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Poland and Polin

New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies


Edited By Irena Grudzińska-Gross and Iwa Nawrocki

The contributions in this volume reflect discussions and controversies during the Princeton University Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies (April 18–19, 2015). The debates examined the politics of history in Poland, as well as the scholarly and pedagogical need to move beyond national and diasporic narratives in researching and teaching Polish-Jewish subjects. They focused on the role and meaning of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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Polin: “Ultimate Lost Object”


In “Objects of Ethnography,” Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett writes that in addition to exhibiting objects, every museum also exhibits the authors of the exhibitions.1 To know the authors is to examine the conventions they have applied, analyze how they construct the subjectivity of the objects they choose to exhibit, and consider the “implications for those who see and those who are seen.”2 I will address Barbara Kirshenblatt’s suggestion as it relates to the core exhibition of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, curated by Professor Kirshenblatt herself. Who are the authors of the works she has selected to exhibit? What can we say about them based on the decisions they have made about what to exhibit? Who is the imagined audience and counteraudience3 of the POLIN Museum? I can only ask these questions and point toward answers, which have yet to be fully developed.


I will begin with the essay “Categorically Jewish, Distinctly Polish” by Moshe Rosman – an outside consultant for the POLIN Museum.4 Referring to the theories of Hayden White’s equivalent and incommensurable metanarrative, Rosman extols the advantages of a distinctive museum narrative. Rosman argues that a clear thesis constitutes an “Archimedean point,” which focuses discussion among the spectators. There is no need to prove the choice of one narration is right, he claims. The only thing that has to be done is to effectively present the narrative. Rosman ← 49 | 50 → writes: “This means the museum will actively seek to...

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