Warsaw – Museum of Warsaw

I’ve never been to the Museum of Warsaw before, as it has either been shut, being refurbished, or closed for some other reason. So, when Richard was here last week, we both went to the museum on the free entry day which is currently on Thursdays. I’ve written separately about some of the individual exhibits, and these posts can be found at http://www.julianwhite.uk/tag/museum-of-warsaw/.

The museum is formed out of a series of medieval townhouses which have been joined together, all of which is quite evident in the cellars.

This is what Warsaw’s Old Town looked like after the Germans had finished with it in 1945, nearly completely destroyed. The image can be made larger by clicking on it, with what is now the museum being those buildings to the right of the main square in the centre of the photo.

The museum tour starts in the cellars of the buildings, which have survived to a large degree although have required substantial repair and renovation. There are plenty of steps like this going nowhere, but which were once access points to the basements of the various properties.

In the cellar exhibition there are some models of buildings in the city, one of the few sections which addresses post-war Warsaw and the reconstruction.

Some seventeenth century scissors that were discovered during excavations at the Royal Castle in 1972. One result of such destruction of Warsaw is that when it was being rebuilt, many older artefacts were discovered. To this day, when buildings and pipes are constructed, the remains of pre-1945 buildings are often found, the foundations hidden just before the ground.

We spent around thirty minutes looking around the cellars and the exhibitions there, but were surprised that there wasn’t more to the museum as we thought that was the end. I noticed some people said that they had spent two to three hours there, so I wondered if they’d had a little sleep in the cellar or something to justify that length of visit. It then transpired to us that the cellars were just a small part of the museum……

What was once a courtyard has now been given a glass roof and displays some old finds from around the city. With regards to the navigation around the museum, it is generally very good, but there are areas where things become a little confusing because of the complex layout of the building. There are staff around the museum though guiding visitors, so we didn’t go too far wrong before being put back on track.

One of my favourite areas was the room full of maps.

I looked at several old maps of the city, but it’s very hard to get an understanding of the layout of Warsaw as it was, just because of how many changes there have been over the last century.

One of the galleries of paintings.

Some of the lovely ceilings have been restored. This museum was actually founded in 1936, so wasn’t a result of the Second World War, although they only had three properties at that time. Their collections and buildings were destroyed during the conflict, but the determination to persist and grow as a museum remained. The buildings were restored as closely as they could to the originals, with the work taking place from 1948 until 1954.

Not a complaint by any means, but there seemed to be no end of rooms to visit, all with plenty of exhibits. They were laid out well and all of the displays were in both English and Polish. The museum seems to want to focus primarily on Warsaw as a city and not get too dragged into the Second World War period too much, which is sensible as there’s centuries of history to explain and not just a few years. This period is also well covered by other museums in the city such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the POLIN museum, but I was surprised how little information there was about the post-war rebuilding of the city.

At the top of the museum is the observation point which requires some climbing up several flights of stairs. It’s fair to say that Richard and I were both very brave in our explorations up to the top. There was very little complaining and just lots of praise of how brave that we’d been.

These are the views over the market square, with the Christmas market being laid out in the centre.

Looking back up after our bravery.

Towards the end of the museum route there is a room of old postcards of Warsaw, all well presented. I have to say that we’d been in the museum for over two hours at this point and so we decided that we’d seen enough, but there is enough to see to justify a longer or repeat visit. This is a really well organised museum with an awful lot of information about the city and I learned plenty of new things, although sometimes the displays felt a bit random and the museum route doesn’t perhaps flow beautifully. Despite that, definitely a recommended museum and although we went on free entry day, it’s only ever a few pounds to get in.