Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum


Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum

Case Study Contents

1. Ecomuseum Data

Ecomuseum Name

Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum

Date of Creation

15th March 2019


ul. Hubka 1 34-436 Maniowy and OSP Mizerna 34-440 Kluszkowce


+48 512 858 176

1.1. Description of the Ecomuseum

This ecomuseum is at the junction of four cultural areas, covering three Polish municipalities Pieniny, Podhale and Spisz, located in the Polish part of the Carpathian Mountains, and another Slovak one. This area is rich in heritage of three highlander groups that used to compete with each other for ages. This history lies at the root of richness and diversity of local tangible (e.g. architecture, culture landscape, folk costume) and intangible culture (e.g. dialect, customs, music, dances, legends).  There was little cooperation between those highlander groups. Local municipalities have limited potential to take care of safeguarding cultural heritage and integrating it in local development.

Regarding this situation Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum was founded back in 2019. It consists of 35 heritage sites and was created to increase cooperation between local stakeholders in order to maintain and promote local heritage basing on grassroots civic initiatives.

Partners worked out a common tourism-education offer tailored to various target groups. It includes art, artisan and cuisine workshops (making hay toys, traditional carpets, tissue paper flowers, crocheting, baking bread and traditional potato cakes, local dances, collecting and using local herbs), learning local values during walking, bike or kayak trips or going on traditional cart or sleigh ride, tasting local cuisine or experience highlander robbery attack. The ecomuseum is coordinated by a local organization named Spring Association – Informal Education Center.

1.2. Members of the Ecomuseum

Name of the person in charge

Natalia Niemiec

Number of ecomuseum team members


Qualification/training of team members

  • Art History
  • Specialists in regionalism (dance and dialect instructors)
  • Artists and artisans
  • Culture animation
  • Project management
  • Physiotherapy, hippotherapy
  • Guiding, storytelling

Besides, Ecomuseum partnership members have local and regional knowledge (history, cultural traditions, flora (and plants use e.g. in herbal medicine and cuisine) and fauna, local cuisine). Some of them have also been trained in social knowledge and skills including: conflict management, team management, group dynamic; communication and promotion campaigns building (e.g. in social media) and in media cooperation. Important competences and experiences are linked to customer service, events organization (concerts, galas, picnics, exhibitions, competitions, festivals and study visits) and organization of trips and rallies (kayak, bike, walking). One person completed Visegrad Academy of Culture Management.


Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum was built in a participative way. In the beginning, potential partners were invited to regular meetings/workshops in order to deliver the knowledge concerning ecomuseum concept, methodology and good practices. They enabled identification of local natural and cultural heritage resources and establishing contacts with potential partners. During the workshop, the concept of Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum was worked out in terms of territorial coverage, management, mode of operation, content and methods of educating of heritage and internal and external communication. In response to a previous educational diagnose through workshops, a set of trainings was implemented concerning: mobilizing and involving people to action, cooperation and cross-sector partnership and communication with particular consideration of social media. An important mileston in the ecomuseum shaping was a series of study visits of various groups of stakeholders to the Carp Valley Ecomuseum. Current training needs identification was done in December 2021 and they include: local nature and landscape, culture of three highlander culture groups (including workshops of dances, songs, dialect), creative industry (to develop more innovative tools and methods) and communication based on new technologies. Ecomuseum members and partners remarked their training needs in the field of innovative communication methods and knowledge of local nature, history and culture.

