Collaborative museum-making
: an analysis of collective memory about Jews and the Museum on Wheels in rural Poland (2014-2017)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


On the whole, museum studies have so far paid very little attention to collaboration in the museum sector. If at all, this topic has been studied using examples of the collaborative making of exhibitions. The thesis rectifies this gap by revealing the importance of the diverse needs, expectations and interests of various actors in collaboratively made travelling museums. In particular, by combining insights from museum studies and memory studies, it draws attention to the involvement of visitors, activists and other actors who engage in collaborative museum-making of itinerant museum projects. A qualitative study of a travelling initiative of Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Museum on Wheels (MoW), run in rural Poland as a collaboration between the museum and local communities, is analysed as a case study. Using the case study of MoW, it is demonstrated that studying collective memory on the vernacular level can shed light not only on the contributions of community actors to shaping an itinerant museum project, but also reveal how collective memory narratives are (re)produced by individuals in institutionally provided contexts. This thesis claims that a tension between different stories, needs, expectations and interests – of either the museum or the locals - defined how the process of collaborative museum-making worked. The findings suggest that the contributions of locals which were in line with the museum’s narratives about Polish history, and with the institution’s goals of becoming a responsive and well-attended museum, were the most valuable from POLIN’s perspective. At the same time, the museum’s engagement with the complexity of locals’ contributions, including visitors and local activists, was insufficient. Overall, this study sheds new light on museums’ outreach, and it invites a reconsideration of how museums engage with difficult memory, such as that of the Holocaust. Furthermore, because of its focus on rural Poland, it also offers unique insight into the vernacular level of collective memory of Jewish/Polish past in post-communist Poland.
Date of Award1 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAnna Reading (Supervisor) & Jessica Rapson (Supervisor)

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