Polish Treasures - Migration through the lens of art

woodcut print, black ink on paper, showing a female figure standing with face in profile looking down. there appear to be multiple arms raised above her head and one stretched out in the direction of her gaze.The Hunterian and Archives & Special Collections at the University of Glasgow host an impressive and varied selection of objects created by Polish artists throughout centuries – these items either migrated to Scotland themselves being acquired or gifted to the host collection  or were created in Scotland by artists of Polish origin who settled in Scotland. They include paintings, prints, crafted objects and archival materials documenting more ephemeral performances.

The objects in the Hunterian collections reflect the movement and the settlement of people in Scotland. Understanding of this process is of particular importance as over the last few decades the UK foreign born population more than doubled – it increased from 3.8 million in 1993 to 9.5 million in 2019. (1)  According to NRS Scotland in 2019 7% of Scotland’s population were non-British nationals. Of them, 64% (237,000) were EU nationals and the biggest national group was Polish. 97,000 Polish citizens were living in Scotland in 2019. (2)

In my project I will focus on selected Polish works in The Hunterian and Archives & Special Collections to explore Polish migration to Scotland through the lens of art.

I will invite the museum audiences to join me in using the creative processes to explore woodcuts created by Janka Malkowska (1912 – 1997), the Hunter Amber Goblet attributed to Jacob Dobbermann (1682–1745) and the Anglo-Polish Ballet performances documented in the programmes of the Alhambra and the Royal Lyceum Theatre respectively.

This project builds on Shklovsky’s perception that ‘art exists in order to give back the sensation of life’, that ‘art is the means to live through the making of a thing’ (3) and that in the process of experiencing an artwork the viewers are able to gain deeper insights into the experience that led to creating it, build connection with ‘the other’. My aim is to invite museum visitors to participate in what Ingold describes as ‘the creativity of the productive processes that bring the artefacts themselves into being: on the one hand in the generative currents of the materials of which they are made; on the other in the sensory awareness of practitioners’. (4) I hope that it will facilitate new relationships with the artworks in the Hunterian collections and inspires new perspectives from which migration could be approached.


Dobrochna Futro
is an SGSAH AHRC DTP funded doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow. In her PhD project, she explores multilingual practices of contemporary artists who engage with languaging in migratory contexts and explores their potential for language pedagogy. She is currently employed in a role of research assistant in the RSE funded ‘How to talk about migrations? Current Academic Research in Migration Studies and its Relevance for School Curriculum in Scotland and Further Afield ’project led by Dr Mirna Solic with Dr Elwira Grossman and Dr Lavinia Hirsu. Before she started her PhD Dobrochna completed an MA in Polish Philology Made from amber, a drinking bowl or vase rests on a pedestal formed of two embracing figures, one make, one femaleat Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland and an MA in History of Art at UCL, London, UK. She has a professional background in the visual art sector.

Images from top:
Janka Malkowska, "Petrushka's Ghost", (GLAHA:50824) 1982, woodcut, ink on paper;
Hunter Amber Goblet (GLAHM M4137) attributed to Jacob Dobbermann (Polish, active in Kassel, 1682–1745).


  1. New research insights into the experiences of migrant populations in the UK talk, University of Liverpool, 21 January 2021, led by Carine van der Boor, Jessica Deol, Ross White.
  2. Non-UK population of Scotland remains broadly stable over most recent year, https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/news/2019/non-uk-population-of-scotland-remains-broadly-stable-over-most-recent-year accessed 15/14/2021
  3. Viktor Shklovsky, Viktor Shklovsky: A Reader, ed. & trans. by Alexandra Berlina (Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2016), p.80.
  4. Tim Ingold, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, 1st edition (London ; New York: Routledge, 2013).