15 Unusual Polish Museums Worth Visiting This Summer
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Worth Visiting This Summer, Book Art Museum in Łódź, photo: promotional materials, muzeum-ksiazk-artystycznej.jpg
Pipes and 17th-century churchwardens, hand-painted porcelain rarities, historic fonts, accordions and medieval torture halls. Culture.pl shares 15 unusual Polish museums that will astound you with their originality – and might even haunt your vacation.
The beauty of printing at the Book Art Museum in Łódź
More than 1,000 book masterpieces, 250,000 matrices, and 30 tons of historic machinery from Gutenberg’s era are all to be discovered at the Book Art Museum in Łódź. Here, the printmaking's past meets the future of book design within the post-industrial spaces of Henryk Grohman’s villa in the Księży Młyn district. It's definitely worth finding yourself here and discovering the art of books!
Founded in 1993, the museum developed out of a small publishing company called Correspondance des Arts, which was started in 1980 and later changed into a foundation under the same name. The founders of the company and the creators of the museum, Janusz and Jadwiga Tryzno, were active participants of the independent underground printing initiatives of the Solidarity movement. Together, they restored old machinery, cultivated the art of printing and also saved a font-casting workshop in Warsaw. Not only did they save the workshop’s foundry equipment, but also old Polish, Hebrew, Cyrillic, and Armenian fonts.
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They weren’t thrown away, and they constitute very precious material for future generations,
the creators of the institution told the PAP agency. The Tryznos have been honoured for their activity by the American Association of the History of Print, for a special merit in the field of printing.
The Book Art Museum is also engaged in publishing activity and it conducts various educational workshops. Their collection comprises a contemporary set: Polish artistic books of the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Accordions from across the world in Kashubia
The only museum of its kind in Poland and one of only three such institutions in Europe can be found in the very heart of the Kaszuby region. And this location is no coincidence, because it is here that accordion music enjoys a long and rich tradition. Local musicians even call the instrument distinct names, such such świnia (pig), kwecz or kaloryfer (heater).
The Museum’s oldest accordions date back to the 1830s. A historic Hohner Carmen II, a German Tatra, and more than 100 unique instruments from across the world also find themselves in the Museum’s collection in Kościerzyna. As the authors of a multimedia exhibition at the Accordion Museum comment:
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The world of accordions is incredibly colourful and versatile. These instruments have a soul.
All of the information presented at the museum is provided in four languages: Polish, Kaszubian, English, and German. Every visitor is also invited to try playing an accordion.
Bells & pipes
The historic late-Baroque Clock Tower towers 40 metres high at the heart of the Old Town of Przemyśl. It is there that one can admire an exceptional collection of items. Both bells and pipes are the handicraft pride of Przemyśl, so it comes as no surprise that the European capital of both pipe and bell making has decided to enclose some of its best items within a museum cabinet.
Inside, one can see clay pipes, churchwardens from the 17th century, historic pipes, biedermeyer pipes and hunters’ and soldiers’ pipes. But that's not all…
On the first floor, we display the collection of pipes found in the Przemyśl fortifications. The porcelain pipes are also particularly interesting – among them is one that belonged to a reservist and which is connected to the custom that accompanied a soldier’s passing into the reserve forces. A separate space has been reserved for the so-called 'walatówki'. These were pipes of Przemyśl’s legendary pipe maker Ludwik Walat.
nowiny24.pl, trans. PS
Tourists can also see a model pipe workshop featuring old equipment and tools. And let us not forget about the bells – the biggest ones come from Zbigniew Felczyński’s workshop, and the smaller are those usually used on ships. The toils of climbing the tower’s narrow and steep staircase is also additionally rewarded by a panoramic view of the town, which stretches underneath the terrace of the museum.
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Where does soap come from, who invented shampoo, and who made the first shower? What did advertisements for cosmetics look like a hundred years ago? Hints to these questions are a provided by the creators of the The Museum of Soap and the History of Grime in Bydgoszcz.
Among the items that are significant in the history of hygiene there is the iconic washing machine called Frania. There are old washboards, washtubs, 19th century scrubbing brushes, iron tubs, and a model shower from 200 years ago! A space arranged to resemble a bathroom from the Polish Communist Republic also boasts a collection of dozens of soaps from the 1970s and 80s. Jacek i Agatka, a perfumed proposition for the youngest visitors, opens the collection. And speaking of the sense of smell – it can also be tested in the Museum’s olfactory lab.
