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The Warsaw Voice » Other » February 4, 2010
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Interactive Chopin
February 4, 2010   
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Warsaw's Fryderyk Chopin Museum is hitting 2010 with a new look and a three-course feast for the senses: sights, sounds and interactive rooms allow visitors to experience the life and work of the great composer like never before. The new museum at Ostrogski Palace opens March 1. Curator Alicja Knast gives Alex de Moller a taste of things to come.

The stately Ostrogski Palace towers above the Vistula river, a relic of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The building itself is priceless, but the real treasure lies beyond its quaint Baroque facade: the music of Chopin made physical. With the help of over zl.18 million from the Polish government and zl.31 million from the EU, the new Chopin museum is set to bring home to visitors the importance of the great composer's Polish identity.

"There is a big misunderstanding regarding Chopin's upbringing-people think that his formative years were in Paris. That's wrong," says Alicja Knast, the museum's curator. "He was here in Poland until 1830, after which he traveled extensively. We know a lot about Chopin and understand how to present him to the public.

"He did of course emphasize that he was Polish but when you ask French people, they claim he is French. If you look at him closely, he didn't feel French at all."

The museum will offer a combination of Chopin's music, life and writings that can be viewed via several "paths" in any order. Sensors, interactive books and audio clips will propel the visitor through a world of music in an experience designed to be accessible to everyone, including the young and disabled people.

"We want people to meet Chopin and experience him here," says Knast. "We have an open museum that you can browse through as you wish. Most importantly, it consists of three levels which are interlinked but can be seen separately. You can follow the audio trail only if you want to; on top of that you've got an interactive scenario and sometimes your presence will trigger certain components, but that's a secret for now."

Designed for no more than 1,000 visitors a day, the exhibition is aimed at the individual, not the crowd. From March 1, bookings can be made online for one-hour slots.

The official opening will be attended by politicians, officials and even Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is rumored to be a fan of the composer.

"Because the museum is so special in terms of the individual, we can't have crowds here. Either we have a limited amount of people or you can't really get into the content," the curator adds.

"You log in through a system and we can regulate how many people can enter. In order to see how this space works and how visitors respond to it, we will be having a series of meetings and consultations throughout March with many strata of society... with people from museums to musicians and children. I'm sure that every visitor and guest will create his own understanding of Chopin. I would love to hear that people's perceptions of him are different, that they won't tell me one story when they leave the museum, that there will be many different stories filtered by people's own experiences and personalities and that everyone will find something for himself."

The Chopin museum is located in Ostrogski Palace at 1 Okólnik Street, near the fashionable Nowy Świat street and Warsaw city center. Tickets are available from March 1 from the museum website
at www.en.chopin.nifc.pl/museum/
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