The first session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Council in the new tenure
The first session of the new term of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Council was held on 24 May 2017. The main topics discussed by the members of the Council were, educational challenges related to record attendance, creation of a new headquarters for the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, as well as investment plans related to the construction of the new Visitor Service Centre, among others.
The session began with the presentation of nominations to members of the Museum Council for the 2017-2021 term of office. The director of the Museum dr Piotr M. A. Cywiński presented the nominations on behalf of the Minister for Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Piotr Gliński, who appointed the Council. The Council members adopted the regulations and elected the chairperson, in the person of Krystyna Oleksy.
Director Cywiński presented a report on the activities of the Memorial in the preceding months. He spoke among others of the ever-growing number of visitors, which exceeded 2 million in 2016. 'With the introduction of the new online system for reservation of visit hours, we still see plenty of room for attendance, especially in the mornings and afternoons. There is no indication that the number of visitors will drop in the future since it is largely based on the arrival of organized groups from schools. We have seen in recent years that the subject of Auschwitz and the Holocaust is an intrinsic element of educational activities - both in the school system and beyond - in many countries. We still notice an upward trend in 2017,' said director Cywiński.
'Infrastructure poses the greatest challenge to us in view of such high attendance. Therefore, we have applied for funding from the European funds for a new Visitor Service Centre, which we plan to set up on the area adjacent to the Museum, on the site of the former PKS bus depot. An integral part of the project is the renovation of the museum’s cinema hall,' Piotr Cywiński added.
Reporting on the most important events of the previous year, the director mentioned among others, the organization of the Pope’s visit, and the pilgrims during the World Youth Day, when over 155 thousand people visited the Memorial within 10 days, as well as the discovery after over half a century of 16 thousand objects from archaeological excavations conducted on the premises of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. Continuing, he also mentioned the transfer of several archival documents to the Museum’s Archive, such as Mykoła Kłymyszyn’s correspondence, as well as the extensive collection of documents amassed by Holocaust survivor Władysław Rath, joint publication with the Institute of National Remembrance of a database of the SS staff of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz.
He also spoke of the major ongoing conservation project, works conducted in two brick barracks of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, as well as works on securing the ruined walls of the changing rooms of the gas chamber and Crematorium III, on the site of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. The works are financed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. The funds from the foundation will also be allocated to the creation of a modern storage in the Museum’s collection for storing historical fabrics.
While discussing the work of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust Cywiński emphasized the importance, the adaptation of the building, so-called Old Theatre, into the seat of the ICEAH will have on educational activities conducted at the authentic Memorial Site*. He also spoke of ongoing educational projects, seminars and conferences, lessons and online exhibitions, as well as planned development programmes for visiting the Memorial from the Christian and Jewish religious perspective. Furthermore, he mentioned the training for educators and guides conducted in collaboration with the Amud Aish Memorial Centre, which focused on the Holocaust experience of Orthodox Jews.
Director Cywiński also announced the plan of events for July related to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Museum: educational conference "Awareness - Responsibility - Future", an outdoor exhibition summarizing 70 years of the functioning of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which will be shown at the Memorial, and an exhibition organized jointly with the National Museum in Cracow “Face to Face. Art in Auschwitz”, which will be opened in the Szołayski House, a division of the National Museum in Cracow.
Having considered the report for 2016 and plans for the current year, the Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum unanimously adopted a resolution, positively assessing and approving these activities.
The Council of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau (2017-2021 tenure)
Krystyna Oleksy – Chairperson
Dr Grzegorz Berendt
Prof. dr hab. Tomasz Gąsowski
Prof. dr hab. Jan Kantyka
Prof. Stanisław Krajewski
Prof. Edward Kosakowski
dr Marek Lasota
Fr Jan Nowak
The Museum Council is a consultative body appointed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage under the Act on museums. The Council "oversees the fulfilment by the museum of its obligations to the collections and the public, assesses, based on the Museum's annual activity report submitted by the director, the activities of the museum and gives its opinion on the annual activity plan submitted by the director."
* The Project for the “Adaptation of the “Old Theatre” building for the activities of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim” is implemented with funding from the European Regional Development Fund under the Operational Program Infrastructure and Environment for the years 2014-2020, as well as funding from the budget of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.