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The Politics of History and Culture in Stalinist Poland: Museology and the Construction of a ‘Usable Past’, 1945-1956

LOTH-HILL, MAKSYMILIAN,GERARD,ROMAN (2024) The Politics of History and Culture in Stalinist Poland: Museology and the Construction of a ‘Usable Past’, 1945-1956. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the politics of history and culture in Stalinist Poland by analysing the role of museums and the meaning of the ‘usable pasts’ articulated within them. It focuses on museology in post-war Poland’s new western regions – the formerly German territories initially referred to in contemporary propaganda as the 'Ziemie Odzyskane' (‘Reclaimed Lands’) – but also adopts a central perspective by considering praxis in the nation’s leading museal institution, the National Museum in Warsaw. The study is structured across three sections, each of which deals with museology in the context of specific conceptual construction projects underway in post-war Poland. Part I looks at the connection between museums and nation-building, firstly in the central context of the National Museum in Warsaw, and then from the regional perspective of the Silesian Museum in Wrocław. Part II delves into the realm of Stalinist ideology, looking at the way museological narratives were shaped by the contemporary drive to ‘build socialism’ and promote ideas of Polish-Soviet friendship. Finally, Part III shifts the focus to the smaller regional museums of the ‘Reclaimed Lands’, the former German Heimat museums, exploring the local dynamics of the process of cultural transformation and Polonisation. Overall, the thesis reveals the way in which museums presented ‘usable pasts’ which historicised the transformation of post-war Poland. Beyond this, however, it points to wider conclusions about the nature of Polish Stalinism. By drawing out the contextual threads of a broader museological discourse that transcended the boundaries of Stalinism, it emphasises ideas of continuity as well as change, problematising the idea that the entire period can be framed in terms of imposition and rupture.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Stalinism; Poland; museology; museums; cultural politics; communism; nation-building; cultural heritage; borderlands; Pomerania; Silesia
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Apr 2024 14:37

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