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Andrzej Michałowski


Olęder heritage and its significance in the present day

We, who gathered here in Toruń, are interested and even fascinated with the Olęder colonization in Poland. Although this topic has been the subject of numerous excellent studies and articles, there was no platform for the continuous and inter-institutional exchange of ideas, emergence of new research fields, creation of scientific community, or as a consequence, restorer, museum, and educational communities.
Due to the interest in the Olęder heritage in Poland expressed by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Ośrodek Ochrony Zabytkowego Krajobrazu (The Center for Protection of Historical Landscape) acting as a National Cultural Institute undertook to provide information about the progress of research on the Olęder colonization.
Considering the above, we organized a meeting of people interested in this subject with a participation of the Netherlands Embassy's representative, Dr Gerdien Verchoor. The conference took place in Warsaw in April, 2000, and as a result, we set a direction of our actions.
An issue of quarterly "Krajobrazy Dziedzictwa Narodowego (Landscapes of the National Heritage)" (4/2000) was published as a herald of this topic. The opening article, which encourages us to fulfill our goals, was written by the Dutch Ambassador, Mr. Justus J. De Visser
A session of the Art Historian Association, which took place in December, 1992 in Toruń and was entitled "Dutch in Polish art" was recounted in this quarterly in an article by Dr Marian Kornecki based on field research conducted in the 1950s and 1960s and on general knowledge of the subject.
Our intention was that this issue of "Krajobrazy Dziedzictwa Narodowego" would provide an impetus for promotion and protection of relics of the Dutch colonization.
Currently, we participate in the Conference organized with the Maria Znamierowska-Prüfferowa Ethnographic Museum in Toruń entitled "The Olęders and their heritage in Poland. History, condition, and protection" Our intention is to publish all conference materials, including those that, due to the busy schedule, were not presented, but are closely related to the conference's topic.
In collaboration with interested persons and institutions, we will also consider and attempt to establish periodic publications that would take up these issues.
We believe that such periodical would stimulate development of research on the Dutch colonization, skill exchange, facilitate exchange of knowledge regarding conservation of this heritage, inform about modern solutions drawing on tradition, and highlight platforms for Polish-Dutch cooperation.
Selection of the academic community that would assist in this endeavor, which will include landscape cataloguing, by providing information regarding the following subjects:

  • rural planning and problems of spatial development in relation to the natural conditions
  • building developments and social problems of residents
  • agriculture, animal husbandry, and water engineering
  • food processing and other occupations of residents
  • religion and spiritual life including churches and cemeteries

We are talking about a historical process, for which we do not set spatial or time limits.
This process is assessed by various scientific and technical methods, and should reveal historical heritage that requires legal and active protection.
Therefore, the role of Provincial Restorers of Historical Monuments in this project is so important. Conservation authority and regional centers for research and conservation of cultural heritage possess significant amount of information and knowledge about the Olęder heritage. However, in order to fully identify this heritage, make its inventory, and describe its condition, it is necessary to created appropriate organizational and financial conditions.
We should consider a possibility to establish a nation-wide research and conservation program, which with the support of the Royal Netherlands Embassy could be presented to our government for approval as part of agreements regarding international cultural cooperation.
I believe that this program should include scientific research, field surveys, assessment, "conservation" through cataloguing, as well as maintenance and restoration of the precious monuments of this heritage.
Historical monument conservation services and environmental protection institutions often deal with difficult problems without support of local government or owners and users of natural resources or historical buildings and areas.
In addition to improvement of the condition of the Dutch heritage in Poland through examination, identification, protection, proper developments, and usage in the modern world, the program should also created a platform for mobilization of numerous public organizations that would undertake educating local communities according to slogan: "Conscious landscape management and protection of historical landscape".
One should bear in mind that, frequently, members of our society fail to realize that they inhabit a landscape that reflects achievements of many generations. The surrounding landscape is treated exclusively an object possessing material value, which undergoes depreciation and does bring about any other associations that one could call emotional. The material value devoid of any sentiments is the only thing that counts.
The Dutch colonization, which constitutes an important element of our history and culture, should be examined in cooperation with the Dutch research centers.
The purpose of the present national conference is to determine the progress of research into our subject and discuss the direction of further actions.
As it was stated above, our activities will include:
- publication of conference materials and attempts to publish the periodical,
- outline of the research and restoration programs regarding the Olęder heritage.
We also suggested that organization of Polish-Dutch conference in Poland in 2002 could, in addition to the scientific aspect, produce practical effects of the cooperation. The Royal Netherlands Embassy was also notified about this proposition.
The task that we should try to accomplish is to introduce the awareness of importance of historical heritage, and in our case joint creation of history, art, and culture, in this case, of Netherlands, to the modern life of Polish people.

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