For those of you who’ve never worked in Poland before, it may seem like being on time at 7am could take a little getting used to. Strangely enough, even with jet lag, it hasn’t been difficult for me to arise and seize the day. Though supported by copious amounts of coffee, for me, each moment of this internship has been driven by something that I can’t explain. Though you readers may tire of these whimsical musings, it’s impossible and amazing to explain the honor of being here. (And I love sharing these with you too…)
Today, I’ll be spending most of the day with Mrs. Teresa Wontor-Cichy who’s been with the museum for over 15 years. As an accomplished historian in the research department, she’s also one of the top tour guides, and today I’m getting a private tour through the former Auschwitz I camp. This will be a formal introduction to my work here; a meeting face-to-face with history. Teresa knows the ropes so to speak, about interpretation. One of the key skills that just happens to be the most challenging in the field of museum interpretation is the ability to take ownership of the site at which you’re interpreting. Put a different way, a good interpreter, or presenter, or docent (museum-ese is a challenging language, I know), would be able to be intimately connected to their site, so that in explaining it’s history to guests, people feel a sense of trust, which is critical in interpretation. From my earliest days in the museum field at The Henry Ford, this was a challenging area at first, but after cutting my teeth there for a few years, I became privileged to coach other young interpreters in this very field. Being here at Auschwitz changes that dramatically. How is it possible to take ownership of this most horrific and tragic history? How is it possible to become intimate with the past? How does it change you? These questions may have no real answers, but I promise you, I’ll look for them.
Well, the tour of Auschwitz I is done. Monday we go to Birkenau to finish this emotional introduction. Words can’t express much at this point. I’m tired–time to think.