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Poland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

The process of political and economic transformation started in 1990 and was finished on the 1st of January 1999. At this time, local governments became partners of the Polish Service for the Protection of Monuments in projects to enhance cultural heritage and assets.

Strategies to develop digital heritage are included in the ePolska Programme co-ordinated by the State Committee for Scientific Research and as part of the overall information society plan.

More and more attention is being drawn to the connections between cultural heritage and tourism. This trend is clearly linked with the Polish accession to the EU, or to be more specific, with the opportunity to benefit from structural funds.

The National Strategy for the Development of Culture (NSRK) emphasises the need for establishing modern solutions to protect and promote Polish heritage. The National Centre of Research and Documentation of Monuments is an institution responsible for such actions (including the protection of 12 Polish cultural heritage objects placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List).

The government formed in 2005 has drawn much attention to the issue of national heritage mainly in the ideological sphere. Such matters as "national memory" and patriotism were used as instruments in political debates with the parliamentary opposition. In some respects, Polish authorities seem to understand the category of heritage as identical to "tradition" which arouses the opposition's anxiety for the process of adaptation of the field of cultural heritage to the modern economic reality.

In 2005, several initiatives on the promotion of heritage were undertaken. In January, the former Minister of Culture Waldemar DÄ…browski, the former President of Warsaw Mr. Lech KaczyÅ„ski and a representative of the Jewish Historical Institute (Prof. Jerzy Tomaszewski) signed an agreement on the establishment of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. On 9th September 2006, the final contract for the architectural project (elaborated by Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmar Lahdelma) of the museum was signed by the Warsaw municipality. A website for the museum has been launched (http://www.jewishmuseum.org.pl) which provides information on the project's aims. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is one of the very few projects being carried out through a public-private partnership. There is a need for further development of this form of co-operation of bodies operating in the cultural sector.

Heritage issues were a top priority in 2006. This resulted in a rise in financial resources devoted to the protection of national heritage and placing it in a privileged position. According to the ministerial document entitled Full-scale Patronage. Cultural Policy of the State in the Years 2005-2006, about 100 million PLN was dedicated to the protection of historical monuments in the state budget for the year 2007 (referring to the same source, in 2005 the sum was only about 24.5 million PLN). One of the most visible examples of this history-oriented approach was a wide promotion of the Patriotism of Tomorrow operational programme in outdoor advertising and the press. It represented the first ministerial programme to be advertised like a commercial product.

"A Package for National Heritage" was introduced in March 2007, with the aim of carrying out a structural reform and modernisation of the conservation services, improvement of the functioning of museums, maximum usage of the EU funds in the field of culture and an increase in funds for conservation and renovation works of historic buildings. The Package was followed by the decision of the Minister to transfer additional funding (over 70 million PLN / 18.5 million EUR) for renovation and conservation of over 190 historic buildings in the framework of the first call for proposals of the "National Heritage" ministerial operational programme. The proposal to amend the Act on Museums, aiming mainly at elimination of discrepancies between the Act on Museums and the Act on Organising and Conducting Cultural Activity and regulation of the situation of museums without a legal status, was accepted by the Parliament in May 2007.

In 2008, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage converted the former Archive of Mechanic Documentation into the National Digital Archive. Its tasks include, inter alia, archiving of photos, films and sound recordings.

The following national institutes are responsible for the issues of heritage preservation and protection:

  • The National Heritage Board of Poland (to view the profile see: http://www.kobidz.pl/idm,45.html);
  • The Centre for Protection of Public Collections – The Centre realises the state policy in the field of heritage protection. It is responsible for improvements in the protection of public historic monuments from fire and crime. The Centre controls the museums in the field of tasks related to protection and safety of museums. It conducts the national register antiques that are stolen and illegally transported abroad. The Centre also issues permission for permanent export of antiques (official website: http://www.oozp.pl/index.php);
  • The State Archives (to view the profile see: http://www.archiwa.gov.pl/lang-en/news.html).

The need to enhance the regional and national collections of modern art has been on the agenda of the various authorities for many years. A positive decision has finally been taken to establish a Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, which had caused a lot of controversy over the years. The museum was supposed to be managed by both the Ministry of Culture and Warsaw City Hall. The building itself (designed by Christian Kerez) was to be situated in the very centre of Warsaw. Yet despite the previous arrangements and assurances of the authorities that the construction works should finish by 2016, the future of the museum is doubtful. A conflict between the Warsaw authorities and the architect arose, which accused the Warsaw City Hall of incompetence and threatened a lawsuit since the investment has been suspended. Furthermore the building which served the Museum as a temporary seat has been sold to a private investor who made a decision to evict the institution from the premises. Yet, there are other investments in modernisation and renovation of existing cultural infrastructure, e.g. renovation of Arkady Kubickiego in Warsaw (total cost: 45 million PLN) or renovation and modernisation of the Gallery of 19th century Polish Art in Sukiennice in Cracow (grant amount: over 18.3 million PLN).

In spite of the revival in this field, numerous institutions encounter difficulties with finding convenient exhibition space and remain unable to present the whole of their collections (e.g. the National Museum in Warsaw). Furthermore, many Polish public museums require renovation and modernisation. Urgent digitalisation of their collections is needed, yet hard to implement, particularly in smaller towns and villages. The process of digitalisation is only partly financed by the EU (it concerns not only exhibition institutions, but also libraries and Polish national archives).

According to the report on The System of Cultural Heritage Protection, prepared for the Polish Culture Congress 2009, the dominant form of ownership of immovable monuments is private (30%). Only 15% of the monuments still belong to the state. The rest is as follows: communal ownership – 21%, churches and religious associations' ownership – 24% and joint ownership – 2%. In the case of the remaining 8% of the monuments, the issue of ownership is not regulated. According to the law, the obligation to fund and all responsibilities for the monuments lie with the owner.

It has been suggested to legally protect the name "museum" for use only by (public and private) museums, by definition of the Act on Museums.

In 2010, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage extended competences of the National Heritage Board of Poland which now is one of four institutions implementing governmental programme Culture +.

As of 1 January 2011 the Polish name and the statute of the National Heritage Board of Poland have changed on the basis of a Ministerial regulation. According to the new statute, the main objectives of the institution are to gather and disseminate information on heritage, set standards for its protection and conservation, and aim to raise social awareness on the cultural heritage of Poland in order to save it for future generations in accordance with the strategy for sustainable development.

For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Poland


Chapter published: 21-11-2013

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              Council of Europe/ERICarts, "Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 15th edition", 2014 | ISSN 2222-7334