We would like to see the history of the Borderlands become the message of the museum’s permanent exhibition. We assumed that a person is not able to understand who he is, what he belongs to, what constitutes his identity, what he should be proud of, without understanding his own roots. It was nationality in the eastern territories that was a matter of choice and a reason to be proud, and Polish culture was considered to be one of the most attractive in contemporary Europe. We want to create a specific information and research centre that will be available to researchers and those who are looking for the roots of their families.
By creating the scenario for the permanent exhibition, we also create the strategy of the institution. We think about the facts, events and characters that we should show from a scientific point of view, but also about the emotions and impressions that will spark by coming into contact with the term “Borderlands”. It should be remembered that both the residents of Lublin and tourists from all over the world will come to this place. Therefore, the narrative we will present must transport the viewer into the past in a clear and orderly way and allow them to understand the present.
We want to build the permanent exhibition around six main themes – it will be interdisciplinary and will cover not only historical events, but also the history of culture inextricably linked with it.
Our team also considers the territoriality of the permanent exhibition, or rather its topography, to be very important. The exhibition must reflect the geographical range of areas changing over time, as well as administrative divisions into Voivodeships or lands.
1. The first theme will be the keyword ROOTS. This part of the exhibition aims to introduce the audience to the world of the Borderlands’ cultural heritage, to show the Polish-Russian borderland in the 10th–13th centuries and its cultural diversity. We want visitors to know the answer to the question, what did the Borderlands give us? That they would identify them with places, natural wealth, creators, legendary commanders, and with the history of their own families.
2. The next theme will be IDENTITY AND UNITY. We want to present the Jagiellonian state, which symbolised, especially in the east, a country of many religions, nationalities and languages. In this context, we want to focus on the Union of Lublin, which is to be presented as a symbol of rights, freedom, integration, tolerance and equality. During this period, the Borderlands, or the eastern territories, began to play the role of a gate connecting the East with the West. Today, Lublin is often assigned this role.
3. The third theme will be WEALTH AND DIVERSITY. On one hand, the natural wealth of the Borderlands, and on the other hand, the great openness of their contemporary inhabitants made these areas extremely interesting. The message contained in this part of the exhibition will mainly refer to the 17th and 18th centuries. These centuries of defeats and victories were accompanied by an extremely dynamic development of culture. Works from this period created in the eastern territories – beautiful mansions, products of craftsmanship, sculpture, painting make material culture tell the story today. Through applied art, as well as well-known architecture, we will want to transfer visitors to a world that assimilates diversity from newcomers, and at the same time attracts with its own strength and individuality. The narrative goal of this part of the exhibition will be both to build pride and self-awareness of the visitors. The story of the Sobieski brothers – Jan and Marek, who set off from the East on a journey to Europe, is a story about Sarmatian culture, their own identity, extraordinary openness and wisdom.
4. In our exhibition, we also want to talk about TOLERANCE. There, it was of special importance. Thanks to the rights granted by the Warsaw Confederation, all religious minorities gained equal treatment, and thus could develop and live side by side in a spirit of mutual respect. All this built up the cultural heritage of the Borderlands.
5. The next, fifth aspect of our story about the Borderlands will be the ATTRACTIVENESS. On one hand, it is understood as the power of assimilation of Polish culture, as many nationalities chose to adopt it. On the other hand, in the interwar period, attractiveness was understood as a symbol of artistic life or even modernity. The story of the attractiveness of the Borderlands is the story of the emerging uniqueness, romanticism, patriotism, space in literature, “localness” or internal landscape.
6. In terms of chronology, the narrative of the core exhibition will focus on the beginnings of the formation of the eastern territories of the former Commonwealth in the 14th century. According to the adopted assumptions, the story of the Borderlands will end with the outbreak of WWII, which marked the end of the administrative belonging of the eastern territories to the Polish state. However, the epilogue of the exhibition will be the last, sixth theme, i.e. REMEMBERING, PASSING AND LASTING. We want to evoke nostalgia, pride, longing, but also a hunger for knowledge in our visitors. We want the historical end of the story about the Borderlands to be, at the same time, the beginning of restoring the memory of those who lived, created, lived and died there. After all, the fate of each of them is the subject of the scenarios of countless subsequent exhibitions.
The presented vision, mission and purpose of the museum are at your disposal. This public presentation of our work is also the beginning of social consultations and an invitation to discussions, which I address to the scientific community, museum employees, teachers, people dealing with tourism, as well as broadly understood borderland environments in Poland and beyond its borders. We invite you to read the materials we have prepared. Please send your comments, ideas or observations directly to our team or by e-mail to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to discuss both the content that you will read today and the name of the newly created institution. “Museum of the Eastern Territories of the Former Commonwealth”, “Museum of the Borderlands”, or perhaps the “Heritage of the Borderlands”? How will the institution ultimately be named? I do not know. I hope that thanks to discussions, talks and debates, we will be able to answer these and many other questions together, and implement many ideas. We invite you to jointly build a new cultural institution.
Dr Katarzyna Mieczkowska
Director of the National Museum in Lublin