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We want each of our guests to step out of the Museum with a smile on his face and a soap in his pocket. We try to depict history through a series of anecdotes and stories, including the smellier ones. We train the visitors a little in how to use a washboard; we try to take him back in time to the Mediaeval bath house or the weighing of soap bars at a colonial shop.
Muzeum Mydła i Historii Brudu (The Museum of Soap and the History of Grime), trans. PS
Theatre in a museum – the Centre of Polish Stage Design in Katowice
Projects derived from the most famous productions fundamental to the history of Polish stage design can be found in the Silesia region, at the Centre of Stage Design in Katowice. Operating at the borders of theatre, film, architecture, and visual arts, it is part of the larger Silesian Museum.
The collection of the institution, which has been operating for some 25 years, comprises 10,000 original designs, drawings, models, costumes, paintings, posters and manuscripts, along with puppets and dolls from legendary Polish artists artists – from Andrzej Kreutz-Majewski and Józef Szajna, through Lidia and Jerzy Skarżyński, to Zofia de Ines. During the Centre’s opening ceremony, the director Jerzy Moskal, later the museum's director, stated:
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We are not a typical institution – we are somewhere between a museum and a theatre. Our spirit isn’t in the museum space, but rather on the stage, which we transform into an auditorium.
These words best render the character of exhibitions hosted by the Centre, which are always theatrically arranged. The stage and the museum room is semi-dark, with a very telling play of lights, much like in the theatre.
Fragile wonders from Ćmielów
What does an old, 22-metre stove for porcelain baking look like? What is a bisque? The answers can be found in the 200 year old Porcelain Factory in Ćmielów. The factory gathers extraordinary items, from the delftware of Małachowski – the factory’s founder – through contemporary designs by acclaimed designers. It is here, in the Live Museum of Porcelain, that you can get a live peek at the process of making hand-decorated tea cups and other frail porcelain wonders.
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Ćmielów is one among few manufacturers across the world that produced traditional porcelain. It is also where the international Art Food workshops take place, under the guidance of the exceptional potter, Marek Cecuła.
Bieszczady’s miniature Greek Orthodox churches
There is a place in the Bieszczady Mountains that restores the memory of the region’s culture. In Myczkowice, near Solina, one can stroll in a charming ecumenical park of miniatures. It stretches across the area of one hectare, and its few mini-hills boast 140 meticulously reconstructed wooden models of Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches from southeastern Poland, as well as Slovakia and Ukraine. The models are surrounded by miniature plants, and Greek Orthodox chants resound from loudspeakers mounted in the park.
The Centre of Ecumenical Culture evokes the lost wooden church architecture of the past, and it also depicts the history of the Bieszczady Mountains region. National Geographic listed the centre as one of the '7 New Wonders of Poland', next to the Ćmielów factory.
Into the Woods: Wooden Design from Poland
For 25 years, the Doll Museum has been a tourist attraction of the region, boasting the largest collection of Japanese dolls in all of Poland. Zofia Bohaczyk from Pilzno first reconstructed the miniature Lipce, the setting of Władysław Reymont's famous early 20th-century novel The Peasants (originally: Chłopi), and these were followed by heroes of different Polish legends and fables. There are kings, princes, and figures known from the literary worlds of Aesop, La Fontaine and Andersen. The porcelain and marionette works of the doll makers’ art also embody characters from Mickiewicz’s Sir Thaddeus, exemplary of 18th-century fashion and customs.
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The salon of fear
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Museum of Horror in Racibórz, photo: promotional materials
Here’s an offer for thrill seekers: the Museum of Horror, located within the historic palace in Wojnowice, five kilometres from Racibórz in Upper Silesia. Apparently, a visit to the museum can prove quite scary, although its founders assure us that the purpose is mainly educational. There are 10 themed spaces – including a guillotine room, Dracula’s salon, a room of ghostly sheets, and a horror bathroom. There are also sophisticated torture tools. All of this and more can be found in this site unique in Poland – one of a few of its kind in the world!
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The history of surgery
Now, for a change, let’s go to the operating room. The history of Polish surgery – with the first heart-lung created by Professor Tadeusz Paliwoda’s team, a surgery chair from the 18th century and an operating room from the 1970s – are all on display at the Surgery Museum.
Located in Ustroń, by the Rheumatological Hospital, the museum boasts a collection of nearly 500 items and tools which document the development and the achievements of Silesian medicine. Biographies of prominent doctors who revived Polish medicine from the ruins after the Second World War find themselves at the heart of this institution.
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A similar institution also operates in Edinburgh, it is the Surgeons' Hall Museum which possesses the largest collection in the field of pathological anatomy, surgery and dentistry in Britain.
