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Accepted Paper:

The Colonial and the Curatorial in Contemporary Poland  
Lukasz Bukowiecki (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

Current European debates concerning (mostly ethnographic) museums and provenance of their (mostly non-European) collections affect the narratives and practices of Polish museum sector to a limited degree, but with some insightful interventions into the area which are to be discussed in this paper.

Paper long abstract:

The post-colonial theory and the decolonial approach are applied to the case of Central and Eastern Europe by many scholars. Poland is recognized as both a former 'colony' of neighboring 19th-century regional powers and 20th-century totalitarian states, as well as a former 'colonizer', with its own imperial ambitions, racist prejudices in Polish-Jewish relations, the self-colonizing serfdom system and global colonial entanglements. However, the status of museums as (post)colonial institutions or an issue of ownership of overseas collections have not already been nationwide debated in Poland.

Against this background, the paper is aimed at discussing three cases of critical engaging with European colonial pasts in Polish museums. The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków conducts a research project on its 'Syberian collections', gained in the 19th century from dominated minorities on the North-Eastern edges of the Russian Empire by representatives of another dominated imperial minority (Poles). Thanks to respectful field work, the project is targeted on sharing the authority with descendants of former owners of the museum objects and therefore to reassess the collections with the local knowledge, however without any material restitution nor new acquisition in the agenda. The Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw is going to open its new core exhibition this year, called "Journey to the East", in which the visitor will be invited to go on from the critically reflected perspective of a European explorer. Finally, the Museum of Warsaw contributes to the movement of museum decolonization as an associate partner of the Horizon2020 ECHOES research project.

Panel P179
Curating the (post)colonial in Europe and beyond
  Session 1 Wednesday 22 July, 2020, -