Research conducted at the Museum of Warsaw focuses primarily on its rich collections. Getting acquainted with the things of Warsaw, objects of varied status – artworks, handicrafts, items of everyday use – serves our mission: presenting these objects to our visitors. Acquiring knowledge on the things of Warsaw – participants of and witnesses to historical events – and passing it on make us broaden our proficiency in the history of Warsaw on one hand, and reflect on the status of objects that we hold at the Museum on the other.
That is why research at the Museum of Warsaw is realized within the three thematic fields:
- The Things of Warsaw. The Museum collection comprises nearly 300,000 things of Warsaw – objects which are rarely works of art, often not of particular artistic or material value, and yet telling all sorts of stories related to the city and its inhabitants. It is a true challenge not only to study and describe the collection and its particular items, but rather to develop a method which will allow the visitors to “hear” these stories. Based on the work by scholars such as Igor Kopytoff or Bjørnar Olsen, we are developing a model of “biography of things” which will allow us to make the objects subjective – to present them as active actors in the theatre of history. Presenting the objects to the public by means of new digital technologies is yet another vital issue . The relation between the material objects and the digital form of the Museum is thus being analysed.
- The Phenomenon of Warsaw. The Museum of Warsaw is an institution studying the phenomenon of the city which is combined of both the past, but also of the contemporary issues. Warsaw, similarly to other cities with long history, may be perceived as a palimpsest of sorts – a space of overwritten meanings. The turbulent history of the 20th century prompts us not so much to uncover the subsequent layers but rather to perceive the past from the perspective of the current shape and condition of the city. The abrupt destruction and reconstruction that followed resulted in a severed continuity, while the history is permanently present and experienced on a daily basis. Since the Museum is located at the very centre of the reconstructed Old Town and runs a branch dedicated specifically to the aforementioned issues (Heritage Interpretation Centre), the problems of wartime destruction and postwar reconstruction recur in various projects. Another important factor in the process of getting acquainted with the phenomenon of Warsaw is a close study of the community of its residents in which the historical perspective meets the modernity as well.
- Museum Science and Museology. A modern museum cannot function without theoretical self-reflection. Contemporary museums are – next to academic centres – a vital space for debates on the subject of current issues in the museum science and museology. Museum practice triggers numerous prerogatives for programmes and theories while the development of contemporary museums is closely tied with watching the trends and processes that are taking place all over the world. The history of museum science allows us to take a glimpse into the past that is often the most important frame of reference – both positive and negative. Museology on the other hand allows us to strive for new goals and directions in discussing various models of a museum and to create new beings. Museology also encompasses experimental studies of audiences in the area of perception and understanding of phenomena and objects presented at a museum. Thus, it promotes fostering relations with the visitors.