June 2–August 27, 2023
Exhibition opening: June 2, 6–9pm, presented by the PERMM Museum head Nailya Allahverdiyeva and GULAG History Museum researcher Ilya Udovenko
Memory Park on the site of the former Dneprovsky mine in Kolyma
On June 2, 2023, the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM) will open a traveling exhibition, Special Camp, focusing on museumification of the former Dneprovsky mine in Magadan Region.
Auditoria, Memory Fund, GULAG History Museum, and Meganom have been working on the project of a 400 hectares open-air Memory Park since 2021. The initiative group has been on expeditions to the site, establishing the condition of the architecture and landscape, looking for preservation ways, studying archives, creating routes and accommodation in taiga.
The Dneprovsky mine is the most fully preserved industrial-camp complex in Kolyma. It's workforce was made up of prisoners, including many who were persecuted on political grounds. The mine was founded to extract tin in the summer of 1941 and worked until 1955, when the territory was abandoned after the ore deposit dilution.
The far eastern climate and its remoteness from civilization have meant that elements of the camp’s architecture have survived: residential buildings and workshops, industrial washing facilities, conveyor belts and hoists, as well as prison infrastructure, such as guardtowers, barbed wire, spotlights and walkways for guards.
The Dneprovsky Memory Park Project
Dneprovsky mine’s historic landscape is being carefully preserved—all of the rocks, paths and elements of camp life are being left in place. The territory will acquire a museum structure, the foundation of which will be a pedestrian route through the natural halls with their artifacts—camp's remains.
The Path is a circular route leading around the territory. It takes visitors through ten landscape halls that are formed around a series of key sites at the Dneprovsky mine: the Entry Group, the Headquarters, the Testing Area, the Cemetery, two Mineral Separation Plants, the Work Area, the Residential Area, the Gravity Runway, and the Enriching Factory. Walking the Path will take three to four hours.
Small intervention sites subtly guide the visitors along the way. Bridges, stairways, benches, viewing boards, information posts and signs help to make moving around the park comfortable, interesting and intuitively comprehensible.
The Site Cabin
The only new architectural facility on the Dneprovsky’s territory will be the Site Cabin, marking the beginning and end of the Path and serving as a symbol of the Park, as well as housing a research center and accommodation for guests for the night. Built first, it will become a catalyst for the transformation of the abandoned camp into the Memory Park.
The shape of the building develops the archetype of a house with a sloping roof. The Cabin’s three-sided beam stretches from North to South—the building will have a length of 72 meters and a width of 3.3 to 6.6 meters. It stands on a slope: one end is cut into a hill, while the other is raised over the ground.
The Site Cabin architecture brings together residential and museum functions in one form. The monolithic building is divided internally into warm and cold sections linked by a gallery with an open terrace that is cut into the contours of the building.
Special Camp concept
As a result of the Deneprovsky mine being so difficult to reach, the exhibition carries an image of expiditional mobility. It led to the creation of numbered wooden cases on legs that accompany the models—they are used both to transport and display valuable items.
The exhibition can be set up without tools. The large models can be dismantled into sections and packed in shipping boxes. The smaller items safely pack away into their cases. The cases legs are easily removed without screwdrivers through the use of bolts with wingnuts.
The exhibition is constructed around five key models: Landscape, Mineral Separation Plant, the Path, Shafts, and the Site Cabin. Together, they are the icons of the future Memory Park.
*All images: (1) The exhibition’s main model is a precise copy of the Dneprovsky camp’s landscape. The monumental sculpture was cast in a mold designed using low-level aerial photography data. The layout’s ragged contours remind us of the camp’s lack of demarcated borders. (2) View of Special Camp, Garden of Memory pavilion, Moscow GULAG History Museum. Photo: Daniil Annenkov. (3) The Mineral Separation Plant sprawling across the landscape is a key historic construction within the Memory Park. The exhibit symbolizes total preservation. It has been created in expanded polystyrene, and its texture of weathered wood results from an artistic covering with a solution of paint and plaster. (4) The Path is a symbol of the museumification of the territory. The model presents the structure of the excursion route around the Memory Park. It was created in metal by hand: the contours have been cut out of a single sheet, its volume being provided by embossing. (6) The Site Cabin—museum, research and residential block—serves as a catalyst for the transformation of the former camp into a memorial site. The model has been created from sheet metal and welded at nodal points. The texture has been achieved through patination. (7) Restoration case. It contains fragments of the preserved objects, photo and video records. (8) Case no. 1.3 with the Shafts model. In the model, a phenomenon that is usually invisible to the naked eye is laid bare—the underground world of the mine. The layout of the shafts has been recreated using Dneprovsky’s archived geological logs. The model was built using a 3D printer and then covered in a primer, varnish and graphite, before electroplating. (9) Special Camp exhibition poster shows coutours of the Memory Park and recaps the exposition sections. (10) Site Cabin's slit windows are the apertures for daylight, designed to minimize heat loss. (11) Communal and living spaces are housed in the northern, heated section under a double-pitched roof: an open space, bedrooms, kitchen-dining room, supervisor’s apartment and bathrooms. (12) Open hall with a fireplace and a library is a communal, split-level space, large enough to accommodate an entire excursion group. (13) A year-round residence for the supervisor of the Memory Park is a module with a bathroom, kitchen, desk and double bed. (14) The building’s southern section houses the museum—a narrow, unheated space with a single-pitched roof. The museum will allow for the storage and study of the artifacts found on the camp’s territory. (15) The modular dimensions of the construction components will provide for easy transportation of materials and a simple construction process in the taiga.