ALEKSANDER GIEYSZTOR, THE FIRST DIRECTOR OF THE ROYAL CASTLE IN WARSAW
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Aleksander Gieysztor (1916–1999) was unquestionably one of the most outstanding representatives of the Polish humanities in the 20th century. He considered himself a historian, and his basic workplace was the Historical Institute of the University of Warsaw, while his research focused around mediaeval culture. He became a museum professional slightly against his own will, in the last decades of his career, when taking on the position of the Director of the rebuilt Royal Castle in Warsaw. Despite thinking of himself as a historian, Gieysztor was well prepared to exert the function, since he had always been extremely interested in artistic sources, as important and clear as a historiographer’s narrative or a chronicler’s note. Not only did numerous publications testify to his interest, but he also formulated the programme of the Team for the Research into the Beginnings of the Polish State, which he headed in 1948–1955. Owing to its historical and symbolical significance, the Warsaw Castle took an important position in Gieysztor’s career. He was by Stanisław Lorentz’s side from the very beginning, supporting him in his efforts to have the Castle rebuilt, the project neglected by Poland’s Communist authorities. Having become member of the Civil Committee for Rebuilding the Royal Castle, Gieysztor headed its Archaeological-Historical section. From 1973 he became member of the so-called Castle Curator Board: a team which collegially managed the Castle. Esthetical sensitivity and artistic erudition, as well as a thorough knowledge of old-Polish culture provided Gieysztor with an excellent background to fit with the group of scholars decisive for the shape and educational programme of the reconstructed Castle; later, individually, they allowed him to find satisfaction in the role of the Director heading its furbishing. Gieysztor acknowledged this project to have been his greatest intellectual challenge in the last decades of his academic career. However, he regarded it as his duty: service to society longing for symbols to shape its historical identity.
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