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15.09.2017

On history in museums

On September 14, the debate entitled “How to talk about history in museums?” took place in the State Museum at Majdanek. The participants debated, among other things, how to create museum narratives in historical museums and traumatic memorial sites so as to make them interesting and accessible to the viewer, as well as to impart knowledge and shape historical thinking.

The discussion was attended by: Izabela Skórzyńska, PhD, from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, prof. Jan Pomorski from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Robert Kostro, the director of the Polish History Museum and Tomasz Kranz, PhD, the director of the State Museum at Majdanek. The meeting was held by Beata Siwek-Ciupak from the State Museum at Majdanek.

The starting point for the discussion was the presentation of the latest book published by the State Museum at Majdanek “Muzea w poobozowych miejscach pamięci. Tożsamość, znaczenia, funkcje” ("Museums in the Post-Camp Memorial Sites. Identity, Meanings, Functions") edited by Tomasz Kranz. “The book raises several issues that have to be treated as questions for the discussion. One of them is, among other things, the medialization of the museum and all other changes that make the venue open and participatory” said Izabela Skórzyńska, PhD, the reviewer of the book, during her speech at the beginning of the meeting.

Robert Kostro pointed out the special role of museums in talking about history: “Museums become the ultimate authority to which we can refer if we lose the sense of experience during the discussion (…). This is where the responsibility of museum professionals begins. This responsibility may vary depending on the type of the museum.” Tomasz Kranz, PhD, explained what museum professionals focus on when they prepare exhibitions: “The exhibit is composed of two aspects: form and content. The message of the museum, which means an attempt to convey knowledge, should emerge from them. We don’t show history but we build pictures of history. Impressions and emotions appear but they should not be in the foreground.”

Summing up the debate, prof. Jan Pomorski emphasized the essence of applying modern solutions in conveying museum message: “There is no point in building new objects but we can create reconstructions by the use of modern technologies. I hope that in the future museums will not invest in walls but in technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality.”

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