What We Do
Yelena Dmitrieva and Natalia Nikitina
Yelena Dmitrieva and Natalia Nikitina

This story began in 2008, when Yelena Dmitirieva and Natalia Nikitina, two unassuming looking women from Kolomna, won their first grants from the Vladimir Potanin Foundation’s program «A Changing Museum in a Changing World».

After just one year of hard work and perseverance they built a new museum in Kolomna, and brought a forgotten taste back to life. Located only 100 km from Moscow, Kolomna is a picturesque town with 900 years of history behind it. Kolomna's cultural and historical treasure trove holds a unique jewel – the origins of a traditional Russian sweet called pastila. Often described as a Russian marshmallow, pastila is made of whipped egg-whites and apple purée. Its original recipe – thought lost after the October revolution of 1917 – was recently rediscovered in the Archives thanks to the determination of Elena and Natalia.

In the same year, a second grant from the Foundation helped the two women set up a not-for-profit organization named Town as a Museum, with the mission to transform Kolomna into one of the leading tourist destinations in Russia. Since its inception the organization has opened four museums in Kolomna (each of the museums welcomes more than 50,000 visitors annually), restored 7 heritage artifacts, created 105 jobs for locals, more than doubled the flow of tourists into town, and inspired international projects. One more good example to mention is the Russian-British joint venture between Kolomna Pastila and Apple Orchards in Norfolk, UK which will launch Bramley Pastila – made from Norfolk Bramley apples – in 2014.

The next grant from the Foundation helped to lay out an apple orchard next to the Pastila Museum to supply special pastila apples to the confectionery factory in Kolomna, reconstructed in 2011. Now tourists are able to not only taste pastila, but also participate in making pastila in a 19th century factory.

And with the help of a 2013 grant from the Foundation  the museum professionals revived the traditional Slavic ring-shaped bread called kalach. Once again, tourists are invited to not only taste, but to follow the process of making kalach in an original Kolomna bakery.

In 2012, the Town as a Museum project was awarded The European Museum Special Prize for innovation. Once a winning project of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation Museum Contest, it has since become a profitable enterprise that adds vibrancy to Kolomna’s cultural and social life.