Some Examples of Training offered by the Ecomuseum

Development of ecomuseumThe training included introduction to ecomuseology, examples and good practices, identification of local heritage resources and potential of the region, ecomuseum designing and planning (management and visualisation system)XX
Development of ecomuseumThe training concerned identification of Ecomuseum partners, mechanisms of participation, working out Ecoumuseum concept andoperation assumptios, program of Ecomuseum development.XX
Identification of local heritage resourcesIdentification of local heritage resources had the form of individual meetings with people related to nature and culture heritage (tangible and intangible) from three subregions: Pieniny Mts., Podhale and Spisz. They were aimed at survey of sites potential and improvement of heritage dissemination. It was done by experts and it resulted in enrichment of ecomuseum offer and addition of new sites and people to be part of ecomuseum.XX
Exchange of experiences and good practicesThree study visits to ‘Carp Valley’ Ecomuseum served to learn and exchange good practices in operation, management and communication in ecomuseum and functioning of individual sites.XX
Social mobilizationWorkshop served to develop better understanding of mechanisms of mobilizing and involving various social groups in cooperation. It was addressed to representatives of three Ecomuseum cultural areas:
Pieniny, Podhale, Spisz.
Study-network visitsOrganization of 4 study-network visits to local heritage sites to improve the knowledge of local history, culture and nature as well as sites included in Ecomuseum. It served working out Ecomuseum network offer and raise the awareness of the various aspects of heritage that characterize three culture areas. Ecomuseum expert helped designing better tourism-education offer and methods to disseminate living heritage.XX
Cross-sector partnership, cooperation and social communicationThe training deliver knowledge and skills useful in development of partnership, its efficient and effective operation and the role of particular partners. It was aimed at improvement of internal communication in Ecomuseum that is structured in the form of a partnership.XX
Modern communication toolsTraining served improvement of external communication skills for Ecomuseum members, including social media.XX

Some Examples of Training Needs Identified

Modern communication methods in social mediaThe goal of two trainings is to raise knowledge and skills of Ecomuseum members and partners in the area of innovative tools for communication on-line and software enabling better promotion of heritage actions and its tangible and intangible values (fb, Instagram, Canva, Wordpress, Kahoo, Mobirise, Pixabay, Logomaster, Gimb etc.)AllXX
Local nature and culture of Pieniny, Podhale and Spisz regionThe aim of a series of trainings and workshops is o deepen knowledge of Ecomuseum members and partners in local nature, history, diverse culture and traditions of Pieniny, Podhale and Spisz. As a result Ecomuseum will be better prepared to deliver educational content.WorkshopsXX

2. Gallery

3. Funding and Resources

Type of entity
Cross-sector partnership of diverse entities (public institutions, NGOs, entrepreneurs, individuals. The Ecomuseum is coordinated by Spring Association – Informal Education Center.
There is no one owner. The coordinating body is an NGO, owners of particular sites are mixed.
Official status
It has no special legal status. It operates as partnership based of signed membership declarations and by-laws. Museums and mini-museums are Ecomuseum members and partners.
Annual budget
Fixed anunual budget is EUR 850, based on membership fees, besides it is project based.

Guaranteeing sustainability of ecomuseum is a big challenge for the ‘Dunajec River Villages’ Ecomuseum is a grassroots initiative and it has no annual subsidy to cover operation costs.

  • Funds to cover small basic and current ecomuseum cost come from members annual fees. They do not make a considerable income, however they are common obligation and are the subject of mutual decisions. First map, soon after the launching of the ecomuseum has been designed and printed basing of fees. In Poland this simple solution is rather rare. People and institutions are so much used to project funds that they are not ready to invest their own money, even small amounts. As the ecomuseum coordinator is a small organization (with no paid staff) they all made the decision to regular support.
  • Funds to cover common ecomuseum expenditures (like training, visualisation, promotion, marketing) are mostly raised by means of projects. The coordinating organization – Spring Association – Informal Education Center is the leader. These projects have already resulted in the development of ecomuseum edited information materials like leaflets, tourist passports, information boards, one promotion film and other short films presenting workshops and practical lessons concerning local traditions. They also enabled to organize trainings and study visits for ecomuseum members and partners. They have also served for the development of new offers, attractions and innovative solutions. Thank to a project two quests (treasure hunt game) were worked out and edited.
  • Funds to develop ecomuseum sites come also mostly from grants, but in this case project leaders are owners/managers of individual ecomuseum sites. For example, a small NGOs raised funds to restore old cowshed to turn it into a workshop venue (hay toys, traditional carpets, crocheting, bread baking, making traditional potato cakes), an NGO of Rural Housewives raised funds to equip a mini-museum and offer artisan and cuisine workshops for visitors.

