Private Museums, Local Collections. Research Report

We are pleased to present to you the English translation of “Private Museums, Local Collections. Research Report”, which was co-funded by “Obserwatorium Kultury” funding scheme set up by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and subsidised by the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province.

The main aim of the study was to explore and gain insights of the today’s new cultural trends having to do with numerous private museums being set up in Poland. The research team of the Ari Ari Foundation strived to comprehensively document the phenomenon in terms of three crucial aspects:

- analysis of the process of establishing, organising and operation of private museums,

- characteristics of private museums and various aspects of their work,

- analysis of the reception of private museums at local and regional level, while taking into consideration social, economic, political and cultural background.

The report focuses on people who run their own museums, typically as a one-person business, and who, in spite of the unfavourable legal, economic and social environment, establish mini cultural facilities that are way beyond the typical approach to how a “classic” museum operates.

"In 2012, we arranged meetings with several dozen of people to talk about collecting exhibits and exhibiting practices. Soon we realised people shared their emotions, talked about actions, memories, explorations, doubts and convictions. Some of the conversations were superficial, offhand, cautious, but some were just the opposite – they involved detailed remarks, thoughts and descriptions of the interlocutors’ life. The most puzzling thing about private museums is the fine line between the private and the public. The transition zone that is visible in many places, the cultural buffer area in which the collections are kept are no more exclusively private, and the exhibition area is not fully public. The main research objective was the insight into the work of gatherers and collectors who establish private museums, in which they make their collection public. Private museums remain the place where the private and the public meet and intermingle. They are often poorly or unclearly separated and create a kind of periphery, blend and hybrid where relationships between people are smoothly established. To trigger, to provoke that contact one uses exhibits collected, exhibited and displayed in accordance with strict rules that we tried to explore.” (exc. from “Private Museums, Local Collections. Study Report”)

Full report is available at www.muzeaprywatne.blogspot.com

or http://ariari.org/images/pdf/raport_eng.pdf (PDF)

The media patronage for the report is the National Institute for Museums and Public Collections, Muzealnictwo.com and Herito quarterly.



“I am 80 years old and I have an agreement with God… because I haven’t had all this trash yet, I still need some which people have, but they don’t want to sell me, although they don’t use them, and I don’t have them (…). I don’t care about years, but I want to preserve it, I want to put it in some proper order. Then I will look at it, it will be nice, I will be happy, but God told me that I won’t do this until I am 150.”

This is a story about collecting things, the value of which is measured with emotions. Collections most frequently contain object from the past, but not always. This conviction can be broken for example by the collection of intangible palindromes (over four thousands of them). It turns out that the essence of collecting is not the very object, but everything what is done to preserve, save, and maintain it. Does it make things immortal? Are these some kind of “magical” operations which set objects free from time? Certainly yes. Mr Marian Pietrzak from Sokolow does have an agreement with God, doesn’t he? Creating a collection and ordering it in a particular way is something which is most significant. Collection and exhibition works have been recently gaining ground in Poland. The attempt to describe a dozen or so of chosen private museums showed how complex and emotional museum activities are. They are related to these magical operations, full of passion, conviction, determination in getting and looking for, as one of the collectors said, they are driven by curiosity, and as Krzystof Pomian claimed, not only those who collect and present are involved in them, but also participants of these presentations. We were observing the phenomenon portraying a change in the Polish culture. We understand culture as created by people technical and usable tools, as well as sets of codes and beliefs undergoing constant reconstruction. While researching museums, we touched upon the problem of memory and places where memory is enshrined and created. Descriptions of memory processes provided by Aleida and Jan Assamann were particularly inspiring. They distinguished oral and written memory media, and Aleida Assmann defined them as two main sources of cultural memory: ars (art of remembering, mnemonic) and vis (set of operations and artefacts building and strengthening collective identity). She pointed out to opposition between history and memory in the discourse concerning remembering (“history is situated in ars, whereas memory is situated in vis processes”). In the research we can see that museums play a role both of storerooms, and places of memory.
Tadeusz Barankiewicz (Village Museum in Garwolin): As long as I live, I will be happy that I managed to save it, I will maintain it. I think that it won’t be scrapped. I think it is not in vain. Because I want it to stay here. But will it stay here? It is hard to say.

Translate: Magdalena Kargol

The research project “Private museums, local collections. Researching new cultural landscape” has been conducted within the programme „Obserwatorium kultury”, which was financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province.

Patronage: National Institute for Museums and Public Collections

Study execution: Ari Ari Foundation (Fundacja Ari Ari / www.ariari.org)