september, 2015

21sep18:00- 19:00Keynote lecture: prof. B. Kirshenblat-GimblettMaterializing History: The Role of Intangible Heritage at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews18:00 - 19:00 Mordechaja Anielewicza 6Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN Event Tagsprof. B. Kirshenblat-Gimblett

Event Details


Materializing History: The Role of Intangible Heritage at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

POLIN Museum was built on the rubble of the destroyed Warsaw ghetto and prewar Jewish neighborhood of Warsaw. The exhibition was created from scratch – without a historic building and without a collection, although objects were purchased and borrowed for the core exhibition. The starting point was the story, not a collection, and our top priority was bringing that story to life. Even if we could have drawn from every collection in the world, objects alone could not tell this thousand-year story.

What we lack in material heritage, we make up for in intangible heritage – the words and thoughts of those who created the texts from which the quotations in the exhibition come. We have, in essence, materialized the intangible. The hand-painted medieval gallery illustrates stories found in rabbinical correspondence. The roof and painted ceiling of the 17th-century wooden synagogue that once stood in Gwoździec was created in a way that allowed us to recover the knowledge of how to build it – none of the great wooden synagogues have survived. A painted animation showing 24 hours, from dawn to dawn, in the Volozhin yeshiva, a modern Talmudic academy established in 1803, is based entirely on memoirs – there is not a shred of visual material for presenting this important story.

Paradoxically, intangible heritage is the key to materializing history.


BARBARA KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT – Program Director of the Core Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the former Warsaw ghetto and prewar Jewish neighborhood. She is University Professor Emerita and Professor Emerita of Performance Studies at New York University.

Her books include Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage; Image before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland, 1864–1939 (with Lucjan Dobroszycki); and The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times (edited with Jonathan Karp).  Her edited volume Writing a Modern Jewish History: Essays in Honor of Salo W. Baron won a National Jewish Book Award. They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of  a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust, which she coauthored with her father Mayer Kirshenblatt, also won several awards.

In 2008, she was honored with an award for lifetime achievement by the Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Mlotek Prize for Yiddish and Yiddish Culture. In 2015 she received an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She currently serves on Advisory Boards for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Vienna Jewish Museum, and Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.


(Monday) 18:00 - 19:00


Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN

Mordechaja Anielewicza 6


Images of Cultural Diversity and

Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLINMordechaja Anielewicza 6

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