Meeting of the Auschwitz Museum Council
The functioning of the Memorial during the recovery from the pandemic was the main subject of a meeting of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Council held on 2 June.
Museum Director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński presented a report on the activities of the Memorial since the last Council meeting and plans for the coming period.
At the outset, Director Cywiński spoke about attendance, which has been dramatically affected in the last two years by the coronavirus pandemic. Although in 2020 and 2021, the number of visitors was just over half a million per year, by the end of May 2022, almost 300,000 people had already visited the Memorial. 'We still haven't reached our pre-pandemic status, but the situation is better than we could have expected. The past few months offer a slightly more optimistic view of the future. We have had days when the Memorial was visited by 5-6 thousand people a day, which means that we exceeded 50-60 per cent of the attendance before the pandemic. It allows us to restore the institution’s financial stability,' said Director Cywiński.
The Director also spoke about two major exhibition projects underway at the Museum with financial support from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage: The New Main Exhibition and the New Polish Exhibition. Work on the project documentation for the exhibition "Poles in KL Auschwitz. Inhabitants of the Oświęcim area during World War II", which will be presented in Block 15 at the Auschwitz I site, has recently been completed. The exhibition should open at the end of 2023, and visitors will be able to see the first completed part of the New Main Exhibition next year.
He also talked about the temporary exhibition "Sports and Sportspersons in KL Auschwitz" at the Museum, which features the original boxing glove of an Auschwitz survivor Tadeusz Pietrzykowski, donated by his family, and the exhibition "Auschwitz. Not long ago" not far away", which opened at the end of May in Sweden. The largest-ever travelling exhibition on the history of Auschwitz, which had previously been presented in Madrid, New York and Kansas City, has already been visited by more than a million people.
Recent publications by the Museum Publishing House include, above all, translations into new languages, such as the Italian-language edition of Helena Kubica's book "Deprived Childhood. Children liberated from Auschwitz" or the English translation of "Auschwitz. Monograph on the Human" by Director Cywiński. 'A monumental work should be published at the end of this year. It will be a new, two-volume calendar of the history of the Auschwitz camp, the outcome of several years of research by historians at the Memorial Research Center headed by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz,' said Director Cywiński.
Summing up the educational mission of the Memorial carried out by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, director Cywiński said that most of the activities conducted last year took place online, but that the situation is slowly changing. 'Fortunately, we see that various conferences and seminars, as well as meetings with witnesses to history, including Bogdan Bartnikowski, a member of the Council, are being increasingly conducted in hybrid mode or take place entirely in stationary mode at the new headquarters of the ICEAH, which was opened just before the pandemic and for a long time was almost empty. It also allows us to see what a huge role this modern educational space will play in the future,' Piotr Cywiński emphasised.
The director also spoke about the Memorial's online presence, the importance of social media activities, new online lessons such as "Women at KL Auschwitz", and the multibook used to prepare for a visit to the Memorial.
Listed among the most important events at the Memorial are the January commemorations of the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi camp and the March of the Living, attended by Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Piotr Cywiński also discussed the Museum's reaction to the outbreak of war in Ukraine, including the activities in the information space and statement published on Twitter, as well as the Museum's special aid activities: 'In the extraordinary situation when tens and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens were fleeing to Poland because of Russian aggression, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, in cooperation with the Auschwitz Museum, decided to undertake aid activities. The Foundation has launched a scholarship program for professional development in the field of conservation of objects of martyrdom for people from Ukraine with a degree in conservation.'
Other conservation-related issues discussed included the current expansion of the Memorial Conservation Laboratories, the large-scale conservation project for the brick buildings at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and the commencement of work on adapting the buildings of the so-called "small potato cellars" into conservation facilities near the Birkenau.
Director Cywiński also mentioned the construction of a new Visitors Services Centre and projects by the Museum and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation related to the use of new technologies in education: guided online tours, which also involve covering the entire area of the Memorial with a high-quality Internet signal, and digital reconstruction of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
After reviewing the report for 2021 and the plans for the current year, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Council unanimously adopted resolutions positively assessing and approving the report and the action plans.
During the session, a vote was also taken on the candidacy for the 10th member of the Council, which will be presented to the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Piotr Gliński, for approval. It will be Łucja Marek, PhD hab.
The Board of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (term 2021-2025)
Monika Krawczyk - President of the Council
Roman Kwiatkowski - deputy
Grzegorz Berendt, PhD hab.
Prof. Tomasz Gąsowski
Rev. Jan Nowak
The Museum Council is a consultative body appointed by the minister responsible for culture and national heritage.