Exhibiting Galicia: Problems of Interpretation and Other Reflections on the Permanent Exhibition at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków

Jonathan Webber

Abstrakt

The purpose of this article is to offer a critical comment on the permanent exhibition of the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków. The exhibition is innovative in museological terms. It is not about the Jewish history of Galicia, nor is it arranged using conventional chronology, nor is it comprehensive. Rather it is divided into five sections, based on a five-part set of ideas, simple ideas intended to help visitors make sense of the complex realities surrounding the present-day situation of the Jewish heritage seventy-five years after the Holocaust. Let me now briefly outline how these five ideas are represented museologically, the five sections in which the exhibition is organized. The opening section directly presents the popular Jewish stereotype that post-Holocaust Poland is nothing but a vast Jewish graveyard. So this section of the exhibition consists entirely of the raw, shocking sight of desolation – for example, photos of ruined synagogues or ruined Jewish cemeteries. The 23 photos on show in this section include the appalling condition of the synagogue in Stary Dzików (a small town near the Ukrainian border) as it looked in the 1990s and of the devastated Jewish cemetery in Czarny Dunajec (a small town near the Slovak border) at that time. Emphasizing what has been lost by showing the Jewish past of Poland in ruins, and how in that sense the effects of the Holocaust on the built Jewish heritage are still visible, even today, is certainly a powerful and provocative way to begin an exhibition in a Jewish museum.

* An earlier version of this paper was originally presented as the opening keynote lecture at a three-day conference on “Jews in Galicia,” held at the Galicia Jewish Museum, Kraków, in September 2019.

Słowa kluczowe: Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków, museum, exhibition, Holocaust, photography
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