Save Our House: a multi media educational project for Polish palaces and dwors.
Historic houses are a vital part of a nation’s heritage. Sadly, so much of Poland’s heritage has been lost already. Worse still, many houses which have survived reasonably well until now are on the verge of oblivion through misuse, neglect or abandonment.
40 years ago Britain was faced with a similar problem. Between 1900 and 1975 more than 2000 historic houses vanished. This loss was checked, in large part, thanks to the efforts of Prof. Sir Roy Strong and his inspired exhibition, “The Destruction of the Country House”. This small but hugely influential exhibition at the V&A in 1975 raised public awareness of what was happening. The ensuing outcry from the public produced solutions which saved many important buildings. Here in Poland we can learn from the British experience.
Whether Poland’s treasures are destined to disappear forever or new uses can be found for them depends on urgent action, action that will either record them in their dying moments or inspire ideas to save them for future generations. Time is short.
Below is a letter from Adam Zamoyski, curator of the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, who expresses these thoughts more eloquently.
Dear Mr Berkeley,
Yes, I do remember the exhibition on the destruction of the country house and think it would be great if one could be organised here, which should be possible since it does not really involve a huge amount of expense. I agree that it would have tremendous impact and might provide the breakthrough needed.
I have been going on about the need to create a Polish national Trust for nearly twenty years to anyone who cared to listen, but while everyone vaguely agreed, nobody could be bothered to do anything about it. Such an exhibition might help galvanise people.
You have my full (mostly moral, I’m afraid, as I’m horribly busy) support.
Save Our House:
a project for schools.
The key to this exhibition will be school children. Most schools, especially in rural areas, have a house or houses in the vicinity or within easy reach. These local houses will be the object of a school project involving either entire classes or groups of children representing the school. We hope to involve schools throughout the country.
Modern technology offers many low cost opportunities for filming. Most children have access to mobile phones that produce perfectly acceptable moving images. Some will have access to cameras and video cameras of better quality. All the material obtained through these means can be edited using simple computer programmes.
Save Our House:
an exhibition in 2 parts
The exhibition will be in two parts:
Firstly, an on-line virtual, publically accessible museum with all the material obtained during the project;
Secondly, a selective exhibition in a real gallery in Warsaw, then elsewhere.
A third option will offer real exhibitions for regional venues, such as shopping centres and service stations, showing local houses featured in the project.
School children will be organised by class or in groups to photograph the house, research the history of the house and make recorded interviews with people, old and young, who have memories and stories of the house.
They should document their research using mobile phone cameras, video cameras, still cameras and voice recordings.
They should also make suggestions about possible uses for the house.
All the edited material from every school will be deposited in the virtual, publically accessible, on-line museum. From this deposit, a selection will be held of the best material from 30 schools. This material will be exhibited publically, firstly in Warsaw and then nation wide. Both an online and hard catalogue should be published.
Some houses will disappear but at least a living record of their passing will exist. Other houses might inspire ideas which are practical, either as holding exercises that check the decay until such time as funding can be found, or as viable projects for immediate implementation.
Whatever the result, there will be a substantial raising of public awareness of the national heritage and the peril so much of it faces.
Most importantly, this raising of awareness will be mostly amongst the young. This will not only help them to develop sensitivity towards monuments and history, but teach them to use technology positively and creatively.
FNOK and partners will provide advice on all aspects of the project. We are looking for additional partners and interested parties.