The Polish Maritime Museum in Gdańsk, the leading and largest institution in Poland which protects and promotes maritime cultural heritage, is fifty years old. Its golden jubilee in 2010 presents a perfect opportunity to present the history and achievements of this rapidly developing organisation.
The first years of the museum were rather modest. In 1959, in Arthur’s Court in Gdańsk, there was an exhibition called “Development of Shipbuilding” organised by the Maritime Museum in Gdańsk Association and the Warsaw Museum of Technology. The beginnings of the museum date back to 1960 when – thanks to the Association’s support – a Maritime Department of the Gdańsk Pomeranian Museum was established. Two years later the Department became an independent entity, and ten years later the museum was granted the status of a National Institution and conferred the name of the Polish Maritime Museum.
The historical wooden crane, a unique mediaeval structure which was both a city gate and a port crane, regarded as the symbol of Gdańsk till today, became the first seat of the museum. Today, the main seat of the Polish Maritime Museum is close to the historical centre of the city, in the very heart of the old port of Gdańsk, in old granaries on the island of Ołowianka. Together with the Żuraw and s.s. “Sołdek” they constitute a museum complex on the River Motława. Location of the museum on both banks of the river makes it a unique body of harbour architecture in Poland. The ferryboat “Motława” owned by the museum helps visitors travel between the facilities.
Today, the Polish Maritime Museum has seven divisions; besides the premises in Gdańsk, these are: the Fisheries Museum in Hel, the Vistula River Museum in Tczew, the Vistula Lagoon Museum in Kąty Rybackie. The museum also owns a museum sailing ship “Dar Pomorza” mooring in Gdynia; in 2009 the ship celebrated the 100th anniversary of her launching.
The Vistula River Museum in Tczew is a jewel in the crown of the Polish Maritime Museum; opened in 1984, the Vistula River Museum has been the largest river museum in Poland. It is located in a historical building, an example of typical 19th-century industrial architecture. In its warehouses, historic yachts “Dal” and “Opty” are stored. As for now, the Polish Maritime Museum does not have premises spacious enough to exhibit such big yachts, however, perhaps they will find their place of residence in the Museum of Sailing which is to be established in Gdynia. It is still a matter of years, though…
Meanwhile, the museum focuses on a project funded from the EEA Financial Mechanism resources, under which a modern branch called the Maritime Culture Centre will be built. The new branch of the museum is to be opened in mid 2011. The Centre will be a modern nautological museum, where multimedia, interactive information technology, special audio-visual presentations and computer visualisations will be used to present artefacts connected with the European maritime history.
And what is the museum preparing for its 50th birthday this year? In the jubilee year, the museum is going to open a permanent gallery concerning the history of navigation along the Vistula, called “The Vistula in the History of Poland”. In the Granaries in Ołowianka there will be an excerpt from a permanent exhibition titled “Poles in High Seas of the World” referring to the history of the Polish People’s Republic, an exhibition presenting paintings, drawings and engravings by Antoni Suchanek, collected over the 50 years of the museum’s existence. Within the EU Project called “SeaSide,” in which the museum participates, we will host an international exhibition named “One Sea – Four Stories”, prepared together with three museums from our partner countries, i.e. the Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum Rostock, the Lithuanian Sea Museum in Klaipeda, and the Swedish Naval Museum in Karlskrona.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary, a number of publications are being prepared, including an album of seascape paintings from the collection of the Seascape Art Section of the Polish Maritime Museum, an album-like publication presenting history and branches of the museum, a catalogue of cannons from the collection of the museum, and a book on the Vistula River navigation techniques between the 16th and 20th centuries.
Within the jubilee project, the museum is planning to launch a marine cinema presentation. The survey of Polish feature films will be a perfect complementation of the museum’s activities and a unique opportunity to promote maritime issues in a mode different from a traditional exhibition. The film review will be a regular non-commercial event addressed to the inhabitants of the Tri-city and Pomerania. To commemorate the jubilee, a special medal will be minted, and during the official ceremony held in October, there will be a presentation of a documentary on the history of this largest maritime museum in Poland.
In the jubilee year, the museum organises a series of concerts under the common title “Music on Water”. Three concerts have been held already, with scores of people attending, attracted by the repertoire and the unique setting of the Granaries. The tradition of musical encounters at the museum will continue in the months to come. And in May, the Polish Maritime Museum together with the Gdańsk City Hall is organising a two-day celebration of the European Maritime Day, including an international conference devoted to various problems and aspects of preservation, conservation and navigation of traditional historical sailing vessels on the Baltic, and a lively open-air event with shanty music and a fete.
In the jubilee year, we hope to be able to entertain not only the inhabitants of Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia within our premises.