fot. Alicja Szulc/Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN

Museum on Wheels

Museum on Wheels is an educational exhibition travelling in a pavilion. Since the beginning, it has visited several dozen towns all over Poland, spark­ing interest in local Jewish history. Before World War II, Jews often constituted a large proportion of the populations of the towns visited by the Mu­seum on Wheels. The exhibition was also featured at various cultural and youth festivals. It was ac­companied by a rich programme of events, pre­pared in partnership with local coordinators.

Museum on Wheels aimed to disseminate knowledge of the history and culture of Polish Jews. It visited mainly towns of up to 50,000 in­habitants, and was often hailed the local event of the year. At the heart of the Museum on Wheels was an interactive map, prepared specially for each locality, depicting the history of the local Jewish community that perished in the Holocaust. Each visit by the mobile exhibition was accompa­nied by a rich programme of educational events. Thanks to the Museum on Wheels, young people had a chance to learn about the Jewish history of their town, often for the first time, while elderly residents opened up and shared their memories of their erstwhile neighbours.

Through its modern form, the exhibition, housed in a 35-square-metre pavilion, was supposed to allow visitors to “experience history”. A three-dimensional model of a shtetl pointed to the most important spots in a typical Polish-Jewish town. Young Polish Jews, quoted in the exhibi­tion, sought answers to questions such as: who is a Jew, or what does it mean to be a Jew at a particular time. A timeline featured the most important events in the history of Polish Jews, while quotations from pre-war diaries provided a glimpse of the three languages once used by Jews in Poland: Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew.

The Museum on Wheels was also a way of sup­porting local activists who, often for years, had been involved in preserving the Jewish herit­age of their towns. It was they who hosted the exhibition and organised a 3-day educational programme consisting of guided tours, location-based games, cycling trips, debates, film screen­ings, and workshops accompanying the exhibi­tion in each locality.

Schools, entire families and adults flocked to see the exhibition which focused on local history. The exhibition also provided a perfect oppor­tunity for the activists involved in the preserva­tion of Jewish heritage to meet and act together, e.g. to preserve a ruined prayer house from the nineteenth century. The Museum on Wheels also helped to remove barriers in access to knowl­edge and education – it was visited by students and teachers for whom travelling to Warsaw was often impossible.

Supported from the Norway and EEA Grants by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.,