Ecomuseum sites raise money delivering their services like accommodation, food (e.g. a bistro specializing in meals from trout), workshops, trips, transport (crossing artificial lake in gondolas to enjoy the landscape), bike rental (there is a picturesque bike trail around the artificial lake) as well as local products: honey, preserves, traditional sheep cheese. Some partners also have museum status sell tickets to visit their collections and exhibitions. The ecomuseum members discuss possible common sale system of their offer and transfer part of income to further ecomuseum development.

4. Social and Community Participation

‘Dunajec River Villages’ Ecomuseum follows a participative approach. It has been created in the series of participative workshops that various local stakeholders took part (representatives of NGO, public institutions, entrepreneurs, farmers, passionates, individuals). It operates as a cross-sector partnership, following democratic rules (collective decision-making process, strategic planning, acceptance of new members). It is coordinated by a local NGO, which makes an executive board with three other ecomuseum members. This ecomuseum is always open to collaborations, new members and partners are welcome, as long as they meet ecomuseum criteria (e.g. be linked to local nature, history, culture, be environment-friendly, delivering reliable knowledge and skills, be accessible and ready to cooperate). Members and partners sign membership/partnership declaration and they follow the by-laws. Ecomuseum is aimed at delivering education based on natural and cultural heritage to local citizens and visitors in a practical, involving way to let experience the uniqueness of the region. Ecomuseum makes a collection of sites all run by knowledgeable people, what enables a deep and fruitful discovering of the region. One can benefit from lectures and storytelling, take part in art, artisan, cuisine interactive workshops, bike, kayak, boat or wandering excursions to learn about exceptional flora, fauna, culture landscape, specific architecture, traditional agriculture and sheep and cow breeding economy for better understanding of region’s past and development.

4.1. Local Population

Number of inhabitants of the territory/locality where the ecomuseum is located
41 000
Number of members of the local population involved in the ecomuseum

Ways of participation

This ecomuseum has been created as a grassroots initiative. The incentive was given by a local NGO. However, the whole process of ecomuseum development has always been open – participating people (from NGO, public institutions, entrepreneurs and passionates) contacted people in their villages and invited to co-create ecomuseum (artists, artisans, farmers, food producers etc.) Process of ecomuseum development has been consulted with local authorities, culture institutions (Tatra Mts. Museum, Dunajec Castle Museum, Pieniny National Park). The concept of ecomuseum (territorial coverage, content, narration, criteria, management system, communication, membership, cooperation mode, tourism-education offer etc.) has been worked out during workshops, discussions, work group). It involved more than 100 people from the region, some have become members and partners, and the others remained sympathetic and observers. Dunajec River Villages ecomuseum is managed basing on democratic rules where all strategic decisions are made collectively. The local NGO Spring Association – Informal Education Center is the coordinator, but this ecomuseum has its management team, consisting of a coordinator representative and three members’ representatives, and working groups/committees focused on particular issues: 1) marketing, 2) membership, 3) projects and funding. Th ecomuseum a such has no legal personality but operates as a cross-sector partnership. Members and partners sign membership declarations and have to approve obligatory by-laws (worked out collectively) that determine its operation. Dunajec River Villages ecomuseum is always open for new members and partners, all members decide about their approval.

