The Museum and the Community

“The museum and the community” is a series of meetings organized in cooperation with the University of Warsaw's Institute of Polish Culture. Its aim is to analyze the social function of contemporary museums.

Museums today are one of the most popular cultural institutions. Their profiles, exhibitions and various activities often become the subject of discussion among artists, historians, critics, as well as the general public and politicians. In the course of such discussions, especially when they concern national institutions or those that present important aspects of Polish history, we often ask fundamental questions concerning the shape and character of the community.

Questions about who an exhibition is addressed to, whose interest it generates or how the accompanying events are defined are in fact questions about the definition of a nation, a society and its values, all of which is being negotiated by those activities. This is especially visible in times of crisis, in current discourse called the symptoms of a culture war, which consists of a clash of the values and attitudes of the liberal and the conservative, left- and right-wing, “progressive” and traditional”.

The aim of “The museum and the community”, a project organized in cooperation with the University of Warsaw's Institute of Polish Culture, is to examine communication strategies and attempt to perform a comparative analysis of the identity construction of several significant Polish museums: the National Museum in Warsaw, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Museum of Polish History, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Fryderyk Chopin Museum. Each institution has its own focus: from an encyclopedic presentation of heritage, through the history of a minority, modern and contemporary art, up to historical events and individuals. At the same time, they all make significant references to the symbols and values that are present in the public debate.

The museums chosen for this project all have a central character – they are located in Warsaw, which means their audience can include local audiences as well as visitors from around the country and foreign tourists. They were all either opened after the year 2000 or have undergone a major change of their exhibition and communication policy. This research project is an attempt to identify the policy of those museums and the real shape of the debate on community that they are part of.

A series of open meetings will serve as a summary and addition to the queries. The researchers will talk to the directors of the six participating institutions and both Polish and foreign specialist in museology who will be invited to take part in the project not only to broaden its research perspective, but also to include observations on Polish museums in the international debate.