The POLIN Museum is the only museum in Warsaw and the only cultural institution in Poland which maintains such strong links with its immediate surroundings. The residents of the Muranów neighbourhood live in an area which initially formed the very centre of the Northern District, inhabited mostly by Jews, and which then became a part of the Warsaw Ghetto, its buildings razed to the ground by the Nazis. Some of the local residents live in the houses forming part of the estate which acts as the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto, designed by Bohdan Lachert, who made a conscious decision to use the rubble from the devastated city as a building material. In that way, life was to blossom among the ruins once again – and so it happened. The studies conducted by sociologists prove that all this makes history such an important factor for the residents of the Muranów district.
As a consequence, the POLIN Museum has placed a great emphasis on its cooperation with the local community from the very beginning. On numerous occasions, the Museum implemented projects linked to the Muranów district and addressed to its residents, including both major events such as the Day of the Neighbour or the picnic held on the square next to the museum on Children’s Day as well as more intimate events aimed at smaller groups, such as the “Muranów 2014” performance or the artistic project known as “The Cut”, organised within the framework of the artist-in-residence programme and involving tearing the Muranów ground apart so that it may speak by itself, encouraging the local residents to share their stories.
On two occasions, we have invited the residents of the Muranów district as well as people interested in local history to participate in a small-scale project known as “Muranów_polyphonies”. During the first edition in 2015, the stories of the Muranów district prompted us to as the question of how to speak of the change which the establishment of the Museum brought about for the district, how does the presence of the Museum changed the manner in which individuals experience the district and what impact did it have on the Muranów identity. In 2016, the project centred around personal stories of the Zamenhofa Street – both during the pre-war and the post-war period – as well as the archival materials linked to the history of the district; this edition formed part of the broader project known as “The sounds of the pre-war Zamenhofa Street”). Based on individual and archival histories as well as workshops dedicated to telling stories and listening to them, the participants of the project, acting under the supervision of Patrycja Dołowy and Maria Porzyc, prepared performative lectures accompanied by visualisations and video footage, designed so that not just one, but a multitude of people conducted each individual lecture.
How does the current project – an endeavour which culminated in the “Recipe for Muranów” Neighbour Initiative and the Day of the Neighbour celebrated on March 18, 2017 – differ from the activities referred to above? First and foremost, we wanted to know more about the views of our Neighbours about the Museum, to talk about their needs insofar as bringing more live and greater integration to the Muranów district is concerned as well as to encourage the local community to join us in the process of implementing the ideas which we came up with during our discussions. We have also met with the local organisations and institutions in order to get to know each other better and to join our forces, as well as with the representatives of housing associations and administrators whom we encouraged to help us in reaching ordinary residents of the district with the information on our events.
A group of a dozen-odd residents of the Muranów district has been working on the plan for the inauguration of the “Recipe for Muranów” Neighbour Initiative for about six months. During our first meetings, conducted in the form of workshops, we talked in earnest about how does the local community perceive the Museum as well as how can we make an even greater contribution towards community projects and what are the most important issues that we may help to solve. Based upon what we have learned, we have then sought out solutions which we felt that we could apply together.
The meetings took place not just at the POLIN Museum, but also at the offices of our partners who became involved in the project and on the premises of the local organisations and institutions. We began with working meetings at the “Hansel and Gretel” and “City State” culture cafés and then proceeded to visit, among others, the offices of the Community Council and one of the newly opened screening rooms at the Muranów cinema (before it was opened to the general public); later on, we crossed the Jana Pawła II Street to visit the offices of the “One Muranów” Foundation, located in the section of Muranów which forms part of the Wola district of Warsaw. We have also paid a visit to Stacja Muranów (The Muranów Station) and the Wola Housing Cooperative.
A group of the local residents has created a bank of ideas in order to address their everyday needs and later selected one specific proposal for implementation. This proposal was the idea for the Muranów Card – a cultural and social offer designed with the residents of the Muranów district in mind, bringing together both the POLIN Museum and other organisations and institutions located in the Muranów district. Works are underway to bring this idea to fruition; on March 18, 2017, the concept was announced to the public, with the local residents and organisations being invited to join. During the celebrations of the Day of the Neighbour, the POLIN Museum, together with the Community Council and our partner organisations and other entities operating in the Muranów district, invited the local residents to sit together at a common table and, before that, to take part in a variety of special attractions. Among others, we have taken part in two tours of the Muranów district organised by the local residents, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum, a tour of the core exhibition and the temporary exhibitions as well as the presentation of the “Muranoteka” series of pictures prepared by Stacja Muranów which took place at the Muranów Cinema. At the end of the event, the local residents were treated to a performance by the POLIN Choir. All in all, over 500 local residents took part in the event.
Watch the reportage from the inauguration of the “Recipe for Muranów”:
Watch the photo gallery:
fot. Ł. Krawczyński/ Muzeum POLIN