Krosno, the city of glass
Did you know that glass masterpieces from Krosno decorate the court of Queen Elisabeth II, that of Juan Carlos in Spain, and also the Imperial Court in Japan? The history and success of glass manufacturing is presented at the Glass Heritage Centre in Krosno.
Visits start at the newly renovated underground levels, which display the most famous glass works. The centre also has an old stove and a glass in physics room, where visitors are allowed to experiment with glass items, blow glass bubbles, lenses, kaleidoscopes and optic fibre. There are also patterns for glass designed for leading international brands, such as Venetian Murano. Only in Krosno!
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Piłsudski’s 'kajzerki' rolls
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Obwarzanki krakowskie (Kraków bagels), one of the items on display at the Bread Museum, photo: Michał Łepecki / Agencja Gazeta
Marian Pozorek, a known baker from the Praga district in Warsaw knows pretty much everything about making bread. This is why in 2000, he instigated the creation of the Bread Museum, which documents the history of the craft.
For many years, it has housed an expanding collection of old bakery signboards, journeyman diploma certificates, centuries old weights and machinery for grinding grain into flour. Kajzerówki moulds are also on display, which allowed for the making of 4 classic kajzerka rolls in what used to be Piłsudski’s favourite bakery. There are also family treasures passed to the museum from bakers across all of Poland. Bon appetit!
Doughnuts Being Made the Traditional Polish Way
They can tell us things about fashion, customs, great history, and first and foremost, about their owners: three thousand buttons, which belonged to prominent figures in Polish culture, art, and politics are presented at the Button Museum in Łowicz.
Among treasures from across the world there are the buttons of Wisława Szymborska, Marek Edelman, Jerzy Waldorff, Lech Wałęsa, General Władysław Sikorski, Stanisław Lem and Sławomir Mrożek. There is also a button of legendary actress Helena Modrzejewska (found in the garage of an exclusive hotel in Kraków) and one of the most famous buttons in all of Poland – a faithful copy of the button of Marcin Oracewicz, a hero and a defender of Kraków during the Confederation of Bar.
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The Museum’s custodian Jacek Rutkowski explains in a talk with the PAP agency:
A member of the Kraków belt maker’s guild loaded his gun with a large button taken off his own coat during the Russian siege of the city on June 22nd, 1768, and with an accurate hit, he wounded and killed a Russian lieutenant.
The event is confirmed by historic sources, and this unusual bullet has been raised to the rank of an important medal, presently awarded by the Strzeleckie Bractwo Kurkowe Society in Kraków.
Napoleon in romantic Opinogóra
Tourists are given a lesson in romanticism by Opinogóra – a small and charming dwelling in the Mazowsze region which attracts admirers of Zygmunt Krasińki’s literary oeuvre. It is here that the author’s only statue in Poland can be found, as well as a collection of his aristocratic family’s belongings.
There are also other interesting items, such as Napoleon’s dossier, which was taken by Kossaks during the passage across Berezina river; the Krasiński family tree – a 1722 copper etching printed on silk; portraits; busts; and two libraries built in the empire style with a French collection of literary, historic and philosophical writings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The museum’s collection also includes early editions of Krasiński’s works, his correspondence, a collection of etchings and maps.
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Kraków’s stained glass
Finally, we look into the Kraków studio that has been creating the leading pieces of Polish stained glass art since 1902. More than 200 realisations – unique works of art – that come from the studio on Krasińskiego Street can be seen not only within the Stained Glass Museum, but also across all of Kraków – in Wawel Castle, Gothic cathedrals, the Mariacka Basilica and private houses. Apart from the permanent exhibition, the Museum also provides a chance to witness the process of making stained glass, a fabulous procedure which has remained unaltered for centuries.
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Edited by Anna Legierska, Jul 2015; translated by Paulina Schlosser, 26 Jul 2015
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Sources: www.museo.pl, PAP, Muzeum Witraży, Muzeum Romantyzmu in Opinogóra, Muzeum Guzików in Łowicz, Muzeum Książki Artystycznej in Łódź, Muzeum Chleba, Centrum Dziedzictwa Szkła in Krosno, Muzeum Akordeonów, Muzeum Chirurgii, Muzem Mydła i Historii Brudu, Muzeum Dzwonów i Fajek in Przemyśl, Fabryka Porcelany in Ćmielów, Muzeum Lalek in Pilzno, Muzeum Horroru, Centrum Kultury Ekumenicznej in Myszkowce