4.2. Social milieu

Number of foreign visitors
7 000 – 10 000 estimation before pandemic, lack of data

Forms of involvement

Born in 2019, this is relatively young. Thanks to raised grants for the ecomuseum development, building local relationship and communication skills succeeded to design and implment visualisation system to distinguish ecomuseal sites and make it visible both to local community and visitors. Year 2020, the outbreak of pandemic, brought a change in tourism and the area of ‘Dunajec River Villages Ecomuseum’, that was visited by a record number of tourism from Poland who could benefit from ecomuseum offer thanks to availability of information materials. Each ecomuseum site hase an information board with a map showing the whole ecomuseum and all its sites. The ecomuseum concept assumes possibility of participation in various workshops, lectures, excurtions, during which visitors can learn about the region in dialogue with its inhabitants. Workshop offer anable engagement in art, artian, culture and cuisine activities to experience and learning by practice (e.g. making hay toys and tissue paper flowers, weaving traditional carpets, embroidery, local dances dialect), discovering nature, history and cultre on their own using quests (treasure hunts). Ecomuseum tourst passport is and incentive to visit all sites to learn as much as possible local heritage, as each site has a stamp to seal.

4.3. Website analisis

Type of intervention made possible by the website

Only information Chance to suggest actions Complaints or Compliments Purchase of tickets Open access or under registration

Kinds of suggestions available

Proposing museum objectives On funding issues About museum planning On accessibility

Quality of Feedback

Receipt message is sent The proposal is discussed at the museum management level Results of the discussion are sent

Ecomuseum has no individual web page but it is presented on a web subpage on the Spring Association webpage. It has only informative character. The information is delivered only in Polish. It delivers following information:

  1. general information of ecomuseum concept and ‘Dunajec River Villages’ Ecomuseum – goals and how it was developed;
  2. sites and people in Ecomuseum;
  3. how to become member or partner;
  4. Ecomuseum offer,
  5. gallery, mostly with films

In Facebook profile plays the most important role in Ecomuseum promotion and delivery of current, updated information. The FB posts are shared by partners and thus the information is spread. Anybody interested in contacting ecomuseum or bringing opinion, feedback or suggestions can contact ‘Spring’ Association, responsible for the web page and the ecomuseum coordination. The executive board and members are aware of the necessity of having a web page dedicated to ecomuseum and currently they are collecting funds in order to launch multifunctional professional web page.

5. Innovation and Research

Ecomuseum as a concept and methodology for safeguarding and sharing natural and cultural heritage is brand new for the region and it is a ‘pioneering operation’. This is why it took a few months to explain and let the locals understand it properly, as well as to adapt it to local circumstances. This grassroots action with no leading role of authorities or public institutions was also a new experience. Regarding its development, another innovative solution was launching a long term cooperation involving representatives of various sectors (NGOs, public institutions, companies) and individuals based on partnership principles. In fact, one of the members commented this situation: ‘There has always touristic activity in our region, but hardly ever there has been any cooperation’. This means that, as mentioned before, the development of ecomuseum and its base on a common responsibility, participative mechanisms and mutual involvement is a new experience with no precedent in the region. To understand this, it is worth acknowledging that this region is not homogenous in relation to culture, as one has to deal with three groups of highlanders to start a common venture. It is even more challenging as entities from Slovakia have also been invited to the cooperation (one municipality) and it made the ecomuseum transboundary. Though local authorities had no leading role, they are kept informed about all ecomuseum activities.

The process of ecomuseum development required considerable involvement, as it took two years to complete all preparations, carry out discussions and making common decisions to finally tailor the ecomuseum and initiate its implementation. It is a remarkable success to keep people that have never cooperated before involved for so long, build links and trust to make the involvement sustainable. However, the engagement is not equal among members and partners and it is a constant challenge to activate those who are less involved.

Mapping sites and bringing together all offers based on natural and cultural resources, into a network offer is a great achievement. As the sites have operated in isolation so far and in many cases people had not known each other before. Ecomuseum foster development of new tourism-education offers in the form of interactive workshops and invited to cooperation artists, artisans and producers that have no experiences and had to break down mental barriers to start their operation. Local cuisine is rather simple and it is hardly served in any restaurants in the region, this is why the ecomuseum promotes traditional food and has the aspiration to popularize it among visitors, starting with cooking workshops and tasting.

