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A story about women, created by women. Interiors of the Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukov.

Dobrawa Bies
24 of August '22
Technical data
Name: Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukov
Investor: Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zhukov.
Location: Poland, Zhukov
Studio: Biuro Kreacja
Interior design: Dorota Terlecka, Marianna Matuszewska
Graphic design: Anna Gawron
Script and literary development: Malgorzata Domanska
Photos: Alka Murat
Area: 168 m²
Calendar: 2022

What was the daily life of nuns living in a cloister? Where did Kashubian embroidery come from? What was taught in the Norbertine school? You can learn the answers to these and many other questions by visiting the recently opened Museum of the Norbertine Nuns of Zhukov. Architects from the studio Biuro Kreacja are responsible for the design of its interiors and exposition. We talk to Dorota Terlecka about the history of the monastery, work on the exhibition arrangement and the lily motif.

Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukow

Interior of one of the rooms of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukovsky Museum

Photo: Alka Murat © Biuro Kreacja

The Norbertine SistersMuseum was opened this year at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zhukow, which formerly served as a monastery temple, surrounded by buildings where nuns lived and worked. The history of the monastery dates back to the beginning of the 13th century, and ends in the second half of the 19th century - only the church remains of the entire establishment today.

Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukow

In the museum you can admire, among other things, the museum collection

photo: Alka Murat © Kreacja Office

The fate of Zhukov's Norbertine n uns was closely linked to the surrounding areas and as turbulent as their history. They were full of wars, rapes, robberies, fires, destruction and even more building, farming, creating, repairing. In MNŻ we can learn about the fundamental role of the wise and brave "white nuns" in the economic and cultural development of these lands. So we learn about the origins, we look at the monastic rule written down in the Middle Ages," the architects tell us.

Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukow

The designers showed the history of the nuns and the monastery

Photo: Alka Murat © Kreacja Office

Walking through the interiors, whose aesthetics allude to the simplicity and modesty of monastic life, we learn about its history. Through interactive expositions, we learn about the history of the monastery, what its buildings looked like and where they reached, what was taught at the Norbertine school. We learn about the daily life of the nuns living in a strict cloister. We visit the embroidery workshop and admire examples of textiles, paintings, sculptures and church preciosities from different eras. The various methods of communication proposed by the designers activate the audience, including the youngest, and reflect the multifaceted activities of the nuns.

Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukow, parter

first floor axonometry

© Biuro Kreacja

interview with Dorota Terlecka

Dobrawa Bies: What do you think the arrangement of a museum exhibition is? Is it to create a backdrop, a context, or perhaps a scenography?

Dorota Terlecka: I think all at once. The basis that designers should use is the exhibition scenario. Our role was to find an interesting form or way to show the issues in the scenario, so that the visitor can learn about the topic, history or exhibit in a simple and interesting way. This creates a certain interactive story, leading the visitor through the museum, taking into account full harmony with - in this case - the historic nature of the architecture. However, it is worth noting the servile role of the latter to the exhibition... Even the most interesting interior should not dominate the collections, but only emphasize the value of the exhibition in harmony with the scenario.

Monastery stalls Exhibition visual identity

The stall in the church and the interactive elements of the exhibition

Photo: Alka Murat © Kreacja Office

Dobrawa: How did you start working on the interior design of the museum, where did you start?

Dorota: Naturally, we start with an in-depth understanding of the exhibition theme or script, if any. I find this stage the most fascinating. Through working on exhibitions we often learn many new things about art, science or culture.
In this case, we had a very comfortable situation, because we invited Malgorzata Domanska - the author of the script - and Ania Gawron - the author of the graphic design - to cooperate. Because of our previous acquaintance we worked very pleasantly, and some ideas were created during joint meetings. I have already worked on many exhibitions and I find the situation, where the creators know each other beforehand, extremely comfortable and giving great opportunities.

Zhukov embroidery school Kashubian embroidery

The nuns ran an embroidery school

Photo: Alka Murat © Biuro Kreacja

Dobrawa: What story did you want to tell and convey about the nuns? Who are the audiences of the exhibition?

Dorota: Everyone, going to southern Kashubia from Gdansk or Gdynia, passes through Żukowo. Hence, visitors to the church are mainly residents of the Tricity - in tourist mode or tourists interested in Kashubia. A lot of German tours come to the church, so the entire exhibition has been translated into English, German and Kashubian.

Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukow

museum tells the story of women

Photo: Alka Murat © Kreacja Office

When it comes to the nuns of Zhukov, there are many themes that come up. Of course, the history of the Zhukov monastery and its turbulent fate affecting the entire region is mentioned. There is also mention of the destroyed monastery, of whose ensemble the church with the Antwerp altar and the amazing stalls in which the nuns prayed survives to this day. These same nuns embroidered in a unique way, which gave rise to the Kashubian embroidery as we know it. In the project we wanted to include all these themes. At the same time without overloading small spaces with content. We wanted to introduce the viewer to the mysterious world of a modest monastery that has survived for more than 600 years.

Museum exhibition szufladki w muzeum

the exhibition encourages interaction

Photo: Alka Murat © Creation Bureau

Dobrawa: Is there any place or exhibit in the museum that particularly inspired your work? An exhibit is also about creating stories through shapes, shadows and light. Tell us, please, about the materials used.

Dorota: In the project, we tried to use and show architectural elements that have survived as originals. We are talking about ceiling beams, bricks, or frescoes on the top floor. From the found things, we managed to arrange modern elements such as the electrical or fire protection system, whose introduction into historical buildings is very difficult and, if incompetently placed, often spoils the perception of the whole. Modern balustrades and radiator housings, which have nothing to do with the historic character of the interior, were replaced with ones that will become a pleasant background for the whole exhibitions, without competing with the exposition. At the same time, we took care of every detail in these small spaces.

Museum of the Norbertine Sisters of Zhukow

Anna Gawron is responsible for the graphic design

Photo: Alka Murat © Biuro Kreacja

Let's not forget that the detail is also the materials used, wood, wrought iron handles or identification elements made of steel. We didn't want elements made of plastic to appear in the exhibition and we managed to avoid that. We were inspired by the amazing examples of dandelion embroidery. The design of the entire exhibition features the lily motif - that is, an element of the coat of arms of the Norbertine order. We have specially designed handles with this motif or cut-outs in the balustrades. The detla is discreet and pleases the eye.

Detail of the museum's interior Lily motif

The lily motif appears throughout the museum

Photo: Alka Murat © Biuro Kreacja

Dobrawa: What was the most difficult for you, and what are you most satisfied with in the project?

Dorota: I think the most difficult thing was the small space we had and the pandemic time in which the project and most of the exhibition was created. On the other hand, what we are most satisfied with is that the exhibition is in perfect harmony with this interior, and both the graphic elements and the architectural details are done with attention to detail. This is not only to our credit, but also to the investor, the parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zhukovo, which took care that the exhibition was created in accordance with the project. We know very well how much depends not only on us, but also on those managing the execution of the project, so we take this as a joint success.

Dobrawa: Thank you for the interview.

interviewed: Dobrawa Bies

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