Warsaw’s Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich has finally opened its doors to an international crowd drawn to culture, history, Jewish-Polish relations, modern architecture and of-the-moment urban experiences. The grand opening followed years of fundraising and tumultuous politics, as well as a recent redesign of the Museum’s logo by the elite creative agency PZL. Indeed, this rebranding itself raises questions about typographic fads, brand semiotics and an institution’s reasons to rebrand (as well as the emperor’s clothes...), but none of these are the subject of this article.
Instead, what compels my present inquiry is the awkward English translation of the (already rather wordy) original name: Museum of the History of Polish Jews. With its double possessive construction it strikes me as a cumbersome mouthful, and frankly I am bewildered that this language issue wasn’t addressed during the recent brand redesign.
Further confounding things is the Museum’s haphazard deployment of multiple English versions of the name. There’s the version in the logo. And then there’s the still more clumsy Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in the web page title bar and a visitor’s corresponding browser history (note the second the in the latter possessive construction). But here’s the real surprise: the web address used by the museum, both for its English and Polish sites, is in fact www.jewishmuseum.org.pl.
It baffles me that no one in charge has insisted that order be restored to this mess. The Museum’s English name could be changed to, say, Jewish Museum of Poland. Sure, some might protest that it is not a museum of Poland but a museum of history (a debatable point, actually). Others might stress the importance of emphasizing the historical aspect. Finally, despite contextual clues, it may well be mandatory to leave in the phrase Polish Jews and not replace this meaning with the simpler, broader term Jewish. Still, that leaves quite a few options, all of which call for a page title edit and many of which would benefit from a new URL. A renaming process is in order, and given the Museum’s nascency, now's the time for it—before the exhibition is completed later this year.
PZL offered their efforts pro bono. Surely, a naming professional with a spectacular knowledge of English can do the same. Thoughts, anyone?