The ideas that we make use of in order to define the relationship we have to the world around us and to our histories often come to carry more weight that they might reasonably be expected to bear. At the same time, and despite fragility, such defining concepts become a short-hand way of describing those relationships and, to a certain extent, absolve us from having to examine them more closely.
The notion of ‘folk’ is one important example of this, whether it is being applied to a culture, a set of customs or even to individual people, flattening out real differences, to create a conceptual space that is basically unchanging and a-historical, as if what it encompasses were somehow outside of time. Furthermore, ‘folk’ is a concept that is never self-applied, but belongs to observers whose viewpoints are always resolutely ‘non-folk’ in origin.
In his first monograph, Aaron Schuman explores the collections and history of the Cracow Ethnographic Museum along with his own personal history. Blending photographs from the museum’s archives and images taken by Schuman himself, Folk is both a study of the ethnographic museum’s traditions, history, archives, artifacts and practices and a story of curiosity, self-discovery and the fusion of history and memory. Personal narrative interfaces with preservation and documentation, and in this sense it can be argued that Schuman has embraced the mission of the museum, which is to be a center for reflection and understanding of ourselves and others.