Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia

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

Data publikacji: 2020

Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, 2020, Volume 18, s. 105 - 124



Jonathan Webber
Jagiellonian University in Kraków
Wszystkie publikacje autora →


The exhibition “Traces of Memory” presents about 150 present-day large-format colour photographs of the Jewish heritage still to be seen in many different towns in that part of Galicia which is today in Poland. The exhibition is innovative in museological terms. It does not present  the Jewish history of Galicia using conventional chronology; nor is it comprehensive. Rather it isdivided into a simple five-part set of ideas intended to help visitors make sense of the complex, conflicting realities relating to Jewish heritage 75 years after the Holocaust: that Polish Galicia is full of the abandoned ruins of the Jewish past; it is also full of surviving fragments of pre-Holocaust times; full of places where the mass atrocities of the Holocaust took place; it is also full of post-war attempts to restore (or to abandon) sites of Jewish significance; and full of individuals, from all walks of life, contributing to a new visibility of Jewish culture in the Polish landscape. But piecing together the present-day evidence into a coherent five-part exhibition, by assigning such socio-cultural meanings to what the photos are deemed to represent, is not a straightforward matter. How “typical” are they as illustrations of one of those five ideas? How far can one generalize on the basis of decontextualised visual evidence - architecturally typical, historically typical, socio-culturally typical? The problem is that a photograph can simultaneously have multiple meanings; and this paper includes numerous examples. Part of that is because of the cultural displacement caused by the Holocaust and its after-effects. Just as a “synagogue” marked on a tourist map may in fact no longer really be a synagogue, so too one strategy of memorialising a devastated Jewish cemetery has often been to turn it into a lapidarium - a collection of surviving tombstones. In other words, when re-presented as heritage, such places may no longer “mean” what they were originally intended to mean. So often the Jewish heritage as presented through photographs is treated as self-evident. But in fact the same place, or the same photo, may mean different things to different people: meaning may thus be a matter of emphasis and interpretation, an ambiguity which is not always made fully explicit.


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Informacje: Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, 2020, s. 105 - 124

Typ artykułu: Oryginalny artykuł naukowy



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


Jagiellonian University in Kraków

Publikacja: 2020

Status artykułu: Otwarte __T_UNLOCK

Licencja: CC BY-NC-ND  ikona licencji

Udział procentowy autorów:

Jonathan Webber (Autor) - 100%

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