National museum looks for director abroad

And appoints London professor as chairman of new, independent board

LONDON. The National Museum in Warsaw is recruiting a new director, following the resignation last October of Ferdynand B. Ruszczyc, after claims of irregularities. A new independent board of trustees has also been set up to oversee the Polish museum. This is the first autonomous board for a national museum in post-communist Eastern Europe. At its inaugural meeting on 28 April, attended by minister of culture Bogdan Zdrojewski, it was decided to look abroad for a new director.

In what is probably an unprecedented situation anywhere in the world, the chairman of Poland’s national museum is a non-citizen, who is resident abroad. The government appointed UK-based Professor Jack Lohman, director of the Museum of London, to chair the Warsaw museum. Although born in London, his parents came from Poland and he studied in Warsaw. Late last year Professor Lohman had been offered the directorship of the National Museum, but after declining, it was suggested that he become chairman, which involves one day a month working in Warsaw.

Professor Lohman’s first main task will be to supervise the recruitment of a director. When the position was initially advertised late last year, there were very few applicants and none was suitable, so the first board meeting has decided to look internationally. Can­didates will either have to be Polish speakers or willing to learn the language.

The National Museum, which has both art and archaeology collections, is an old-fashioned institution, and major changes will be required. Professor Lohman admits it “needs transformation”, but believes it can become “one of Europe’s leading museums” in five years’ time. He is keen that the Warsaw museum should be more “inclusive” and welcoming to visitors. Another problem that will have to be tackled is dealing with claims for objects that were expropriated during the communist period. It is expected that the new board will authorise a major provenance research project.

Martin Bailey

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