For those who are not ready to take part in workshops and prefer to discover region on their own, the ecomuseum has prepared a series of quests (treasure hunts) that allow local people and visitors follow unmarked trails and learn about nature, history and culture of particular area. The narration is written in the form of a poem and includes riddles (clues) to be solved thanks to attentive observation of the places. All quests have been worked out in a participative way, with the involvement of local community.

6. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Number of SDGs that the ecomuseum is working on
Preferential SDGs
17, 3, 4

SDG-related projects/actions

Working out educational offer based on natural and cultural heritageEcomuseum collected all diffused interactive educational offer into a common network offer and foster development of new proposals that have not been represented before.4 Quality educationA series of films presenting the offer and a leaflet presenting all offers in a one informational document
Building partnershipA sequence of meetings and workshops to work out rules and mode of operation to launch a cross-sector partnership that would implement an ecomuseum17 Partnerships for the goalsPartnership declarations and by-laws signed by 33 members and partners
Workshops in ‘Bulls’ Barn’ in SpiszRestoration of an old bulls’ barn and adaptation for a interactive workshop venue and development of workshop offer.4 Quality educationNew function of a bulls’ barn and quality educational workshop offer: making hay toys, weaving traditional carpets, crocheting, makinkg potato cakes and baking bread
Podhale mini-museumExtension of a mini-museum collecting old equipment, costumes, fernitures etc. and development of workshop offer4 Quality educationWorkshop offer (art, craft and food) associated with guided visiting mini-museum
Active time in EcomuseumDevelopment of possibilities to move around in Ecomuseum by bike and cross-country skis3 Good health and well-beingA series of bike and ski rentals and development of trails
Development of questsEcomuseum uses quest methodology as a good vehicle for delivering educational content in the form of a game. Unmarked trail that is guided by a poem including moving instructions and riddles leads to a hidden treasure. The poem is full of information concerning nature, history, culture served in an attractive form and foster self-reliant discovery of the particular place.3 Good health and well-being
4 Quality education
A series of foot and bike quests available in the form of printed leaflet.

Ecomuseum’ development is dependant on projects implementation. They are implemented together – a project for whole ecomuseum, realized by coordinating organization or individually by particular Ecomuseum member or partner. Both during Eomuseum launching, developing and operating Sustainable Development Goals have not been treated as the main focus. It would be too abstract and ambitious for a gropup of local people. However, ecomuseum goals and character causes that its creators and leaders touch the fundamental values that are expressed in SDGs. Thus, SDGs have not been guidlines for Ecomuseum to formulate its goals and planning activities. But reffering to SDGs one can easily find convergence in the way Ecomuseum operate, goals and principles that guide Ecomuseum as well as concrete activities and achievements. It is also linked to values that Ecomuseum members and partners share and the composition of people, organizations and institutions that make it. In future, plans and actions will be more attentively analyzed for their relations to SDGs.

7. COVID-19

Paradoxally the pandemic situation was not that much influencing the ecomusuem activities. The number of visitors increased compared to former seasons as Polish tourists gave up travelling abroad and searched for interesting places inside Poland. That made the number of individual tourists and potential Ecomuseum target groups grow. However, visitors were more keen on open air activities rather than participation in those workshops taking place in closed rooms. Workshops were more often deliverd to local children and youth as school trip and excurtions were suspended, esp. in 2020. The year 2020 and partially 2021 was highly devoted to development of offers and working out information and promotion materials (leaflets, tourist passports, films, photos, information borads, gadgets. However, the ecomuseum developed new ideas of reaching the audience, also in case of recurrent restrictions: working out a special interactive guidebook for children to be preapred in cooperation with children from the region and organization of heritage festival for children to promote heritage and the guidebook. Another idea is to prepare a modern e-book for visitors in cooperation with tourist bloggers and influencers to attract more tourist interested in getting to know and experience the eritage of the region.


Barbara Kazior

Scientific Coordinators

Leandro França, Barbara Kazior, Óscar Navajas, Manuel Parodi-Álvarez, Lisa Pigozzi, Raul dal Santo, Julio Seoane, Maristela Simão