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Accepted Paper:

POLIN museum, museum of life? An Insider's perspective  
Kamila Dąbrowska (Museum of the History of Polish Jews)

Paper short abstract:

In autumn 2014 first visitors entered the Core Exhibit of the POLIN Museum, stirring up emotions. Long before its official opening, the Museum struggled to define its identity. I will present the story of the Museum project in context of Jewish heritage in post-socialist, post-Holocaust Poland.

Paper long abstract:

POLIN's building in Warsaw was constructed in an exceptional location, on the ruins of the ghetto, in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. The Holocaust looms the predominating story of the Polish Jews almost everywhere. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been defined in all its promotional materials as "the Museum of life", that would present the thousand - year history of Polish Jews, a history which neither starts nor ends with the Holocaust. That story would define the kind of institution the museum should be: a cultural and educational center dedicated to the history of Polish Jews, in order to "build bridges across the rupture", writes in the Museum catalogue the Chief Curator, of the Core Exhibition, professor Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett (2014). The exhibition uses the principle of narrative space to present the one-thousand- year history of Polish Jews. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews warmed up emotions long before its opening. It gave rise to hopes and fears, satisfaction and sorrow both for the right-wing, conservative narratives and the left-wing, liberal ones. Even though they concentrated on exhibition's format, they were dominated by disputes over POLIN's political role. In order to understand the story of the POLIN Museum project, it has to be explained in a wider framework of political and historical changes within the post-war years, which influenced the attitudes towards Polish-Jewish relations and Jewish heritage.

Panel P138
Managing Jewish heritage assets in European urban landscapes
  Session 1