Associated with University of Warsaw Botanic Garden

Museum Night

At night a Botanic Garden is a place of scents and secrets, where visitors can roam following the smells of the roses and lavender. This year a colourful illumination led visitors through the garden on a path of food experiences and narratives. 

Food Security is our subject and in the BigPicnic project we’ve been asking our audiences and partners how they eat, what they eat, what food means to them, how we can protect our food sources and what they think is the future of food. During this Museum Night we wanted to show these conversations.  Visitors were drawn into the dark garden to illuminated edible plants, each of which visitors could look up in a foraging booklet titled “By the table” containing descriptions, anecdotes and recipes. Between the floral points we placed a number of film screens. 

Under the beech trees we presented our film “Around the Table”. This is a compilation of interviews held with co-creation partners and friends involved in the BigPicnic project. Each tells the story of a moment of change, when the speaker started to think about food differently. Among others an organic farmer describes the transition from conventional to organic, a Warsaw Uprising insurgent tells of hunger, an ethnobotanist speaks of collecting wild edible plants, and a horticulturalist remembers moving from a rural to urban environment. 

Visitors to University of Warsaw Botanic Garden museum night

Photo credit: Krystyna Jędrzejewska-Szmek

Each interview was recorded in one session in easy conversation around the speaker’s table. The films are also exhibited on a table, this draws viewers to the intimacy of the conversation. Magda, one of our team members, spent the evening talking to visitors by the table. These conversations brought the table to life, with many visitors sharing their food stories, experiences and queries.  

In the pergola, in another area of the Garden, we presented the digital narratives collected by Meise Botanic Garden when working with the Brussels African Community titled “The Face behind the Food”. These stories also focus on change, relocating and food memories. The combination of these two sets of films, each telling stories of change and food, brought a wider, international perspective to the Polish experiences. 

In the open air kitchen Iwa, an ethnobotanist working for our team, served herbal infusions from wild edible plants. Iwa captivated her audience with stories of food and herbs gathered in Eastern Poland, Western Ukraine and the North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan. 

Finally, at the end of the route through the garden, we invited two food trucks to serve food to our guests. By their stalls we placed boards with stories of the owners’ immigration and food experiences. Museum Night is always a popular event, bringing between 2000-3000 visitors into our garden. Due to the nature of the event these are often people who have not visited the garden before. 

The films “Around the Table” will be shown in different locations in the next months, with screenings planned at a community picnic and at a community centre.