Immobilized heritage of expellees. German culture and post-German property as a subject of museum exhibitions in Poland
(University of Warsaw)
Paper short abstract:
In my paper on the example of a few Polish open-air museums I will study historical changes in museum narratives constructed and promoted about German culture and post-German property left in post-war Poland, taking into account an impact of European integration after the EU enlargement in 2004.
Paper long abstract:
After 1945 borders of Poland, compared to the pre-war ones, were moved to the West which was accompanied by mass, usually compulsory, migrations of Germans and Poles. All post-German property left in post-war Poland was generally perceived as 'negative heritage' (Lynn Meskell) and was demolished or at least hidden, so as to extract and strengthen any signs of Polish ancestry, especially in the western and the northern borderlands of the country. Polish ethnographer and museum professional Adam Bartosz noticed in 2000 that 'German culture has never been a subject of any separate museum exhibition', although 'collections connected to German culture are rich in museums of Western Poland'. In my paper I would like to revisit this problem, asking how the process of European integration in its political, social and cultural dimension affected museum narratives about German culture and post-German property in Poland. The main focus will lie on situation of selected Polish open-air museums which deal with folk architecture and material culture of people who used to live in former German territories. As all museums of such kind, they are tools of folklorization and theatralization of heritage. They immerse their visitors in a 'staged symbolic community' (Diane Barthel), a picturesque living portrait of an idealized and 'sanitized' social environment where representations of conflicts, violence and pain are notably absent. In the discussed case, this ethno-nostalgic, idyllic staging includes obviously also the heritage of absence of those for whom cultural practices performed at the museums were part of their unstaged life.
Heritage geographies in the age of mobility