Visitor, Beware: Knowledge Lives Here, Enter If You Dare

Have you ever spent a whole waking hour without looking at your smartphone, oblivious that it is the 21st century and instant communication exists? Have you searched for a hidden message in medieval coins? When did you last try to hunt down a Thracian treasure or read mysterious ancient symbols? If you answered “no” or “never” to these questions and you want to experience an adventure that Indiana Jones would sign up for, you have to book a trip to the Regional History Museum in the southern Bulgarian town of Haskovo. This summer.

The treasure hunt game has become a major visitor attraction, and thanks to its English-language version, it is drawing foreign players as well. Since the game’s release in 2017, the museum has welcomed more than 6,000 treasure hunters from several countries, and numbers are growing every year. Although the game is most suitable for players in grades 4 through 8, families can play too. “Treasure hunt challenges the notion that museums are boring places and motivates children and their parents to keep coming back and participating in other museum activities,” says Antonia Petrova, the museum’s PR manager.

For its creative way of teaching history, the museum received an #ATTHEMUSEUM award from the America for Bulgaria Foundation in 2019. The prize will help it develop versions of the game for younger children and adults. 

The Pavlikeni Zoo also received an award for its programs, which attract more than 100,000 visitors from across the Bulgarian North every year. The zoo staff are always ready to answer visitors’ questions about the origins, habits, and diets of the more than 200 animals of fifty species, making the zoo a welcoming, fun place to spend the day.  

Almost every child between the ages of 5 and 13 from the southwestern Bulgarian town of Sandanski has visited this museum at least once, participated in museum activities, or learned something new thanks to its educational outreach. The Sandanski Museum of Archaeology received the third #ATTHEMUSEUM award this year for its active engagement with the local community. The museum’s programs aim to show children and their parents and teachers how much fun learning can be when you combine science and applied arts, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, ecology and respect for the traditions of other peoples around the world.  

Conferred for the fourth year in a row, the #ATTHEMUSEUM awards encourage museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions to develop innovative programs and experiences for a variety of audiences. This year, the focus is on projects that help develop tourism and encourage community outreach. The awards are handed out at the annual Children’s Circle conference, which brings together museum professionals and helps them exchange ideas and seek solutions to the challenges they face in their day-to-day work. Over the past seven years, more than 720 individuals from 150 museums, galleries, libraries, and organizations across the country have attended the Children’s Circle, making useful contacts and setting up dozens of joint projects as a result. This year’s conference was attended by 120 people from 100 organizations.

“In countries such as Britain and France, museums and galleries are the most popular tourist attractions. Bulgaria also has potential in this area. A key step in unlocking it will be the development of interactive exhibitions and experiences as well as children’s programs,” says Yuliana Decheva, who coordinates ABF’s Vibrant Communities program. “Bulgaria has an extremely rich cultural and historical heritage. Contact with this heritage in early childhood gives children a source of national pride as well as broad knowledge of their environment,” she adds.

The 2019 Children’s Circle conference was hosted by the Regional History Museum in Vratsa. The cities of Vratsa, Gabrovo, and Razgrad received funding of nearly half a million Bulgarian levs from ABF for the development of local community projects in the next three years.

Photos by Vasil Vrachovski


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