Museums and the Community – The Warsaw Uprising Museum
Meeting with Dariusz Gawin and Christian Karner

  • Museums and the Community – The Warsaw Uprising Museum

    "Bratki" by Wilhelm Sasnal, photo: Julia Sielicka

During the second meeting in the “Museum and the Community” series we will take a closer look at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Paweł Dobrosielski from the Institute of Polish Culture will talk with Dariusz Gawin, deputy director of the museum, and Christian Karner, a sociologist from the University of Nottingham.

Does remembering the Warsaw Uprising create a community? If so, what kind of community is it? Can a museum devoted to one transformative event become a critical institution? Can it be a place for a pluralism of opinions and competing perspectives? Can a museum, as a cultural institution, voice its opinion and take a stand in important public debates? Those are some of the questions we would like to ask our guests. We encourage the audience to actively participate in the discussion.

“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, but also to include observations on Polish museums in the international debate.

Paweł Dobrosielski - culture specialist and philosopher working with the University of Warsaw's Institute of Polish Culture, participating in national and international research projects focused on collective memory, national identity and vernacular culture. His work has been published by “Kultura Współczesna”, “Zagłada Żydów”, “Przegląd Humanistyczny” and in collective publications. He is currently working on a book summarizing the Polish reception of Jan Tomasz Gross’s writing from an anthropology of memory perspective.

Christian Karner - professor of sociology at the University of Nottingham, co-founder of an interdepartmental research center focusing on relations between identities, citizenship and migration. In his works prof. Karner uses discourse analysis to interpret the complex negotiations between various ethnic, national, religious, class and local identities taking place in the contemporary, globalized world, with a special focus on Austria, Great Britain and India. His publications concern popular culture, everyday life, collective memory, civil society and social theory. His major monographs include The Thought World of Hindu Nationalism: Analyzing a Political Ideology published in 2006, Ethnicity and Everyday Life published in 2007 and Negotiating National Identities: Between Globalization, the Past and "the Other" published in 2011. He also wrote numerous articles for academic publications and edited several collective works.

Dariusz Gawin - deputy director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum and head of the Stefan Starzyński Institute. Idea historian, philosopher and publicist, habilitated doctor (doktor habilitowany), head of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Department of Civil Society, member of Collegium Invisibile, member of the history and programming council of the European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk, member of the editorial board of “Teologia Polityczna”, fellow of numerous foreign universities and other academic institutions, member of the National Development Council for the President of the Republic of Poland. His interests include Polish political and social thought, political philosophy and issues of historical policy. He has co-authored history and civil education textbooks. He has published articles in “Teologia Polityczna”, “Res Publica Nowa”, “Znak”, “Twórczość”, “Przegląd Polityczny”, “Więź”, “Życie” and “Rzeczpospolita”. His most significant works include Spór o powstanie. Powstanie warszawskie w powojennej publicystyce polskiej (2004), Blask i gorycz wolności. Eseje o polskim doświadczeniu wolności (2006) and Wielki zwrot. Ewolucja lewicy i odrodzenie idei społeczeństwa obywatelskiego 1956-1976 (2013). 

See also:

Other events from that cycle: