesting that the Bulgarian museum environment could indeed change and spark greater interest among visitors.


For questions, please email: [email protected]