On Monday, September 26, during the gala at the National Museum in Warsaw, Professor Wojciech Śleszyński, director of the Sybir Memorial Museum, received an award for the institution in Bialystok. This is the recognition for the high content, artistic and educational value of the permanent exhibition of the Sybir Memorial Museum.
“The award for our permanent exhibition proves that the Sybir Memorial Museum represents the highest level of modern museology” — says professor Śleszyński. “This is the merit of the entire staff of the Museum, people who worked with great dedication for several years on the concept and realization of the exhibition” — admits the director.
This is not the only award received by the Sybir Memorial Museum on the first anniversary of its activity. On September 18, at the “Historic Event of the Year” gala concert, an important event for Bialystok and all of Poland, which was the opening of the Sybir Memorial Museum on September 17, 2021 was appreciated. The activities of the Museum were also evaluated by the jury of the Podlasie Brand of the Year competition, which in May 2022 granted us an award in the Society category.
During the first year of business activity, the Sybir Memorial Museum was visited by 40,000 visitors, despite the fact that covid restrictions limited the activities of cultural institutions for several months.
An additional offer for visitors was the “Exhibit of the Month” series. On a monthly basis, exhibits related to the history of a particular family that donated their memorabilia to the museum are selected from the warehouses of the Sybir Memorial Museum. Donors participate in the opening of a temporary exhibition and tell stories about their loved ones and their fate.
The museum constantly hosts intensive educational activities aimed at all age groups – although the permanent exhibition is prepared for visitors over 12 years old, the museum has developed appropriate activities for even the youngest students in grades 1-3. During the first year, 1,450 tickets for educational events were sold. Museum teachers implemented: 101 master classes and educational areas. Among the participants in our classes were students from the UK — for them the Museum staff conducted lessons both live and online.
The Sybir Memorial Museum also joined the educational activities in the interests of the Ukrainian refugee community. “A Common Heritage of Freedom Together for Ukraine” is an initiative consisting of workshops for Polish and Ukrainian youth and a specially designed itinerary through the permanent exhibition, through which visitors will learn about the common experience of Russian and Soviet repressions for the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Sybir Memorial Museum is constantly developing as a research institution. Over the past year, we have established a number of scientific contacts in Poland and around the world, thanks to which the mission of the Museum is carried out, including the collection and compilation of evidence from Sybiraks and their descendants, spread across all continents. In June, the Polish-Kazakhstan Historical Commission was established on the basis of the Museum; its next meeting will be held in October 2022 in Almaty.
Thanks to the cooperation agreements signed with the Union of Poles of Kazakhstan, the State Archives of Pavlodar region in Pavlodar, the Institute of History and Ethnology under the Science Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Almaty and the Museum, scientists have opened up new prospects for research. This is very important at a time when Russian archives and institutions are closed to us due to the political situation.
The Sybir Memorial Museum also began cooperation with the Vilnius Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents. The employees of this institution came to Bialystok on a study tour to get acquainted with one of the most modern historical museums in Poland. In August, we jointly organized the Memory Peloton, which was attended by a Lithuanian delegation led by the director, Arunas Bunis, PhD.
This initiative, which combines sports and commemoration of the victims of Soviet repression, in 2022 brought together a record number of participants – 150 people – from residents of Bialystok to guests from other cities in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine.
An important element of the activities of the Sybir Memorial Museum is the publication of scientific and popular science publications. In the first year after the opening, the Museum published a two-volume memoir of the Sybirak named Stanislav Kubala and the next issue of the magazine “Sybir”. The catalog of the permanent exhibition, which has received recognition from specialists and is popular with visitors to the Museum, is currently available in Polish, English and Russian and is being prepared in subsequent language versions. This is a response to the growing interest of foreign visitors in the Sybir Memorial Museum.
For the next year of business activity, the office of the Sybir Memorial Museum, at Węglowa 1 in the city of Bialystok, has ambitious research, exhibition and educational plans. Already in October, a series of meetings with travelers will begin, and we will also offer original musical meetings. We encourage you to follow our website and our social media.