Ladies and Gentlemen!
With great pleasure and satisfaction I would like to invite you to participate in the Congress of Polish Museologists, an event of unprecedented nature and range.
Over the last year, activities of the Program Committee of the Congress involved representatives from the Association of Polish Museologists, Polish National Committee of ICOM, Association of Open Air Museums, Council on Museums and two institutions subordinate to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage — National Institute for Museums and Public Collections and the National Centre for Culture. I know, however, that the discussion on the shape of the program of the Congress definitely reached ever–widening circles and raised interest among diverse museologists, as well as other professionals dealing with museology. Prolonged and sometimes turbulent process of the program development is the best predictor that allows us to expect interesting conclusions to be drawn from the work of the Congress.
During the meeting there will be delivered a lot of presentations dealing with key issues of high interest for contemporary museologists. The panel discussions will be attended by dozens of diverse groups of participants – muselologist, researchers, government officials, local government representatives and journalists dealing with culture, whose presence is to guarantee possibly a wide range of experiences, views and opinions. But the Congress is not only presentations and panel discussions, but also prior on–line consultation of resolutions and backstage conversations which sometimes turn out to be at least as interesting as moderated debates. I think the largest challenge is to choose the discussions to participate in of those proposed.
Recent years have been a good time for the museology — a number of museums throughout the country have been revitalized, others have been developed completely from scratch. Some of them are controversial, others — those not finished yet — are awaited. Just never museums have been so widely, so kindly and so often discussed in the media. Modern museologists better and better understand that equivalent targets of museum existence mean not only gathering and protection of collections, but also such sharing of the collection to make it attractive to the public. Regardless the nature of museums, they cannot exist without museologists, but also they cannot exist without visitors. Care for visitor comes not only from a sense of mission to share the collection. Happy visitors also become the best lobbyist — for earmarking more funds for museums, social appreciation for the importance of cultural institutions, for appreciation of museologists.
The Ministry of Culture for years has been making efforts to increase availability of the collections. The results of these activities are already easy to spot — year after year the number of museums, artefacts, and museum visitors has been increasing. In 2013, Polish museums were visited by over 29 million people, i.e. 50% more than in 2008. According to the law, all museums once a week have to provide free admission to permanent exhibitions, moreover, every day we offer discounts for children, students, pensioners etc. This year we are starting the “Available Culture” program where we are trying to facilitate public contact with the Polish national heritage by extending of the “Museum for a penny” action, financing free museum lessons and supporting transport of visitors from smaller towns, etc. At the same time, more and more museums join the National Card of Large Families program, introducing more attractive family tickets.
This does not mean, however, that I do not see problems raised by museologists. First of all, museologists do not speak, and cannot speak with a single voice. Municipal and private museums suffer from different maladies, various museum–related professionals have different tasks to complete also museologists from regional, historical, technical, natural, etc. museums have different experiences. I strongly believe that the Congress will also be a forum of polemics. I feel it is a certain measure of democracy that with the Ministry’s funds and with its substantive and organizational support we managed to organise the event, during which not only eulogists, but also rebels of the existing order will find a place to speak.
The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which I have the honour to manage, supervises only a fraction of museums operating in Poland. Most museums are controlled by local authorities of different levels. Co-operation between local governments and institutions of culture is not always perfect, not always their representatives understand each other’s needs. This is why I am happy that the Congress will be attended by numerous representatives of museum supervisors which will allow more in-depth discussion compared to those held daily. I hope these discussions will have positive effects on further cooperation.
I know that museologists as a profession not always feel well noticed and appreciated. I believe that the First Congress of Polish Museologists which we are about to start, at least partially, will satisfy your needs and will leave a lasting impression taking the form of Congress resolutions and papers published on the Congress website, and later (maybe) also in print. I am sure that the memories of numerous discussions held during the Congress will remain for a long time, and their conclusions will reach the public and decision-makers.
I would like to thank the representatives of all the organizations and institutions involved in the organization and programming of the First Congress of Polish Museologists. I wish the the participants and guests fruitful discussions, interesting conclusions and ideas, new contacts, and above all, I hope the meeting will be integrating and inspiring.
Prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska
The Minister of Culture and National Heritage