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The future of the Earth Museum continues to be uncertain

18 of August '23

When the media first circulated information about the future of the Earth Museum located in the White Palace and Pniewski Villa, it was difficult to be reassured about the future of the complex. Nor were the Ministry's announcements reassuring.

We reported on the difficult situation of the Earth Museum located on Warsaw's Na Skarpie Avenue on August 8, 2023 in the pages of our portal. The Museum of the Earth was to be liquidated and its collections divided among other institutions. The future of the facility was uncertain, which was lamented by community activists who organized petitions against the decision of the Polish Academy of Sciences, which was signed by more than 5,500 citizens. At this point they were waiting for information about the museum and the complex, what decision had been made?

museum lingering in uncertainty

August 14 this year. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage held conferences on the situation of the museum. Present at the conference were Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, PAS president Marek Konarzewski, PAS Earth Museum director Anna Piontek and National Museum of Technology director Miroslaw Zientarzewski. What was said at the conference?

The transformation of the Earth Museum into a branch of the National Museum of Technology assumes a preliminary agreement between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Polish Academy of Sciences. The final formula for the continued operation of the Earth Museum still requires a formal agreement between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Polish Academy of Sciences, Minister Piotr Glinski said.

The initiator of the petition to save the Earth Museum, Adam Przywara, commented on the matter for us.

During the conference, the president of the Polish Academy of Sciences withdrew from almost all of his decisions: the transfer of the collection to Krakow, or the sale of Pniewski Villa and the White Palace. This indicates the sense of the work of all of us involved in defending the Earth Museum. However, despite the assurances, the Museum's fate is not yet clear. It was mentioned repeatedly at the conference that the details of the „rescue” are not known, that is, it is doubtful that any details of the plan for the future have been established, written down and confirmed," Adam Przywara points out.

The Pan Earth Museum is to become a branch of the National Museum of Technology, taking into account agreements between NMT and PAN institutions. In the future, the ministry wants to create a new headquarters for the National Museum of Technology with a branch of the Natural History Museum. The seat of the Museum of the Earth would be leased from PAN until a new edifice is built. What's next for the White Palace and Pniewski Villa? For now, it will remain part of PAN, leased to NMT, but its future continues to be uncertain.

What about the employees?

Aside from the continued future of the buildings, the greatest uncertainties concern two problems — the future of the collections and the staff. In the case of the collections, the question arises about their distribution. During the conference, attention was drawn to the division of the collection into exhibition and scientific collections. It is difficult to trace how such a division would take place — after all, elements of the "scientific" collection would probably also be used for temporary exhibitions. Eventually, the division of these collections is to occur, to what scale will they be trimmed? This is still unknown.

The second issue is the future of the employees, as no one quite knows what their transition to the new institution will look like. It is difficult to ask the opinion of the employees themselves; only the Communications Office of the Polish Academy of Sciences currently has a statement on the future of the Earth Museum.

[...] A solution that certainly puts a question mark over the institution's many full-time employees, as well as its scientific and educational character. We must remember that the Museum of the Earth in its current form is not only an exhibition and educational unit, but also a scientific one — employing scientists and researchers. The museum's collection also has these two functions. According to the PAN president, the scientific and educational functions are to be separated. The scientific staff as well as part of the collection will stay at PAN, while the educational staff and part of the collection will be integrated into the structure of the Museum of Technology. The dividing line between the scientific and educational parts is not clear, and in my opinion such a division simply should not happen," Adam Przywara points out.

willa Pniewskiego

Pniewski Villa

photo Adrian Grycuk |© Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The future of the Villa in the prime minister's office?

In addition to the question of the museum's future, its relocation, the situation of employees, or the division of the collection, there is the question of the use of the buildings after the lease ends and the eventual construction of a new building. According to unofficial information we obtained, the Prime Minister's Office was said to have expressed interest in taking over the building. When asked to respond to this information, we received the following statement from the Chancellery:

The Pniewski Villa and the White Palace are not in the real estate resources of the Chancellery (the Chancellery does not have a permanent management title to these properties). The Prime Minister's Office has no information on the subject of the acquisition of Pniewski Villa.

Pniewski still alive within these walls

What does the future hold for the Earth Museum and the building complex on Aleja Na Skarpie? It's hard to say unequivocally. In the meantime, it is worth noting the „Bohdan Pniewski's Birthday” event planned for August 26, which will include a tour of the monuments, a concert and a meeting of museum supporters. The memory of the architect is still alive in this place.

For more information, visit the Earth Museum website.

Minister Gliński's conference leaves much unsatisfied, and a threat to supporters of the Earth Museum and architecture lovers. Details about the future of the collection, the institution and its heart, the staff, are still to be seen.

Wiktor Bochenek

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