The Museum is a unique institution that was created to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, to celebrate the richness of Jewish history and culture, and to take part in the revival of Jewish life in present-day Poland. Through exhibitions, cultural events, and an educational outreach and community programme, the Museum presents Jewish history from a new perspective. The aim of the Museum is to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions typically associated with the Jewish past in Poland, educating both Poles and Jews about their own histories whilst encouraging them to think about the future.
The Galicia Jewish Museum was established in April 2004, by its founding director, photojournalist, Chris Schwarz. Chris first visited Poland in 1981 to cover the Solidarity movement as a press photographer, but returning to Poland again after the collapse of communism he became interested in the existence of relics of Jewish life in the small towns and villages in the countryside outside Kraków. It was a meeting with the British anthropologist Jonathan Webber that led to the joint project that was to become known as Traces of Memory. Prof. Webber had been engaged in field research in Polish Galicia for a number of years. His research was intended for publication and his search for a publication photographer led him to Chris. Eventually – after working alongside Jonathan for almost 10 years and producing almost 1,000 photographs – Chris decided to establish the Galicia Jewish Museum, as a permanent home for his photographs.
At the heart of the Museum is the permanent exhibition, Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland. It features photographs by the late Chris Schwarz. It is co-curated by Prof. Jonathan Webber who also provided the texts. The exhibition pieces together a picture of the relics of Jewish life and culture in Polish Galicia that can still be seen today, interpreting these traces in a manner that is thought-provoking. The new permanent exhibition, An Unfinished Memory: Jewish Heritage and the Holocaust in Eastern Galicia, by photographer and essayist Jason Francisco, complements the core exhibition.