CEREV Director Erica Lehrer opens exhibit & dialogue project in Poland on June 25th

Souvenir, Talisman, Toy is an exhibit and international, intercultural dialogue project that seeks to understand and debate the popularity and meanings of Polish-made figurines depicting Jews. The goal of the project is to showcase the long history and variety of cultural, religious, economic, and political influences on the figurines, and to foster dialogue among different perspectives on their meaning.

The website is a trilingual (English, Polish, Hebrew), participatory site where the public can document and upload their own figurines and share in the dialogue. There is also a Facebook page with project updates, a YouTube channel broadcasting interviews with figurine carvers, buyers, and sellers, and a Twitter feed.

The bilingual (English, Polish) exhibit, featuring over 200 Polish Jewish figurines from collections in Europe, Israel, and North America, will take place at the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Krakow during the city’s 23rd annual Jewish Culture Festival from June 30th – July 14th. A team of Polish student volunteers will serve as dialogue facilitators at the exhibit, and Polish woodcarver Józef Reguła will do carving demonstrations for three days of the exhibit. Visitors will have opportunities to record their own thoughts and responses in notebooks throughout the exhibit, or in audio or video recorded interviews with bilingual student volunteers.

Two panel discussions will accompany the exhibit during the Festival. “The Image of the Jew in Polish Folk and Popular Culture,” will involve prominent Polish scholars and intellectuals. A comparative discussion, “Little Black Sambos, Cigar Store Indians…and Lucky Jews with Coins? Minorities, Kitsch, and Stereotypes on Both Sides of the Atlantic” will feature Concordia University faculty members Dr. Heather Igloliorte (Art History) and Dr. Monica Patterson (CEREV/History Banting Fellow).

Concordia University students Lauren Ramsey (Honors, Public History) and Lizy Mostowski (Honors, English & Creative Writing) will also be traveling to Poland to assistant to the exhibit project alongside Polish students. Read about their roles here.

The project grows out of CEREV, Concordia’s Centre for Ethnographic Research & Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence. Project partners and patrons include the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, and Galicia Jewish Museum, Krakow. Lehrer was awarded a $46,389 SSHRC Connection Grant to support the project.

Read more about Dr. Lehrer’s research on Poland’s Jewish figurines here.

Get the exhibit press release here.

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence