Kuskovo, Moscow's 'Versailles,' seeks wider audience

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MOSCOW -- "Bolshoi, circus, Kremlin; Bolshoi, circus, Kremlin; that's what the tourists have been doing here for 25 years, and we're going to lose them if we don't show them something new," said Elena Eritsyan, chief executive of Kuskovo, an 18th century estate and museum on the outskirts of Moscow.

"There are dozens of museums, like ours, that visitors love, if only the tour operators would include them in their itineraries. But it's also our fault, because the idea of actually marketing a museum to operators is completely new in Russia," she said.

Eritsyan is a maverick on the Moscow museum scene. Several years ago, Eritsyan first tried to convince museums that they needed to sell themselves to the tourist industry in order to lure visitors.

"The museums here were shocked by the concept of marketing. I've had to prove to curators that a museum is not an academic concern, but a place where history should come alive in a fun way," she said.

She proved her point last summer after hosting a gala celebration for a leading bank on Kuskovo's grounds, complete with catering and jet ski performances in front of a stately palace.

"Looking at the museum as an event magnet is the way of the future," Eritsyan explained.

Eritsyan plans to take other steps to promote the museum, such as advertising in publications that international travelers might read; staging changing exhibitions that would appeal to tourists, and holding classical concerts three times a week in the summer in the estate's main palace.

"Summer is when most of the theaters are shut down so we thought tourists might consider coming here for their fill of culture.

"Right now, doing such events might not be profitable for us financially, but it will enhance our image in the long run and that is what counts," she said.

Kuskovo will be represented along with other Moscow museums at World Travel Market in London, which is held at Earl's Court from Nov. 16 to 19.

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