Museum? What for?

Museum? What for? - banner

It is the beginning of the 19th century. Izabela Czartoryska proudly displays Lady with an Ermine in the first Polish museum established in Puławy. The history of Polish museology has just begun. Let’s pause for a moment, though. What if a Tibetan thangka was hung next to Leonardo da Vinci’s canvas? Would Polish art be different now? Would we see the world differently today?

The stories museums tell us are determined by objects: collections compiled by individuals who had specific tastes, knowledge and experiences. Our vision of reality is influenced by decisions of individual people. We get to know a section of the world and develop an image of the whole based on it.

The temporary exhibition “Museum? What for?” inquires about the things that are not there. Our historical narrative is governed by “lack”: the facts and people that were left out of it. We can fill in these gaps and develop alternative histories.

What is missing from the museums we know? Traces of the histories of Asian and Pacific cultures and their artefacts, which are not displayed alongside their European counterparts. The first part of the exhibition explores the history of modern museology in Europe. At this stage we also fill in the blanks in history. We place exhibits hailing from Asia and the Pacific region into “classical” museum displays. We rectify the “omissions”. In the Interaction Room we inspect familiar everyday objects developed by Asian and Pacific cultures. In the problem-based part of the show we ask ourselves the questions that museums have to answer every day: What should we display? Should it come with a special note? Finally, just like the Renaissance collectors, we can allow ourselves a moment of quiet reflection in the Contemplation Room.

The exhibition encourages a change of perspective and seeing Europe as “the rest of the world” for once. It prompts reflection on one’s own history and attitude towards reality.

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