• The Arsenal of the Granaries on Ołowianka Island is closed until May 12, 2024, due to preparations for the new temporary exhibition
• The "Motława" ferry does not operate due to the river embankment renovation until further notice
• The Crane remains closed to visitors due to renovations - read

The biggest renovation of the Gdańsk Crane in half a century is coming to an end

For more than three years, both tourists and residents of the Tricity have been viewing the Crane – the famous monument on the Motława River – only from the outside. The reason for this is the renovation of the iconic structure, which has been underway since 2020 – the first such comprehensive renovation of this architectural gem since it was rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II. The investment, worth around PLN 18 million, is progressing according to plan and only a few months separate the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk from the reopening of one of its most popular branches and, at the same time, one of the city’s most important monuments.

The Crane from the Motława river side; after removing the scaffolding, the effects of the restoration work on the walls, the wooden lift and the roofs are clearly visible
The Crane from the Motława river side; after removing the scaffolding, the effects of the restoration work on the walls, the wooden lift and the roofs are clearly visible
The new splendour of the Crane and the ‘devil’s’ clock on the tower

The restoration of the Crane’s façade and roof was completed last November. After many months of work, the restored and cleaned brick façade and the roof covered entirely with new ceramic tiles imported from Italy emerged from under the curtain of scaffolding. The biggest change, and no small surprise for viewers, is the wooden part of the Crane, i.e. the lift of the former crane. After the restoration and renovation work, the structure has a lighter brown colour, in stark contrast to the almost black colour before the renovation. – It is the new painting that most closely matches the image of the Crane from centuries ago, and it was chosen so that the passage of time and the effects of atmospheric conditions in the future will change its shade in a way that is most desirable in terms of historical accuracy. – says Dr Robert Domżał, Director of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk. Speaking of faithful reproduction of historical details, during the renovation of the Crane’s southern tower, a 17th-century sundial, whose bright plate against the brick wall can be seen in the highest part of the façade, was carefully restored. Thanks to photographs from the 1950s showing the post-war ruined Crane, we know that the chronometer survived the war and is not a reconstruction. It is difficult to find more information about the origins of the sundial in historical sources, but when telling tourists about this part of the Crane, Gdańsk guides like to use one of local legends. According to it, the origin of the timepiece is connected with a certain lazy bricklayer, some doughnuts and… the devil himself *.

The restored 17th-century sundial on the southern tower of the Crane
The restored 17th-century sundial on the southern tower of the Crane
Modern solutions and historical accuracy

The external renovation of the Crane was accompanied by a comprehensive renovation and modernisation of the interior. All reinforced concrete ceilings and staircases in the building, dating back to the 1960s, were demolished and replaced with new structures meeting modern technical conditions. Also completely replaced were the electrical, water and sewage and central heating installations with a heat substation, as well as the teletechnical installations, including fire protection, alarm, monitoring and mechanical ventilation systems. – Thanks to this modernisation, the Crane is adapted to the technical requirements of the new permanent exhibition, which is much more innovative than the previous one. – says Szymon Kulas, Deputy Director for Management. – The new installations will also increase the safety of future exhibits and enhance the visitors’ experience. Visitors to the Crane will be able to see, in part of the renovated interiors, fragments of the original 15th-century walls, which were cleaned of an old layer of plaster during the works. At the same time, the wooden structure of the lift was restored and protected, as well as the entire powerful crane mechanism, made up of four treadwheels with diameters of 6 and 6.5 metres. All the windows of the building were replaced with new ones that meet the current thermal requirements. At the same time, their arched wooden frames and rhomboidal glazing correspond to the architectural realities of 17th-century Gdańsk. The foundations of the monument, located below the level of the Motława river, were also the subject of no less care by the construction team. Groundwater seepage and its degrading effect on the walls was eliminated at the very beginning of the project thanks to waterproofing of the underground part of the building. During this work, a number of archaeological artefacts were discovered which are currently undergoing scientific study and conservation. One of these objects is the famous High Water Stone, which marks the level to which the water rose during the flood of 1651 in the Żuławy region.

The Crane's treadwheels are between 6 and 6.5 metres in diameter
The Crane’s treadwheels are between 6 and 6.5 metres in diameter
A portal to 17th-century Gdańsk

The new exhibition has been designed to make visitors feel as if they were in the port city of Gdańsk during the Golden Age, the seventeenth-century heyday of shipping and maritime trade in the Kingdom of Poland. In six rooms on three floors of the Crane, visitors learn about, among other things, the secrets of navigation when entering the port by ship, the types of goods imported to Gdańsk, transaction procedures in the mooring fee chamber, 17th-century shipbuilding techniques and the entertainment of the port city in the old tavern. Thanks to the thorough source research carried out by the museum’s curatorial team, when visiting the exhibition, one will enter historical rooms recreated to the smallest detail, decorated, among other things, in the accordance with interiors known from 17th-century paintings. Historical artefacts, such as original coins, furniture, crockery and weights and measures, will be incorporated into the exhibition’s arrangement as objects of everyday use for the people of Gdańsk in the past. The content of the exhibition will be presented in a fictionalised form, with the protagonist being the authentic figure of the Gdańsk merchant and shipowner Hans Kross. – He will be a kind of virtual guide to the 17th-century port of Gdańsk. – says Dr Marcin Westphal, Deputy Director of Science. – His avatar will introduce our visitors to the themes of each section of the exhibition and will also interact with other ‘inhabitants’ of the Crane. – Dr Westphal adds. For in addition to Hans Kross, the exhibition will also feature an official who collects duty on goods imported into the city and the innkeeper – the tavern owner. Both characters will be created with the technology of three-dimensional moving holograms and, along with 3D mapping, panoramic screens and interactive stations, will be among the numerous multimedia enriching the exhibition.

The “Entertainment”, or tavern, will also be part of the story of life in the 17th-century port of Gdańsk – visualisation

The renovation and modernisation of the Crane is scheduled for completion on 30 April 2024.
Exhibition author team: Patryk Klein, Jadwiga Klim, Radosław Paternoga, Wojciech Ronowski
Renovation and modernisation of the Żuraw is being carried out by Przedsiębiorstwo Budowlane “Skorłutowski” Sp.j.
The contractor for the permanent exhibition in the Żuraw is Deko-Bau Sp. z o. o.

By Hanna Borkowska

* Legendy Gdańskie J. Samp

The project “Maintenance, renovation and modernization of the Gdańsk Crane – a branch of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk with the creation of a new permanent exhibition” is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants and Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Iceland Liechtenstein Norway Grants National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk Ministry of Culture and National Heritage

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